Sunday, September 16, 2012

Variant Spellings of Fr. Rhoel, Roel, Ruel Gallardo's Name

At least three variations of Father Gallardo's first name appear in the newspaper record of his March 20, 2000 abduction and subsequent torture--slash--"beheading" at the hands of the Abu Sayyaf showmen. A search at Access My Library on Fr. Gallardo's names turned up 38 articles---30 for "Rhoel," 6 for "Roel," and 2 for "Ruel"---without any duplicating. So what was at best, careless imprecision had the effect of segmenting the record, and likely served to hinder analysis of the narrative, since manipulation of proper names is a common tool of disinformation merchants selling a version of reality far from the truth.

This pattern of imprecision in spelling his given name was especially egregious in the case of the Manila daily newspaper BusinessWorld, work which otherwise, in my opinion,  represented some of the best critical reporting on the Abu Sayyaf kidnapping phenomena.

On March 21, in the originating article by Cathy Rose A. Garcia on the Basilan school abduction story where Fr, Gallardo was snatched, and again on April 26, 2000, in an article she co-authored with Ruffy L. Villanueva, the priest's name is spelled Ruel. But in the interval between the two, on April, 13th, was an article  in which Garcia spells the priest's name as "Rhoel." A half-dozen more articles and columns appeared in BusinessWorld over the summer and fall that used that same spelling.

But by August 3, 2001, in an unattributed review in BusinessWorld of the book, Into the Mountain: hostaged by the Abu Sayyaf, by the Mindanao-born journalist Jose Torres, Jr., either the reviewer or Torres has begun to spell the priest's first name as "Roel," which, by the functioning of the Access-My-Library search engine, has an effect of keeping the book's subject matter at arm's length from the original reporting.

The search engine at Highbeam returned a nearly identical pattern in the work published in the Manila Bulletin, with nine articles each for "Fr. Rhoel Gallardo," and "Fr. Roel Gallardo," plus two more for "Fr. Ruel Gallardo"---with a single duplication showing up in the May 11, 2000 article, Missionary Work Will Continue -- Sin. That's because the victim's name is spelled both Fr. Rhoel and Fr. Roel just four paragraphs apart.

On May 5th, the Manila Bulletin's Diego C. Cagahastian spelled it Roel, while a second, unattributed article in the same issue used the Ruel version. The next day, on May 6th, a single Bulletin article used both the Roel and Ruel variants within five paragraphs of each other.


30 results for "Fr. Rhoel Gallardo"
April 13, 2000, BusinessWorld, Padilla sees Abu Sayyaf leaders at Basilan camp, by Cathy Rose A.Garcia,
May 12, 2000, BusinessWorld, Vector: Looking at the Mindanao crisis. 700+ words
May 17, 2000, BusinessWorld, Pinoy na Pinoy: Waging war on its own people, 700+ words,
August 25, 2000, BusinessWorld, Vector: Robotics, not 'Robot', 700+ words
September 8, 2000, BusinessWorld, Vector: The challenging role of a parish priest, 700+ words,
October 2, 2000, BusinessWorld, Dear Editor: German thinks decision vs. the Abu Sayyaf was correct,...
May 5, 2002, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Rhoel's example. 288 words,
May 6, 2002, Inquirer, Priests tell GMA: Probe deeper, go to Basilan to solve Abu problem, 472 words
May 13, 2002, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Army captain asks: Where's recognition for Cafgus? 501 words
November 1, 2002, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Former Abu Sayyaf lair now resettlement area. 605 words,
November 2, 2002, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 'Bihag' airs tomorrow on ABS-CBN, 615 words,
March 2, 2003, BBC Reports, Philippines: Abu Sayyaf leader says Iraqis offering financial support.
March 2, 2003, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Iraqis aiding us, Abu leader admits, 700+ words,
September 5, 2003, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 2 Abus arrested for Basilan kidnap,
September 5, 2003, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 2 Abus arrested for Basilan kidnap, 337 words,
October 15, 2003, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 14 suspects in Basilan kidnapping freed,
April 8, 2004, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Robin Padilla's Abu Sayyaf bodyguard freed on bail. 700+ words
April 15, 2004, Philippine Daily Inquirer, PNP: Arrest of Abu Sayyaf chief imminent,
September 13, 2004, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Abu Sayyaf member in priest's abduction arrested in Basilan.
September 16, 2004, Philippine Daily Inquirer, DPAs for gov't in Abu Sayyaf slain in Zamboanga,
December 6, 2004, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 'Millionaire' exec axed from co-op, 700+ words,
March 22, 2005, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Slain priest hailed as true martyr, 700+ words,
March 23, 2005, Philippine Daily Inquirer, This cop is a man of the cloth, by Christian V. Esguerra,
July 7, 2005, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Abu Sayyaf member, 214 words,
July 8, 2005, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Suspected Sayyaf member held, 241 words,
December 6, 2005, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Endless list of stories from the provinces, 700+ words,
May 11, 2006, The Philippine Star, Philippine military says about 100 Abu Sayyaf militants remain at large,
August 25, 2006, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Soldiers catch up with main Sayyaf group, kill 6 members,
October 1, 2008, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Christian-Muslim couple show the way to peace, 700+ words,
July 16, 2009, Philippine Daily Inquirer, No amnesty, 700+ words,
October 18, 2009, BBC Reports, Missionary order asks US to help rescue Irish priest kidnapped in...
January 30, 2011, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Abu Sayyaf outlasts 14 generals, 700+ words,
April 19, 2011, Philippine Daily Inquirer, To read list. 700+ words,
6 results for "Fr. Roel Gallardo"

August 3, 2001, BusinessWorld, The Abu Sayyaf and the Muslim Mindanao problem (Review) no author
December 17, 2001, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Arming of priests rejected, by Ferdinand O. Zuasola,
March 14, 2003, BusinessWorld, DoJ files charges vs Abu members, 380 words,
April 4, 2004, BBC Reports, Philippine military arrests alleged Abu Sayyaf members, 317 words,
July 6, 2004, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Abu running school bus service nabbed, 700+ words,
2 results for "Fr. Ruel Gallardo"
April 26, 2000, BusinessWorld, Military far from rescuing hostages, says Abu Sayyaf, Villanueva and Garcia
3 "Fr. Ruel Gallardo"
May 5, 2000, Manila Bulletin, 18 Dead in Lanao Gunbattle,
May 6, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Pope Appeals to Abu Sayyaf to Release All Their Hostages,
9 "Fr. Rhoel Gallardo"
May 11, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Missionary Work Will Continue -- Sin,
May 19, 2000, National Catholic Reporter, Four hostages die in rescue operation,
September 5, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Abu Sayyaf Suspect Nabbed,
September 6, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Gov't rejects Sayyaf demands,
April 29, 2001, Manila Bulletin, The Appearance to the Seven Disciples; Reflections Today,
December 8, 2002, Manila Bulletin, Arroyo to open art exhibit on M'danao,
April 12, 2004, Manila Bulletin, 19 Basilan Jail Escapees Captured; 8 Others Killed,
October 1, 2009, Philippines News Agency, Search for Mindanao Peace Weaver awardees is on.
October 13, 2009, Philippines News Agency Wesmincom troops arrest Abu Sayyaf bandit in Zambo
9 "Fr. Roel Gallardo"
May 4, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Troops Rescue 15 Basilan Hostages; Priest, 3 Others Die; 2 Foreigners Dead 
May 5, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Malacanang Sees No Need to Declare State of Emergency, Cagahastian,
May 6, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Pope Appeals to Abu Sayyaf to Release All Their Hostages,
May 7, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Siazon Assures European Envoys,
May 11, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Missionary Work Will Continue -- Sin,
May 13, 2000, Manila Bulletin, The New Commandment; Reflections Today,
June 18, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Gov't, Abu Sayyaf Exchange Hostages,
November 10, 2006, The Manila Times, Govt Troops Kill Abu Sayyaf Leader While Resisting Arrest,
January 22, 2009, Philippines News Agency, Troops arrest 2 Sayyaf priest killers in Tawi-Tawi.
February 5, 2009, Philippines News Agency, Westmincom against demands of abductors of ICRC workers


 March 21, 2000, BusinessWorld, Moro terrorists abduct Basilan priest, teacher (Second abduction by Abu Sayyaf this month), by Cathy Rose A. Garcia, 453 words. Tuesday,

Suspected Moro terrorists belonging to the Abu Sayyaf abducted a Catholic priest, a private high school principal, a high school teacher and a student in Basilan yesterday.

Initial reports from the Armed Forces Southern Command based in Zamboanga City identify two of the abduction victims as priest Ruel Gallardo and principal Reynaldo Rubio.

The teacher and the high school student who were also abducted, both from the Catholic-run Claret High School, are still to be identified.

Their abductors reportedly retreated towards the direction of Bgy. Sukatin. They have yet to demand for ransom for the release of the victims.

Meanwhile, the Southern Command also reported that around 60 Abu Sayyaf members attacked an Army detachment in Bgy. Tumahubong in Sumisip, Basilan at around 8 a.m. yesterday.

The fire fight lasted for about 30 minutes, the command said. In its report, it also said the attack could have been a diversion to minimize military attention on the abduction.

Two soldiers were reportedly injured in the fire fight.

Meanwhile, Armed Forces spokesman Col. Rafael Romero tried to downplay the apparent increase in Abu Sayyaf-initiated abductions in Minda-nao.

The military earlier declared the Abu Sayyaf a "spent" force, after the death of its leader in 1998.

"I think the Abu Sayyaf is still a force to reckon with, although they have dissipated in numbers. We continue to recognize the Abu Sayyaf as a threat," Mr. Romero told reporters at the military headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

The Abu Sayyaf strength is placed at 1,000 members.

Yesterday's abduction was the second time this month by the Abu Sayyaf group. On March 9, Abu Sayyaf members abducted two public school teachers in Zamboanga City.

Mr. Romero said members of the 10th Infantry Battalion have been deployed to hunt down Abu Sayyaf members.

April 26, 2000, BusinessWorld, Military far from rescuing hostages, says Abu Sayyaf, by Ruffy L. Villanueva And C.R. A Garcia, 700+ words, Wednesday,

ZAMBOANGA CITY - A radio station broadcast yesterday an appeal from a Catholic priest, one of 27 hostages being held by Islamic guerrillas, for the military to stop bombing the rebel hideout.

Fr. Ruel Gallardo, in an interview with local radio station dxXX, said the attacks would kill the captives, which include 22 children and who have been held for five weeks by fundamentalist Abu Sayyaf rebels on Basilan.

"We are all scared, we will die from the bombings," he said. "If you want us to be released, let us do it peacefully through negotiations, not through bombings. It is not only bullets that will kill us but also terror."

He urged the government to agree to the rebel demands, which include the release of three Islamic militants jailed in the United States.

"Whatever the group's demands are, give it to them," Mr. Gallardo said. "Withdrawal of the military is the number one need right now if you want to save our lives."

It was unclear if the guerrillas had scripted the priest's comments, which came as the military began its fourth day of air and ground assaults on the 900-foot mountain where the rebels are holding their hostages.

The military began attacking the rebel camp on Saturday but officials said the strikes had been confined to the lower parts of the mountain, well away from where the hostages were being held at the summit.

Military reports said at least 28 people - 25 guerrillas and three soldiers - had died in the mountainside skirmishes.

Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado accused the rebels of using the hostages as "human shields" in a bid to thwart the military assault.

The guerrillas were hiding in bunkers while keeping the children and five adults in huts above ground, he said. The Abu Sayyaf is one of two groups fighting for an Islamic state in Mindanao.

Meanwhile, a man claiming to be an Abu Sayyaf spokesman called a Zamboanga City radio station yesterday and said the group was behind the kidnapping on Malaysia's tiny Sipadan island.

Mr. Mercado said authorities were verifying the claim and that if it was true the kidnapping may have been a "diversionary tactic" to ease military pressure on the Basilan rebels.

Reports from Malaysia said the heavily armed kidnappers and their captives, riding on two boats, were seen heading toward Philippine waters - a 45-minute ride away.

A naval and air search of southern Philippine waters yesterday failed to find the craft, the military said.

The hostages seized in Malaysia include nine Malaysians, three Germans, two French, two South Africans, two Finns, one Lebanese and a Filipino who worked at the Sipadan Island Resort.

The military launched its offensive on the Abu Sayyaf hideout after the rebels said last week that they had beheaded two of their 29 captives.

The hostages in Basilan are among more than 70 people abducted from two high schools last month. The others have been released.

But in a telephone interview, Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Sabaya told BusinessWorld that government troops are still to overrun Abu Sayyaf "blocking forces" at the slopes of Mt. Punu Mahadje in Southern Basilan.

"We are still waiting for their operations. They have not yet reached our main camp. And the reports that they have overrun our satellite camps are not true. And these are not even satellite camps, but only entrenched blocking forces," he said.

"Three days to reach our camp? Well, that's their dream-I don't think they can do that because they're suffering too much. They have not even taken out their casualties from our area, what more to rescue our hostages? Their morale is low," he added.

Mr. Sabaya also claimed at least nine soldiers were killed during fighting on Monday, while the Abu Sayyaf suffered "minimal" casualties.

He noted the Abu Sayyaf can sustain a war with government forces for a year. He said preparations were made before hostages were taken. Stored supplies of food and ammunition are good for "six to eight months," he added.

Mr. Sabaya also claimed that two of the hostages - a young girl and a female teacher - were wounded during government troops' initial assault.

But AFP public affairs service chief colonel Jaime L. Canatoy said the military is confident it can overrun Abu Sayyaf's main camp and rescue the hostages before the week ends.

He admitted, however, that improvised landmines as well as the rough terrain are slowing down government forces.

Meanwhile, police are investigating the abduction and killing of an Abu Sayyaf member in Isabela, Basilan, on Sunday.

In a report, the police regional office based in Zamboanga City said armed men abducted Abu Sayyaf member Murijin Sali and his companion Zaldy Jawad at around 5:30 a.m. at Kabunbata, Isabela, Basilan.

Half an hour later, Mr. Sali was found dead some 500 meters from his place of residence. He sustained gunshot wounds in different parts of the body, police said.

Meanwhile, a Sulu solon claims a group of businessmen and politicians is instigating conflicts in Basilan and Sulu in order to protect its members' business interests.

Sulu Rep. Hussin U. Amin also said he is still collecting evidence that will support his claim that a "third force" is behind the recent spate of bombing and kidnapping incidents in Basilan and Sulu.

He noted some of these incidents may be deliberately playing off the Muslim-Christian conflict.

"I think, somebody or a third force, is creating a scenario for a continued Muslim-Christian conflict," Mr. Amin said in an interview.

Mr. Amin said these politicians and businessmen have been taking advantage of the peace and order problems in the provinces. Zamboanga City

May 12, 2000, BusinessWorld, Vector: Looking at the Mindanao crisis. 700+ words

Until the grim headlines on the death of Fr. Rhoel Gallardo and three other hostages stared at our faces, many of us had adopted a rather indifferent, even aloof stance vis-a-vis the hostage taking incidents in Basilan and Sipadan islands.

For a while, it all seemed like a long-playing soap opera with the Abu Sayyaf clamoring for Robin Padilla's appearance and demanding 200 sacks of rice in exchange for the release of two child hostages. Quick to the draw, broadcaster Noli de Castro led the media pack in recording the surreal event.

Then came the tragic Air Philippines crash which provided an interlude. Fr. Rhoel's plaintive plea for a halt in the military offensive was hardly heard amidst the public outrage against the systemic flaws that may have caused the plane crash as well as that of the horrible sea accident that preceded it.

Further rubbing salt to an already wounded national psyche, the Abu Sayyaf pulled off the Easter Sunday kidnapping of 21 hostages from seven different countries in the Malaysian resort island of Sipadan and brought their victims to nearby Sulu, thereby creating a second arena of conflict.

Meantime, the MILF engaged the AFP in armed skirmishes in the Narciso Ramos highway in Maguindanao and North Cotabato, while blockading the national highway in the outskirts of General Santos City.

Our fixation with events as these unfold daily has distracted us from gaining a better understanding of the underlying causes. It was not until I watched Noli de Castro's report on the Basilan hostage taking that certain salient facts were unearthed.

The Basilan hostage taking was not a random, isolated event. And it did not involve only Muslims. Before he was kidnapped, Fr. Rhoel had already requested the military to set up an outpost near the Claret high school in Tumahubong, Basilan.

The Abu Sayyaf specifically targeted a Catholic school and took mostly Catholic victims: a priest, several teachers and their students. Then they issued demands that revealed an anti-Christian bias, including the removal of crosses from public places.

Indeed, Fr. Rhoel Gallardo died a martyr for Christ - and so did the other three fatalities whose tortured bodies were found in the aftermath of the military operations that finally resulted in the freeing of 15 hostages from their captors.

Understandably, the government is glossing over the religious aspect of the conflict, not wanting to fan the flames of conflict in an already embattled region. Lately, manifestoes purportedly issued by Christian vigilantes have been distributed in some Mindanao cities. And in far-off Nueva Ecija, a Muslim group cried for jihad against the Christian Filipinos in Luzon.

Evidently, the government has mounted a full-scale military offensive in an effort to neutralize and decimate the enemy's capacity to inflict further harm on the citizenry.

There seems to be broad citizen support, despite calls from some sectors for a ceasefire and a return to the negotiating table.

In my view, much more needs to be done. I support the move of the church to mobilize the faithful. In my parish, an ecumenical rally for peace in Mindanao was held last night. The clergy is now using the pulpit to call not just for prayers but for concerted citizen action.

We need to vote with our feet and convey this message to the terrorists and extremists: We reject your goals and your methods. We reject religious chauvinism of every stripe. We oppose banditry and terrorism being inflicted upon helpless and innocent civilians.

In retrospect, I believe that the initial trigger for the escalation of extremist violence was the widely held perception about the ineptitude of the Estrada Administration. It is not farfetched to hypothesize that the extremists decided it was the proper psychological moment to seize the initiative.

Recall the bombing of an inter-island ferry in Ozamis that claimed more than 40 lives in early March. This was followed by a series of bomb blasts in several parts of Mindanao. Then came the Basilan and Sipadan hostage-taking incidents.

Let us not forget, too, that the hostile takeover of the Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte town hall was a part of this related chain of events.

These coincided with the plummeting of the President Estrada's approval and satisfaction ratings. A former congressman, Michael Mastura, has charged that the President is "doing a Putin," alluding to the alleged ploy of now Russian President Vladimir Putin to escalate violence in Chechnya as a platform for pole-vaulting himself to his country's top post.

I disagree with Mr. Mastura. I believe that the extremists simply pounced upon an opportunity to attack at a time when they felt the government was not prepared to respond adequately. But they probably underestimated the strength of the government's resolve to meet their challenge head-on.

I grieve for Fr. Rhoel Gallardo and all the victims of this cruel war. I grieve, too, for the military casualties and victims.

I salute Sgt. Armando Villanueva who has expressed his willingness to rejoin his unit even after he lost both feet after being wounded seriously in a fierce encounter.

I commiserate with the thousands of families forced into refugee status because their communities have become battle zones.

It is our collective task to unite and help bring about an end to the violence and a just resolution of the conflict in Mindanao.


May 17, 2000, BusinessWorld, Pinoy na Pinoy: Waging war on its own people, 700+ words,

Norma works in the City Treasurer's Office in the Manila City Hall. She passed the Civil Service Examination, Professional Level, three years ago and got her present job after that. She is now a permanent employee of the government.

Her older brother, Ismael, finished mechanical engineering but has not yet passed the Civil Service Examination for his profession. He is now waiting for a visa to work abroad. He could not get gainful employment in the country for lack of the right connections.

Their cousin, Solaiman, is also waiting for his visa so he can work abroad again. He got married last year and had a son two months ago. He's quite anxious about leaving soon since his savings are running low.

Norma Ali, Ismael Ali and Solaiman Abubakar are Iranuns from Cotabato City. They stay in my old, dilapidated apartment on Dapitan St. in Quezon City. I have known them for eight years. Solaiman's mother is Kagi Sahara, the incomparable weaver about whom I have written much. She is the aunt of Norma and Ismael; their mother, Kagi Fatima, is the elder sister of Kagi Sahara.

I stay with them when I am in Cotabato City. Solaiman makes it a point to visit us for at least a day before he returns to Cotabato City on his way back from Saudi. I have lost consciousness of their being Muslim because of our close contact with each other. They call me Kuya Ed and I address them on first name basis. None of them has found a need to explain or explicate to me the Abu Sayyaf and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) problems in Mindanao. We speak of those current problems the way I do with my friend Banyong, who is a fisherman from Hagonoy, Bulacan.

I bring up these personal matters because I anticipate the rise of anti-Muslim bias with the savagery of the Abu Sayyaf as reported in the media. What they did with Fr. Rhoel Gallardo and their two women captives is what the Armed Forces of the Philippines ( AFP) did to many underground anti-government youth leaders, especially during Martial Law. The torture of these youth was so savage that a center for them was established by a few doctors from UP-PGH. Both the Abu Sayyaf and the AFP intelligence operatives went way beyond human decency.

The movie idol macho posturing of President Estrada and the finger pointing of secretary of Defense, Orlando Mercado, obfuscate the real issues of the problem. The National Government is implicated. It is part of the problem. According to Senator Aquilino Pimentel, the Abu Sayyaf is a creation of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and our government.

As for the MILF, why do they have in their possession government-issued bullets? And guns too, I think. The moro-moro, as it appears to be, is just unraveling. The lack of sane, logical expert opinion is missing. All that we are fed are PR-like statements from Malacanang.

While all this is ongoing, the civilian non-involved citizens in the battle areas, Muslim, Christian and Lumad, suffer this war of non-ideologies. No one was caught after the Ipil massacre, the Abu Sayyaf has so far eluded the AFP battalions, and the MILF will remain urong-sulong. Much is nebulous in what is ongoing in Mindanao. There is a definite whiff of stink in the entire affair.

In the meantime, the life of the ordinary citizen who lives close to the embattled zones is disrupted. Probably in an irreparable and irredeemable manner. This happened during the MNLF-AFP war of 1974.

What was it like then

In the slum barrio of Lugay-lugay, Cotabato City, where the families of Norma, Ismael and Solaiman reside, the Muslims were herded into the streets and they were made to stay under the hot sun. The men were pummeled and kicked and were kept sitting or squatting on the dirt road. The barrio was like a huge concentration camp.

The houses were ransacked, the chickens slaughtered for their, the Army's food, and whatever jewelry the soldiers found was for their taking. The Muslim barrios along the rivers, like Maydapa, where Kagi Fatima and Kagi Sahara's ancestral homes were, suffered even more: burning of entire villages, bombing daily, rape of women, killing of adult males. The river run red. And even today the Iranuns and Maguindanaws remember one name, "General Abat," for the AFP soldiers said they were ordered by that officer.

The Notre Dame sisters in Cotabato City interceded. They vouched for the "good character" and "uninvolvement" of even young Muslims whom they did not know. But the Sisters' presence did not make the soldiers less cruel. In Lugay-lugay and Barrio Muslim they remember one heroic sister who saved many lives by placing her frail body between the soldiers and the suspected young Muslims, sometime holding on to those young ones as the AFP soldiers pulled and dragged them away.

Her name was Sister Belita. I was able to trace her to the Notre Dame College in Jolo. Her full name is Isabelita Tan, and she hailed from Laoang, Northern Samar. She came from a family of nuns and priests. When I asked her about 1974 and the slums of Cotabato City she demurred: "I only did what had to be done," and then walked away.
As far as I have been told, the Muslims of those two barrios of Cotabato City have no hatred of the Christians. That is why almost two decades after the MNLF-AFP war, Kagi Sahara and Kagi Fatima welcomed me to their homes. In fact, there is a health clinic run by the Notre Dame Sisters in Barrio Muslim. It's called Reconciliation House. The Sisters claim that they are there only to bear witness to what Jesus Christ said, "Love thy neighbor." The agreement is that they should not engage in conversion work.
The Muslims there who have memories of the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front)-AFP war harbor hatred of the Philippine government soldiers. Of course. It is similar to the hatred of those who are 60 and above of the soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army. I don't think those Muslims could be blamed for their decades of deep resentment. So much for Muslim-Christian biases.

Permanent dislocation

The barrio of Maydapa was idyllic - rice and coconuts in the fields, gabi yams along the rivulets, a weaving loom in every house, a mosque for their Friday services. Each of the six sisters in Kagi Sahara's ancestral house had a loom. Their father took their woven cloth products to the "city" every Saturday to sell. He'd come back in the afternoon with thread of various hues, bakery items, and a piece of jewelry for each daughter once a month.

Then the AFP bombed the entire village. The soldiers followed. The pillage was relentless: anything valuable to them they took: chicken, cash, jewelry. They trampled on woven cloth. They feasted on the carabaos. Once satiated, they raped the young women one after the other. And over and over. The male adults they tortured and shot and threw into the river.

No one in Maydapa knew of the MNLF.

They moved about like ghosts. In the daytime they hid in the hills shaking in fear of the planes and General Abat's soldiers. At night they'd dig yams with their bare hands. After a week the soldiers left. No house was left standing. In the smouldering debris, Kagi Fatima and Kagi Sahara salvaged burned plates and glasses and pieces of cloth.

That evening, Muslim men whom they did not know volunteered to take them to Cotabato City. They trekked the long, circuitous land route. There already were evacuating centers - the ones which were like concentration camps. Eventually they were able to rent from a rich Muslim land to erect makeshift houses. They still live there - a place without the usual amenities of tap water and canals with culverts.

Their fear of the AFP has not abated. They set up their looms in Lugay-lugay. Weaving is the only means of livelihood they know. "There is nothing to go back to," Kagi Sahara explains. Their ancestral house was burned to the ground. Only their memories of it remain. "This way we can keep our memories of our good life there," she adds. Maybe they fear another sudden reprise. Maybe they are still afraid to confront the ghosts which haunt Maydapa.

Norma and Ismael were born in Lugay-lugay. Solaiman was too young to remember the horrors which continue to exist vividly in the mind of his mother and aunts. Of course, had there been no war they would all have grown up in Maydapa. Maydapa's is a life that will never be again. That is the final dislocation: to be in the slums and be there without choice.

That is the searing disruption in a life that had no direct connection with bigger political forces. That is the victimization of the civilian population. That is to be caught in the crossfire of ideologies and conflicting political positions, and be at the receiving end of the unapologetic, uncaring, sadistic force of the armed soldiers of our government.

The government may win sympathy in the islands where the conflict does not explode into fires that kill and maim. The government can keep on depicting itself as a reluctant oppressor. But its refusal to come to terms with the root of this century-long grievance of the Filipino Muslims against the cruel neglect of Malacanang will only beget more transitory peace and incendiary confrontations. The problem in Mindanao is basically economic. It had never been religious.

The Muslims and the Lumad have been pushed to the periphery while the migrants from Cebu, Ilocos, Panay and Bohol are supported by the armed might of the National Government in their exploitation of the land and indigenous peoples of Mindanao. The erstwhile MNLF and the present MILF struggles are reactions to the oppressive nature of our central government. people. By arming the Cafgus and the Ilagas and other paramilitary units, our government oppresses its own people for the targets of these units are Filipinos, too. By abetting the rapacious loggers, the greedy migrant elite, and the co-opted Muslims and Lumad, our government is a partner in the rape, torture and murder of uncountable innocent civilians.

Our government is waging war on its own people with its propensity for graft and refusal to stem corruption. Our government itself perpetuates the conditions for unrest by not having a cogent policy that would alleviate the continuing dislocations of millions of its own citizens.

The problem is not the Muslims. The problem is our own government which spawns the anger, hatred, and violence of the many by continuing to be a government of a few - a government which marginalizes and thereby oppresses its teeming poor. The problem is our own government.Edilberto Alegre

August 25, 2000, BusinessWorld, Vector: Robotics, not 'Robot', 700+ words

There is certainly no lack of experts parroting their own views on the protracted hostage crisis that began in Sipadan island off Sabah on Easter Sunday and continues to hang fire in Sulu after more than four months.

After AFP Chief of Staff General Angelo Reyes let the proverbial cat out of the bag regarding the massive ransom payments made to secure the release of some hostages, senators and congressmen constituted themselves into a peanut gallery and have since dished out chunks of advice and criticism that are grist for the media mill.

A hostage crisis is not the easiest problem to solve. Recall that the Iran hostage crisis, in which scores of US embassy officials and employees were stranded in Teheran, was one of the key factors that cost US President Jimmy Carter his reelection bid in 1980. The crisis dragged on for more than a year. The hostage takers waited for Ronald Reagan to assume office before releasing their victims.

In Fiji, the sitting Prime Minister and more than 50 other officials were held hostage by a self-proclaimed reformist for nearly two months - competing with the Abu Sayyaf for global media attention.

Thankfully, all hostages were eventually released unharmed. The hostage taker has since been arrested and charged while his chief victim lost his position and is now touring his ancestral country.

Rescue is, of course, the more exciting and dramatic alternative. Rescue attempts don't just make good copy for print and broadcast media; they also make good movies.

The raid at Entebbe is still the classic model. Recall how Israeli storm troopers led by a brother of former Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu successfully rescued in a lightning raid the hostages taken by then Ugandan President Idi Amin's soldiers. More recently, a commando raid by Peruvian troops rescued the ambassadors of several countries who were held hostage during an official reception at the Japanese embassy in Lima.

Before the Sipadan hostage taking, the rescue attempt on the priests, teachers and students taken hostage in Basilan more than a month earlier ended tragically. While most of the hostages were freed, Fr. Rhoel Gallardo and two male teachers lost their lives.

Four heads of state have already weighed in with an emphatic statement of concern. They have urged the Philippine Government to ensure the safe release of their nationals. What is remarkable is that instead of letting their ambassadors or foreign ministers do the talking, the heads of state themselves have reportedly signed a joint letter to President Estrada.

The signatories were: President Jacques Chirac of France, Chancellor Gerard Schroeder of Germany, President Tarja Halonen of Finland and President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa.

The easiest thing to do is to criticize from the sidelines - and earn good media mileage to boot. This is what many politicians are doing. The most difficult task remains with the negotiators: how to secure the safe release of the hostages.

Chief government negotiator Robert Aventajado now finds himself in the hot seat. He has become the primary target of critics, especially after the most recent Pulse Asia survey noted the phenomenal jump in public awareness about him (from 27% to 75% in three months) and his respectable approval rating (plus 28 and among the top ten rated Cabinet members).

Consider the complexity of Mr. Aventajado's task. Many foreign governments are involved on account of the diverse nationalities of the hostages. Most of these countries are important allies, trading partners and benefactors of the Philippines. The terrain in Sulu island is uneven and difficult. It is unlike the airport at Entebbe or the Japanese embassy in Lima. The hostage takers are armed, dangerous and irrational.

If, from the outset, an armed assault or a military rescue was already ruled out on account of these factors, why is there so much ado about ransom payments? Why is there so much contentious debate about strategies and tactics on securing the hostages' release?

And by the way, didn't the stubborn insistence of TV evangelist Wilde Almeda and his twelve followers to offer their prayers and fasting as a possible solution muddle the already complex problem even further? And what about the hordes of media reporters competing for the most exciting news leads and photo opportunities?

Why should Libya's mediation efforts be tainted as a mere ploy to earn "pogi" points and as thinly veiled reparation for its past record of terrorism? Isn't it fair to simply acknowledge with thanks the earnest efforts of their former ambassador Rajab Azzarouk to use his own persuasive ability in helping secure the release of the hostages?

At this critical juncture, wouldn't it be best that Mr. Aventajado and his team of negotiators be left alone and allowed to do their job without being heckled and hassled from the sidelines? What's the point of some of our senators in announcing that they will call for a full-blown investigation on the handling of this hostage crisis? Do they really think they could have done a better job at negotiating with Commander Robot and his ilk?

Talk comes cheap, but more than cheap talk is needed. We need to pause and reflect. Why is it that our society has spawned the likes of Commander Robot? Why is it that instead of entering into the age of robotics in the New Economy we are still struggling in the quagmire of banditry and petty politicking?

If we prayed and fasted like Pastor Almeda, perhaps some good answers will come our way.

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September 8, 2000, BusinessWorld, Vector: The challenging role of a parish priest, 700+ words,

One of the most challenging managerial and leadership jobs is that of a parish priest. Unlike in a stock corporation where the owners put up sufficient capital to sustain its operations, a parish priest needs to solicit voluntary contributions from his flock to be able to build a church and perform his evangelizing mission.

In some cases, the parish priest's role goes beyond that of a pastor. He also serves as a school director. These were the dual roles performed by the late Fr. Rhoel Gallardo before his captors martyred him in Basilan last April.

It is not easy to be a priest-evangelist. While the substantial majority of Filipinos are Roman Catholics, there are varying levels of involvement in church activities and commitment to the faith. A profit-seeking company can use advertising and promotions to push product sales and increase market share. A pastor-evangelist must rely on his own eloquence, charisma and personal skills in propagating the faith among his flock.

In any organization, there is likely to be some degree of internal dissension. The manager of a in a private stock corporation or even in a government agency can impose disciplinary sanctions on troublemakers from within the ranks. He can reprimand, suspend or even dismiss them, with consent of his top management. If those sowing dissension resort to publicity, then he can mount his own counter-publicity campaign in the mass media.

The parish priest has more limited options. He can only employ persuasion and moral suasion. If all else fails, he can only pray.

The private corporation and the government agency has a well-structured organization staffed by paid officers and employees whose well-being is intertwined with the fortunes of their employer. Hence, they feel duty-bound to align themselves unconditionally with their bosses' aspirations because they sink or swim together. There are performance management systems designed to ensure that their behavior and actions support the attainment of corporate objectives.

In a parish or diocese, the pastor or bishop typically has a lean core staff of paid employees and must rely solely on a large group of unpaid volunteers who belong to a large number of diverse organizations. How can any parish priest ensure uniformly consistent behavior among an amorphous flock of faithful? Indeed, this is an enormous challenge that will test the mettle of even the most competent and highly paid professionally corporate managers.

I am sharing these reflections because I consider my role as a member of my Catholic parish as important as my work and career as a management educator. Recent developments at the St. James the Great Parish in Ayala Alabang, Muntinlupa City underline the formidable challenges facing a pastor-evangelist and the need for men and women of goodwill to close ranks.

Since the Feast of the Assumption last August 15, our parish priest, Msgr. Gerry Santos has been leading his flock in nightly vigils. These vigils serve as reparation and atonement by our parish for the desecration of the Blessed Sacrament that happened on July 31. Several ciboria containing consecrated hosts for communion were found missing from the tabernacle of the church's main altar. After less than an hour's search within the church premises, these were found in another section of the church.

Msgr. Santos reported the matter immediately to his superior, Bishop Jesse Mercado. Subsequently, he met with His Eminence, Jaime Cardinal Sin. The archbishop directed him to lead his flock in a month-long period of atonement and reparation.

While members of our parish community quietly began this process of atonement, news of this event has spread far and wide on account of the efforts of some of our parish priest's detractors. For starters, they have tapped a newspaper columnist who also speaks in radio and TV programs to be their medium for disseminating distorted and wrong information about the event.

I do not intend to engage them in a running feud. I am simply concerned and distressed that they have resorted to unfair methods in giving vent to their antipathy toward our parish priest. I urge them to stop sensationalizing this event.

As records of the Archdiocese of Manila would show, our parish is one of the best-managed and well-performing in terms of the parameters of effective administration, especially in the area of finance.

The late Fr. Rhoel Gallardo's parish is one of the beneficiaries of our parish's outreach program that extends financial support to the thirty most depressed parishes in the country.

Msgr. Santos also serves as the overseer of all parochial schools in the archdiocese and the large corps of volunteer catechists that teach religion in public schools. In these auxiliary assignments, members of our parish have similarly extended their support.

In this Jubilee Year of Christianity, Catholics will do well to reaffirm the cardinal virtues of faith, hope and charity. Let our hearts be light!

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October 2, 2000, BusinessWorld, Dear Editor: German thinks decision vs. the Abu Sayyaf was correct,...

I'm saddened by the fact that Germany has "sympathized" with France in protesting the decision of the Philippine government to launch a military assault against the Abu Sayyaf terrorists. Ja, I sincerely believe that the Estrada government made the right decision at the right time in curtailing the excesses of the group.

I learned from our friends in Zamboanga City that several areas in Sulu may now be considered no-man's land. This was a far cry from the archipelago that we used to frequent a few years ago.

The fine beaches in Patikul and the excellent diving spots in Tubbataha Reef are just some of the places I can never forget. My friends and I were supposed to have another diving expedition near Pangutaran Island when the news about the kidnapping of tourists in Sipadan broke out. Since then, I have closely monitored the developments in the area.

I cried when I heard that the Abu Sayyaf murdered Fr. Rhoel Gallardo for I have met the priest during one of my sorties in Mindanao.

What they did to the good priest, the teachers and students and most especially the soldiers whom they decapitated and mutilated was something I cannot stomach.

That time I had expected that President Estrada would already order a manhunt for these murderers. How frustrated I was when I learned that they chose instead to pursue the peaceful approach to ensure the safety of the more than 20 hostages.

After the last of the Sipadan hostages were released, I received another jolting news - that the group had kidnapped three Malaysians in another resort off Malaysia.

I thought this was now the cue for Pres. Estrada to call off the negotiations, and do what it was supposed to have done a few months earlier: eliminate these greedy and crazy lawless elements.

Danke schon, President Erap!

You did the right thing, heeding the call of the majority, to put an end to a situation that has caused you undue embarrassment and criticisms.


Maria Luisa Subd., Lahug
Cebu City

May 5, 2002, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Rhoel's example. 288 words,

LAST Friday was the second death anniversary of Claretian missionary Fr. Rhoel Gallardo. His body-together with those of schoolteachers Editha Lumame, Anabelle Mendoza and Ruben Democrito-was found on May 3, 2000, in a jungle clearing in Basilan, in the aftermath of an encounter between Abu Sayyaf bandits and government soldiers.

The anniversary was marked by a major breakthrough: the arrest in General Santos City of Salip Abdullah, a prime suspect in Gallardo's abduction and death. While the arrest came two years too late, we still welcome the development. It helps us remember with greater clarity the sacrifice that Gallardo and the three Claretian teachers had made. It also pushes us all the more to seek a lasting solution to the Abu Sayyaf crisis. There is no doubt that part of the solution is military; it will take arms to kill the scourge. But it will also take more teachers like the four martyrs, who will teach the next generation the one true lesson: We are all in the jungle together, struggling to make a clearing.

October 15, 2003, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 14 suspects in Basilan kidnapping freed, by Luige del Puerto,

A COURT yesterday ordered the release of 14 suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf group after state prosecutors failed to prove their alleged involvement in the abduction of 52 public school teachers and students in a Basilan town three years ago.

In a two-page ruling, Judge Agnes Carpio of Pasig Regional Trial Court Branch 261 likewise dismissed the kidnapping charges filed against the 14 suspected Abu Sayyaf members.

The state prosecutor's 11 witnesses failed to identify any of the accused as among those who took them hostage in Barangay Tumahubong, Sinangkapan town, Basilan on March 20, 2000.

All the 14 accused are currently detained in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig with 90 other suspected Abu Sayyaf members.

The Inquirer tried but failed to get the names of the 14 suspected Abu Sayyaf members.

In her ruling, Carpio also ordered the government to pay the accused P1,000 each for the time they spent in detention.

Court stenographer Eymard Eje said 17 detainees were originally set for release, but one had died while in detention, while two others have pending cases before another Pasig City court.

The judge handed down the decision after defense lawyer Pura Calleja-Ferrer urged the court to resolve the cases against the accused after the prosecution had rested its case, Eje said.

Court records showed that the case against the 14 accused was first handled by Judge Leili Acebo. The case, however, was raffled off after defense lawyers pointed out that two of the accused were minors at the time of the kidnapping.

A month after the 2000 abduction, two of the teachers, Dante Uban and Nelson Enriquez, were ordered beheaded by Abu Sayyaf leader Khadafy Janjalani and spokesperson Abu Sabaya as a "birthday gift" to then President Joseph Estrada.

Some of the hostages were later freed in exchange for food, but three teachers--Anabelle Mendoza, Editha Lumame and Ruben Democrito-were later tortured and executed. Their bodies were recovered after an encounter between government soldiers and the bandits in May 2000.

In September this year, two members of the Abu Sayyaf who allegedly took part in the Basilan kidnapping, were arrested.

The two, who each carried a P1-million reward, were identified as Salasim Suhud, alias "Abu Talib," 29, and his brother Asirin Suhud, alias "Popong," 20.

The case of alleged Abu Sayyaf leaders Hector Janjalani and his younger sibling, Khadaffy, prime suspects in the abduction of American Jeffrey Schilling, is still being heard by Judge Alex Quiros of Branch 156.

Schilling, an American Muslim kidnapped in Zamboanga City in August 2000, was able to escape from his Abu Sayyaf captors in April 2001.

September 5, 2003, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 2 Abus arrested for Basilan kidnap, by Gerald G. Lacuarta,

THE JUSTICE department yesterday announced the arrest of two members of the Abu Sayyaf bandit group who allegedly took part in the March 20, 2000 mass kidnap of school children and public school teachers and the killing of Fr. Rhoel Gallardo in Basilan.

Wearing blue detainee shirts, Salasim Suhud, alias "Abu Talib," 29, and his brother Asirin Suhud, alias "Popong," 20, were presented to the media by Justice Undersecretary Jose Calida in Manila. They carried a P1-million reward each.

Calida, in charge of the government's Witness Protection Program, said the Suhud brothers were among the "guards" of the 52 hostages who were snatched by the bandits in barangay Tumahubong, Sinangkapan town.

On April 19, 2000, after negotiations failed, two of the teachers, Dante Uban and Nelson Enriquez, were ordered beheaded by Abu Sayyaf leader Khadafy Janjalani and spokesperson Abu Sabaya as a "birthday gift" to then President Joseph Estrada.

While some of the young hostages were then freed in exchange for food, the priest and three other teachers-Anabelle Mendoza, Editha Lumame, and Ruben Democrito-were later tortured and executed. Their bodies were recovered after an encounter between government soldiers and bandits on May 3.

May 6, 2002, Inquirer, Priests tell GMA: Probe deeper, go to Basilan to solve Abu problem, 472 words

ZAMBOANGA CITY--Senior Church leaders here have urged President Macapagal-Arroyo to probe deeper into why the military, with considerable help from paramilitary forces and United States troops, has not been able to solve the decade-old Abu Sayyaf problem in Basilan.

Fr. Angel Calvo, a Claretian missionary who has served in Basilan, noted that there were almost 7,000 government troops, 12 companies of Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit, 500 US forces, almost 1,000 police troops and an undetermined number of civilian volunteers directed at the anti-Abu Sayyaf campaign.

And yet they still "could not track and get a handful of bandits numbering about 40," he said.

"I think the President or the national government should analyze this situation in Basilan," Calvo said.

Fr. Bernardo Blanco, himself a kidnap victim and a member of the Claretian Missionary Fathers (CMF), has similar thoughts.

"President Macapagal-Arroyo and the government must study, go to Basilan and see for themselves the circumstances of what is happening there," Blanco said.

He said the 300,000 people of Basilan were in a terrible situation which "forbids the progress of the province."

"We should always be reminded that we cannot solve the problem in Basilan in a military way, it's important that we go to the root of the problem and solve it," said Zamboanga Archbishop Carmelo Morelos who celebrated the mass for the late Fr. Rhoel Gallardo last Friday.

Gallardo, a Claretian missionary priest, was kidnapped and killed by Abu Sayyaf bandits two years ago.

Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad said that even with the large number of military troops in the province, "the Abu Sayyaf still exists."

Lamitan priest Fr. Cirilo Nacorda, another former Abu Sayyaf hostage, recalled how 20 years ago the Philippine Constabulary, with just one battalion covering the entire province, "could maintain peace and order and could catch a suspected criminal, even if the suspect hid in the thickly forested areas of the Sampinit complex." Julie S. Alipala, PDI Mindanao Bureau


May 13, 2002, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Army captain asks: Where's recognition for Cafgus? 501 words

ZAMBOANGA CITY--Two years after he led the rescue of 15 people held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan, Capt. Andrew Bacala Jr., chief of the 9th Special Forces Company, finally broke his silence.

Bacala, of Philippine Military Class '94, said he and his men, most of them members of the Citizens' Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu), did not get their much-deserved credit.

Bacala said several young military officers got the credit that was supposed to be given to his former unit, the 24th Special Forces Company.

"My men, mostly Cafgus, risked their lives, leaving their families behind. With their bravery and dedication, they were the ones who rescued the 15 hostages and recovered four dead bodies on May 3, 2000," Bacala told the INQUIRER.

Bacala said he was still hoping that the verbal recommendation made by then AFP chief Angelo Reyes, that he be awarded the Medal of Valor, "would materialize."

"Up to now I'm still waiting for it," he said.

But Bacala does not want it all. He said the 31 Cafgu members and two civilian volunteers were also waiting for their "accommodation" into the military as regular soldiers.

On May 3, 2000, Bacala and his men rescued 15 hostages from their Abu Sayyaf captors. It was during this operation when the bodies of Fr. Rhoel Gallardo and three others were found. Bacala and his men were given the Distinguished Conduct Star on May 28, 2000.

During the rescue operation, another group of government soldiers overran the Abu Sayyaf camp on Mt. Mahadji. The young military officers, Bacala said, received the Medal of Valor.

He added that "11 soldiers of the Special Forces were promoted a rank higher."

"I deeply appreciated the support extended to me by the Cafgus. In fact, their bravery, dedication and determination were the main factors in rescuing and securing the hostages," he said.

Still, Bacala said he was not happy that, except for blankets, several canned good, mats, several kilos of rice and a plaque of appreciation, "they remain Cafgus."

Bacala said former AFP Chief Gen. Angelo Reyes transmitted to Southern Command a guidance recommending him for a Medal of Valor award, "but it seems it remains unattended."

Julie Alipala, PDI Mindanao Bureau

April 13, 2000, BusinessWorld, Padilla sees Abu Sayyaf leaders at Basilan camp.Garcia, Cathy Rose A,.

Movie actor Robin Padilla arrived in Basilan yesterday to meet with Moro terrorists belonging to the Abu Sayyaf now holding 31 hostages.

Basilan crisis management committee spokesman Christopher Puno said Mr. Padilla is already in the Abu Sayyaf's Camp Abdurajak to negotiate for the hostages' release.

The Basilan crisis management committee is the interagency team task-ed by the government to work for the release of the hostages. Abu Sayyaf is one of several armed groups fighting for an independent Islamic state in Mindanao.

Mr. Puno expressed hope the Basilan hostage situation would be resolved by tomorrow.

"We're looking after the welfare of the victims there. We are raising our hopes. They (Mr. Padilla and Abu Sayyaf leaders) are there at the negotiating table now... I don't want to speculate or say anything yet until they are finished with the negotiations. We will just wait for those who are with the negotiations to finish," Mr. Puno said in a radio interview.

Mr. Padilla met with National Security Adviser Alexander P. Aguirre and Armed Forces Southern Command chief Maj. Gen. Diomedio Villanueva in Zamboanga City yesterday morning.

After the meeting, he was flown to Basilan and then immediately brought to the Camp Abdurajak.

It is the Abu Sayyaf which demanded that Mr. Padilla, an ex-convict who turned to Islam while in prison, personally negotiate for the hostages' release.

Its members even threatened to start executing the 31 hostages - which include a Catholic priest, schoolteachers and schoolchildren - this morning unless the movie actor flies to Basilan.

Mr. Padilla was accompanied by Catholic priest Nestor Banga and Muslim clerics in Basilan to Camp Abdurajak, which is named after slain Abu Sayyaf leader Abdurajak Janjalani.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Armed Forces Southern Command spokesman Col. Hilario Atendido said the military is on standby in Basilan.

He said government troops are prepared for whatever might happen to Mr. Padilla while in the Abu Sayyaf's lair.

On March 20, Abu Sayyaf members abducted 54 persons from Sumisip and Sinangkapan towns in Basilan. They had earlier released a number of hostages in exchange for food and medicine.

November 1, 2002, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Former Abu Sayyaf lair now resettlement area, by Julie S. Alipala,

MALUSO, Basilan-Two former strongholds of the Abu Sayyaf in this province have become resettlement areas for residents displaced by the war against the bandit group.

Provincial Social Welfare and Development officer Eduardo Baird told the Inquirer that the Kalahi Project has earmarked P3 million to build 200 low-cost houses in Upper Mahayahay, and P2.2 million for 108 houses in Mount Mahadji.

Sixty structures now stand in Upper Mahayahay while 50 others are in Mount Mahadji. A structure is about 60 by 70 meters with iron sheet roofing and "good" lumber for wall, foundation posts and flooring.

Baird said each house costs P20,000.

Mahayahay was once controlled by Isnilon Hapilon and his three brothers while Mount Mahadji was home to Abu Sayyaf leader Khadaffy Janjalani and his spokesperson Aldam Tilao alias Abu Sabaya.

"Now, it's no longer theirs. It is now with the people and we are doing our best to bring development in these areas with the help of other line agencies," said Col. Ben Dolorfino, chief of the 2nd Marine Brigade.

"These two known terrorist lairs are now home to our displaced people," said Maluso Mayor Sakib Salajin, who also assured communication facilities and basic services for the newly-established communities.

School buildings and a mosque will also be built in the two areas.

Salajin said several teachers want to be assigned in these communities.

Upper Mahayahay was the center of vegetable production six years ago. "The place supplied different vegetables not only for the Maluso people but to the other municipalities in Basilan as well. But the area was abandoned because the Abu Sayyaf took over the place," Salajin said.

Muktarian Nasirin, 30, said she farmed the place for over 10 years, "but I left this place in 1999 when several armed men raided the houses of the people and kept on asking for money."

Nasirin said she and her husband Gappang decided to transfer to nearby Maluso town proper because of the bandits' harassment.

"But I am happy now because we were able to get back our piece of land, and we have our own small house here," Nasirin said.

Still, Nasirin is afraid that once the soldiers leave the place, the bandits will return.

Mount Mahadji was the place of terror and violence on March 20, 2000 when more than 20 school teachers, including the Claretian priest Rhoel Gallardo, and more than 70 children were taken as hostages by Sabaya and Janjalani.

"Two teachers were beheaded in that place," said Dolorfino and several teachers were reportedly abused. More than 50 soldiers were also killed while trying to rescue the hostages," Dolorfino said.

Fr. Gallardo was also killed by the bandits.

"But it is now a beautiful place to live in. They have water, they have a communal farm," he said.

November 2, 2002, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 'Bihag' airs tomorrow on ABS-CBN, by Edmund L. Sicam,

WE generally frown on the extensive use of reenactments in a documentary, because they defeat the purpose for which the production was conceived. A documentary is more effective if it uses actual footage of the events and not dramatizations which lessen the impact of a reality-based show.

There are exceptions, however, like ABS-CBN's "Bihag: Into the Mountain" which airs tomorrow at 9 p.m. "Bihag" is about the harrowing experiences of 53 teachers and students who were abducted by the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan in March 2000. One of the captives was Fr. Rhoel Gallardo, who was beheaded by the bandits.

To achieve greater impact, the docu reenacts the abuse and torture that the victims experienced at the hands of the their captors, as well as allegations of collusion between the Abu Sayyaf and some members of the military. These are based on eyewitness accounts as detailed by Jose Torres, Jr. in his book "Into the Mountain," for which he won the National Book Award for Journalism. He acted as consultant for "Bihag."

The dramatizations are effective because the actors are convincing in their respective roles. The visuals also look like they were shot during the actual incidents. There is no attempt to sensationalize the scenes but the images are disturbing, nevertheless.

New boldie

Nina Lopez, introduced in Starlight Films' "Biglang Liko," plays the title role in Legacy Films' "Dalaginding," where she is used by her stepfather to blackmail a politician.

The Cebuana has just embarked on her career but already she has become a controversial figure. During the shooting of her launching movie, producer Celso de los Angeles found out that she was still a minor so he toned down the sexy scenes in the movie. In fact, according to Nina, the nude shots of her in the movie belong to a body double.

De Los Angeles also plans to file legal action against people who misrepresented the new talent's age.

The movie also stars Halina Perez, Elizabeth Oropesa, Eddie Gutierrez, Marcus Madrigal and Carlos Morales. Direction is by Mike Relon Makiling.

Douglas Nierras in one word

We asked some members of Powerdance to describe their artistic director, Douglas Nierras, in one word. Their answers: strict, perfectionist, mentor, teacher, rare, genius.

Not one said the "T" word-tyrant which is the image Douglas projects to the outside world. We kidded him when he finally arrived that he had trained his dancers well not only in dance but also in answering pesky writers. The choreographer kidded back that the group couldn't find a harsher word than tyrant.

Kidding aside, everyone in the group agreed that Douglas does not dictate to them, nor does he spoonfeed his dancers. Rather, he makes them think what to do with their bodies.

Powerdance will have its 15th anniversary presentation, "Can Everybody (Power) Dance?" on Nov. 9 at the CCP Main Theater. Call 633-6417.

March 2, 2003, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippines: Abu Sayyaf leader says Iraqis offering financial support, by Guzman and TJ Burgonio,

Zamboanga City: An Abu Sayyaf leader has revealed that the kidnap-for-ransom gang receives money from people close to Iraqi President Saddam Husayn.

Iraqi financial support for the extremist group, which now styles itself as the Al-Harakat-ul Al-Islamiya (Islamic Movement), started coming in when the Abu Sayyaf was able to demonstrate that it was capable of putting the Philippines in a bad light, said Hamsiraji Sali, a bandit leader based in Basilan.

"We showed this by kidnapping more than 70 people in Tumahubong and Sinangkapan," Sali said in a phone interview.

The bandit leader was referring to the mass abduction that took place on March 20, 2000 in Sumisip and Tuburan towns in which 78 schoolteachers and students, including the late Claretian missionary Fr Rhoel Gallardo, were taken hostage.

Sali said the Abu Sayyaf received about 1m pesos each year from its allies and supporters in Iraq.

"So we would have something to spend on chemicals for bomb-making and for the movement of our people in Mindanao," he said.

Sali said the group's firearms were being provided by some contacts in the Middle East. He said the firearms were transported to Mindanao by way of Cambodia and Vietnam.

"Then somebody receives them in Malaysia and sends them to the Philippines," Sali said.

Sali, who was a key leader in the Abu Sayyaf hostage-taking in Sipadan, Malaysia and the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan, said corrupt soldiers and military officials also supplied the group with firearms.

"But I won't identify them because they might not sell to us again," he said.

During the interview, Sali said he had relocated to Central Mindanao, but not to hide.

He said he was supervising the Abu Sayyaf's renewed attacks on the government.

Sali has claimed that he and some 90 Abu Sayyaf terrorists were in Central Mindanao to carry out economic sabotage operations through bombings.

"We won't stage kidnappings or beheadings in the meantime. We will sabotage the economy by destroying all electric posts, towers and lines," he said.

But the military has dismissed his claims, saying it was the Moro Islamic Liberation Front [MILF] that staged the attacks.

"It's just a diversionary tactic by the MILF to escape blame," Lt-Col Michael Manquiquis, the Armed Forces spokesperson.

The military maintains that the MILF carried out the series of bombings that toppled power transmission towers in Maguindanao this week in retaliation against the capture of its camp in North Cotabato two weeks ago.

Maj Julieto Ando, spokesperson of the Army's 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao, said the military has deployed a number of intelligence operatives to track down Sali's hideout in Central Mindanao even as he disputed claims that Sali's arrival in the region was behind the recent series of explosions.

He said the bombing of the Cotabato City airport and the sabotaging of power lines of the National Power Corp. were meant to divert the military's attention from its offensive against the MILF in Pikit, North Cotabato.

"What reports we received from our men in the field say all these attacks, including (the bombing of) the transmission towers of the National Power Corp., were really perpetrated by the MILF," Ando said.

Manquiquis said the evidence pointed to the MILF as the culprit, pointing out that the mortar shells used in the attacks were part of the secessionist group's artillery.

"We suspect that this was the work of the MILF-SOG (special operations group), the group trained in bombings," he said.

March 2, 2003, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Iraqis aiding us, Abu leader admits, by Julie S. Alipala and Rosa-May V. de Guzman PDI Mindanao Bureau and TJ Burgonio,

ZAMBOANGA CITY--An Abu Sayyaf leader has revealed that the kidnap-for-ransom gang receives money from people close to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Iraqi financial support for the extremist group, which now styles itself as the Al-Harakatul Al-Islamiya (Islamic Movement), started coming in when the Abu Sayyaf was able to demonstrate that it was capable of putting the Philippines in a bad light, said Hamsiraji Sali, a bandit leader based in Basilan.

"We showed this by kidnapping more than 70 people in Tumahubong and Sinangkapan," Sali said in a phone interview.

The bandit leader was referring to the mass abduction that took place on March 20, 2000 in Sumisip and Tuburan towns in which 78 schoolteachers and students, including the late Claretian missionary Fr. Rhoel Gallardo, were taken hostage.

Sali said the Abu Sayyaf received about P1 million each year from its allies and supporters in Iraq.

"So we would have something to spend on chemicals for bomb-making and for the movement of our people in Mindanao," he said.

Sali said the group's firearms were being provided by some contacts in the Middle East. He said the firearms were transported to Mindanao by way of Cambodia and Vietnam.

"Then somebody receives them in Malaysia and sends them to the Philippines," Sali said.

Sali, who was a key leader in the Abu Sayyaf hostage-taking in Sipadan, Malaysia and the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan, said corrupt soldiers and military officials also supplied the group with firearms.

"But I won't identify them because they might not sell to us again," he said.

During the interview, Sali said he had relocated to Central Mindanao, but not to hide.

He said he was supervising the Abu Sayyaf's renewed attacks on the government.

Sali has claimed that he and some 90 Abu Sayyaf terrorists were in Central Mindanao to carry out economic sabotage operations through bombings.

"We won't stage kidnappings or beheadings in the meantime. We will sabotage the economy by destroying all electric posts, towers and lines," he said.

But the military has dismissed his claims, saying it was the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that staged the attacks.

"It's just a diversionary tactic by the MILF to escape blame," Lt. Col. Michael Manquiquis, the Armed Forces spokesperson.

The military maintains that the MILF carried out the series of bombings that toppled power transmission towers in Maguindanao this week in retaliation against the capture of its camp in North Cotabato two weeks ago.

Maj. Julieto Ando, spokesperson of the Army's 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao, said the military has deployed a number of intelligence operatives to track down Sali's hideout in Central Mindanao even as he disputed claims that Sali's arrival in the region was behind the recent series of explosions.

He said the bombing of the Cotabato City airport and the sabotaging of power lines of the National Power Corp. were meant to divert the military's attention from its offensive against the MILF in Pikit, North Cotabato.

"What reports we received from our men in the field say all these attacks, including (the bombing of) the transmission towers of the National Power Corp., were really perpetrated by the MILF," Ando said.

Manquiquis said the evidence pointed to the MILF as the culprit, pointing out that the mortar shells used in the attacks were part of the secessionist group's artillery.

"We suspect that this was the work of the MILF-SOG (special operations group), the group trained in bombings," he said.

April 8, 2004, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Robin Padilla's Abu Sayyaf bodyguard freed on bail, by Christian V. Esguerra and Philip C. Tubeza,

AN ALLEGED member of an Abu Sayyaf cell accused of plotting to bomb specific Metro Manila targets is now out on bail.

Abdulwali Villanueva, said to be the bodyguard of action star Robin Padilla, walked out of his detention cell in Camp Crame yesterday afternoon after his wife posted a P304,000 bail before three Quezon City regional trial courts.

Padilla, an Islam convert since the mid-90's, personally fetched Villanueva, his bodyguard for 10 years, who has been implicated in the bombing plot with Marvin Rueca, Alhamser Manatad Limbong alias Kosovo, Redendo Cain Dellosa, Radzman Sangkula Jul, and Abdulsaid Sanjeng Lim.

On the group's target list were shopping malls, embassies, hotels, public utilities, and train stations in Metro Manila, according to the Philippine National Police.

The actor had met with President Macapagal-Arroyo the other day over allegations that the government was zeroing in on Muslims in its drive to flush out terrorists. The meeting averted a big protest rally Muslim communities were planning against the supposed crackdown.

Amirah Ali Lidasan of the party list Suang Bangsamoro said Villanueva's release proved that complaints against the alleged crackdown had been heard.

But Hana Villanueva said her husband should have been released right after she got a court order on Monday. She suspects the PNP delayed the release so her husband could be presented with the others at a press conference in Camp Crame on Tuesday.

Yesterday, acting Justice Secretary Ma. Merceditas Gutierrez said the Philippines could not yet turn over Limbong to the United States following a request by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation for "access" to the terror suspects.

The US government wants Limbong so he can stand trial for the 2001 kidnapping of Americans Guillermo Sobero and Martin and Gracia Burnham from the Dos Palmas Resort in Palawan. Sobero was later executed, allegedly by Limbong.

Limbong had been charged with conspiracy to commit hostage-taking, resulting in the death and murder of a US national before a District of Columbia court.

Gutierrez said Limbong should be tried first in local courts before the government could consider the US request for his extradition, adding the courts would decide if he could be extradited after his trial.

"Limbong might be extradited if he does not get the death penalty. But the court would be the one to decide this,'' said a justice department official as his office readied the formal Philippine response to the US request.

The justice official said the DOJ is still coordinating with the police and the military, who are still interrogating the suspects. The official said it would be up to the suspects' custodians to decide if they would grant the Americans access to the bandits.

Of the six, only Villanueva had a bailable case. He was charged with illegal possession of explosives and firearms and violation of the election gun ban.

Police said he turned over the bombs and guns when he was arrested at the SM Fairview parking lot last March 28.

Rueca faces similar bailable charges. But the PNP said it would file a non-bailable case against him after witnesses implicated him and the others in the 2002 Dos Palmas kidnapping and the abduction of 43 people from four schools in Sumipsip, Basilan also in 2000, said PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Joel Goltiao.

Witnesses said Limbang was easily the most notorious of the pack, having allegedly executed Sobero and tortured Fr. Rhoel Gallardo, a Sumipsip hostage, before killing him. With Leila B. Salaverria

April 15, 2004, Philippine Daily Inquirer, PNP: Arrest of Abu Sayyaf chief imminent, by Christian Esguerra,

THE PHILIPPINE National Police yesterday all but predicted the imminent arrest of Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani, triggering speculations that the notorious bandit leader and terrorist may already be in custody.

In a press statement, Director General Hermogenes Ebdane said the PNP would deliver the "final blow" to the resurgent bandit group by arresting its top leader whose capture carries a bounty of $5 million from the United States and another P10 million from the Philippine government.

Observers noted that the announcement of the impending arrest was quite uncharacteristic of Ebdane who in the past has been extremely cautious about divulging details of planned police operations.

A ranking PNP official yesterday said Ebdane "may know something we do not know."

But Director Robert Delfin, the PNP intelligence director, said the arrest of Janjalani was "not yet in the bag."

Ebdane was reportedly in high spirits and elated in predicting Janjalani's arrest after meeting with top police officials during a command conference in Subic, Zambales yesterday.

The PNP chief pressed all regional directors and heads of national support units in Mindanao to intensify the hunt for the Abu Sayyaf leader, apparently motivated by President Macapagal-Arroyo's decision to raise the reward for Janjalani's arrest to P10 million.

"It is a gesture that manifests the government's firm resolve to put an end to the Abu Sayyaf menace," Ebdane said in the statement.

His optimism may also have been fueled by the PNP's recent triumphs against the extremist group which the US has linked to the al-Qaida international terror network of Osama bin Laden.

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group arrested Abu sub-commander Isni Ruddin Lagayasan alias Otoh Hapikin in Lamitan, Basilan last Tuesday.

Lagayasan, who carried a P1 million reward on his head, had 10 standing arrest warrants for his alleged involvement in the abduction of 53 teachers and students, including Fr. Rhoel Gallardo, from four schools in Tumahubong, Basilan in 2000. Gallardo was later found to have been tortured and beheaded.

Five days before Lagayasan's arrest, the First Scout Ranger Battalion headed by Col. Noel Buan, killed Janjalani's deputy Hamsiraji Sali and five other Abu Sayyaf members in Barangay Makiri, Lantawan town.

However, this success has been somewhat dented by the escape of 53 inmates, including 24 Abu Sayyaf members, from the Basilan provincial jail last Saturday. Thirty of the escapees have since been recaptured or killed.


September 13, 2004, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Abu Sayyaf member in priest's abduction arrested in Basilan.

ZAMBOANGA CITY--An Abu Sayyaf member involved in the abduction of Claretian Missionary Fr. Rhoel Gallardo and about 70 students and teachers from Barangay Kumalarang in Isabela City on March 20, 2000 was arrested Thursday afternoon, the military said on Friday.

Gallardo was later beheaded. Southern Command chief Maj. Gen. Generoso Senga said it was not known if the suspect, identified as Adshar Ismael, alias Abu Junaid, was among those who killed the priest.

Ismael is an alleged follower of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon.

Senga said Ismael was apprehended while visiting his family.

He said military intelligence agents had placed Ismael's house under surveillance and finally caught up with him on Thursday.

A military intelligence officer privy to the arrest said Ismael was presented to several suspects, who positively identified him as one of their captors.

"Two female former hostages kicked and slapped Ismael, saying they were raped during their captivity," the intelligence officer said.

Senga said Ismael was being interrogated to determine his participation in other activities of the Abu Sayyaf.

Col. Raymundo Ferrer, commander of the Army's 103rd Infantry Brigade based in Basilan, told the Inquirer that the military's continuing campaign against the Abu Sayyaf had netted more suspects since July.

In August alone, three suspected bandits were arrested.

They were junior leaders Ibnu Abbas and Muin Hamja, who each had a P1-million reward for their capture, and Abu Sabaya's younger sister Satra Abdulaup Tilao. Julie Alipala, PDI Mindanao Bureau


September 16, 2004, Philippine Daily Inquirer, DPAs for gov't in Abu Sayyaf slain in Zamboanga,

ZAMBOANGA CITY--Unidentified suspects gunned down two men, who turned out to be government agents who infiltrated the Abu Sayyaf in a busy section of the downtown area here on Tuesday afternoon.

Senior Supt. Mario Yanga, city police director, said Ali Malabon, 24, of Barangay Talon-talon here and Abraham Mubin, 40, of Barangay Santo Ni[currency]o, also in this city, were identified through ID cards issued them by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (Nica).

Yanga said the two suspects arrived on Buenavista Street with the two slain men around 2 p.m.

He said witnesses told police the four men were seen talking while walking toward a house in the area.

Later, the two suspects pulled out handguns and repeatedly shot the government agents.

Wanted men

During follow-up investigation, Yanga said they found out that the two slain agents were among the wanted Abu Sayyaf bandits who are being hunted in connection with the mass hostage-taking of civilians in Sumisip and Tuburan towns in Basilan on March 20, 2000.

One of the victims, Claretian priest Fr. Rhoel Gallardo, was later beheaded.

But some quarters expressed doubts if one of the slain agents was only using an alias.

Records compiled by the Inquirer showed that on Nov. 3, 2001, then Col. Hermogenes Esperon, former commander of the Army's 103rd Infantry Brigade based in Basilan, presented the body of a slain Abu Sayyaf bandit and identified it as Ali Malabon.

More Malabons

After his reported death, four more suspects named Ali Malabon had been arrested according to Ricardo Cabaron, Western Mindanao deputy prosecutor.

Yanga said the two agents could have been executed because of their role in the government's anti-Abu Sayyaf operations. Julie Alipala, PDI Mindanao Bureau


December 6, 2004, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 'Millionaire' exec axed from co-op, by Ansbert Joaquin, PDI Central Luzon Desk,

CASTILLEJOS, Zambales-The National Electric Administration removed from office the president of the Zambales Electric Cooperative II after he was found to have spent P74,333 a month for four years in mobile phone bills alone and P533,649.84 in plane tickets by traveling 265 days in a year.

He was also found to have awarded a P20-million systems loss reduction project to his dummy company.

Also removed were all members of the cooperative's board of directors who received a total of P3.6 million in benefits, allowances and bonuses, which the NEA found to be illegal.

All the officers of the Zameco II, from president down to the board members who were found overstaying in office, were also disqualified from running for any elective post in any future district elections of the cooperative.

NEA supervises power cooperatives. In some cases, board directors of power cooperatives decide but NEA intervenes in cases involving money loaned to cooperatives.

The case against the Zameco II officials stemmed from a complaint filed by the Castillejos Consumers Association Inc., headed by Dominador Gallardo, on Nov. 18, 2002.

Gallardo is the father of Claretian missionary priest, Fr. Rhoel Gallardo, who was killed by Muslim rebels in Basilan on May 3, 2000, after government soldiers clashed with Muslim separatists holding 27 hostages.

The complaint was based on the June 25, 1998 findings of the management and the financial audit of Zameco II, which was later supported by the July 24, 2003 audit conducted by the NEA.

Named respondents in the complaint were Jose Dominguez, president; Isaias Vindua, vice president; Vicente Barretto, secretary; Jose Santiago, treasurer, and Jose Naseriv Dolojan, Juan Fernandez and Honorio Dilag Jr., board members.

But Dominguez denied all allegations against him and the other officers.

The June 25, 1998 audit showed that the Zameco II board of directors illegally collected 13th month pay, anniversary bonus, mid-year/year-end bonuses, medical/clothing allowances, prompt payment discount bonus and separation pays from January 1989 to September 1997 amounting to P3.6 million.

The NEA claimed in its resolution that "notwithstanding the disallowance in audit and charging the disallowed amount as receivable from each director, as recommended in the 1998 audit, the Board of Zameco II continuously collected the same benefits without legal basis."

The July 24, 2003 NEA audit report, on the other hand, showed that Zameco II had receivables amounting to P23.5 million from the Central Luzon Power Transmission Development Corp. (CLPTDC) and Zambales Power Corp., which, the report said, were dummy corporations of Dominguez.

The same report also showed that Dominguez reimbursed P14.5 million covering, among others, P533,649.84 worth of plane tickets; meal expenses worth P140,659.62 a month; vitamins and other medicines amounting to P10,000 a week; purchase of computers and cell phone units amounting to P200,000, and prepaid mobile phone cards amounting to P3.5 million. The report said Dominguez had a cell phone covered with a plan paid by the cooperative.

The report also revealed that the cooperative, upon request of Dominguez, paid P225,000 in investments in favor of CLPTDC, which, the NEA audit found out, was no longer operating.

Dominguez's expenses for meetings with the National Power Corp., Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association, NEA and CLPTDC ranged from P30,000 to P130,000 a week, the report said.

Two drivers, both assigned to Dominguez, also incurred expenses totaling P4.7 million in three years.

"With his practice of lavish spending, Dominguez did not protect the interest of the cooperative and the member-consumers," the NEA resolution said.

On the issue of their overstaying as Zameco II officers, Dominguez claimed that their continued tenure was authorized by then NEA Administrator Rodrigo Cabrera.

March 22, 2005, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Slain priest hailed as true martyr, by Armand N. Nocum,

SOME MUSLIMS may believe that Abu Sayyaf Commanders Robot and Kosovo have gone to paradise, but it was the people they tortured and killed who were the "true martyrs."

Or has the world forgotten?

A Claretian priest and colleagues of the late Fr. Rhoel Gallardo raised these points yesterday as they questioned what they said were attempts to glorify the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits killed during a failed jailbreak last week.

"We are losing sight of the true victims-Father Gallardo, the teachers and children tortured and molested by the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan. They were all defenseless. They were the real martyrs," Fr. Christian James Castro told the Inquirer.

Former Claretian seminarian Allan A. Navida said portraying the ASG inmates slain by the police at the Camp Bagong Diwa prison as "martyrs" pained the relatives and friends of their victims even more.

"They call the ASG martyrs? But they had guns with them. The real martyrs are their defenseless and helpless victims who died excruciating deaths," he said.

Five years ago on Sunday, the ASG abducted Gallardo, then parish priest of Sumisip town and director of the Claret School in Basilan, and dozens of school teachers and pupils and brought them to the ASG's Camp Abdurazzak on Mt. Mahaji.

There, according to accounts by churchmen and police later, the 34-year-old priest was tortured after he rejected offers by the ASG to free him if he renounced his faith.

Nails ripped off

He was also beaten when he prayed the rosary and when he objected to the ASG bringing out some of the women hostages to be raped.

When soldiers overran the ASG camp, they found Gallardo's brain had been blown off. He had also been shot in the back and in the shoulder.

The nails on his index fingers and toes had been ripped out.

Killed with Gallardo were teachers Editha Lumome, Annabelle Mendoza and Ruben Democrito.

Birthday present for Erap

The ASG also executed teachers Dante Uban and Nelson Enriquez as "birthday gifts" for then President Joseph Estrada.

State Prosecutor Peter Medalle, who is handling the criminal charges against the ASG, said it was Alhamser Manatad Limbong, alias Commander Kosovo, who had tortured Gallardo by pulling out his nails.

"If you survive this ordeal, this will be my remembrance to you," Medalle quoted Limbong as supposedly telling Gallardo. Medalle said this was related to him by an ASG source and witnesses to the incident.

Beaten senseless

Kosovo, who led the March 14 failed jailbreak, and Ghalib Andang (Robot) were among the 22 suspected ASG members killed by police. Their relatives, as well as Muslim religious leaders and residents at the Muslims' Maharlika Village in Taguig City, later buried them in rites accorded to martyrs.

"He [Gallardo] was first beaten senseless when he protested the decision of the ASG to drag teacher Winifer Selorio, who was eight months pregnant, into the mountains," said Castro, director of the Claret School of Zamboanga City.

Inspiration to others

Castro lashed out at what he described as an "overkill" effort by some human rights groups to protest the one-sided killing of the ASG men. He said these groups were nowhere around when the ASG executed Gallardo and the others.

"In spite of the beatings and torture, he never gave up his faith or on life," Castro said.

For his steadfastness, Gallardo served to strengthen the other hostages, who were all on the verge of giving up all hope during their weeks of captivity.

Delfin Aguilar, a former Claretian seminarian who was close to Gallardo, said that although the relatives of the ASG men were entitled to their beliefs, only Gallardo's death could be seen as a true martyrdom.

Genuine martyr's death

"He gave a meaning to his martyrdom-he suffered and died for others. From the Christian point of view, he is the true martyr," he said.

Even while they were in the seminary, Castro and Aguilar recalled that Gallardo was known as the "little Claret" for his Catholic fervor and pious ways.

Gallardo was seen as the seminarian who most typified the spirit of Saint Anthony Mary Claret (1807-1870), founder of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Claret himself endured persecution toward the end of his life.

Aguilar, a member of an organization of former Claretian priests and seminarians called X-Cla, said they held up Gallardo as an inspiration for their planned charitable work to help promote priestly vocations.

Apart from Gallardo, the martyrs were the countless victims of the atrocities of the ASG, Navida said.

March 23, 2005, Philippine Daily Inquirer, This cop is a man of the cloth, by Christian V. Esguerra,

IN THE EYES of God, can a policeman really kill even the most hardened criminal?

Not a few policemen have been confronted by this dilemma. And many of them have found peace in the words of Rev. Fr. Rey Urmeneta, 51, head of the Philippine National Police Chaplain Service.

"It's morally justifiable," he would tell conscience-stricken policemen, usually the rookies.

Fr. Rey says this advice should calm even those bothered by last week's Bicutan prison siege that killed 22 Abu Sayyaf detainees. The policemen simply did their job, he says.

It just so happened that not all of the fatalities in the prison attack were like Alhamser Limbong, the Abu Sayyaf commander who had tortured the late Fr. Rhoel Gallardo by pulling out his nails. Unfortunately, they also included a 75-year-old detainee suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

"When you kill in the line of duty, that's the will of God," the priest tells the Inquirer in an interview. "As a policeman, that's your mission, your vocation."

Fr. Rey says it's different, of course, when an officer ignores the rules of engagement and shoots a disarmed and helpless suspect. That's murder, he adds.

Being both a priest and a policeman has enabled Fr. Rey to easily make the slightest moral distinction. To his flock, he's more convincing than a regular priest. And he's practically every inch a policeman like them.

While his primary duty is to "cater to the spiritual needs" of officers, he and 42 other chaplains nationwide receive similar training in basic police work.

They know how to shoot a gun and they hone their skills in annual firearm proficiency tests. They learn hand-to-hand combat. And like the rest of the pack, they have to keep fit and trim those bellies.

Won't fire a single shot

But in case they're caught in an encounter, the priest vows never to fire a single shot.

As a superintendent (or colonel), Fr. Rey is one of the senior officers of the PNP.

He reports both to the PNP chief and to the military ordinary, the bishop in charge of the "diocese" specifically for the armed services.

He receives a monthly salary equivalent to his position. When he reaches the mandatory PNP retirement age of 56, he will get a retirement pay representing all of his years in the police force.

A dream come true

Fr. Rey got the best of both worlds when he joined the PNP's predecessor, the Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police, as a chaplain with the rank of 1st lieutenant in 1982. He moved to the PNP when it was formed in 1991.

"I really wanted to be a priest but I also dreamed of becoming a policeman," he recalls.

He wanted to wear the cassock owing to his deeply Catholic upbringing, and the badge because of his father, a policeman in their hometown of Magsinggal in Ilocos Sur.

Young Rey, though, was fascinated neither with the action nor the violence that went with law enforcement.

So having now outlived 11 PNP chiefs, he says his police work has consistently remained focused on his priestly mission.

"My chief mission," he says, "is to provide spiritual guidance to our policemen," a task that's never easy considering all the problems hounding the police force.

Thing of the past

There is widespread belief that as PNP chaplain, he is also in the company of some womanizers, gamblers, executioners-all masquerading as policemen.

But he swears this is a thing of the past.

"Our policemen have made significant changes now," he says. "They're now more religious and more committed to their work and their family."

On Sundays, the PNP chapel in Camp Crame is packed with policemen and their families, a strong sign of a growing spirituality within the organization, he says.

"I suppose many of our policemen are deeply religious," he says. "They don't just show it because they have to protect this macho image."

Generals and other senior officials turn to their priest friends in times of moral crisis, when tough decisions have to be made, he says.

Lack of priests

In the PNP, he says, the problem really is the lack of priests, not the absence of religious faith.

At present, the Chaplain Service has only 43 chaplains serving the needs of around 120,000 policemen and non-uniformed personnel, or a ratio of 2,790 people for one chaplain. The ideal ratio is to have one priest for every 500 officers, he says.

Conscience intact

Fr. Rey sees no immediate solution to the numbers.

What's important is that many policemen still keep their conscience intact, despite the power of the gun.


July 7, 2005, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Abu Sayyaf member, 214 words,

A member of the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf said to be in the inner circle of slain spokesman Abu Sabaya was arrested Tuesday morning by government forces in Isabela City, Basilan. Police in the area said Absar Ismael alias Abu Arsad and Abu Perdowse, was the leader along with Abu Sabaya of the kidnapping and killing of Fr. Rhoel Gallardo in March 2000. Found among Mr. Ismael's property was a photograph of himself, Abu Sabaya, chieftain Isnilon Hapilon and slain subleader Hamsiraji Sali. Mr. Ismael was brought to the Southern Command in Zamboanga. END


July 8, 2005, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Suspected Sayyaf member held, 241 words,

ZAMBOANGA CITY-A suspected member of the Abu Sayyaf, who was reportedly involved in the abduction and beheading of Claretian missionary Fr. Rhoel Gallardo and several other victims in March 2000, was arrested in Basilan on Tuesday, the military said July 6. Brig. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, commander of the Army's 103rd Infantry Brigade based in Basilan, identified the suspect as Abshar Ismael alias Abu Arsad. Ferrer said Abu Arsad, who faces kidnapping charges before the Basilan Regional Trial Court, was arrested by soldiers under the Military Intelligence Group in Barangay Carbon in Malamawi Island. "He is now under tactical interrogation by the MIG," he told the Inquirer. Julie Alipala, PDI Mindanao Bureau

December 6, 2005, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Endless list of stories from the provinces, 700+ words,

ROTTING bodies littered the grounds of the once impenetrable Moro rebel fortress. Camp Abubakar fell to government hands after a month of fighting, but PDI Mindanao Bureau correspondent Edwin Fernandez was in no mood to celebrate victory in the war launched by President Joseph Estrada in 2000. He felt bad when he saw the children in the evacuation center.

PDI Visayas Bureau correspondent Jani Arnaiz nearly drowned when the banca of a rescue mission to Panaon in Southern Leyte capsized in rough seas on Dec. 20, 2003. The day before, landslides swept the islands three towns, killing about 150 people.

Fr. Cyrain Cabuenas, PDI Visayas Bureau correspondent, was saying Sunday Mass when communist rebels attacked the police station 20 meters from his parish church in Quinapondan, Eastern Samar, on June 22, 2003. After two hours of gunfight, the rebels withdrew, wounding the police chief but losing three comrades, and leaving an imprint of terror on the minds of the populace.

I had no choice but to wait for the decisive moment every photographer wishes to capture, PDI Mindanao Bureau correspondent Bobby Timonera wrote. He had just witnessed the execution by firing squad of two persons convicted of frustrated murder, car theft and robbery by a Moro rebel court in Masiu, Lanao del Sur, on Oct. 6, 1997.

The stories are numerous, the details still crisp and gripping in the minds of the Inquirers provincial correspondents as when they were first send raw copy to their bureaus before these finally make it to the newspapers front pages.

Front row outside Metro

The stories that the bureaus in the Visayas, Mindanao, Northern/Central and Southern Luzon chronicle give the Inquirer a vital, strategic advantage in the media industry.

For the past 14 years, these offices have brought readers to the front row of events that took place outside Metro Manila. They offered a wide coverage of varied topics, and a broad perspective and substantive appreciation of the issues involved in the shortest time possible.

From the provincial stories, readers learned about armed hostilities between soldiers and rebels, and peace initiatives, including the negotiations of the final peace agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front in Jakarta; the personal circumstances of Sarah Balabagan, Flor Contemplacion, Delia Maga, Angelo de la Cruz and Robert Tarongoy; Mt. Pinatubo's eruptions and lahar flows, Lake Maughans collapse, killer earthquakes, typhoons and other natural disasters; sinking ships, plane crashes and mining explosions and cave-ins, and the heroism in ordinary people that surfaces when it is needed most during tragedies.

The Abu Sayyaf and Pentagon Groups acts of terror and the ordeals of Fr. Giuseppe Pierantoni, Fr. Rhoel Gallardo, Ediborah Yap, the Burnham couple and the other Sipadan and Palawan hostages; the rape-killing of the Chiong sisters; the trial of cult leader Ruben Ecleo Jr., and the escape and capture of priest-killer Norberto Manero.

Endless stories

Child toxic waste victim Crizel Jane Valencia and child wonders Alliah Guerra and Adrian Adi Maronilla Jr.; the arrival of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos body from Hawaii and the continuing domination of local politics by a few clans; sports legends and rags-to-riches stories of micro-entrepreneurs.

Pusan Point and the dawning of the new millennium; the plight of whale sharks, manta rays, tamaraws, Philippine eagles, Philippine spotted deer, Philippine cockatoos and Calayan rail, coral reef destruction and the successes of marine sanctuaries, reforestation projects and preservation of mountains and heritage sites; scientific and technological breakthroughs in test-tube carabaos, sleeping fish; super tilapia, high-yielding rice varieties and micro-dams.

The list is endless.

May 11, 2006, BBC Reports, Philippine military says about 100 Abu Sayyaf militants remain at large,

Text of report entitled: "Military presents Sayyaf member suspected of kidnapping Americans, killing civilians", carried in English by Philippine newspaper The Philippine Star website on 11 May

Zamboanga City: The military presented to the media yesterday a captured Abu Sayyaf terrorist suspect who had allegedly taken part in the kidnapping of three American tourists and the massacre of civilians in two barangays [village] in Basilan five years ago.

Brig-Gen Reymundo Ferrer, Basilan Army commander, said Komoni Pael, alias Abu Bara, was arrested by military intelligence agents in Barangay Kumalarang in Isabela City last Monday [8 May].

"Surveillance had been conducted by our combined army and naval intelligence groups that led to the arrest of the suspect who was laying low from the military hunt for years until his arrest Monday," he said.

Brig-Gen Francisco Callelero, Armed Forces Southern Command deputy chief, said Pael was subjected to tactical interrogation by military intelligence before being presented to reporters.

"The investigation led to the discovery of other terroristic activities he was involved," he said.

Callelero said Pael, who carries a 150,000-peso [2,900 US dollars] bounty, was one of the Abu Sayyaf terrorists in the wanted list of the Department of National Defence and Department of the Interior and Local Government.

"We are expecting more to fall into the long arms of the law in the coming days," he said.

Pael was indicted for the massacre of 10 men in Barangay Balobo in Lamitan, Basilan and the beheading of five farmers in Tairan, Lantawan at the height of the Dos Palmas hostage taking incident in 2001.

The Abu Sayyaf had snatched three American and 17 Filipino tourists from a posh resort off Palawan.

Pael was also tagged in the kidnapping of teachers, students and Catholic priest Fr. Rhoel Gallardo in Punoh Mahaji, Sumisip in March 2000.

Gallardo was killed by the Abu Sayyaf, along with three other male teachers.

During the presentation, Pael did not comment on media queries regarding his involvement in the massacre of villagers and the kidnapping of three Americans.

Pael was the eighth Abu Sayyaf terrorist to fall after a three-week military crackdown in Western Mindanao following the fall of Abu Sayyaf bomber Amil Hamja Ajijul and the arrest of four other suspects.

Top Abu Sayyaf commander Al-Sharie Amirrudin Mohammad Nur, alias Abu Omar, was arrested recently in his beachfront hideout in Zamboanga City, while another wanted terrorist, Abdusalih Dimah, was captured in Basilan.

The military said about 100 Abu Sayyaf terrorists involved in the Palawan kidnapping and other terroristic activities in Basilan have remained at large.

Source: The Philippine Star website, Manila, in English 11 May 06

August 25, 2006, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Soldiers catch up with main Sayyaf group, kill 6 members,

ZAMBOANGA CITY GOVERNMENT SOLDIERS caught up with the main group of the Abu Sayyaf led by Khadaffy Janjalani in Patikul, Sulu yesterday, killing six members of the al Qaida-linked terrorist group, the military said.

This was the second day of heavy fighting since the military continued with its deep push this week into Abu Sayyaf territories in Sulu in a bid to flush out the terror group and their foreign allies, including three suspects in the 2000 Bali bombings.

Brig. Gen. Juancho Sabban, commander of the 3rd Marine Brigade, said at least six Abu Sayyaf gunmen were killed in yesterday's encounter in Barangay Kabuntakas while four Marines were wounded.

We discovered that majority of the ASG we hit were Yakan- speaking bandits from Basilan. We are optimistic that among those 80 bandits was Khadaffy Janjalani, he said.

On Wednesday morning, two Scout Rangers were killed while 17 others were wounded in another clash in the same town.

Wednesdays offensive was the biggest debacle so far on the military's side.

Deputy Southern Command chief Brig. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino said elements of the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion attacked the camp of Abu Sayyaf leader Radulan Sahiron in Barangay Danag in Patikul town around 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

He said the soldiers, who flew in from Davao City on Tuesday afternoon, were met with fierce gunfire from at least 15-30 Abu Sayyaf bandits as they were approaching the camp in Mt. Sinumaan.

Dolorfino said the Sulu offensive, which is also aimed at capturing Janjalani and suspected Jemaah Islamiyah militants Joko Pitono alias Dulmatin, Omar Patek and Jandala, could last for several more days.

Already, civilian officials have reported that hundreds of families have been displaced since Oplan Ultimatum was launched in late July.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon said during a recent visit here that the hunt in Sulu for the three Indonesian nationals belonging to the Jemaah Islamiyah and top leaders of the Abu Sayyaf has become more exciting.

Its becoming more exciting. What was intended for three days could even take longer, but if it will take a bit longer, so be it, Esperon said.

When the Abu Sayyaf, which styled itself as an Islamist group fighting for Moro independence, first came out in the late 1980s, authorities have dismissed it as a ragtag band of criminals trying to project a bigger image.

Founded by Abubakar Abdurajak Janjalani, a militant who fought in the Afghan-Russo wars, the Abu Sayyaf literally father of the sword engaged in petty crimes such as extortion with Chinese businessmen in Zamboanga City as targets. It also ventured into kidnapping for ransom but its earlier kidnapping activities seldom landed in the news.

The first major terror attack credited to the Abu Sayyaf was the 1991 bombing of the MV Doulous in Zamboanga City.

MV Doulous was a floating library manned by Christian preachers. Two foreigners were killed in that attack.

Then the 1993 kidnappings involving foreigners and the bomb attack at the San Pedro Cathedral in Davao City, which killed seven people, happened.

In April 1995, the Abu Sayyaf's notoriety was cemented with the attack on Ipil in Zamboanga del Sur. At least 53 civilians and soldiers were killed in the attack.

In 1996, then Southern Command chief Brig. Gen. Eduardo Batenga estimated the Abu Sayyaf's remaining strength at over a hundred gunmen following a series of operation against the bandit group.

In 1998, Janjalani was killed during a clash with policemen. Several of his followers were also killed.

Authorities said the group had split into factions and dismissed possibility it could sow fear anew.

In March 2000, the bandit group came out of obscurity when it abducted more than 50 people from a school in Basilan. They also beheaded a Catholic priest, Fr. Rhoel Gallardo. Julie S. Alipala with reports from Jeoffrey Maitem and Allan A. Nawal, Inquirer Mindanao

October 1, 2008, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Christian-Muslim couple show the way to peace, by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo,

THIS MARRIAGE BETWEEN A CHRISTIAN man and a Muslim woman works.

This is what Armand Nocum and Annora Sahia wish the Christians and Muslims in Mindanao, some of whom have difficulty living together, can learn from.

And now the couple want not only to show how they live together in harmony, but also hope to go beyond themselves and reach out to war-torn communities in one simple way--through books.

Specifically through the Books-4-Guns project, also known as the A-Book-Saya Group, which suggests the joy and enlightenment a book can bring to children who have known only strife.

But before the books there was food. And food, as people may well know, is a great pacifier, bonder, uniter--the way to go to assuage hunger and appease anger as well.

Armand, an ex-seminarian and a former reporter of the Inquirer, and Annora, a Tausug Muslim and a nurse, own the Satti Grill House. It is a small budget eatery in Ermita, Manila, and it serves food of Malaysian and Arabic origin indigenized by the predominantly Muslim communities of Zamboanga and Sulu.

The word satti is derived from the Southeast Asian sate or satay. The eatery Satti is also the name of a dish.

Sattis bottled peanut sauce is now undergoing fine-tuning by the Department of Science and Technology. (The couple also have a stall at the SM Fairview Food Court plus other income-generating endeavors.)

Books, not guns

Armand grew up in Zamboanga City, and Annora, in Sulu.

We plan to flood Mindanao with books and magazines, both old and new, in order to open the eyes of young Christians and Muslims there to the reality that they have a better future if they pick up a book rather than a gun, he said, adding:

We had a common childhood experience of seeing many guns, but we remember books to be very rare. Its like you weren't a full human being if you didn't own a gun.

If the books can stop even only one or two potential terrorists from bombing civilians, that would be fulfillment enough for us.

Armand and Annora spoke with one voice: What do we do to children who grew up thinking that the future depends on how they handle their guns? What do we do to children of war who grew up with guns, and not books? Kill them all?

A variety of books have already been donated, Armand said.

These will be examined and classified, but he wishes that there were more books suited for the children of indigenous communities in Mindanao. (There are some available now, written and designed by writers and artists from such communities, courtesy of Pamulaan, but they are not easy and cheap to produce.)

Christian, Muslim weddings

Armand recalled seeing the fair Annora for the first time when he was a reporter for a Zamboanga paper.

Annora was then a student at the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Zamboanga.

He wooed her, but marriage was not immediate. She left for Kuwait while he moved to Manila and joined the Inquirer.

For the two of them, religion was not a big issue, but for some relatives it was. To make a long story short, when Annora came home in 1995, the two decided to tie the knot.

They had a Christian wedding (with Fr. Angel Calvo, a Claretian, officiating) and later a Muslim wedding (with an ustadz presiding) on Oct. 7, 1995.

Calvo, a Spanish Catholic missionary and known peace advocate, assured the couple it was all right for them to be husband and wife.

I was a Claretian seminarian, Armand said. Fr. Rhoel Gallardo, who was kidnapped and killed by the Abu Sayyaf, was my fellow seminarian.

Pain-filled years

Not too long after the wedding, Annora left again for Kuwait, where she worked as an operating-room nurse. I wanted to earn a little more, she said.

She did not know she was pregnant when she left. Their elder daughter, Arizza Ann, now 13, was born in Kuwait.

Annora came home with the baby but left again shortly. Armand continued to work as a reporter. Arizza was left in the care of Armands brother and sister-in-law.

Those were pain-filled years, Armand recalled. I lived in a rented, rat-infested room and went to work in a beat-up motorcycle. But those years of saving up paid off.

After a total of five years in Kuwait, Annora came home to stay. Their second daughter, Ashia Marie, was born eight years ago.

Ashia studies at Holy Spirit School, a school run by Catholic nuns, in Fairview. Arizza also studied there and graduated valedictorian. She is now enrolled at Philippine Science High School.

It will be up to his daughters to choose their religion when they come of age, Armand said. For now, they are exposed to the Christian and Muslim faiths as practiced respectively by their father and mother.

Peace and unity

Early in the marriage, Annora, with her good business instinct and Armand backing her all the way, started a car exchange business that expanded in no time.

Armand stayed on in journalism until 2006.

With their small businesses thriving, the couple now want to spend their energies on something elsepeace and unity.

Through food, we can break down the wall of bias that some of us Christians have put up, Armand said.

Muslim food appreciation may bring respect of the Muslim religion, culture and norms. We are happy that in our food outlets, Christians and Muslims are coming together to break bread daily, he said.

However, Armand said with a sigh, the recent outbreak of war in parts of Mindanao has shown us that we should do more than offer food.

This is why, Armand said, he and Annora decided on the Books-4-Guns project and adopted the A-Book-Saya catchphrase to counter the damage that the Abu Sayyaf was doing to the image of Muslims in general.

Jolted out of comfort zone

The book project had long been there, but he did not push it hard enough, Armand admitted.

Then the MILF-MOA brouhaha jolted me out of my comfort zone, he said, referring to the scrapping in August of the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which had caused a resurgence of violence. This time there is no turning back.

Armand said he was willing to sacrifice time, money and comfort to keep the book project going and thriving.

When we stay silent we are contributing to the loss of innocence, dreams and hopes of the Muslim and Christian children being marched off to war as child soldiers, he said.

Today they may appear distant and fragile, like toy soldiers, but 10 years from now, these children will become deadly bombers and make us pay for our indifference and neglect of their miserable lives in Mindanao.

The systems and structures of the project have yet to be put up, but Armand hopes that things will fall into place with the help of like-minded citizens in Mindanao and elsewhere.

I nurtured this dream for more than 20 years, he said. Annora and I hope to show young Muslims that we care for them. We want to saturate schools and daycare centers in Zamboanga, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi with books in order to make young Muslims realize that there is greater hope in knowledge than in the barrel of a gun.

Book donations may be brought to the Satti Grill House on M.H. del Pilar Street in Manila or at the SM Fairview Food Court in Quezon City. Those who wish to help may contact 932-3609, 339-3732, 0922-8169510, or

July 16, 2009, Philippine Daily Inquirer, No amnesty,

THE PROPOSAL, FIRST AIRED BY SEN. RICHARD Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross, sounds reasonable enough. Now that all the hostages from the International Committee of the Red Cross have been freed by or from the Abu Sayyaf, grant the Abu Sayyaf amnesty as part of a necessarily long-term process to bring peace to troubled parts of Sulu and Basilan.

The idea is assuredly well-intentioned, but it is based on a fundamental error and must be rejected.

We can understand the appeal of a proposal based on the prospect of reconciliation and the possibility of rehabilitation. In ideal circumstances, an armed conflict or a paroxysm of violence should be settled this way with those outside the law laying down their arms, as a precondition to re-entering the fold of the law.

We can understand why Eugenio Vagni, the ICRC engineer who was held captive by the Abu Sayyaf for six months, would welcome Gordons proposal. I have to say I am alive. In my life, I never hurt anybody, so yes, he told reporters. This should not be blithely dismissed as mere sentimentality, the happy talk of the reprieved. (After all, it is only human nature to pray for retribution.) Vagni joined the Red Cross out of a humanitarian instinct, and it is this sense which animates his answer. An amnesty proposal like Gordons would show that a massive effort is being made so that, as Vagni said, hope should not die in that part of the world.

We can even understand why Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita discussed the proposed amnesty with Gordon, and why he told reporters, We are thinking about it. That is not only the diplomatic thing (or the cynical thing, depending on ones point of view) to say; it is almost always good policy for the executive to keep options open.

But the amnesty proposal is based on the misconception that the Abu Sayyaf group, shifting and expanding and shrinking and shifting again over at least the last decade and a half is an ideological organization, with political aims. But no, it most emphatically isn't. It is a criminal enterprise, whose fortunes ebb and flow according to the failure or success of its kidnapping operations.

The surest proof that this latest mutation of the Abu Sayyaf is merely the same bandit gang that terrorized Sipadan and Palawan, that killed the Christian missionaries Fr. Rhoel Gallardo and Martin Burnham, that sacked the hospital in Lamitan and raided Dos Palmas, is that their latest victims have been humanitarian workers or public school teachers: the very people helping the communities the Abu Sayyaf bandits come from. It demonstrates not only the bandits utter ruthlessness; it shows their true ideology profit through violence.

Is anyone still taken in by the religious cast of some of the pronouncements of Abu Sayyaf leaders? Since the Janjalani brothers founded the deadly group, with the connivance of many, the Islamic faith has been used as a mask with which to disguise their banditry. Hostages like Gallardo and Burnham may have been subjected by their captors to sometimes intense debate about Islam and Christianity; the late Abu Sabaya and others like him may have spoken of jihad but that was all a rationalization, a religious smokescreen, behind which the worst crimes could be hidden or sometimes (mistakenly) justified.

We ask: To solve the dangerous crime of armed bank robbery, should we declare an amnesty for all bank robbers? To make the streets safe for pedestrians, should we declare an amnesty for pickpockets?

The Abu Sayyaf is a bandit group; it is a loose network of criminal gangs that grows whenever there is a successful kidnapping (that is to say, when it ends with the payment of a substantial ransom), and that withers when the gangs are pried apart and when only P50,000 in board and lodging fees for a six-month abduction is paid.

For criminals like these, amnesty will not work. It will simply embolden them to continue doing what they are doing.

Ermita said the government would likely continue with the two-pronged approach that, in its view, pressured the Abu Sayyaf into releasing the hostages. We would continue with our strategy of right hand and left hand ... of pressuring them through military operations for those who fight the government and also [giving] opportunity for development and for the others to return peacefully. That would be one way to separate the redeemable from the criminally incorrigible.

October 18, 2009, BBC Reports, Missionary order asks US to help rescue Irish priest kidnapped in...

[Report by Jaime Laude with a report from Evelyn Macairan: "US help sought in priest's rescue"]

Manila, Philippines -The Columban Missionaries has asked the United States government to step in and help in the safe rescue of kidnapped Irish priest Michael Sinnott.

According to CBCPNews, the official news service provider of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the Columban Missionaries sent a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hoping that the assistance of US President Barack Obama could pave the way for the release of the priest.

"We ask that all peaceful measures be taken to locate Fr. Sinnott and negotiate his release. We ask that you respond in all due haste, as Fr. Sinnott has a heart condition and is, as far as we know, without his medication," part of the letter to Clinton read.

The mission also sent the same letter to Philippine Ambassador to the US Willy Gaa.

The Irish priest has been living in the Philippines for 40 years and has been actively helping a school for children and young adults with special needs in Pagadian City.

Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, in an interview over Church-run Radio Veritas, appealed to Sinnott's abductors to set him free.

"Fr. Sinnot is not a bad person. His only intention is to bring people closer to God. He is already 79 years old and would not do any harm. I do not know what kind of minds these people who abducted him have," Rosales said.

The Manila Archbishop said old members of the Catholic Church should not be taken forcibly and that the kidnappers should seriously think of the consequences of their actions.

"He is already an old man and he has not been involved in any anomaly nor cheated anyone," he said.

Rosales is wondering what the purpose of the abduction is and urged the military to immediately work for his safe release.

The CBCPNews said foreign and local missionaries have a history of being targeted by Islamic militants in Mindanao.

In 1998, priest Luciano Benedetti was seized by gunmen but was freed 10 weeks later. Another Italian missionary, Giuseppe Peirantoni, was abducted by armed men in 2000. He escaped six months later.

Others were not as lucky.

Filipino priest Rhoel Gallardo was kidnapped by al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militants along with 50 school children on Basilan island in 2000.

The children were rescued but Gallardo was tortured and killed.

In 2007, gunmen abducted Italian missionary Fr. Giancarlo Bossi from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions. He was freed more than a month later.

MILF told to take active role

Meanwhile, leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who have been to Dublin, Ireland this year should take an active role in securing the safe release of Sinnott, according to senior officials of Task Force Sinnott.

The officials made this challenge in the wake of persistent reports that a group of MILF renegades were behind the abduction of the Irish priest.

"We know that they were in Dublin, Ireland middle of this year and were accommodated warmly there," said one senior Task Force official.

Heading the MILF delegation to Ireland to explore ways to adopt the forged IRA-UK peace pact in their Mindanao peace agenda were Al Haj Murad, Mohagher Iqbal, Michael Mastura and Eid Kabalu.

"Since Fr. Sinnot is Irish, it's about time for the MILF leadership to return the favour," the Task Force Sinnott officer said.

"If indeed their wayward forces were behind Fr. Sinnott's abduction, the MILF leadership should take steps to immediately secure the safe release of Fr. Sinnott," he said, adding that if the MILF forces were not behind the abduction, they can also exert pressure on the kidnappers to release the priest.

Kabalu has already denied that their fighters were behind the abduction. Persistent intelligence reports, however, showed that Sinnott is now in the custody of an armed group closely identified with the MILF operating in the Zamboanga Peninsula as well as those based in the two Lanao provinces.

At the time of his abduction, Sinnott was suffering from a major heart ailment and was on maintenance medicine since he had open heart surgery in Cebu in 2005.

As of yesterday, no official line of communication has been established between the kidnappers and the Columban community or with the Local Government Management Crisis Committee chaired by Gov. Aurora Cerilles of Zamboanga del Sur.

Source: The Philippine Star website, Manila, in English 18 Oct 09


January 30, 2011, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Abu Sayyaf outlasts 14 generals, by Julie S. Alipala, Zamboanga City

TEN YEARS and 14 generals ago, the Abu Sayyaf took 21 mostly foreign hostages from a dive resort in Sipadan, Malaysia, and brought them to Sulu.

Today, the bandit group, with factions in the provinces of Sulu and Basilan, is still very much alive and behind kidnappings, attacks on communities and bomb attacks. This despite the military's relentless offensive against the terror and crime group.

Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, chief of the military's Western Mindanao Command, admits: Definitely, we are still focusing on the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) as one of the major threats and responsible for some kidnappings here.

Here means Zamboanga Peninsula, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi.

Ferrers statement runs counter to pronouncements made by past top military and police officials that the bandit group has been reduced to a spent force following a series of massive operations since 2000.

Fourteen generals, now all retired, failed to stop the Abu Sayyaf.

The generals, who headed the military's then Southern Command (now Western Mindanao Command) are Lt. Gen. Edgardo Espinosa (May 6, 1999 to Feb. 27, 2000),
Lt. Gen. Diomedio Villanueva (May 1, 2000 to Oct. 22, 2000),
Lt. Gen. Gregorio Camiling (Oct. 22, 2000 to Sept. 14, 2001),
Lt. Gen. Roy Cimatu (Sept. 14, 2001 to May 21, 2002),
Lt. Gen. Ernesto Carolina (May 21, 2002 to Oct. 16, 2002),
Lt. Gen. Narciso Abaya (Oct. 16, 2002 to April 12, 2003),
Lt. Gen. Roy Kyamko (April 12, 2003 to July 16, 2004),
Lt. Gen. Generoso Senga (July 16, 2004 to Nov. 4, 2004),
Lt. Gen. Alberto Braganza (Nov. 4, 2004 to Sept. 4, 2005),
Lt. Gen. Edilberto Adan (Sept. 9, 2005 to Jan. 11, 2006),
Maj. Gen. Gabriel Habacon (Jan. 11, 2006 to Aug. 28, 2006),
Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo (Aug. 28, 2006 to Sept. 5, 2007),
Lt. Gen. Nelson Allaga (Sept. 5, 2007 to July 16, 2009) and
Lt. Gen. Ben Dolorfino (July 16, 2009 to Nov. 10, 2010).

Billions of pesos were spent in the attempt to quash the group.

Cimatu, in an interview while he was still Southern Command chief, said then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had allotted funds to support her order to annihilate or eliminate the Abu Sayyaf Group.

The reported death of Aldam Tilao, alias Abu Sabaya, who served as spokesperson of the bandit groups faction based in Basilan, was a victorious moment for the military, according to Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, who was commander of 103rd Army Brigade in 2001.

They're being wiped out. Slowly they're disintegrating into smaller groups, Esperon said then, adding that the ASG could no longer stage a wider attack.

Among those who claimed that the ASG is a spent force was Maj. Gen. Juancho Sabban, who was based in Sulu.

We can always say that our campaign is generally successful, we have some indicators to prove our success, Sabban said after the death of Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf leader Kadaffy Janjalani in 2006.

They are like a headless chicken running without direction, he then said.

He made similar statements when Ismin Sahiron, another emerging leader of the group, was killed that same year.

The group is weak because we were able to neutralize him, Sabban said.


The Abu Sayyaf Group in Basilan and Sulu made international headlines when they took 21 hostages in a dive resort in Sipadan, Malaysia, on April 18, 2000 and brought the victims to Sulu. A month earlier, Abu Sayyaf men based in Basilan took hostage more than 70 school children, teachers and Claretian Missionary Rhoel Gallardo in Sumisip town.

The late Philippine Army Col. Saulito Aromin, former commander of the 103rd Army Brigade, had dismissed the Abu Sayyaf as a local bandit group engaged in extortion. But after the Sumisip hostage-taking, Aromin admitted that the military was dealing with a bigger and powerful group.

In July 2001, the Arroyo administration declared a state of lawlessness in Basilan, resulting in the arrest of 128 suspected Abu Sayyaf members.

Esperon then said there were about a thousand bandits in Basilan and Sulu, but only 500 were armed fighters.

A few months before he retired in November 2010, Dolorfino placed the strength of the Abu Sayyaf Group in Basilan to 100 members.

Yet, Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, spokesperson of Western Mindanao Command said the Abu Sayyaf is still a security concern of the Western Mindanao Command even if their numbers are dwindling to about 386 where 173 are in Sulu.

Just hibernating

Mindanao State University Professor Octavio Dinampo, a former kidnap victim himself, does not agree that the Abu Sayyaf is already a spent force.

They are just hibernating, he said.

Dinampo said that for as long as Radulan Sahiron, alias Commander Putol, the groups leader in Sulu, and subordinates Ustadz Khair Mundos, Yasser Igasan, Isnilon Hapilon and Doc Abu Pula Jumdail are still alive and operating, I cannot feel at ease until they are all duly accounted for.

Like Dinampo, Claretian Missionary Fr. Angel Calvo, president of Peace Advocates Zamboanga, believes that the Abu Sayyaf is still alive and kicking.

Many peoples lives are still in danger because of their terroristic acts in our communities. Kidnapping cases continue after all these years, he said.

For Dinampo, who regularly monitors the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu, the military and police should not in a way lead the people to a state of false sense of security because the ASG is just hibernating.

Hibernating? Could be. But Cabangbang also admitted that the group was recruiting new members.

We are monitoring from inside sources that the ASG is training new members in Basilan and Sulu, and that these trainees have been ordered to conduct terror activities, he said.

One group of trainees that was being tracked down by our intelligence unit is reportedly manufacturing improvised explosive devices, he added.

The military cannot say if the new Abu Sayyaf recruits were able to accomplish their mission.

Cabangbang said it was impossible for them to monitor the groups entry to Zamboanga Citys 32 wharfs.


April 19, 2011, Philippine Daily Inquirer, To read list, by Juan L. Mercado,

FOR YOUR Semana Santa reading list, you may, perhaps, wish to add the paperback Good Friday People (Orbis, 1991).

I coined [this title] for those who find themselves called to powerlessness and suffering, writes Dr. Shiela Cassidy. A hospice director in England today, she was tortured by the Chilean military for treating wounded rebels.

The two thieves crucified alongside Christ do not appear in Cassidys book. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom, one of them gasped. With a 4-year-olds simplicity, our granddaughter prays that plea.

Theres only one instance, in all four gospels, where someone calls Jesus by his given name, author Ronald Rolheiser notes. Maybe it is because at his death, he is most like us. Stripped, beaten, betrayed, he hangs among thieves.

Doesn't the church look exactly as it looked at the original crucifixion, God hung among thieves? the Oblate priest asks. To be a church member is to carry the mantle of both the worst sin and finest heroism.

Nor does Cassidy mention Judas shabby greed. What will you give me if I turn him over to you? Judas haggled for 30 pieces of silver, now a universal symbol of cupidity.

Greed is a tree that grows in arid soils, an Ilocano axiom says. (Inquirer, 4/9/09 ) We see that from the coconut levy extortions to Jose Velardes spook accounts. And Newsweek's feature 11 Greediest Persons of All Time includes two women: Empress Dowager Cixi and Imelda Marcos.

In a starving China, Cixi dined with golden chopsticks at 150-course dinners. Imelda went on $5-million shopping sprees, owned the Roumeloite's gems and, all right, 1,060 pairs of shoes.

Mid-April, the anti-graft court gave Imelda 30 days to return P12 million that dictator Ferdinand Marcos drew from the National Food Authority in 1983 and stashed into their private accounts. Where will I get that amount? Imelda wailed to the Telegraph.

Instead, Cassidy writes about men and women, broken in body and assaulted in mind. [Theyre] deprived not merely of things we take for granted, she adds. God calls them to walk the same road His Son trod.

Among those called to powerlessness are victims of state violence and families and those gravely ill.

Unable to wait for cancer-stricken Beth to die, her man went off with another woman. Day after day, Catherine expected visitors who never came: not her mother, nor her loves, not even her child. Catherines tumor has spread, Cassidy notes. She has few symptoms now. But radiation only buys time. I only want whatever is best for my daughter, Catherine weeps.

Jesuit priest Rutilo Grande, in El Salvador, insisted seminarians live among slum dwellers and landless peasants. However much one may know about poverty and oppression, at an intellectual level, meeting the poor themselves is something quite other.

With Archbishop Oscar Romero, Grande helped the poor rediscover the Old Testament concept of God as liberator of his oppressed people. The poor showed what they required of their church. Not just the catechism and sacraments but something much harder: to speak out against injustice. Military goons murdered both.

Powerless men of peace here were likewise killed. Abu Sayyaf tortured, then murdered, Claretian Fr. Rhoel Gallardo in Basilan and Fr. Reynaldo Jesus Roda of the Oblates in Tawi-Tawi. Kalinga gunmen sauntered away after firing at Society of Divine Word Fr. Franciskus Madhu of Indonesia as he vested for Mass.

There is rare beauty in selflessness, Cassidy writes. Some go to their deaths grasping everything. These are people who'll call you from another patients deathbed to adjust their television.

These outlaws resembled esquadrones de la muerte of PMA 1972 graduates, led by their barons, or Ampatuan police torturers who became generals and those who salvaged elected senators, notes the Yale study: Closer Than Brothers.

On Good Friday, the cry: My God, My God. Why have you abandoned Me? resonates. Dont expect embattled TV5s Willie Revillame to ask vulnerable Filipina mothers of the disappeared what that wail means. Erlinda Cadapan, Concepcion Empeno and Edita Burgos still scour morgues, hospitals, prisons looking for their children.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo didn't extend to families of desaparecidos even the balm of pinpointed graves. Military camps block their search with denials, despite the new writ of amparo.

Filipino communists stonewall families searching for victims of their pogroms, from Ahos to Cadena de Amor. Mass murder sowed chaos in the party even as executioners morphed into buttoned-down executives in Makati firms.

Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel captures this absence of God in his book Night. At Auschwitz, 14-year-old Wiesel and other Holocaust prisoners watched the Gestapo execute a child.

Where is God? someone behind me asked, Wiesel recalls. And I heard a voice within me, answer: Here He is, hanging on this gallow.

We do not know the worth of one single drop of blood, one single tear, Catholic philosopher Francois Mauriac writes in his foreword to Wiesel's book. All is grace. If the Eternal is the Eternal, the last word, for each one of us, belongs to Him. This is what I should have told this Jewish child, Mauriac adds. But I could only embrace him weeping.

Indeed, we are all potentially Good Friday people: frail earthen vessels who, should the potter choose, could be fashioned for his own mysterious purposes. Cassidy adds, And we tremble. Because we, too, may be called to powerlessness.



December 17, 2001, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Arming of priests rejected, by Ferdinand O. Zuasola, PDI Mindanao Bureau

MATI, Davao Oriental--The Vatican's ambassador to the Philippines has frowned upon suggestions that priests assigned in areas of conflict in Mindanao should be armed.

"Arming our priests is a crazy idea," the Most Rev. Antonio Franco, the papal nuncio, told the INQUIRER on Friday.

Franco, who attended the celebration of the 17th founding anniversary of the Diocese of Mati, said arming the clergy would only aggravate the problem.

The proposal arose after clergy members noted that kidnap groups were not sparing them anymore.

Many of them have declared their intentions to acquire firearms after the Catholic bishops in Mindanao called on all priests, especially those assigned in areas of conflict, to resist any abduction attempts-at all costs.

Some priests have interpreted the call as tantamount to ordering them to arm and defend themselves from kidnappers.

During the Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference held in Malaybalay City in October, some priests started to entertain the idea of buying firearms for themselves.

"It is understandable why the papal nuncio has lambasted the idea of arming the priests because it is not sanctioned by the Church," said Fr. Danilo Fuentes of the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Mati.

"Priests who have armed themselves are doing so on their own because they find it necessary to defend themselves against kidnap attempts," Fuentes said.

He said firearms were necessary for those assigned in troubled areas like Basilan, Sulu or Zamboanga.

It was not clear who brought up the idea of arming the priests, but Fr. Marcelino Benebaye, parish priest of Don Bosco here, confirmed that a number of them were now carrying firearms.

Some have even joined shooting clubs to improve their shooting skills for self-defense, Benebaye said.

However, Franco said this should not be the case, stressing that firearms represented violence.

He declined to identify the gun-wielding priests.

Among the first men of the cloth to pack pistols was Cirilo Nacorda, parish priest of Lamitan town in Basilan, who was abducted by the Abu Sayyaf in 1994 and freed after 61 days.

Nacorda returned to his church, but not without a .45 cal. pistol and at least seven bodyguards.

He said he was forced to carry a firearm to defend himself.

Kidnap gangs, including the Abu Sayyaf, have increasingly targeted clergy members over the past years. Since 1986, at least 16 members, including two nuns, have been seized by kidnappers.

The latest victim was Italian missionary Giuseppe Pierantoni, assistant parish priest of Dimataling, Zamboanga del Sur, who was abducted by rogue Moro guerrillas on Oct. 17.

At least four victims were killed by their captors.

The body of Fr. Ernesto Gordo, an Episcopal priest from Tagum, Davao del Norte, was found in March 1997 in Upi, Maguindanao.

Fr. Roel Gallardo was snatched by the Abu Sayyaf in Lantawan, Basilan, on March 20, 2000. His body was found in May.

Fr. Benjamin Inocencio, 42, chancellor of the Vicariate of Jolo, was killed on Dec. 28, 2000 by his would-be kidnappers.

Fr. Rufus Halley, parish priest of Malabang, Lanao del Sur, was killed on Aug. 28.


April 4, 2004, BBC Reports, Philippine military arrests alleged Abu Sayyaf members, 317 words,

(From BBC Monitoring International Reports)

Marine operatives in Zamboanga City arrested four Abu Sayyaf bandits responsible for the kidnapping of Fr. Roel Gallardo and 54 students and teachers of Tumahubong Elementary School in Basilan Province four years ago.

Among those arrested were Nasir Hapilon, older brother of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon who is in Washington's list of five most wanted terrorists in the Philippines, announced Captain Geronimo Malabanan, spokesman of the Philippine navy. [Passage omitted]

According to Malabanan, the combined forces of the Marine Landing Team, naval intelligence and Military Intelligence Group 9 arrested the four suspects in a safe house in Rio Hondo Aplaya in Zamboanga City on Thursday [1 April]. [Passage omitted]

Meanwhile, Governor Parouk Hussin of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) denounced yesterday the Philippine National Police (PNP) for rounding up members of Filipino-Muslim community suspected to be terrorists. He said this was unfair and a sign of disrespect to the Muslim community.

Source: Kabayan web site, Manila, in Tagalog 3 Apr 04

March 14, 2003, BusinessWorld, DoJ files charges vs Abu members, by Friena P. Guerrero,

The Department of Justice (DoJ) yesterday filed 52 counts of kidnapping and illegal detention against three Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members at the Pasig Regional Trial Court (RTC) in connection with a mass kidnapping of schoolchildren and public school teachers in Basilan province.

The charges stemmed from a March 11 joint resolution of the Office of the Regional State Prosecutor in Zamboanga City recommending their inclusion in the amended information regarding the case.

Suspects Zohri Manatad alias "Abu Nohman" also known as Zohri Manatad, Alizar Abubakar alias "Abu Hadi" aka Alizar Manatad Iskandal, and Jojo Holo alias "Abu Abdulah" aka Jojo P. Jolo were tagged as among the ASG members who kidnapped the 52 victims in March 2000.

The three were arrested by joint elements of the 24th Infantry Battalion and Special Forces in Tabuk, Isabela City, Basilan, last Feb. 15 and identified by a victim in the incident, one Rosebert Ajon. Although the suspects denied any participation in the incident, Zamboanga City prosecutors said the positive identification was enough to establish a probable cause against them.

Assistant provincial prosecutor Dennis F. Araojo and city prosecutor Ricardo G. Carabon recommended the suspects' inclusion in the current charges against other ASG suspects which are now pending at the Pasig RTC.

ASG leader Sattar Yacub was arrested last year in connection with the kidnapping which also involved the slaying of Claretian priest Fr. Roel Gallardo.

July 6, 2004, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Abu running school bus service nabbed, by Alcuin Papa,

AN ABU Sayyaf leader wanted for the kidnapping of students in Basilan in 2000 has been arrested by authorities in Fort Bonifacio while running a school bus service for pupils of an exclusive school.

The Anti-Terrorism Task Force (ATTF) captured Ibno Alih Ordonez, alias Ibno Abbas Abdil, the 7th most wanted leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group and a cousin of the late ASG spokesperson Abu Sabaya.

In a press conference yesterday at Camp Aguinaldo, Defense Secretary Eduardo Ermita, ATTF chair, said Ordonez was arrested at around noon on July 1 by elements of the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and Task Force Minerva near the Integrated Montessori School in Fort Bonifacio.

Ermita said the suspect, who had a P1 million price on his head, was not armed and did not resist arrest.

The suspect was the subject of several arrest warrants for triple frustrated murder, kidnapping and serious illegal detention for his alleged involvement in the kidnapping of more than 50 students and teachers in Basilan in March 2000.

Among those who were abducted in that incident were Fr. Roel Gallardo who was tortured and beheaded by the ASG.

The arrest of Ordonez was made possible by tips given to authorities by civilian informants.

Ermita said investigators were trying to determine how Ordonez managed to operate a bus service for the school.

During interrogation, Ordonez said that he was a member of the Moro National Liberation Front in the '70s. He later got a job as a jail guard at the Basilan provincial jail.

"As a jail guard, he was believed to have doubled as a spy for Muslim rebel leaders with the principal assignment of monitoring movements of military and police forces," Ermita said.

In 1998, Ordonez was monitored to have met frequently with his cousin Sabaya, who was killed by US and Philippine forces while in a boat off the coast of Zamboanga in June 2002.

Three years later, Ordonez moved to Metro Manila and lived in Western Bicutan, Taguig.

Ermita theorized that Ordonez came to Manila because "this is a good place to hide and they can move around."

"While his arrest was made because of the warrants for his arrest on the charges we have mentioned, it does not stop there. We are talking to other kidnap victims of the ASG in the early '90s and we expect three of them to execute their affidavits against Ordonez in the next few days," said Department of Justice prosecutor Mark Jalandoni.

In a related development, a suspected bomb-making instructor of the Abu Sayyaf was arrested in Jolo, Sulu on Saturday.

Brig. Gen. Gabriel Habacon, Task Force Comet chief, identified the suspect as Joselito Nasara, a Muslim convert whose new name was Tuan Zul Mahmud, alias Abu Sophian.

Nasara was arrested in front of the Islamic Library in Jolo.

Nasara, according to Habacon, is also a Sulu-based member of the regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah.

"He is an Abu Sayyaf urban terrorist leader and he was moving around on the pretext of being a Muslim teacher or scholar lecturing his students mostly on bomb-making using Arabic as their medium of instruction so that they could not be easily detected," Habacon told the Inquirer in a telephone interview.

Habacon said Nasara could be the key to the solution of six bombing incidents in Sulu where four persons were killed and 20 were hurt.

Nasara has been transferred to the Southern Command headquarters in Zamboanga City. With Julie S. Alipala, PDI Mindanao Bureau

August 3, 2001, BusinessWorld, The Abu Sayyaf and the Muslim Mindanao problem (Review)

The difficulty with reporting on people affected by the hostage-taking activity of the Muslim extremist Abu Sayyaf Group is a practical one. Access to the kidnappers and their victims obviously is extremely limited, where possible, while their relatives and friends, for safety reasons, understandably would rather minimize media exposure.

That is why the book, entitled Into the Mountain: hostaged by the Abu Sayyaf (Quezon City: Claretian Publications, 2001) is a welcome addition to the growing list of books on the Mindanao problem in general, and on the much shorter list on the Abu Sayyaf in particular. Authored by Mindanao-born journalist Jose Torres, Jr., the book could only have been written after the fact.

Revolving around the ordeal that a group of teachers and students underwent last year while being hostaged by the rebel group, Into the Mountain provides the sought-for balance in reportage on the Abu Sayyaf.

It has been pointed out on many occasions that reportage on the extremist group invariably has focused on the military aspects of the problem. Since the hostage-taking incidents began, the public has been deluged with reports on armed encounters between the extremist group and the military, the government's rescue efforts, and alleged links of the local bandit group to an international network of terrorism and to local handlers in positions of political influence.

But after everything was said about the latest casualty, about the pace of rescue attempts, about the conspiracy involving high government officials - all of which are important in their own right - the public still was left wondering whether they are any closer to understanding the Abu Sayyaf.

Based on personal accounts of those who survived more than two months' captivity in the hands of the bandits, the book affords a more personal encounter with the rebel band and its hapless victims. It gives flesh to the larger-than-life images of the extremist group peddled in the media.

The book opens with a terrifying account. This involves the Valentine's Day massacre two years ago of an unarmed group of Catholic Church parishioners. The opening chapter is loaded with shock value, and helps readers recreate the feeling of constant dread that Basilan residents have to endure with the bandit group in their midst.

Early in the narrative, the reader is introduced to the rebel group's legendary cruelty, what with the Abu Sayyaf's gross disregard for the lives of people who meant it no harm. But Into the Mountain, published by the religious order to which the slain Father Roel Gallardo belonged, does not peddle stereotypes.

The book dispels the notion that deep resentment between the Muslims and the Christians in the island-province is mainly responsible for the rise of groups like the Abu Sayyaf. In the chapter detailing the rebel group's raid on the schools of Tumahubong village in Sumisip town, the author shows how Muslim schoolchildren tried to hide their Christian teachers from the invading bandits.

The author lets the surviving victims narrate their ordeal in the hands of the extremist group. Through their stories, what emerges is the image of a rebel band made up of mostly young adults who seemingly have mixed feelings about their chosen vocation in life.

What has emerged from the survivors' tale is a far cry from the fanatics often depicted by the military in its propaganda spiel. While the bandits appear to be fervent believers of Islam, they nevertheless have enough wits to opt for saving their hides in the face of certain defeat.

Apart from their pragmatic outlook, the members of the Abu Sayyaf were depicted as people who seem to have broken off ties with the older generation. This is apparent from how the bandits killed an old man named Emiliano, who had long driven for the missionaries.

Cautioned by a seer of his impending doom, the old man dismissed the warning, fully confident that wherever he went the people knew him, and so harm would not befall him. Unfortunately for the old Emiliano, he did not survive the Valentine's Day roadside ambush.

Still, the book shows that even among so-called bandits, there is compassion. In not a few instances while in captivity, the victims noted some of their captors' deference to older hostages, and their occasional acts of kindness, especially towards children.

But where the rebels displayed ruthlessness and contempt, the book is equally unsparing in its description. Examples here include the bandits' torture of Fr. Gallardo and the gang rape of one of the female teachers.

Through a handful of what he called "intercessionals" and an appendix, the author inserted short snippets of informative pieces into the main narrative. Those "intercessionals" served as background material, helping provide context to the main story.

Indeed, it is in one of those intercessionals where the author, through a rebel source, narrates the birth and growth of the Abu Sayyaf. The book validates some of the suspicions held about the rebel group and its members.

For example, the author identified incumbent Basilan governor Wahab Akbar as the government official who helped found the Abu Sayyaf. The governor, who had figured in a leadership fight following the death of founding chairman Abdurajak Janjalani, reportedly left the bandit group after he lost his bid to succeed the dead leader.

An interesting bit of information is what the author claims is the press' and the military's "mistranslation" of Abu Sayyaf. Contrary to what has been reported, the literal translation is "Father of the Sword" and not "Bearer of the Sword."

Yet despite this alleged oversight in translation, the reader is at a loss as to why the author kept on using "Bearer of the Sword" throughout the book, including in the chapter heading of an "intercessionals" on the bandit group's roots.

In the same chapter describing the Abu Sayyaf's origins, inconsistencies could be noted in the claims of the lone source, a founding member who has since left the bandit group. Given the confusion brought about by military propaganda as to the genesis of the rebel group, the author would have done a great service had he made the former Abu Sayyaf source detail the international links, if any, that the bandit group supposedly maintained.

Finally, the appendix on the history of Basilan is replete with quotations from a handful of sources that unfortunately were unspecified. A few footnotes would have helped the cause of facilitating understanding of the context that gave rise to the Abu Sayyaf, as some readers may want to do further reading.

Despite those minor oversights, the book succeeds in unraveling some of the ambiguity surrounding a very difficult subject. In the closing chapters, the author has woven a disturbing thread in the continuing saga that is the Abu Sayyaf. If proven true, this revelation would surely add a more dimension to the problem of wiping out the bandit group.

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