Tuesday, December 25, 2012

June 2001, Philippine Headline News


June 1, 2001, PHNO, Hostages in Basilan, Govt Readies Attack,
June 1, 2001, PHNO, Hostages Aboard Booby Trapped Boat Off Sulu,
June 1, 2001, PHNO, GMA Prays for Hostages,
June 1, 2001, PHNO, Military Intermediary Named to Work for Release of Hostages,
June 1, 2001, PHNO, Palace Thanked Media for Cooperation in Govt Policy vs. Sayyaf,
June 1, 2001, PHNO, It's Safe To Invest in RP, GMA Assures European Firms,
June 1, 2001, PHNO, GMA Thanked Media for Cooperation in Govt Policy vs Sayyaf,
June 1, 2001, PHNO GMA Thanks Congress for Omnibus Power Reform Bill,
June 1, 2001, PHNO Military Intermediary Named to Work For Release of Hostages,
June 1, 2001, PHNO, GMA Prays For Hostages,
June 1, 2001, PHNO, Safely of Foreign Travelers Tackled,
June 1, 2001, PHNO, Sayyaf Lair Captured, No Hostages Found,
June 1, 2001, PHNO, Troops Attack Sayyaf Lair, 2 Killed,
Diigo, June 2, 2001, Daily Tribune, Arroyo Negotiates with Sayyaf Rebels,
June 2, 2001, PHNO, Arroyo Negotiates with Sayyaf Rebels,
June 2, 2001, PHNO, Newsflash! Newsmen Trapped in Basilan Firefight,
June 2, 2001, PHNO, Newsflash! GMA Shocked by Sayyaf Takeover of Hospital,
June 2, 2001, PHNO, 2 Of 3 American Hostages Escaped Sayyaf's Hold?,
June 2, 2001, PHNO, Four Rescued Palawan Hostages to Be Debriefed,
June 2, 2001, PHNO, 4 Hostages Rescue 'Validates' All0-Out-Policy vs Sayyaf - Palace,
June 2, 2001, PHNO, Military Action, Negotiations 'Go Hand in Hand' - AFP,
June 2, 2001, PHNO, Troops Attack Sayyaf Lair, 2 Killed,
June 2, 2001, PHNO, Sayyaf Lair Captured, No Hostages Found,
June 2, 2001, PHNO, Safety of Foreign Travelers Tackled,
Diigo, June 4, 2001, The Philippine Star, Abus kill 2 hostages, by Roel Pareno
Diigo, June 4, 2001, The Philippine Star, Editorial, A problem that can’t be ignored,
June 4, 2001, Philippine Headline News, 2 Resort Employees Beheaded by Abu for Lack of Monetary Value,
June 4, 2001, Philippine Headline News, GMA Urges Mindanaoans to Support AFP, PNP in Hostage Rescue,
June 4, 2001, Philippine Headline News, All Kidnap Cases Initiated by Defunct PAOCTF Resolved - DOJ,
June 4, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Bandits, Hostages Now in Tubuan, Sampinit Border,
June 4, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Social Welfare Dept Assisting Displaced Families in Basilan,
June 4, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Press Undersec Remonde to Zamboanga to Assist Local Media,
June 4, 2001, PHNO, 2 Resort Employees Beheaded by Abu for Lack of Monetary Value,
June 4, 2001, PHNO, GMA Urges Mindanaoans to Support AFP, PNP in Hostage Rescue,
June 4, 2001, PHNO, All Kidnap Cases Initiated by Defunct PAOCTF Resolved - DOJ,
June 4, 2001, PHNO, Bandits, Hostages Now in Tubuan, Sampinit Border,
June 4, 2001, PHNO, Press UnderSec Remonde to Zamboanga to Assist Local Media,
June 4, 2001, PHNO, Social Welfare Dept Assists Displaced Families in Basilan,
June 4, 2001, PHNO, Bandits, Hostages Now in Tubuan, Sampinit,
June 4, 2001, PHNO, Sayyaf Eludes Cordon w/ 59 Hostages,
June 5, 2001, PHNO, Martial Law an Option vs. Sayyaf -- Gloria,
June 5, 2001, PHNO, GMA More Determined to Pursue AFP Modernization,
June 5, 2001, PHNO, 'Escaped' Hostages Paid Ransom?
June 5, 2001, PHNO, Arab Tourists Assisted Sayyaf in Palawan,
Diigo, June 5, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Sayyaf Eludes Cordon w/ 59 Hostages,
Diigo, June 5, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Lacson Masterminded Dacer Murder -- Suspect,
June 5, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Reform Bill Will Lower Power Charges for Consumers,
June 6, 2001, PHNO, U.S. Sailor Missing on Pinatubo Slopes,
June 6, 2001, PHNO, Iranian Denies Link w/Abu Sayyaf,
June 6, 2001, PHNO, FBI Team to Assist in Sayyaf Negotiations,
June 6, 2001, PHNO, 3 Soldiers Beheaded, U.S. Hostage Wounded,
Diigo, June 6, 2001, Philippine Headline News, 3 Soldiers Beheaded, U.S. Hostage Wounded,
Diigo, June 6, 2001, Philippine Headline News, FBI Team to Assist in Sayyaf Negotiations,
Diigo, June 6, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Iranian Denies Link w/ Abu Sayyaf,
Diigo, June 6, 2001, Philippine Headline News, U.S. Sailor Missing on Pinatubo Slopes,
Diigo, June 6, 2001, Philippine Headline News, GMA Allies Favor Charter Change,
Diigo, June 6, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Charter Change Eyes More Powers for GMA,
June 7, 2001, PHNO, Peace Devpt Drive in Mindanao Gets $2.45-M From World Bank,
June 7, 2001, PHNO, GMA Turns Over P1-M to Widow of Retired Colonel Who Killed Bandit,
June 7, 2001, PHNO, FBI Negotiation Experts Arrive in Zamboanga City,
June 7, 2001, PHNO, Missing U.S. Navy Lt. Turns Up,
June 7, 2001, PHNO, Sayyaf Threatens to Execute 3 Americans,
June 7, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Ombudsman Warns Chavit Against Failure to Testify,
June 7, 2001, Philippine Headline News, FBI Negotiation Experts Arrive in Zamboanga City,
June 7, 2001, Philippine Headline News, GMA Gives P1-M to Widow of Retired Colonel Who Killed Bandit,
June 7, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Peace Devpt Drive in Mindanao Gets $2.45-M From World Bank,
June 7, 2001, PHNO, Missing U.S. Navy Lt. Turns Up,
June 7, 2001, PHNO, Sayyaf Threatens to Execute 3 Americans,
June 8, 2001, PHNO, Malaysia Rejects Sayyaf Call to Mediate,
June 8, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Joker is Recto's Choice for Senate Prez,
June 8, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Malaysia Rejects Sayyaf Call to Mediate,
June 8, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Labor Woes Close National Press Club,
June 8, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Sandiganbayan Issues Subpoena for ERAP, Jinggoy,
June 8, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Sayyaf Threatens to Execute 3 Americans,
June 8, 2001, Philippine Headline News, No Proof Vs. Lacson in Dacer Case -- Govt,
June 8, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Missing U.S. Navy Lt. Turns Up,
June 9, 2001, PHNO, Hostage Crisis: Govt Now Open to All Options,
June 9, 2001, PHNO, Hostage Crisis: Govt Now Open to All Options,
June 9, 2001, Philippine Headline News, 8,000 Foreigners From Muslim Nations Overstaying in Mindanao,
June 9, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Abu Sayyaf Reject Prisoner Swap,
June 9, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Peasants Picket Palace, Demand Land Reform
June 9, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Administrative Naturalization Law 2001 Signed,
June 10, 2001, PHNO, GMA Seeks Libya's Help with Sayyaf,
June 10, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Transfer Malacanang to Mindanao - Guingona,
June 10, 2001, Philippine Headline News, GMA Seeks Libya's Help w/ Sayyaf,
June 10, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Hostage Crisis: Govt Now Open to All Options,
June 10, 2001, Philippine Headline News, ERAP'S Petition For House Arrest Rejected,
June 10, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Lanao Sur Votes Remain Uncanvassed,
June 11, 2001, PHNO, GMA Orders Creation of Basilan Crisis Management Body,
June 11, 2001, PHNO, Govt, NDF Resume Second Round of Talks in Oslo,
June 11, 2001, PHNO, 15 Hostages Confirmed in Abu Sayyaf Attack at Barangay Tairan,
June 11 2001, PHNO, Sayyaf Defers Beheading of U.S. Hostage,
June 11, 2001, PHNO, Lacson Not Involved in Dacer Killing -- NBI,
June 11, 2001, PHNO, Sayyaf Raid Farm Seize 15 Workers, Children,
June 11, 2001, Philippine Headline News, 15 Hostage Confirmed in Sayyaf Attack at Barangay Tairan,
June 11, 2001, Philippine Headline News, ERAP Lawyers Ask Sandigan to Include Singson in Plunder Case,
June 11, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Govt, NDF Resume Second Round of Talks in Oslo
June 11, 2001, Philippine Headline News, GMA Orders Creation of Basilan Crisis Management Body,
June 12, 2001, PHNO, Papal Envoy, Diplomatic Corps Condemn Brutalities,
June 12, 2001, PHNO, U.S. Condemns Abu Sayyaf's Action, Demands Release of All Hostages
June 12, 2001, PHNO, American Hostage Beheaded -- Sayyaf Announced on Radio,
June 12, 2001, PHNO, Vatican Condemns Beheading,
June 12, 2001, PHNO, Reyes, Lina to Basilan to 'Heighten Cooperation Between Cops, Civilians',
June 12, 2001, Philippine Headline News, American Hostage Beheaded --Sayyaf Announced on Radio,
June 12, 2001, Philippine Headline News, U.S. Condemns Sayyaf's Action; Demands Release of All Hostages,
June 12, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Papal Envoy, Diplomatic Corps Condemn Abu's Brutalities,
June 12, 2001, Philippine Headline News, GMA Condemns Abu Sayyaf's Cowardly Murder of Innocent,
June 12, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Sayyaf Raid Farm, Seize 15 Workers, Children,
June 12, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Lacson Not Involved in Dacer Killing -- NBI,
June 12, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Sayyaf Defers Beheading of U.S. Hostage,
June 13, 2001, PHNO, Govt to Meet Fire with Fire, GMA to Abu Sayyaf,
June 13, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Govt to Meet Fire with Fire, GMA Warns Abu Sayyaf,
June 13, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Reyes, Lina to Basilan,
June 13, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Vatican Condemns Beheading,
June 13, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Inhibit Biased Sandigan Judge -- ERAP
June 13, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Honasan Leads Lanao Count,
June 15, 2001, PHNO, Govt Declares "Recess" in Talks with NDF,
June 15, 2001, PHNO, Maguindanao Governor and Vice Governor to Be Proclaimed,
June 16, 2001, PHNO, Military, Backed Up by Civilian Support Build Up Pressure vs. Abu Sayyaf,
June 16, 2001, PHNO, Govt Bewails NDF's Imposition of Own Rules on Alleged HR Violations,
June 16, 2001, PHNO, Commander Robot to Give Up in 3 Days _ Chavit,
June 16, 2001, PHNO, Two Hostages Released, Meet GMA at Palace,
June 16, 2001, PHNO, Sayyaf Leader Khadaffy Janjalani Dead?
June 16, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Sayyaf Leader Khadaffy Janjalani Dead?,
June 16, 2001, Philippine Headline News, ERAP Return to Police Camp Now PNP Matter,
June 16, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Consul to Canada Recalled for Fraud,
June 16, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Two Hostages Released, Meet GMA at Palace,
June 16, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Commander Robot to Give Up in 3 Days -- Chavit
June 16, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Govt Bewails NDF'S Imposition of Own Rules on Alleged HR Violations,
June 16, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Military, Backed Up By Civilian Build Up Pressure vs Sayyaf
June 16, 2001, Philippine Headline News, GMA Identifies 3 Sectors as 'Engines' of Economic Recovery,
June 17, 2001, Philippine Headline News, 'Robot' Expected to Surrender to GMA Tomorrow,
June 17, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Misuari Wants to Do a Chavit,
June 17, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Questions Linger on Sayyaf Leader Janjalani's Alleged Death,
June 17, 2001, Philippine Headline News, President Arroyo Visits Basilan Tomorrow
June 17, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Ermita Urges MNLF to Resolve Organizational Crisis
June 17, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Unemployment Down to 13.3% From 13.9% This Year,
June 17, 2001, PHNO, President Arroyo Visits Basilan Tomorrow
June 18, 2001, PNHO, Sayyaf Asks Perez to Mediate,
June 18, 2001, PHNO, GMA Admits Kidnap Effect on Economy,
June 19, 2001, PHNO, Govt to Sign Peace Pact w/ MILF in Libya,
June 22, 2001, PNHO, 47 Pinoy-Chinese Kidnapped This Year -- Loren,
June 22, 2001, PNHO, 3 British Nationals Kidnapped This Year -- Embassy,
Diigo, June 22, 2001, Malaya, Malaya Column: Gloria is Dreaming, by Ellen Tordesillas,
June 23, 2001, PHNO, MILF-RP Govt Peace Accord Signed,
June 23, 2001, PHNO, 2 Hostages Found Beheaded in Basilan,
June 23, 2001, PHNO, Sayyaf Slipped Through Naval Blockade?,
June 24, 2001, PHNO, Palace Uneasy with Malaysian Negotiator,
June 24, 2001, PHNO, Early Resumption of NDF Peace Talks Unlikely,
June 25, 2001, PHNO, Abu Bandits Sighted in Davao City,
Diigo, June 25, 2001, Malaya, 12 Soldiers Die in MILF Encounter,
June 26, 2001, PHNO, Hostages Beheaded Due to Govt Failure to Change Negotiators,
June 26, 2001, PHNO, Sobero is Dead, Sayyaf Tells Family,
June 27, 2001, PHNO, Abu Sayyaf Logistics Officer Nabbed in Basilan,
June 27, 2001, PHNO, Govt Unfazed by Sayyaf Threats,
June 27, 2001, PHNO, All-Out-War vs. Abu Wrong Path to Mindanao Peace - Muslim Expert,
June 27, 2001, PHNO, RP Govt Among World's Most Corrupt -- Survey,
June 27, 2001, PHNO, 30% of Pinoys Live in Poverty,
June 28, 2001, PNHO, Basilan Fighting Erupts Anew,
June 30, 2001, PHNO, Court Stops DOJ Probe vs. Lacson,
June 30, 2001, PHNO, No Way to Send Medicine to Hostages,

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June 30, 2001, PHNO, No Way to Send Medicine to Hostages,

Zamboanga City, June 28, 2001 - The Department of Health admitted it is helpless in extending assistance to the hostages.

Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit said there was no way to find out who among the hostages have fallen ill.

Some of the hostages were reportedly afflicted with malaria and other ailments, and needed medicines badly.

However, nobody wants to volunteer to take the medical supplies to the Abu Sayyaf lair for fear of their own safety.
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June 30, 2001, PHNO, Court Stops  DOJ Probe vs. Lacson,

Manila, June 28, 2001 - A Manila court stopped the Department of Justice (DOJ) from further pursuing kidnapping-for-ransom and murder cases against former police chief and now Senator-elect Panfilo Lacson.

The nine-page injunction order issued by Judge Hermogenes Liwag of the Manila regional trial court Branch 55 cited duplicity of cases with criminal action pending with the Office of the Ombudsman.

Charges of abduction and murder involving six Chinese nationals were first filed with the Ombudsman by Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force interpreter Mary Ong.

The police asset and relatives of the victims later went to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which eventually filed a case with the DOJ.

The DOJ had insisted the Ombudsman’s investigation of the case cannot prevent the department from conducting its own preliminary probe. Prosecutors said their case involved more complainants.

Lacson’s lawyers argued that the Ombudsman has primary and exclusive jurisdiction over the case.

The Manila court ruled that whatever addition to the number of respondents would "altogether be immaterial for the purposes of this action."

"The presence of additional affiants and complainants, who were clearly covered by the original complaint of Mary Ong in the Ombudsman case, would not alter the legal situation that the investigation, insofar as the petitioners are concerned, has absolutely the same premises and factual antecedents," Liwag said.
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June 28, 2001, PNHO, Basilan Fighting Erupts Anew,

Basilan, June 28, 2001 - After a lull of more than a week, fresh fighting broke out anew as troops caught up with the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers in Basilan, resulting in four of the terrorists killed and three others wounded.

Running gunbattles broke out late Tuesday in a jungle area near the Sampinit complex at the center of the thickly forested island-province.

One soldier was wounded in the skirmishes, the military said.

"We are hoping for a decisive battle in a few days," Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan said.

He said troops from the Army’s 55th Infantry Battalion and Scout Rangers encountered about 40 Abu Sayyaf bandits.

Adan pointed out that the troops encountered the "perimeter guard" of the main group holding the hostages.

In the capital town of Isabela, police shot dead yesterday another suspected Abu Sayyaf member identified as Mustallah Amin.

"Our operation is ongoing against all infiltrators here in Isabela," Basilan police director Superintendent Akmadul Pangambayan said.

The bandits and their captives were believed holed out in a village called Masola near Isabela.

"We are waiting for further feedback. This will continue and our troops are already in the area where they (Abu Sayyaf) are believed to be hiding," Adan said.

An Abu Sayyaf unit was believed holding American couple Martin and Gracia Burnham and 13 Filipino hostages. A second Abu Sayyaf band holds another set of 13 hostages snatched from the plantation in Lantawan.

The Burnhams, along with a third American, 40-year-old Guillermo Sobero of California, and 17 Filipinos were seized by Abu Sayyaf gunmen from the posh resort of Dos Palmas in Palawan on May 27. The bandits also took captives four hospital workers in Lamitan town last June 2.

Nine of the Dos Palmas hostages were either rescued or freed, while two others were executed. The captors also claimed they have beheaded Sobero, but intensive search for his body proved futile.

The military said it was closing in like a pincer on the Abu Sayyaf, leading to three clashes.

Lt. Col. Danilo Servando, of the Armed Forces’ Southern Command based in Zamboanga City, said the rebels in Sampinit belonged to the main Abu Sayyaf group led by Khadaffy Janjalani and Abu Sabaya.

The military said its hunt for the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers was being assisted by a captured Abu Sayyaf intelligence officer Abdullah Yusof.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Diomedio Villanueva said Yusof has furnished the troops valuable information about the Abu Sayyaf operation. "He has mentioned certain names, and certain activities in certain places."

"Right now, we are still in the process of looking for the enemy. Our soldiers will not stop until we resolve this case," Villanueva said.

The Abu Sayyaf warned more hostages would be killed if the government would not change its negotiator, but Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes said they would not allow the bandits to dictate the terms.
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June 27, 2001, PNHO, 30% of Pinoys Live in Poverty

Manila, June 28, 2001 - Twenty-five million Filipinos are so mired in poverty that they are unable to have regular meals and have no access to basic government services.

The Arroyo administration has implemented measures to prevent the problem from becoming a "social volcano" since it is the cause of rising criminality and social ills, Teresita Quintos-Deles, chairwoman of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), told reporters yesterday during a forum at Ciudad Fernandina in Greenhills, San Juan.

"The social volcano is about to explode and we will go down with it," she said.

Deles said figures from the Social Weather Stations and the National Census and Statistics Office show that at least 30 percent of Filipinos are living below the poverty line.

Deles said poverty is concentrated in slums in urban areas and in tribal communities in rural areas, which the government had neglected.

"These poor people are already the third generation and their number is still rising," she said.

Deles said residents of inner cities do not have enough food and drinking water, lack electricity in their homes, and have no access to education, which makes them easy prey for politicians and other unscrupulous people.

Deles said the Arroyo administration has directed all government agencies to introduce at least two programs that would try to solve the problem of poverty.

Deles said the NAPC has submitted to Malacañang a five-point program to alleviate the living conditions of less fortunate Filipinos.

The program includes asset reform, human development services, social protection, and participation of the poor in governance and institution building, and security against violence for the poor, he added.

Deles said the poor are the most vulnerable to physical abuse, violence, loss of employment, old age, and rise in food prices.

"They also face shock arising from natural disasters and large and abrupt swings in the micro-economy," she said
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June 27, 2001, PNHO, RP Govt Among World's Most Corrupt -- Survey,

Manila, June 27, 2001 - The Philippines was ranked as one of the countries where corruption in government has a high percentage, according to the Corruption Perception Index (CPI).

The CPI, a joint initiative of Transparency International and Goettingen University, said out of 91 countries, the Philippines ranked 65th or obtained a 2.9 percent rating in terms of its extent of corruption in public administration.

Among the other countries that ranked poorly were Guatemala, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Uganda, Nigeria and Indonesia.
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June 27, 2001, PNHO, All-Out-War vs. Abu Wrong Path to Mindanao Peace - Muslim Expert,

Manila, June 27, 2001 - A Muslim expert warned the Arroyo government that Islamic fundamentalism is here to stay and crushing the bandit group, the Abu Sayyaf, may just provide a “period of relaxation” before an equally vicious and fanatic group emerges in its stead.

The expert also blamed the past Estrada administration for the current peace and order problem in Mindanao, saying former Pres. Joseph Estrada’s all-out war policy against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the bigger secessionist rebel group, only served to inflame separatist sentiments in the region.

He said that the present Arroyo administration should create a national policy on how to deal with the war in Mindanao that would sustain the “peace momentum and fast the peace talks.”

He also said that prior to Estrada’s policy, the government was already on the right path when it managed to secure the cooperation of the separatist groups, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNFL) and was well on its way to achieving the same with the MILF.
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June 27, 2001, PNHO, Govt Unfazed by Sayyaf Threats,

Manila, June 27, 2001 - Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes today said the government would not succumb to threats by the Abu Sayyaf bandits that they would behead at least two more hostages if their designated intermediaries are not allowed to negotiate with them.

"They can issue all of these threats, but ... the direction we have taken is clearly set. We continue the operations, we don't negotiate with them," he said.

Reyes said the ASG has no right to "demand or dictate" on the government, noting that in the first place there are no ongoing negotiations.

He also clarified that his proposed meeting with Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak had nothing to do with the demands of the bandit group for a Malaysian mediator.

Razak will arrive Thursday for a two-day official visit to discuss defense and security, international transnational crime and terrorism and enhancing the defense cooperation with their civilian counterparts in an effort to eradicate the Abu Sayyaf.
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June 27, 2001, PNHO, Abu Sayyaf Logistics Officer Nabbed in Basilan,

Isabela City, Basilan, June 27, 2001 Police arrested this morning Jose Wong Mustafa Amil, believed to be the logistics officer of the Abu Sayyaf Group, in Isabela City, Basilan. Amil is wanted by authorities for kidnapping and serious illegal detention cases.

He was reportedly sent to Basilan on a special mission by ASG head Khadaffi Janjalani and Abu Sabaya.

While Amil is undergoing interrogation by the police, Philippine National Police chief Leandro Mendoza commended Region 9 police director Simeon Dizon Jr. for the arrest.
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June 26, 2001, PNHO, Sobero is Dead, Sayyaf Tells Family,

Zamboanga City, June 26, 2001 Guillermo Sobero is dead. This was the message of the Abu Sayyaf bandit group to the family of the American hostage who was first announced to have been beheaded last June 12.

Rebel spokesman Abu Sabaya phone RMN’s radio station in Zamboanga City to respond to a plea from Sobero's mother who yesterday begged for news that her 40-year-old son was still alive.

Sobero, a father of four, was one of three Americans and 17 Filipinos snatched from a resort on May 27 and held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf in the jungles of Basilan island.

Using a satellite phone, Abu Sabaya told the Sobero family through the radio broadcast that he could not let them hear Guillermo's voice as they had pleaded because he was dead.

Sabaya had earlier announced that Sobero was executed after the government refused to allow two Malaysians, former politician Sairin Karno and businessman Yusuf Hamdan, to become negotiations for the hostages' release.

The Abu Sayyaf has also said it wanted Justice Secretary Hernando Perez be made the chief government negotiator and threatened to behead more hostages if their demands were ignored
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June 26, 2001, PNHO, Hostages Beheaded Due to Govt Failure to Change Negotiators,

Manila, June 26, 2001 - The reason why the Abu Sayyaf extremist group beheaded two of the 15 farm workers of Lantawan was due to the failure of the government to change its intermediary, according to an informant today.

The highly placed source asserted that the Abu Sayyaf would have released two Filipino hostages but have changed their plan as William Castillo continued to insist to deal with them. The “exit fee” did arrive also.

The informant did not disclose who are the hostages who supposed to be released, but reports indicate Lalain Chua and Angie Montalegre, who are among the remaining Palawan captives.

The bandits have demanded the services of Justice Sec. Hernando Perez, Dr. Farouk Hussein, and Malaysians former Senator Sairin Karno and businessman Yusop Hamdan.
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June 25, 2001, PNHO, Abu Bandits Sighted in Davao City,

Davao City, June 25, 2001 - Two high-powered pump boats carrying a number of wounded Abu Sayyaf bandits reportedly landed early Sunday morning in the shores of this city.

The landing was attested by villagers themselves but the military and the police said they have yet to verify the reported sighting.

Elements of the Army's 25th Infantry Battalion only checked the report today.
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June 24, 2001, PNHO, Early Resumption of NDF Peace Talks Unlikely,

Manila, June 24, 2001 - Government negotiator Hernani Braganza does not see an early resumption of peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF).

Braganza said the agreed 18-month implementation of social reform programs, human rights protection, and the cessation of hostilities will have to be put on hold until solid confidence-building measures could be established.

Leftist groups meantime accused the military of violating the spirit of the peace talks, saying AFP's search and destroy operations against insurgents in Mindoro Oriental are displacing more than 3,000 Mangyan families.

While government is sincere in re-opening the talks, Braganza said, he'd rather resign from the Cabinet if insurgents and Leftist peasants insist on unreasonable demands like solving the land reform problem in four months.
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June 24, 2001, PNHO, Palace Uneasy with Malaysian Negotiator,

Manila, June 24, 2001 - Presidential spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao has acknowledged the existence of an "independent" Malaysian negotiator who had earlier claimed he succeeded in convincing Abu Sayyaf Group spokesman Abu Sabaya to release three hostages.

The negotiator, who identified himself to government intermediary William Castillo as "Sairin" and to others as "Yussuf Andan" has been reportedly contacting several government officials, identifying himself as the one who has direct contact to the ASG.

"He has been calling us, saying that he has been talking to Abu Sabaya and that he was scolding Abu Sabaya for embarrassing Filipino-Muslims in Sabah, and that he has been trying to convince Sabaya to release the hostages," Tiglao said.

The ASG has been demanding that the government allow former Malaysian senator Sairin Karno and Malaysian businessman Yussuf Hamdan to help in the negotiations for the release of the hostages.

It was Andan who said that Abu Sabaya has already released three Filipino hostages who up to now have yet to be spotted in any area in Basilan.

A check made on the background of Andan indicated that he is a Malaysian businessman married to Filipina and is based in Sabah, Malaysia. Andan has a chain of restaurants and was involved in the negotiations for the release of Sipadan hostages last year.

"He [Andan] was telling us that contrary to perceptions that he was into ransom payment, he even spent his own money. He said he just wants to help the Filipino-Muslims because his wife is a Filipina," Tiglao said.

Although the Philippine government is thankful to Andan, the administration would still prefer to have Castillo as its official intermediary.

Another question that keeps bugging the government, Tiglao said, is the motive of Andan for "insisting" himself to get into the negotiation process.

"We are thankful for his [Andan] help but again...we are emphasizing that any actual talks with the Abu Sayyaf should be undertaken still through William Castillo. Apparently he has been insisting himself. We appreciate his help but we are bit worried. If he's doing if for the sake of the Muslims, we're happy about it, but for any other reason we aren't too happy about it," Tiglao said.
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June 24, 2001, The Philippine Star, Sayyaf Founder 'Boy Iran' Arrested in Zamboanga,

Manila, June 24, 2001 - (STAR) Combined elements of the military and the police captured in Zamboanga City a suspected leader of the Abu Sayyaf extremist group with a P1-million bounty on his head.
President Arroyo hailed the arrest of Muloh Abdullah alias Boy Iran, alleged to be one of the founders of the Muslim group, as a "major breakthrough" in the military’s all-out war against the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan.

Abdullah was presented to journalists during a press briefing at the Armed Forces’ Southern Command headquarters in Zamboanga City yesterday.

Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan, who presided at the briefing, did not give details on Abdullah’s arrest, which he attributed to the ongoing pursuit of the Abu Sayyaf bandits in Basilan.

Adan admitted, however, that Abdullah’s fall stemmed from information given by a civilian who will subsequently get the P1-million reward.

"He (Abdullah) is the courier of the Abu Sayyaf," Adan said without elaborating.

It would be the second time that a civilian informant would receive a bounty offered by the government for information leading to the arrest of an Abu Sayyaf member wanted by the law.

The first recipient was the widow of retired Army Col. Fernando Bajet who shot dead Abu Sayyaf leader Abdullah Yusop during the siege of Lamitan town last June 2.

Presidential Spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao said Abdullah had gone through tactical interrogation over the past three days at the Southcom headquarters.

"We believe the arrest of Abdullah will allow us to finally dismantle the Abu Sayyaf’s network in Basilan and other urban centers like Metro Manila," Tiglao said.

Military authorities said Abdullah was among the first batch of Abu Sayyaf cadres recruited by its founder, Ustadz Abdurajak Janjalani, in the early 1990s.

Among the group’s initial terrorist acts was the 1992 bombing in Zamboanga City of the floating library M/V Doulos where 18 people, six of them foreigners, were killed.

The military also said Abdullah supplied the information that led to the abduction of Catholic priests Fr. Gaz Frazack and Fr. Bernardo Blanco in 1993 in Basilan.

The suspect was likewise implicated in the 1993 bombing of the Shoppers’ Central in Zamboanga City.

At yesterday’s press briefing at Malacañang, Tiglao also revealed a letter from jailed Abu Sayyaf leader Hector Janjalani, elder brother of Khadaffi, offering help to resolve the hostage crisis in Basilan.

The letter, handwritten in Tausug dialect, was dated June 20 and addressed to the President.

"I can help you in this present situation. I am offering to help you solve this problem because I trust you. If there is one Janjalani that destroyed the peace in Mindanao, it’s not impossible for another Janjalani to come out and offer himself as a tool to restore peace," the letter said.

"Maybe, we can try to talk to them (Abu Sayyaf bandits) and secure the freedom of the hostages with no money involved," Hector added.

Tiglao said Mrs. Arroyo asked Hector to issue more letters to his Abu Sayyaf comrades to release their hostages.

In another development, Adan said the military has not confirmed the reported release of three hostages snatched by the Abu Sayyaf from Dos Palmas, an upscale resort in Palawan, last May 27.

"There was no communication intercepted by the Armed Forces from the Abu Sayyaf that they are going to release hostages, although it is our desire and hope that all of the hostages are released," Adan said.

He said there has been no indication that the some of the captives were on their way to freedom.

Quoting an independent negotiator, Reuters reported that three of the hostages were freed by the Abu Sayyaf on Friday and were expected to reach safety within 48 hours. — Roel Pareño, Marichu Villanueva
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June 23, 2001, PNHO, Sayyaf Slipped Through Naval Blockade?,

Zamboanga City, June 23, 2001 - The military reports that the Abu Sayyaf group headed by Abu Sabaya and Khadaffy Janjalani, along with their hostages snatched from the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan and Lamitan, may have left Basilan. Eight motorized bancas were sighted by a military reconnaissance helicopter leaving the island-province of Basilan on Wednesday.

It was not, however, verified if the motorboats were carrying members of the Abu Sayyaf and their hostages because naval troops sent to check the reports came late.

The military failed to find any of the Abu Sayyaf and hostages for a sixth straight day.

Heading toward northwest of Zamboanga City, the boats were sighted at 6:40 a.m. on June 20 by soldiers on two Huey helicopters which were sent to Basilan to support ground troops there.

The Hueys belong to the 530th Composite Tactical Wing of the Philippine Air Force.

"While en route to Basilan, the team sighted eight motorized bancas in the strait of Basilan heading toward northwest of Zamboanga City," reports from the Southcom headquarters based in Zamboanga City said.

Due to the vastness of the seas surrounding Basilan, military sources claimed it is possible for the Abu Sayyaf to slip through the military cordon around the island.

"It's possible," one military official said of the reported slipping out of eight motorized bancas from the military's naval blockade in Basilan.

The source, however, said "it would be hard for them (Abu Sayyaf) to slip out of our military cordon specially in groups."

The official also cited the stepped up sea-borne patrol now being conducted by Navy elements both in Basilan and Sulu shorelines to prevent Abu Sayyaf bandits from escaping.

"We have just intensified patrols both in land and in sea to keep them (Abu Sayyaf bandits) within this area," the source said.

Military helicopters spotted the single-file column of boats leaving Basilan island at sunrise on Wednesday and dispatched a navy patrol to catch them, but the motorboats were gone by the time the navy ships arrived, military spokesman Col. Danilo Servando said in an interview.

But Servando said he doesn't know if the motorboats that left Wednesday carried guerrillas or hostages. He said the vessels apparently left the island under cover of darkness.

Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan, the military spokesman, earlier claimed that the rebels' location had been pinpointed. He said then that "Our forces are not too far from them (the rebels). We expect to make contact with the enemy anytime," adding that "Our troops are moving day and night, climbing mountains, crossing rivers. We have not slowed down a bit. In fact, we are intensifying operations."

Adan said the top brass had also been granted permission to train some 10,000 civilian militias to help the 106,000-strong regular army battle communist and Muslim rebels.

"Our hands are full as you can see. We have been addressing these problems, these threat groups for years now," Adan told reporters. "The armed forces presented (to the president) what it needs to be successful in this campaign, including the manpower and the different scenarios that could happen."

Presidential spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao said militia support was needed to help the military in hinterland areas. While the country has a "very efficient military force", rugged mountain areas where rebels are hiding are "so big, that is it physically impossible to control every inch of the hinterlands," Tiglao said.
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June 23, 2001, PNHO, 2 Hostages Found Beheaded in Basilan,

Zamboanga City, June 23, 2001 - Philippine police today said they had found the headless corpses of two Filipinos who had been held hostage by Abu Sayyaf rebels on Basilan island.

The remains of the two men, Primitivo Falcasantos, 48, and Crisanto Suela,30, were discovered around 5 a.m. at a rubber plantation in Sumagdang, near the town of Isabela. Falcasantos was a security guard at the Golden Harvest Plantation and Suela was a laborer there.

Police said the bodies had their hands tied with nylon cord and there was a note written on the T-shirt of one saying that ''Commander Robot is here to behead.''

``Commander Robot'' is the nickname of Ghalib Andang, one of the leaders of the rebel Abu Sayyaf group.

Police said the men were part of a group of 15 people who were abducted on June 11 from a coconut plantation near the town of Lantawan by Abu Sayyaf members reportedly led by Commander Robot.

The Abu Sayyaf has been holding around two dozen hostages in Basilan, 550 miles south of Manila, including at least two American missionaries who were seized from a holiday resort on May 27.

A third American, tourist Guillermo Sobero who was also taken from the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan, is believed to be dead, but his body has not been found. The group announced June 12 that Sobero had been beheaded.
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June 23, 2001, PNHO, MILF-RP Govt Peace Accord Signed,

Tripoli, Libya, June 23, 2001 - The Philippine government and the Muslim separatist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed a peace agreement last night, calling for a cease-fire in a 32-year insurgency and talks on returning Muslim-claimed lands. The truce was to take effect immediately, said Salem Adam, Libya's ambassador to the Philippines.

The MILF signed the agreement after three days of talks sponsored by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi

``Our view is that this is an agreement that includes general principles. The details will be discussed in the next phase,'' said Lanang Ali, a member of the rebel negotiating team.

The 15,000-strong rebel group seeks an Islamic state on the poor, resource-rich island of Mindanao in the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines. It is not connected to another militant Islamic group, Abu Sayyaf, which is holding dozens of hostages in the southern Philippines.

Muslim rebels have been fighting for autonomy for about 30 years. Over 120,000 people have died in the fighting. Another major Islamic group, the Moro National Liberation Front, signed a peace deal with the government in 1996 establishing an autonomous governing body in south Philippines.

The pact was signed by Jesus Dureza, representing Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and rebel official Al Haj Murad.

In March, the government and the group agreed to resume the peace talks stalled after the government declared all-out war against the group when it failed to meet a deadline for a peace deal.

But Arroyo, who took office in January, has made peace negotiations with rebel groups a priority - with the exception of the Abu Sayyaf. MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu has said his group would not support the Abu Sayyaf.

Seif el-Islam, Gadhafi's son, said this agreement should benefit both Muslims and the government.

Libya has taken an active interest in the Philippines troubles since Ghadafi organized talks between the government and Muslim separatists in 1976, but a peace deal was never implemented.

But Ghadafi, who was not present at the signings, has said Libya did not support the separation of Muslim territories from the mainland Philippines.

The Organization of Islamic Conference will appoint a committee to monitor the current peace deal and it will include Libya, Malaysia and Indonesia, according to the agreement.

Datu Muslimin Sema, a member of the government peace panel, said the Philippines would immediately began a program to help war-devastated areas recover economically.

He said that discussions on the recovery of Muslim land will begin after plans for the withdrawal of army troops from the territories are completed.
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June 22, 2001, PNHO, 3 British Nationals Kidnapped This Year -- Embassy,

Makati City, June 22, 2001 The British Embassy confirmed today that at least three British nationals have been victims of the wave of kidnappings which has hit the Philippines in recent months.

According to a local media report, one of the abducted Britons had his ear cut off by his kidnappers, who sent a video of the mutilation to his family to force them to pay a ransom.

The British embassy, in a brief advisory on its website, confirmed the kidnappings but released few details.

“Three British nationals have been kidnapped so far this year and held for periods of up to three weeks,” the embassy message said in a travel warning urging, “heightened security awareness against the threat of kidnapping in Manila.”

Embassy spokesmen were not immediately available to elaborate on the report, but a Filipino-Chinese publication, Tulay, said one Britain was freed last month after meeting a ransom demand for 10 million pesos (192,000 dollars) and 150,000 dollars.

“To force the Briton’s office to pay the ransom, the kidnappers cut off his ear and sent a video to the family showing the gruesome act,” the report said.

The head of the police criminal investigation division, Chief Superintendent Nestorio Gualberto, said they had suspects in at least one case “but we cannot pursue them because the victim would not like to complain.”

According to latest police figures only 30 kidnap-for-ransom incidents were reported in the first five months of the year, although one legislator claimed to have figures from the Chinese community of another 47 kidnaps, which were not reported.

In recent days the police have received more than 1,000 applications for firearms licenses, mainly from Chinese-Filipino traders arming themselves against potential kidnappers, the Manila Standard said.
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June 22, 2001, PNHO, 47 Pinoy-Chinese Kidnapped This Year -- Loren,

Manila, June 22, 2001 -- Sen. Loren Legarda disclosed yesterday that 47 Chinese Filipinos had been kidnapped since January in Metro Manila alone.

Legarda said the number of Chinese-Filipino victims was disclosed to her by representatives of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FFCCCI), who went to see her last week to express concern over the rising kidnapping cases in the metropolis.

The FFCCCI's revelation came a day after Malacañang disclosed that the crime index had dropped 10 percent during the first five months of the year compared with the same period last year.

"According to them, not all (47 kidnappings) have been reported to the police since January and to them that’s an alarming situation,” Legarda told reporters.

"They have come to me, perhaps, among many others, to express their concern and to ask what the government can do to help protect them from the rising (tide of) criminality in Manila," the senator said.

She said the 47 kidnapping cases were as of last week and did not include the abduction on Monday of Mary Grace Cheng Rosagas, daughter of Robert Cheng who owns Uratex Foam Inc.

Rosagas returned home 17 hours after her reported abduction inside the University of the Philippines campus in Quezon City.

The kidnapping prompted President Macapagal-Arroyo to say that it could be the handiwork of her political enemies out to destabilize her administration.

Asked about allegations that the kidnappings were part of a destabilization plot, Legarda said: "Indeed, there are allegations of political maneuvering, of political motivations. That I am not sure I agree with."

This was because, she said, “for me, a crime is crime and when they present facts and figures and names of people, I don’t think that can be invented. That is not the product of the imagination of the members of the (federation)."

Legarda said there was a need to determine the role of the National Anti-Crime Council, a new superbody created by the President, in fighting crime.

"Is this an admission that the police are not capable of doing their job?” Legarda said.

She warned that the new superbody might duplicate the role of the police in taking charge of internal security problems and thus "might send the wrong signal that the police are not capable of doing their job."
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June 18, 2001, PHNO, GMA Admits Kidnap Effect on Economy,

Puerto Princesa, June 18, 2001 President Gloria Arroyo today admitted that Abu Sayyaf guerrillas took the entire Philippine economy hostage when they kidnapped 20 tourists and resort staff last month from an upscale Palawan resort.

The President visited Puerto Princesa today to hand out 50,000-peso checks to the families of two resort staff who were murdered by the Muslim rebels and a third worker who was injured.

In her short speech, Arroyo said the guerrillas had not only captured 20 people, "they also kidnapped Palawan tourism and took the entire Philippine economy hostage" when they raided the Dos Palmas resort on May 27.

Tourism, worth 2.5 billion dollars a year to the Philippines, has declined in Palawan since the raid.

"It is time we solved this problem once and for all," Ms Macapagal said.

The Philippine peso slid to 52 to the dollar level in late trade Monday, and central bank governor Rafael Buenaventura blamed both weak regional currencies as well as the hostage crisis.

"Undoubtedly, the unfavorable publicity with the kidnappings have not helped but generally it has been because of regional weakness," he said.
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June 19, 2001, PHNO, Govt to Sign Peace Pact w/ MILF in Libya

Tripoli, Libya, June 19, 2001 - The Philippine government is scheduled to sign a peace agreement with an Islamic separatist group, an official Libyan source said Monday.

Philippine Vice President Teofisto Guingona flew to Libya yesterday to represent the Philippine government in landmark talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The negotiations start Wednesday. The MILF, a 12,500-member organization, has been fighting for an independent Islamic state in Mindanao, the southern third of the mainly Roman Catholic Philippine archipelago.

"The official delegation and those of the MILF have arrived in Libya to sign the accord for peace and unity," said a spokesman for Libya’s Kadhafi Charity foundation.

Seif al-Islam, Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi’s son and president of the Kadhafi Charity Foundation, will preside over the talks, which will also be attended by Malaysian and Indonesian representatives.

Among the issues is an MILF demand for the Arroyo government to recognize more than 40 rebel-controlled areas, where there will be a complete "cessation of hostilities" in exchange for economic development.

Libya, Indonesia and Malaysia sponsored negotiations between the Philippines and other Muslim separatists, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), in 1996, resulting in a peace deal. The MILF, a breakaway faction, was left out of the 1996 negotiations.
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June 18, 2001, PNHO, Sayyaf Asks Perez to Mediate

Manila, June 18, 2001 - Abu Sayyaf leader Abu Sabaya is re-opening the door to negotiation, and offered to release some hostages if Justice Secretary Hernando Perez is named a mediator.

“I promise once Perez enters as negotiator … we would release some hostages,” Sabaya said in Tagalog over radio RMN. “Maybe it’s not too late. The Philippine government can still save a number of lives.”

However, he declined to say how many captives would be released. He reiterated its demand for the government to stop military operations in Basilan, noting that Perez will be unable to go to them if this is not done.

The Abu Sayyaf spokesman also said that he wants former Malaysian senator Sairin Karno and businessman Yusuf Hamdan to join Perez as negotiators.

He said he was willing to talk with the Justice Secretary as early as tomorrow. “Even tomorrow, we will await the announcement from Malacañang,” Sabaya said.
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June 17, 2001, PHNO, President Arroyo Visits Basilan Tomorrow

Manila, June 17, 2001 - Preparations are ongoing for President Arroyo's visit to Basilan tomorrow. The President's itinerary reportedly also include Zamboanga and Palawan.

Armed Forces chief of staff Diomedio Villanueva went to Basilan today to check on preparations for the President's visit but declined to give out details about the event, saying they do not want to make a big deal of it.

Villanueva also visited the site of the day-long clash between the military-police forces and the Abu Sayyaf criminals last May 31 in Lamitan.

The Presidential Security Group was also in Basilan today to inspect the security measures being put in place for the President's visit.
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June 16, 2001, PHNO, Sayyaf Leader Khadaffy Janjalani Dead?

Manila, June 16, 2001 - Basilan Gov. Wahab Akbar today said he believes they have "enough evidence" to divulge the death of Khadaffy Janjalani, the Basilan-based leader of the Abu Sayyaf bandit group.

In an interview over the local RMN station, Akbar said Janjalani was "very wounded" when he was taken aboard a pump boat from Lamitan town in Basilan to Tuburan.

Earlier reports indicated that Janjalani was wounded in an encounter with the military, prompting the group to invade a hospital in Lamitan to secure medicine and the services of doctors to treat the rebel leader.

Akbar said they have received reports of Janjalani's death three days ago. He refused to disclose where Janjalani’s remains were buried.
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June 16, 2001, PHNO, Two Hostages Released, Meet GMA at Palace,

Malacanang, June 16, 2001 - The Abu Sayyaf bandits today released two Filipino hostages, Kimberly Jao and Francis Ganzon, to Islamic preacher Mohaimin Latip. Latip himself was held for a week when he visited the Abu Sayyaf camp and presented himself as a freelance negotiator. He was reported by a town mayor to have been beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf.

The three turned up in the Basilan town of Tipo-Tipo early today and were flown to Manila for a meeting with President Gloria Arroyo at Malacanang at 6:00 p.m.

Jao and Ganzon were welcomed at the Villamor Air Base by Armed Forces chief Gen. Diomedio Villanueva and National Security Adviser Roilo Golez.

Latip was earlier in the week said to have been one of the two headless corpses found in Basilan, but the Abu Sayyaf on Thursday allowed him to call a radio station to confirm he was still alive.

Earlier, it was reported that ransom had been paid for the release of the two, but no confirmation was given by officials.
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June 16, 2001, PHNO, Commander Robot to Give Up in 3 Days _ Chavit,

Manila, June 16, 2001 Former Ilocos Sur Governor Luis Chavit Singson announced today that Abu Sayyaf leader Ghalib Andang, alias Commander Robot, is set to surrender within 72 hours.

Singson said the rebel chief has made arrangements to be picked up from Jolo, and that security preparations are being undertaken now between Robot’s emissary and Lt. Gen. Gregorio Camiling, chief of the Southern Command (Southcom).

Singson said a professor from the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, and the wife of Robot are helping as intermediaries. He said he talked with the professor yesterday, and reported the progress of the negotiations to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

It would have been easier, he said, if the military had issued safe conduct passes for Robot and his 17 followers.

“It’s difficult because there is no ceasefire. But we are coordinating with General Camiling,” he also said.

Singson claims he was personally chosen by Robot to facilitate his surrender.

“Robot only asked that I be there to meet him when he comes out from the jungle with his men. That is the only condition,” he said. “The President is pleased. I did not compromise the government. I did not promise Robot anything and the President knows that.”

Singson belied reports he had offered Robot amnesty in exchange for his surrender. “They (Abus) want amnesty, but I told them I am not in a position to give them amnesty,” he said.

The military on Friday showed opposition to any proposal to grant amnesty to Robot.

“We know is Kumander Robot has been involved in the hostage-taking in Sipadan last year . . . He is on top of our list of criminals, with a P5 million prize on his head,” armed forces spokesman Gen. Edilberto Adan said.
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June 16, 2001, PHNO, Govt Bewails NDF's Imposition of Own Rules on Alleged HR Violations,

Malacanang, June 16, 2001 The government is not glorifying the death of Cagayan Rep. Rodolfo Aguinaldo by pulling out of the peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF) the other day even as it scored the NDF for imposing its own laws on alleged human rights violators.

Presidential Spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao, in a press briefing, pointed out that the background of Aguinaldo and the crimes imputed to him by the NPA are beside the point. "That’s not entirely the point," he said.

Tiglao said the point is that the communist rebels are continuing their political assassinations using their own laws, or rules which run counter to the general agreement on international human rights and humanitarian law (IHR-HL) reached in the peace talks in Oslo, Norway.

"The very point of negotiations is for recognition of this government with the sole authority to prosecute human rights violators and any other criminals," Tiglao said.

Tiglao said "the government panel believes the other panel is not taking the general agreement on (IHR-HL) seriously."

"Our concern there is…that the very negotiations specified that prosecution of human rights violations is within the prerogative of the government of the Philippines," Tiglao said.

"Now, although the accord on human rights still has to be signed, the government panel believes the general agreement was not taken seriously," Tiglao added.

The government has declared an indefinite recess of the peace talks with the NDF in Oslo, Norway to protest the killing of Aguinaldo.

Government negotiators condemned the crime, saying the statement of the NDF chief negotiator, Luis Jalandoni, virtually endorsing the assassination, outraged them.

The second round of negotiations was initially set to end today, Friday.
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June 16, 2001, PHNO, Military, Backed Up by Civilian Support Build Up Pressure vs. Abu Sayyaf,

Malacanang, June 16, 2001 The military, backed by a strong civilian support, is now engaged in a sweeping operation in the entire island-province of Basilan to finally put an end to the atrocities committed by the Abu Sayyaf bandits, National Security Adviser Roilo Golez said today.

In a radio interview, Golez said with the arrival of more troops in the island, the military pressure on the Abu Sayyaf is now building up.

What is important here, Golez said, is that this time, aside from the combined force of the military and the police, there is now the active participation of civilian officials in the operations led by Basilan Gov. Wahab Akbar.

He said this was not immediately done before because the military was in hot pursuit of the Abu Sayyaf bandits and there was a firefight first in Tuburan and then in Lamitan.

Earlier, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo dispatched Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes and Interior and Local Government Secretary Jose Lina to Basilan to meet with Akbar and the mayors of the affected towns in the province.

Akbar, who is chairman of the Basilan Crisis Management Committee, assured Reyes and Lina that they will now exert all efforts in seeing to it that the problem with the Abu Sayyaf is resolved soon.

In a separate interview over Lina’s radio program at DZMM, Akbar said that the long-term solution to the Abu Sayyaf problem would require the development of the province that would include the construction of roads and other infrastructure projects, especially in the hinterlands, which are now being used as sanctuaries of the Abu Sayyaf.
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June 15, 2001, PHNO, Maguindanao Governor and Vice Governor to Be Proclaimed,

Manila, June 15, 2001 Maguindanao provincial board of canvassers may proclaim anytime soon the winner in the May 14 gubernatorial and vice gubernatorial contest in the province following the poll body’s lifting of its previous suspension of the process.

Two newcomers, Datu Andal Ampatuan, former vice mayor of Shariff Aguak town and his running mate, Datu Bimbo Sinsuat, both leading in the tabulations, are expecting the board to declare them before Monday as Maguindanao’s new governor and vice governor respectively.

It was the camp of re-electionist Gov. Zacaria Candao of Lakas-NUCD who had sought for the earlier suspension of their proclamation due to alleged election irregularities in at least nine Maguindanao towns, known bailiwicks of Kampi party, where Ampatuan and Sinsuat belong.

But while the Commission on Elections (Comelec), in a ruling en banc on Thursday, ordered the Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBOC) to proclaim the winning candidates for the two sensitive posts, it reaffirmed its previous order for the PBOC not to proclaim the winning candidate for congressman in the second district of Maguindanao.

Candao, as of press time, could not be reached for comment on the en banc ruling.
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June 15, 2001, PHNO, Govt Declares "Recess" in Talks with NDF,

Malacanang, June 15, 2001 Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Eduardo Ermita today confirmed that the second round of talks between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) is on "recess" as a result of the admission by the New People’s Army (NPA) that it was responsible for the killing of Cagayan Rep. Rodolfo Aguinaldo.

In an interview, Ermita said the members of the government panel to the talks held in Oslo, Norway, led by former Justice Secretary Silvestre Bello III have been instructed to return home immediately for consultations with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the Cabinet.

"Hindi yata tama na habang nag-uusap nang pangkapayapaan ay hindi nade-develop ang confidence sa bawat isa dahil tuloy and kanilang pagpaslang, lalo na sa mga opisyal ng gobyerno (I don’t think it’s right that while we are talking here of peace, the confidence on both sides is not being developed because they have continued their assassination, especially of government officials)," Ermita said.

On Wednesday, the NPA’s Fortunato Camus Command in Cagayan Valley claimed responsibility for the killing of Aguinaldo, saying that the latter "deserved to die" due to his alleged "crimes against the people."

Luis Jalandoni, chairman of the NDF panel to the talks, was also reported to have congratulated the NPAs for killing Aguinaldo.

In a separate radio interview, Bello said that the Philippine panel has sent a letter to Jalandoni condemning the killing of Aguinaldo and demanding for an immediate and satisfactory explanation.

Bello said that first of all, the killing was a criminal and immoral act and, secondly, it was a violation of our agreement since we are still in the peace negotiations.

"Dapat na magpakita sila ng sinseridad sa pamamagitan ng pagbibigay ng goodwill and confidence-building measures (They should have shown its sincerity through goodwill and confidence-building measures)," Bello said.
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June 13, 2001, PHNO, Govt to Meet Fire with Fire, GMA to Abu Sayyaf,

Malacanang, June 13, 2001 - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today spelled out in no uncertain terms the collective anger of the Filipino people against the Abu Sayyaf bandits even as she stressed that the bandit group’s "policy of terrorism" will be met with the full force of the military and that the government will not stop until all the terrorists are wiped out from Basilan and Sulu.

During her regular press conference, the President also warned civilians, whether relatives or friends of the Abu Sayyaf, for giving shelter, food, arms, water or information to the bandits, saying that they will not be forgiven but will be punished.

The President said the Abu Sayyaf bandits obviously respect only one law, and that is the law of retaliation or an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.

"We have responded in kind. We will continue to meet fire with fire, and more," the President said.

The President said that the Abu Sayyaf is "a scourge to the Filipino race and a curse to their religion."

She then reiterated the government’s policy of "no-ransom, no deal, no ceasefire, no suspension of military operations" against the Abu Sayyaf bandits.

According to the President, when her government announced that it was willing to talk to the bandits, it did not mean that it was ready to capitulate or to have a truce with the group.

"Ang usapan ay dapat limitahan lamang sa walang kondisyong pagpapalaya sa mga hostages (The talks should center only on the unconditional release of the hostages," the President said.

She said that the paramount objectives of the military offensive against the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan are to ensure the safe rescue of all the hostages and to annihilate the Abu Sayyaf.

With the atrocities committed by the Abu Sayyaf, the President said, it is now imperative, more than ever, for all Filipinos to unite so that this bandit group could feel the wrath and the condemnation from the people.

"Ang sambayanan ay nahaharap sa isang seryoso at malakas na hamon mula sa mga bandidong ito. Magkaisa tayo laban sa mga bandido (The nation is faced with this serious and grave challenge from these bandits. Let us unite in fighting these bandits)," the President said.

She also said that the people should be prepared for a long and bloody fight, if this is what is needed to decimate the Abu Sayyaf once and all.

"Tinitiyak ko po kung magtutulung-tulungan darating ang tagumpay sa laban na ito at masusugpo ang terorismo ng Abu Sayyaf gaano man ito katagal (I am sure that with the cooperation of all, we can win in this fight and stop the terrorism of the Abu Sayyaf even if this will take some time)," the President said.
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Diigo, June 13, 2001, The Philippine Star, Sabaya claims they beheaded American, by Paolo Romero,

A claim by Abu Sayyaf bandits yesterday that they had beheaded one of their three American hostages drew public outrage but failed to stop a military offensive in Basilan.

The military doubted the allegation by bandit spokesman Abu Sabaya that they had executed Guillermo Sobero, a Californian of Peruvian descent, as an Independence Day gift to the government.

As the military moved to verify Sabaya's claim, President Arroyo vowed that the "gang of butchers and murderers" would be "decimated."

Sabaya's announcement, made over a Mindanao-based radio network, discouraged Malaysian businessman Yusuf Hamdan from acting as special mediator between the Philippine government and the Abu Sayyaf terrorists as demanded by Sabaya.

The United States Embassy and the Vatican led international condemnation of the alleged beheading of Sobero who was snatched on May 27, along with two other Americans and 17 Filipinos, during a dawn raid on the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan by about two dozen Abu Sayyaf gunmen.

Nine of the hostages either escaped or were rescued by pursuing troopers, while two of the Filipinos were executed, one of them decapitated.

But the bandits snatched 15 more plantation workers Monday and

Sabaya even twitted the Philippine and American governments for demanding the unconditional release of the captives.

"We have released unconditionally one American, our amigo Guillermo, but we released him without a head," Sabaya said, adding the execution was videotaped and footage would be released.

He has also threatened to do the same to the two other Americans, missionaries Martin Burnham and his wife Gracia from Wichita, Kansas.

Sabaya taunted the President for ordering an all-out war to crush his group. "Tell Gloria to hurry up and solve this with her rescue operation because you might not have any hostages left."

He also threatened to kill Muslim religious leaders called ulamas for criticizing his group by saying their mass abductions and execution of hostages violated the teachings of Islam.

"They should be the first in fighting those that oppress us," Sabaya said. "Now, they are working together with the government. One day, we'll behead the ulamas, too. If they can escape us, they will not be able to escape Allah."

Sabaya said the beheading of Sobero was done near Tuburan town in Basilan, and told the military to look for the American's head.

He said he carried out the execution because they felt that the government was insincere in pursuing peaceful negotiations for the release of the hostages.

"We have chopped off his head because we... can see that the government wants to outsmart us with these negotiations. What are we, stupid?" Sabaya said. "So we've cut off negotiations. We will call again when we've beheaded another to let them know."

Sobero's younger brother, Alberto, said officials told him the reported execution was unverified.

"I'm still hoping this is not true," he said. "I ask the Philippine government to exhaust all efforts and continue a dialogue to get my brother back, and all the hostages."

Alberto added that only the eldest of his brother's four children knew about the kidnapping.

Mrs. Arroyo, who has raised a P100-million bounty for the arrest of the Abu Sayyaf leaders and members, said the Muslim extremist group "tramples on the values of all humanity."

"The reported murder of Mr. Sobero strengthens our resolve to decimate once and for all this cold-blooded bandit group. They did this dastardly act to prove that they are not kids, making empty threats, underlining the ghoulishness and viciousness of the Abu Sayyaf," the President said.

Addressing the Independence Day celebration at the Luneta, Mrs. Arroyo told the people the military was still verifying the report.

"I am praying that this news would turn out to be false. I am still hoping that the Abu Sayyaf's fear of the wrath of God will prevail," Mrs. Arroyo said.

She added that if the execution was, indeed, carried out, it merely confirmed that the Abu Sayyaf is a "gang of butchers and murderers who have no qualms about killing for cash."

Mrs. Arroyo said the people were angry over the bandits' wanton disregard for the laws of Christianity and of Islam.

"Let not these bandits think that the government's resolve is wavering," the Chief Executive said.

She cut short her attendance at the commemorative rites to meet with her Cabinet.

The threat to "decimate" the Abu Sayyaf was the toughest line ever made by Mrs. Arroyo about the recurrent hostage crisis in Mindanao.

Presidential Spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao said the Cabinet agreed to continue the military assault on the Abu Sayyaf.

"The operations are continuing. We can't say anything further until we find out if the claim is true," Tiglao said of the alleged execution.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Diomedio Villanueva said it was just "a matter of time" before the troops crush the Abu Sayyaf.

For his part, Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes said the troops will be able to verify Sabaya's claim "sooner than later."

As of presstime, however, there was still no word from the ground forces deployed to look for Sobero's remains.

Army Col. Hermogenes Esperon, commander of the military contingent in Basilan, stayed in Tuburan to personally supervise and monitor the search and recovery operations.

Basilan police provincial director Superintendent Akmadul Pangambayan said his men also helped look for Sobero's body.

Basilan Gov. Wahab Akbar has dispatched local villagers to assist in the search.

AFP calls Sabaya "a beast"

Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan, spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), branded Sabaya "a beast" even as he underscored that the information on Sobero has yet to be verified.

"We have to verify this information and confirm it, because you know, in the past, Sabaya has said things like this and didn't mean it," Adan said.

He was apparently referring to last year's kidnapping of American Jeffrey Schilling whom they held captive in Jolo, Sulu for about eight months. Sabaya threatened to kill Schilling who was eventually rescued by soldiers last April 12.

Sabaya said they did not kill Schilling because the American was a Muslim convert. Schilling is married to Ivy Osani, a cousin of Sabaya.

"This gives us a picture of this deranged man, claiming to be fighting for his homeland, and the reality is he is a beast trying to be a local folk hero," Adan said.

"The government will definitely take more intensified steps to pursue him, bring him to justice and destroy his group," he added.

He said six battalions are scouring some 1,300 square kilometers on the eastern portion of the island, adding that the attack on a plantation on the western side might have been a diversionary tactic.

He also revealed that 1,000 to 1,200 additional troops were deployed to Basilan yesterday.

"We are getting closer and closer," Adan said.

The Catholic Church hierarchy in Isabela, capital town of Basilan, urged the military to work for competence in all areas of military operations -- from the war room to the battlefront and vice versa.

"The Abu Sayyaf's evil presence wrought colossal destruction to life and property," the Church said in a statement. It described the Abu Sayyaf as "barbaric, blood-thirsty bandits and terrorists."

Gun-toting priest Fr. Cirilo Nacorda, himself a former Abu Sayyaf hostage, urged Basilan residents to stock up on firearms instead of spending their money on home appliances.

Nacorda said he favors killing all members of the Abu Sayyaf which has vowed to destroy all symbols of Christianity in the island.

Sabaya's group tortured last year Fr. Roel Gallardo who was kidnapped along with more than 50 school children and teachers from two schools in Lamitan.

Gallardo was trussed up, his fingernails plucked out, and finished off with a bullet to the head.

US Embassy condemns reported beheading

"The murder of an innocent person is a cowardly act. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this reported action," the US Embassy said in a statement.

The Embassy said their government holds the Abu Sayyaf responsible for the safety and welfare of the hostages.

Papal Nuncio Archbishop Antonio Franco said they also share the indignation over the reported beheading of Sobero.

"We are sincerely confident that you will overcome the crisis that you are confronted with, and we are certainly hopeful of your eventual success," he said during a Vin d' Honneur at Malacanang.

US Embassy charge d' affaires Michael Malinowski said Sabaya has gone mad.

"It's horrible," he said.

Press Secretary Noel Cabrera deplored that the Abu Sayyaf was virtually holding hostage the entire country and its economy.

Malaysian go-between gets cold feet

Malaysian businessman Yusuf Hamdan was reportedly shocked upon hearing that Sobero had been executed by the Abu Sayyaf.

Yusuf said they now fear for their own safety.

Sabaya earlier demanded that the Arroyo government designate Hamdan and compatriot former Sen. Sairin Karno as special mediators in the hostage crisis.

"I am very upset when I heard the news. I have asked the Radio Mindanao Network to relay a message to the Abu Sayyaf group to call me to confirm the news," Hamdan said.

"How can we mediate when you (Abu Sayyaf) do not give us a chance to talk. Why should we go if they do not honor their words," he added.

Yusuf said on Monday he has spoken to Abu Sabaya by mobile phone and told him not to carry out his threat to behead the three Americans.

"I told him it is an inhuman act," Yusuf said, adding he reminded Sabaya it is against Islam to kill an innocent man.

"Next time, they will chop off our heads," he said.

Yusuf and Sairin have said earlier they were willing to act as intermediaries in resolving the hostage crisis in Basilan if their government allows them to do so.

Sairin said he wanted first a safety guarantee from Manila.

Meanwhile, two more suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits were reported killed by pursuing soldiers during an encounter in Tipo-Tipo town in Basilan late Monday afternoon.

This brought to five the fatalities dealt by the troops on the Abu Sayyaf terrorists, self-styled freedom fighters for an independent Islamic state in Mindanao, since sporadic fighting begun last week.

On the other hand, the military has suffered 16 killed and 52 wounded. -- With Roel Pareno, Aurea Calica, Sandy Araneta
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June 12, 2001, PHNO, Reyes, Lina to Basilan to 'Heighten Cooperation Between Cops, Civilians',

Manila, June 12, 2001 - Determined to put an end to the Abu Sayyaf scourge in the South, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today instructed Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes and Interior and Local Government Secretary Jose Lina to proceed to the province of Basilan "to heighten the cooperation between the uniformed services and the civilian community."

During her regular press conference this afternoon at Malacanang’s Heroes Hall, the Chief Executive said the mission of Reyes and Lina to Basilan was to underscore the "need to have the civilian population very, very (much) involved and even take the lead in many of the things we have to do" to exterminate the Abu Sayyaf problem.

"Secretary Reyes and Secretary Lina will go there to heighten the cooperation between the uniformed services and the civilian community," the President said.

The President said that two more battalions were sent to Basilan last night as part of the military operations in the province.

Reyes said it is important that the people in Basilan province "will continue to trust its Armed Forces because that’s the only thing that nourishes our Armed Forces."

"The task in Basilan is a difficult task. We are not offering any excuses. We’ve made mistakes but our soldiers are paying dearly for it with their lives," Reyes said.

He asked the people of Basilan not lose their faith and confidence in the military and the police who are involved in the Basilan operations "because we are doing our best for the people, primarily for the people of Basilan."

Reyes pointed out that the instruction of the President is to see to it that "there is a proper appreciation of the problem there."

"This is not a problem of the military or the police. This is a problem of the entire community. The assistance, the cooperation of the community, the non-government organizations (NGOs), the local government officials, would be very, very important," he said.
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June 12, 2001, PHNO, Vatican Condemns Beheading,

Manila, June 12, 2001 - The Vatican today condemned the reported beheading of an American hostage by Muslim Abu Sayyaf bandits on Basilan.

"We are sincerely sympathetic and we share also the indignation for the late information about the crisis of the hostages in Basilan," said the Holy See's envoy to Manila, Archbishop Antonio Franco.

He made the comment in a speech during a reception for foreign diplomats at the presidential palace.

President Gloria Arroyo had denounced the alleged beheading of US hostage Guillermo Sobrero during her own speech to the diplomats.

Franco said in his reply on behalf of the diplomatic corps that the Vatican was "sincerely confident" that Arroyo would be able to overcome all the crises confronting her young administration.

"For our part, we are ready to cooperate and support ... your endeavors," he said.

Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Sabaya early Tuesday announced over local radio that his group had beheaded Californian Sobrero, one of three Americans held captive along with 25 Filipinos in Basilan.

President Arroyo said the military was trying to verify the report, saying if it was confirmed it should be condemned it as a cowardly and inhuman act.

Roman Catholic priests in predominantly Muslim Basilan meanwhile said they supported the government's "all-out war" policy against the Abu Sayyaf, a small group of self-styled Islamic freedom fighters.

"In light of the humiliating fiasco, we strongly demand from the military to work for competence in all areas of military operations -- from the war room to the field and vice versa," the Roman Catholic prelateture of Isabela said in a statement.

"The Abu Sayyaf's evil presence wrought collossal destruction to life and property," the priests said, labelling the group as "barbaric, bloodthirsty bandits and terrorists."
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June 12, 2001, PHNO, American Hostage Beheaded -- Sayyaf Announced on Radio,

Basilan Island, June 12, 2001- Abu Sayyaf rebels today announced on radio that they beheaded an American hostage, Guillermo Sobero of Corona, California, one of three Americans being held along with 20 Filipinos.

Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Sabaya had threatened to execute one of the three Americans at noon yesterday, but delayed it when the Philippine government agreed to a demand that a Malaysian negotiator be allowed to help settle the crisis.

But Sabaya told RMN radio that the threat was carried out because he felt the government was insincere.

We "can see that the government wants to outsmart us with these negotiators. What are we, stupid?'' he said. "So we've cut off negotiations. We will call again when we've beheaded another to let them know.''
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June 12, 2001, PHNO, U.S. Condemns Abu Sayyaf's Action, Demands Release of All Hostages

Malacanang, June 12, 2001 - The United States Embassy in Manila today condemned in the strongest possible terms the reported killing of American national Guillermo Sobero by the Abu Sayyaf bandits.

In a statement release to the media during the traditional Vin d’ Honneur at Malacañang on the occasion of the 103rd anniversary of Philippine Independence, US Embassy Charge D' Affaires Thomas Malinowski said: "The murder of an innocent person is a cowardly act."

"We hold the Abu Sayyaf Group responsible for the safety and welfare of all the people it is holding," he added.

Malinowski also called for the safe, immediate and unconditional release of the innocent persons being held hostage by the bandit group.

Abu Sayyaf leader Abu Sabaya announced over the radio this morning that his group had beheaded Sobero, 40, of Corona, California. As of presstime, however, military officials could not confirm the rebel's claim.

Based on reports, Sobero, a father of four, is a Peruvian native who makes a living waterproofing homes and decks. His neighbors and members of his family describe him as a "friendly man who loves scuba diving and playing with his children."

Sobero and his family moved to California in the early 1980s while his three brothers and two sisters live in Cathedral City.

Sobero and his wife of seven years were divorcing when he was abducted from an island resort in Dos Palmas along Honda Bay in Palawan on May 27, 2001
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June 12, 2001, PHNO, Papal Envoy, Diplomatic Corps Condemn Brutalities,

Malacanang, June 12, 2001 - Apostolic Nuncio Antonio Franco, dean of the diplomatic corps, today expressed indignation over the reported beheading of American hostage Guillermo Sobero by the Abu Sabaya bandits in Basilan this morning.

"We are sincerely sympathetic and we share also the indignation for the late information about the plight of the hostages in Basilan but we are sincerely confident that you will overcome all the crises that you are currently confronted with," Franco said during the Vin d’Honneur held in Malacañang this morning.

Speaking for the diplomatic community and in response to the President’s address, Franco said the Macapagal-Arroyo administration has been beset with numerous challenges in its few months in office but they are ready to support its efforts in finding a lasting solution to the Abu Sayyaf problem in the South.

"We are certainly hopeful of your eventual success," Franco said.

Franco said the diplomatic community was very glad and re-assured by the President’s explanation of what her government has in fact achieved in the face of various needs and challenges faced.

"For our part, we are ready to cooperate and support your aspirations and endeavors which will bring about unity among your people, progress, peace and security thus favoring on the regional and international levels a more humane world fit for every man," Franco said.

Franco also noted that President Macapagal-Arroyo should be commended in her efforts to reach out to the various factions of the Philippine society.

"Your Excellency's enthusiasm in reaching out to almost everywhere and ensuring so many things is truly amazing," he said.

After his brief remarks, Franco offered a toast for the continued health, prosperity and success of President Macapagal-Arroyo and the Filipino people.
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June 11, 2001, PHNO, Sayyaf Raid Farm Seize 15 Workers, Children,

Malacanang, June 12, 2001 - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today condemned the reported beheading of American Guillermo Sobero by the bandit group Abu Sayyaf.

In her speech before members of the Diplomatic Corps and the Cabinet at the traditional Vin D’ Honneur, the President condemned "in the strongest possible terms the reported beheading of Mr. Sobero."

"To murder and even behead a helpless person is as ruthless as it is cowardly," the President said in an emotional speech.

"If the Abu Sayyaf’s claim is accurate, it only emphasizes the fact that it is a merciless, ruthless group that has no qualms at all in murdering an innocent person for the sake of ransom money," the President added.

The President said: "Sabaya’s statements that the beheading of Sobero is their gift to our government on the occasion of our Independence Day celebration, that our troops should fast look for the headless body before it is eaten by dogs, that they did the dastardly act to prove they are not ‘kids’ making empty threats underline the ghoulishness and viciousness of the Abu Sayyaf."

The President noted that Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Sabaya doesn’t even honor his own word. "We acceded yesterday to their request that a Malaysian citizen participate in the talks with them, after they had threatened to kill an American hostage if we did not do so," she said.

But after the government made the announcement, the bandit leader Abu Sabaya even announced over radio that they would no longer push through with their threat to kill a hostage, the President added.

The President said the reported beheading emphasized the depths of cruelty which the Abu Sayyaf is capable of. "It shows that this terrorist groups has and will trample on all the values of humanity."

Sabaya has even trampled on Islam, when he threatened to behead even the Ulamas, or Muslim religious leaders, for appealing to him to release his victims, the President said.

The Dean of the Diplomatic Corps Archbishop Antonio Franco of the Holy See expressed confidence that President Macapagal-Arroyo will be able to surpass the problems now confronting her administration.

"We are certainly hopeful for your eventual success," Franco said.

Acting Press Secretary Noel Cabrera likewise condemned the Abu Sayyaf as an inhuman and heartless band whose action should be condemned by all.
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June 11, 2001, PHNO, Sayyaf Raid Farm Seize 15 Workers, Children,

Basilan Island, June 11, 2001 - Abu Sayyaf rebels raided a rubber plantation today and abducted 15 farm workers and family members, an army commander said.

"Fifteen people were abducted. These are farm workers and their families, two of them are aged 12," said Colonel Hermogenes Esperon, army commander in Basilan .

About 50 rebels stormed the village of Tairan near Basilan's Lantawan town, razed a chapel and one other building inside the 300-hectare (741-acre) plantation owned by the private firm Golden Harvest Corp.

The gunmen hold 13 other captives including three Americans, seized mostly from a western Philippines resort last month.
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June 11, 2001, PHNO, Lacson Not Involved in Dacer Killing -- NBI,

Manila, June 11, 2001 - The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)has denied the implication of Sen. Panfilo Lacson in the abduction and murder of PR man Bubby Dacer and his driver, Manuel Corbito.

NBI Director Reynaldo Wycoco clarified that there is nothing formal on record linking Sen. Lacson to the controversial case.

Wycoco said that information given by Police Superintendent Glenn Dumlao was made before executing a formal statement on the matter.
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June 11 2001, PHNO, Sayyaf Defers Beheading of U.S. Hostage,

Zamboanga City, June 11, 2001 - The Abu Sayyaf deferred anew the beheading of the three Americans today after Malacañang assured they will communicate with the Malaysian government in connection with the bandit group's demand for two Malaysian negotiators to step in the hostage crisis.

In an interview over RMN radio station, Abu Sayyaf spokesperson Abu Sabaya said if the Palace indeed "contacts" the Malaysian government and orders a halt to the military operation against them, they will "postpone" the execution of the captives supposedly scheduled at 12 noon today.

But Sabaya immediately warned Malacañang against attempting to put one over them.

Presidential Spokesperson Rigoberto Tiglao, in a separate interview over RMN, said "we will do what we can to save (the hostages) and for the innocent victims not to be harmed."

Tiglao said they will communicate with the Malaysian government to determine if they are amicable to the Abu Sayyaf demand to call in the two Malaysians -- former Sen. Sarno Sairin and businessman Yusuf Hamdan.

But Tiglao clarified they will not call for the pullout of military troops in Basilan and Jolo, known bastions of the bandits. He added that the no-ransom policy stays.
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June 11, 2001, PHNO, 15 Hostages Confirmed in Abu Sayyaf Attack at Barangay Tairan

Lantawan, Basilan, June 11, 2001 - AFP Brig. Gen. Edilberto said in a press conference today that the attack on the Bgy. Tairan, Lantawan, Basilan was to relieve the pressure on the main body of Abu Sayyaf that are now holding the hostages.

The Abu Sayyaf attack on the barangay resulted in the burning of 5 houses and the chapel of the barangay. The attack occurred at 9 o’clock in the morning today and at least 20 Abu Sayyaf members participated in the attack.

The attackers were led by Commander Isnilon Hapilon of Jolo. It is reported that this group of bandits from Jolo came to Basilan to reinforce their comrades.

Adan reported that there were 15 civilians who were taken hostages by the Abu Sayyaf.

“While there was initial report of more than 15—about 40 to 50—most of these were later released,” Adan said.

Those held hostage include the chief security guard of the Golden Harvest Plantation, his son and several teenagers whose names are not known yet.

“Initially, there were children reported (taken hostage) but they were left behind,” Adan said.

Adan said, the 10th Infantry Battalion and the Philippine Special Forces are presently in hot pursuit of the Abu Sayyaf group.
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June 11, 2001, PHNO, Govt, NDF Resume Second Round of Talks in Oslo,

Malacanang, June 11, 2001 - The government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) opened their second round of talks yesterday in Oslo, Norway, with the two sides agreeing on the implementation of the agreement on respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.

In a radio interview, Silvestre Bello III, chairman of the government panel, said that the two panels will resume their discussions today on the text of the Preamble and the Declaration of Principles of the agreement on social and economic reforms.

Bello noted that it took two and half years to finish the discussions on the substantive issues with respect to human rights and international humanitarian law.

"Ito namang substantive issue on social and economic reforms, nagkasundo kami na tatapusin namin ito sa loob ng anim na buwan (We have agreed to finish tackling the issues on social and economic reforms in six months)," Bello said

Bello said the two sides also agreed to take up afterwards the issue of political and constitutional reforms.

He said the last substantive issue in the agreed agenda is on ending the decades-old hostilities between the government and the communist insurgents in the country.

During the first round of talks held from April 27 to 30 also in Oslo, Bello said that both panels committed to endeavor to complete the agreements for the remaining three substantive issues in the agenda within 18 months or six months each for each of the issues.
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June 11, 2001, PHNO, GMA Orders Creation of Basilan Crisis Management Body,

Malacanang, June 11, 2001 - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today ordered the creation of a Basilan Crisis Management Committee that would give a unified and proper response from all government agencies to the Abu Sayyaf problem, Presidential Spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao said.

"The idea is to ensure that all government officials and the military command are in a structure that would ensure easy cooperation and swift response," Tiglao said in a press briefing in Malacanang.

The committee, to be chaired by Basilan Gov. Wahab Akbar with Division Commander Brig. Gen. Rene Dominguez as vice chairman, was formed "to get the support of the civilian local government units, local police and the military and ensure that the proper responses are made and quickly implemented."

National Security Adviser J. Roilo Golez, in the same briefing, said there are no plans to replace the present government intermediary, William Castillo.

"He is doing a very excellent job. He’s one of the best negotiators in the country as far as hostage negotiations are concerned," Golez said.

Tiglao reiterated that the government is not opposed to Malaysian private citizen, Sairin Karno, working with Castillo.

Tiglao, however, pointed out that the talks with the Abu Sayyaf are not negotiations for ransom payments. "These are talks intended to keep lines of communication with the Abu Sayyaf open," he said.

Tiglao also emphasized that military operations against the bandit group are even being intensified. "There’ll be no let-up," he said.

He added: "We are sticking to our no-ransom policy, not give in to the demand of terrorists."

Tiglao also noted that the Malaysian government would first have to allow Karno to join the Philippine government intermediary before the foreigner could join the talks.

So far, Tiglao said, the Malaysian government is not in favor of Karno joining the talks. "Our hands are tied in getting Mr. Karno as intermediary if the Malaysian government doesn’t allow him," he added.
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June 10, 2001, PHNO, GMA Seeks Libya's Help with Sayyaf,

Manila, June 10, 2001 - Libyan television reported yesterday that President Arroyo appealed to Libyan leader Col Moammar Gadhafi to help free the hostages held by Abu Sayyaf Moslem rebels.

Mrs. Arroyo, who had earlier stated she rejects foreign help in resolving the hostage crisis, asked Gadhafi by telephone to "deploy efforts to help find a settlement to the issue of hostages held in the southern Philippines," Libyan television reported.

During his conversation with the President, Gadhafi said Islam was "opposed to terrorism and blackmail," the station noted.

Malacañang had a different version of the telephone call.

While admitting that a telephone conversation had taken place between Mrs. Arroyo and the Libyan strongman, presidential spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao claimed it was not the President who had sought help from Gadhafi but that the Libyan leader had called her to offer his government's help in resolving the hostage crisis in Basilan.

Tiglao said the Chief Executive is "taking it" but refused to disclose the form of assistance the foreign government would be extending, saying there was no specific discussion on this.

"She thanked the help of the Libyan ambassador and said all offers of help (from other foreign countries) are not outrightly rejected by this government, he said in an interview with Palace reporters.

The United States government has called the Libyan government under Gadhafi as one engaged in terrorism and aids terrorist attacks.

Three of the hostages in Basilan are American citizens. The first to be beheaded, if demands are not met, would be either Guillermo Sobero or Martin Burnham, a missionary.

The Libyan Embassy, Tiglao said, had sent word to the President that Gadhafi had wanted to talk to her but could not get in touch with her. This prompted Mrs. Arroyo to call the Libyan leader.

The Libyan leader then told the President that his government would be available for whatever help the Philippines would need should it ask for assistance in resolving the problem.

"The President expressed her appreciation for Libya's offer of help," Tiglao said, stressing the exchange of conversation between the two leaders "was very general."

"Right now we're not rejecting it but right now she (President) feels that military operations would be enough," he said.

The Palace official also explained the Mindnaao hostage-crisis issue was only taken up in passing pointing out the real issue Gadhafi wanted to discuss with Mrs. Arroyo was the impending peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which his country would be hosting starting June 20.

"The main topic of their conversation was the coming peace talks. Gadhafi reiterated his full support for the peace talks and thanked the President for accepting Libya's offer to host it in Tripoli and later he asked about the Abu Sayyaf kidnapping.

A top security official said the deadline was Monday, a day later than the rebel leader suggested when he issued the ultimatum.

This gave rise to speculations that Mrs. Arroyo has bowed to the demands of Abu Sabaya and has run to Libya for help in resolving the hostage crisis, thus facilitating the entry of two Malaysian negotiators, a former senator and a businessman, to act as negotiators.

This is not the first time the Libyan government will be an active participant in a Philippine hostage crisis.

In August 2000, the Gadhafi Charity Organization, run by Gadhafi's son Seif, had financed the liberation of 21 western hostages held by Abu Sayyaf on the island of Jolo. Seif, through his organization, negotiated the release of the European hostages through a former Libyan ambassador, who also participated in the peace accord negotiations with the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front. (Tribune)
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June 9, 2001, PHNO, Hostage Crisis: Govt Now Open to All Options

Manila, June 9, 2001 The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) also yesterday said the government is mulling over the Abu Sayyaf's demand of having two Malaysians as negotiators for the safe release of its 13 hostages.

At the same time, AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan said Abu Sabaya's earlier threat of beheading the three Americans is being studied very carefully.

"The Abu Sayyaf's demand is now under evaluation. Aguinaldo. Sabaya's statements are now being studied. The government is open to all options" Adan said during his daily briefing at Camp Aguinaldo.

Adan observed that the military has been successfully applying pressure on the group of Khadafy Janjalani and Abu Sabaya, judging from earlier statements by the rebel spokesman.

"The fact that he (Sabaya) has demanded a troop pullout means that he knew our troops are only nearby," he said. At the same time, Adan disclosed that some 100 Abu Sayyaf rebels holding the 13 captives broke up into at least two groups to elude Army searches and escape to their main base in Jolo.

He said small groups can hide from Army patrols only a few meters away in the jungle of the mountainous southern island of Basilan, which ability also appears to slash the prospects of ending the hostage saga quickly.

Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Sayaba went on air yesterday and denied Malacañang's claim that he and the Abu Sayyaf group have demanded the immediate release of captured and jailed Hector Janjalani, a brother of the Abu Sayyaf founder, Abdurajik Abubakar Janjalani, who was killed by military forces in an encounter in 1988.

Earlier, presidential spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao announced that the Abu Sayyaf has demanded the immediate release of Hector Janjalani in exchange for the liberty of American hostages, Martin and Gracia Burham and Guillermo Sobero.

But Sabaya denied this, saying over Radio Mindanao Network (RMN), "We don't have an offer like that. Even if all our relatives are imprisoned, we will not swap our hostages for any members of our family (in jail). There is no bargaining here."

The line was cut off before the Abu Sayyaf rebel had a chance to say anything else.

The Palace has imposed a news blackout on media and all information on the hostage crisis generally comes from Malacañang, although Sabaya has managed to issue his statements through RMN.

This time, however, Sabaya was apparently cut off by the radio station itself, which has promised to cooperate fully with the Arroyo government on the media blackout on the Abu Sayyaf spokesman.

Asked to comment on Sabaya's denial of a swap, Tiglao said, "We are not saying that the release of Janjalani was part of the Abu Sayyaf demand. What I was saying was, if the report is true that the pullout of troops is part of the demand, it will be a military decision."

The presidential spokesman added if the report that the rebels wanted to swap hostages were true "it is a positive development."

"This is the first time they are offering the release of the hostages, without any (ransom) payment," Tiglao told reporters.,
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June 8, 2001, PHNO, Malaysia Rejects Sayyaf Call to Mediate

Kuala Lumpur, June 8, 2001 - The Malaysian government yesterday rejected demands by the Abu Sayyaf group for a Malaysian to mediate in the Philippine hostage crisis. Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo also rejected the demand.

The Abu Sayyaf had warned in a radio broadcast they would behead three Americans, among 13 hostages they are holding in Basilan, if former Malaysian Senator Sairin Karno is not appointed negotiator within 72 hours.

Sairin said he was awaiting approval from the Malaysian government before accepting the job.

"I will not do this voluntarily. I will wait for a decision from the government. It all depends on them. I will not go without permission," he told Bernama news agency from the eastern state of Sabah.

But Home Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the Philippine government was actively seeking an end to the latest hostage crisis sparked off by the Abu Sayyaf and Kuala Lumpur saw no reason at all to interfere.

Asked about the insistence on Sairin being the mediator, Abdullah said: "We cannot accept the Abu Sayyaf's demand."

Sairin played a mediator role when the bandits held 21 hostages seized from Sipadan Island off Malaysia's Sabah province in April 2000.
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June 7, 2001, PHNO, Sayyaf Threatens to Execute 3 Americans,

Zamboanga City, June 7, 2001 - Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Sabaya again used the Radio Mindanao Network to threaten the government to allow former Malaysian Sen. Datuk Sairin Karno to negotiate for the safe release of the bandits' hostages or they will execute their three American captives within 72 hours.

Sabaya recorded his message Wednesday and RMN aired the tape as its exclusive this morning. He promised to call the radio station again if the government continues to ignore his warnings.

Government intermediary William Castillo had earlier asked for more time for the government to decide on the issue while Karno said the Philippine government would have to seek clearance from Malaysia.

Karno with fellow Malaysian Yusop Hamdan, former Sabah Prime Minister Yong Tek Lee and Malaysian deputy prime minister Datuk Asis Shamshudin were also here to negotiate with the Abu Sayyaf criminals who kidnapped nine Malaysians last year.

Reacting through another radio interview, presidential spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao advised Sabaya that William Castillo is the government's intermediary and importing Malaysian Datuk Sairin Karno to act as a replacement negotiator would only result in confusion.

Armed Forces spokesman Gen. Edilberto Adan also went on radio this afternoon to call on Sabaya to get in touch with Castillo who has an important message for him. Adan also reiterated that Sabaya must guarantee the safety of the hostages or it will not be good for him.
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June 7, 2001, PHNO, Missing U.S. Navy Lt. Turns Up,

Manila, June 7, 2001 - A missing U.S. Navy lieutenant who hid on the slopes of a volcano during an attack by suspected communist guerrillas was escorted to Clark Field last night by native Aetas.

Lt. Scott Alan Washburn spent Tuesday night on Mount Pinatubo after his group encountered the guerrillas, said Maj. Allan Ballesteros of the Philippine air force. The guerrillas fired on Washburn's guards and seized some of their weapons.

Washburn was washing his shoes in a creek when the attack began, and hid in the mountains when his group was accosted.

``I'm very hungry,'' were Washburn's first words, Ballesteros said. He was also tired but was debriefed before going to bed.

The 33-year-old Washburn, who is from Celina, Ohio, tried to flag down a helicopter that was searching for him, but he was not spotted and decided to hike back when night fell for the second time. He arrived at the base just after 11 p.m., Ballesteros said.

Commissioned as an officer in 1998, Washburn has been in the Philippines five times. His father, Donald Washburn of St. Mary's, Ohio, said earlier Wednesday that his son is an avid outdoorsman who would have little difficulty surviving under difficult circumstances.

A helicopter search of the 4,750-foot volcano was halted at dark Wednesday as about 100 troops continued a ground search.

Washburn was among five American servicemen descending the volcano with four armed Filipino military escorts and two tour guides Tuesday when at least 30 suspected New People's Army guerillas fired near them. No one was injured.

Some of the assailants wore ski masks and were armed with AK-47s, M-16s and grenade launchers, said Elmer Cato, a spokesman for ongoing U.S.-Filipino military exercises in which the servicemen were involved. Five attackers approached the group and seized two M-16s and two pistols from the Filipino soldiers.

Cato said the attackers apparently mistook the Americans, who were wearing street clothes, for tourists. The masked men identified themselves as members of the New People's Army.

When their assailants left after about an hour, the Americans and Filipinos searched for Washburn, who had been at the creek when the attack started. But they failed to find him and trekked back to Clark Air Base in Pampanga province.

Washburn said he hid about 200 yards away during the attack, then holed up for the night when he realized he was alone, Ballesteros said.

The five were part of a joint, 11-day military exercise involving 3,000 U.S. and Filipino troops.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. Craig Quigley said in Washington that the Mount Pinatubo tour which the Americans had taken was part of a ``very carefully structured'' program worked out by the U.S. Embassy and that it was the first time there had been such an incident.
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Zamboanga City, June 7, 2001 - (STAR by Rey Arquiza) Hostage negotiation experts of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrived in Zamboanga yesterday to assist the Philippine government in the Abu Sayyaf hostage crisis. Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Leandro Mendoza said the team of FBI specialists would provide "advice and consultancy."

Negotiations are unlikely to involve ransom for the Filipinos and three Americans being held by the bandits. The United States follows a no-ransom policy in dealing with terrorists.

Earlier yesterday, highly reliable sources told The STAR US anti-terrorist experts were expected to arrive in the country to help authorities track down and arrest foreign supporters of the Abu Sayyaf.

The sources said the US team will try to pinpoint the foreign supplier of the bandits’ modern weapons.

Government forces now face bigger risks because the Abu Sayyaf extremists have updated their arsenal using millions of dollars in ransom payments for Europeans and Malaysians they seized from the Malaysian island of Sipadan last year.

The US earlier offered help in resolving the crisis involving the Abu Sayyaf bandits, who kidnapped 17 Filipinos and three Americans from an island resort in Palawan last May 27.

Officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said yesterday they still could not identify the exact source of the Abu Sayyaf’s weapons except that these came from radical Muslim states perceived to be "exporters of terrorism."

The name of top terrorist Osama bin Laden, the primary suspect in the bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, has continuously cropped up during investigations into the Abu Sayyaf’s foreign link.

A brother-in-law of the Saudi Arabian millionaire, who was simply identified as Khalifa, is reportedly Bin Laden’s conduit with the Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao.

Khalifa has recently been sighted in Mindanao. The military had also sighted some foreigners in the company of the Abu Sayyaf during combat operations.

US authorities believe that "an external hand is orchestrating" the kidnapping of three Americans from the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan to "bring down on its knees" the Philippine government.

As this developed, immigration officials told The STAR an Iranian and a Lebanese national, whom police believe helped the Abu Sayyaf kidnap the three Americans and 17 Filipinos from Dos Palmas, could have entered the country under assumed names.

Police earlier identified the two men as Bancrol Naghsh Manscour, an Iranian, and Bouldhourjian Nazared, a Lebanese, who allegedly rented separate cottages at Dos Palmas three days before the May 27 kidnapping.

Senior immigration intelligence officer Crescencio Ablan said American anti-terrorist experts have been "checking and re-checking" arrivals from perceived radical Muslim states.

"They have been comparing their data with our files, and checking closely our photos with them to determine if those in their list of international terrorists match with those in our files," he said.

Immigration Commissioner Andrea Domingo has instructed Danilo Almeda, head immigration supervisor, to strictly monitor foreigners arriving in the country enroute to Mindanao.

"I don’t see any rational behind these foreigners on tourist visas going at this time to Mindanao," she said.

Iranian embassy cries foul

The embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran described as "baseless" recent remarks and reports on the alleged involvement of an Iranian national in the Dos Palmas kidnapping.

In a statement, the embassy clarified that the Iranian named in recent reports is a well-known businessman with a good personal background.

"He is married to a Filipina and has stayed in the Philippines for more than 24 years. Hence, the Embassy believes that the allegations are baseless and without any substantial evidence linking him to the case," the statement said.

The embassy said recent reports were irresponsible and unprofessional which could ruin the reputation of an individual.

"Considering the desire of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of the Philippines to uphold and strengthen existing cordial relations, the Embassy hopes that relevant authorities responsible in declaring these unfounded reports to media compensate for their baseless remarks and announce their apologies in an appropriate manner," the statement added.
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June 7, 2001, PHNO, GMA Turns Over P1-M to Widow of Retired Colonel Who Killed Bandit,

Malacanang, June 7, 2001 - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today turned over a P1 million check to the widow of retired Lt. Col. Fernando Bajet in line with her commitment to give rewards to individuals who can help the government track down Abu Sayaff bandits.

Bajet was killed Saturday during an encounter with the Abu Sayyaf bandits who were holed up at the Jose Torres Memorial Hospital in Lamitan, Basilan. During the firefight, an Abu Sayyaf member, Yusop Jalal, was killed by Bajet.

Bajet’s widow, Edna, who came with her children to Malacanang, met with President Macapagal-Arroyo this morning.

"Maraming salamat sa ngalan ng buong bansa (On behalf of the whole nation, thank you)," the President told Mrs. Bajet in turning over the reward.

In his regular press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo, AFP Spokesman Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan said that since Yusop was not in the Abu Sayyaf Order of Battle, Bajet’s widow was entitled received P1 million in reward money.

Had Yusop been in the Sayyaf Order of Battle, the widow could have received P5 million under the reward system ordered by the President with a total purse of P100 million, Adan said.

During the simple turnover ceremonies in the Palace, Mrs. Bajet was accompanied by AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Diomedio Villanueva, Philippine Army Chief Lt. Gen. Jaime de los Santos, and Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

In her brief remarks, the President again conveyed the Filipino people’s gratitude to the soldiers and policemen fighting the Abu Sayaff in Basilan and other areas of Mindanao, some of whom, she said, like Bajet, have lost their lives.

According to Secretary Soliman, Bajet, a native of Lamitan, won as town councilor in the May 14 elections.

Bajet lives within the vicinity of the St. Peter’s Cathedral and the Jose Torres Memorial Hospital which were taken over by the Abu Sayyaf bandits, resulting in a fierce gun battle with government troops.

Bajet also used to be a member of the staff of General Villanueva and General delos Santos and was assigned to the Zamboanga peninsula, fighting Muslim rebels when he was still in active duty.

The President was informed that Bajet, 55 years old, would be buried on Monday in Lamitan.

In a related development, Secretary Soliman said that upon instructions of the President, the DSWD has been handing out cash assistance to the civilian victims in the Lamitan firefight, P10,000 for those killed and P5,000 for those injured.

Soliman and Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit visited Lamitan Wednesday to personally supervise the relief and rehabilitation efforts in the town and other areas in the province affected by the recent fighting.

Damage to the St. Peter’s Cathedral and the hospital has been placed at P6.5 million, Soliman said.

The government, through the Philippine Navy Engineering Brigade, has started the reconstruction of the church and hospital, as well as some private houses damaged by the Abu Sayyaf when they retreated from the scene.
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June 7, 2001, PHNO, Peace Devpt Drive in Mindanao Gets $2.45-M From World Bank,

Malacanang, June 7, 2001 - The Arroyo administration’s effort to promote sustained peace in Mindanao, speed up reconstruction in the region and transform the entire island into a food basket has received a big boost with the signing of two grant agreements totaling $2.45 million.

The agreements were signed last night at the Department of Finance Building in Manila by Finance Secretary Alberto Romulo and the World Bank’s (WB) Philippine Country Director, Vinay Bhargava. The signing was witnessed by World Bank Vice President for East Asia and the Pacific Region Jemal-ud-din Kassum and other Finance officials.

Shortly after the signing rites, Romulo extended his appreciation to the WB for the valuable support it is extending to the Macapagal-Arroyo administration, assuring bank officials that "such assistance would bring lasting benefits to the country."

Romulo also reiterated to the WB officials the government’s commitment to promote peace and development in Mindanao.

"The grants will help the government address the deep-rooted issues affecting peace and development in the region and render critical interventions to alleviate the dismal living conditions, especially of the sectors most severely victimized by war and poverty," he said.

The first grant, amounting to $1.5 million, is financed by the Japan Social and Development Fund. This grant, to be managed by the Fund Management Office (FMO) of the Special Zone for Peace and Development (SZOPAD) Social Fund Project, will finance capacity building and micro finance assistance for community-based and micro enterprise activities of the indigenous peoples, women, and widows in the SZOPAD area.

Under the first grant, a set of agreed guidelines and procedures will be implemented and sub-grants will be awarded to non-government organizations (NGOs) and People’s Organizations (POs) for them to undertake capacity building assistance and provide credit funds to group and individual-beneficiaries.

To date, close to 50 proposals from NGOs and POs, amounting to $2.15 million, have already been received. While the implementation of these proposals is expected very soon, emphasis will be given to sustainable livelihoods, which could be replicated through follow-on assistance program.

The second grant, in the amount of $950,000, is financed by the World Bank and will help in the preparation of a long-term peace and development plan for Mindanao. It will also finance the needs of the conflict-affected communities in the region and pilot test approaches enabling evacuees as well as those directly affected by the armed conflict to return to their communities of origin.

Kassum, said the two grants "expand the World Bank’s on-going assistance for Mindanao’s long-term economic and social development.

He said that on top of the grants, 18 out of 24 WB-assisted projects worth $770 million, support various activities that provide health and nutrition services, water, schools, textbooks, roads, irrigation systems, livelihood, and other basic needs of the people in Mindanao.

Kassum pointed out that the implementation of many of these projects could be accelerated as the peace and order situation in Mindanao improves.

"Peaceful conditions and a Mindanaoan demand driven program are prerequisites for Mindanao’s long lasting development," Kassum said.

For his part, Bhargava said "faster implementation of ongoing Official Donor Assisted (ODA) projects for Mindanao and these two grants is the need of the hour."

He, however, said that it is important for the implementing agencies concerned to be adequately staffed and to have clear-cut responsibilities and accountabilities.

"Moreover, design and implementation should be based on adequate consultation and feedback mechanisms. These mechanisms will be supported by these grants," Bhargava added.
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June 6, 2001, PHNO, 3 Soldiers Beheaded, U.S. Hostage Wounded,

Zamboanga City, June 6, 2001 - A leader of the Muslim rebel group Abu Sayyaf claimed today that his men beheaded three Philippine soldiers, but said his group's 20 hostages were alive and negotiations for their release have begun.

Abu Sabaya told RMN radio station DZXL that one of three American hostages abducted 11 days ago from a Palawan beach resort had been injured in a gunbattle with soldiers. He also claimed negotiations with a government representative have begun with his demand that troops chasing the Abu Sayyaf rebels through the rugged jungle must be withdrawn.

``If they wanted to seriously talk to us, they should show it by removing the military,'' he told Radio Mindanao Network, apparently speaking by satellite telephone. ``While the soldiers are here, there will be no talking.''

It was the first public contact from Sabaya since his men fled Saturday night from a hospital they occupied for a day in the town of Lamitan.

Sabaya claimed said that hostage Martin Burnham, a longtime Philippine resident formerly of Wichita, Kan., suffered ``several gunshot wounds in the back'' when soldiers fired as the rebels retreated. He was evasive when pressed for details.

The American hostages have been identified as Burnham and his wife, Gracia Burnham, both missionaries, and Guillermo Sobero of Corona, Calif.

Sabaya also claimed his men captured 13 soldiers, beheading three who fought back. He said they later freed the rest.

The military, which has reported 15 soldiers killed and 51 wounded since fighting began Friday, did not immediately comment on his claims. The bodies of two resort workers were found Sunday, days after they had been hacked to death. One was beheaded.

Sabaya added that the hostages would not be harmed, and were being treated well.

``They wanted to drink Coke, so we went into town and gave them Coke. If we had wanted to kill all of them, we could've easily killed them all,'' Sabaya said.

Sabaya, who claims he led the resort kidnapping, said that he spoke to a government representative over the weekend, but said negotiations for would not continue unless the military ends its pursuit.

``The government wants our unconditional surrender. What are they, crazy? If you think you can follow us into the mountains and finish us off, you're wrong,'' he said, adding that his group was not ``like a candle that you could extinguish with one blow.''

Sabaya said his group was able to escape a military siege last Saturday because the hospital and church compound the rebels had seized was not completely surrounded by troops, as the military had claimed

Nine of the original hostages escaped in Lamitan, but the Abu Sayyaf replaced them with medical personnel. ``When we left the hospital, there was no military cordon. Believe me, if there had been one, we wouldn't have escaped,'' Sabaya said.

Military officials insisted that the group had been surrounded, but were able to slip under cloak of darkness. Sabaya brushed that off, saying the soldiers ``were just afraid to follow us.''

Sabaya demanded that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo call off the troops, adding that his radical group has eluded two Philippine presidents who had sworn to wipe them out.

``This isn't the movies. Let's not talk about threats. We are prepared to die and not surrender. Remember that. One West Point graduate promised to wipe us out. Well, he didn't,'' Sabaya said, referring to former President Fidel Ramos.

Arroyo has sworn to crush the Abu Sayyaf, whom she has called ``bandits'' and ``pests.''
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June 6, 2001, PHNO, FBI Team to Assist in Sayyaf Negotiations,

Camp Crame, June 6, 2001 - National Police chief Leandro Mendoza confirmed the arrival in Manila today of three senior Federal Bureau of Investigation hostage negotiators to assist a team of local police hostage negotiators who were trained at the FBI Academy in the United States.

Mendoza, however, made it clear that the negotiators will not discuss money but the Abu Sayyaf’s other demands during negotiations.

Sources said the FBI agents have already lent the PNP negotiators equipment like listening devices for their work. Mendoza said the FBI agents will only give advice and serve as consultants to the PNP.
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June 6, 2001, PHNO, Iranian Denies Link w/Abu Sayyaf,

Manila, June 6, 2001 - Iranian Mansour Banerol Naghsh today denied that he is a member of the bandit Abu Sayyaf Group, saying he condemns the group for giving Islam a bad name and that he would never support terrorism.

Naghsh was earlier reported to have had something to do with the kidnapping of 20 local and foreign tourists from the Dos Palmas beach resort in Palawan on May 27. The speculations were based on the fact that while Naghsh and Armenian Nazared Bouldhourjian were also in Dos Palmas at the time of the abductions and were occupying rooms adjoining those of the others who were kidnapped, they were not touched by the bandits at all.

But Naghsh belied the statement earlier made by Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief Nestorio Gualberto that he and Bouldhourjian were at the Dos Palmas at the time of the incident, saying that they had already checked out the day before.

Naghsh said he has been a resident of the Philippines for 25 years, is married to a Filipina with two children, and runs a construction supply business here. He said Bouldhourjian, a born-again Christian known to Filipinos in Dubai for his generosity, was his guest at the Dos Palmas because they were discussing a new business venture.
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June 6, 2001, PHNO, U.S. Sailor Missing on Pinatubo Slopes,

Clark Field, June 6, 2001 - An American sailor who was participating in the ongoing military exercises in Subic, Zambales was reported missing after he and nine companions were attacked by armed men after a trek up nearby Mt. Pinatubo.

While the Visiting Forces Agreement Commission (VFACom) refused to identify the US serviceman, it said the four other US Navy and four Philippine Navy companions and their guide were all safe and unharmed in Clark Field, Pampanga.

VFACom spokesman Elmer Cato said the 10 trooped to Mt. Pinatubo in civilian clothes as part of an organized tour for servicemen involved in the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training 2001 (CARAT 01).

CARAT 01 is one of the military exercises between the US and the Philippines that are being held under the VFA.

On their way down from Pinatubo’s peak, the 10 were confronted by five still unidentified armed men, prompting the missing American to flee.

The 10 claimed they ran because they saw some 200 men on higher ground but Cato said there was apparently no planned ambush nor did the assailants fire directly at the hikers.

"If it were an ambush, there would have been casualties," Cato said.

When the five assailants eventually caught up with nine of them, Cato said, it turned out that the five just wanted the M-16 rifles of the Philippine Navy men and the Americans’ belongings.

The Americans were in civilian clothes and were unarmed because the VFA rules do not allow servicemen to carry firearms in a non-military activity.

After taking their belongings and holding them for one hour, the armed men let the nine go but the missing American has not been seen since.

Cato said police and military authorities supposed the missing US serviceman must have gotten lost on the mountain.

"We don’t think he was taken by the armed group," Cato said. "Perhaps he was just disoriented," Cato said, noting that the 10 took a return route to the back of Clark Field that was not secured.

"It is possible that in his confusion, he ran away too far and is now in a state of confusion," Cato added, debunking the possibility of kidnapping.

Cato said the site of the incident was sparsely populated and was estimated to be about four kilometers from the center of hilly Barangay Sapang Bato.
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June 5, 2001, PHNO, Arab Tourists Assisted Sayyaf in Palawan,

Manila, June 5, 2001 - Two Iranians and a Lebanese, all guests of Dos Palmas Resort in Palawan when it was raided by the Abu Sayyaf, are suspected to be involved in helping the bandits kidnap 20 other guests.

According to a radio report, police officials are looking for the three foreigners, which checked out of the posh resort immediately after the incident, leaving numerous used cell phone cards. It was said that the Abu Sayyaf suspiciously overlooked the two rooms, which the Iranians and Lebanese occupied near those of guests who have been abducted.

Meanwhile, the Abu Sayyaf is still holding 9 guest of the Palawan resort including 3 Americans. The bandits also took hostage 11 local residents of Basilan where the military has its intensified operations.
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June 5, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Sayyaf Eludes Cordon w/ 59 Hostages,

Manila, June 4, 2001 - The Abu Sayyaf guerillas now has up to 50 hostages, including nurses, from a hospital they occupied in southern Philippines aside from nine captives taken from a tourist resort.

National Security Adviser Roilo Golez told ABS-CBN television "It is possible that they might be holding up to 50 civilians, some of them nurses," taken from the hospital in Lamitan town in Basilan island before they broke through a military cordon and fled.

The Abu Sayyaf rebels had first taken 20 hostages, including three Americans, from a tourist resort off the western island of Palawan on May 27.

Nine captives fled while the rebels were battling the military as they were holed up in the hospital and the captors slaughtered two others.

The Abu Sayyaf gunmen might have taken with them up to 50 hostages from about 200 people they held captive while in the hospital, Golez said

Justice Secretary Hernando Perez and Philippine National Police chief Leandro Mendoza will file multiple murder and kidnapping charges against the Abu Sayyaf, a radio report said.

This developed after the bandits beheaded two of the Filipino hostages they kidnapped at the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan on May 27. Military offensives over the weekend cornered the bandits in Lamitan until their escape yesterday.

The raging gunbattle left more than a dozen soldiers dead and 100 more injured.

Government troops have rescued 9 hostages, including an 8-year-old boy.
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June 5, 2001, PHNO, 'Escaped' Hostages Paid Ransom?

Manila, June 5, 2001 - At least nine Filipino hostages were freed by their Abu Sayyafa abductors because their families paid as much as P20 million pesos in ransom.

This was revealed yesterday by a relative of one of the remaining captives, and that the bandits are now demanding P10 million for each hostage.

The relative, who asked not to be named, said a bandit leader who claimed he was Abu Sabaya, demanded P10 million from them. "The terrorist let my relative speak on the satellite phone and they demanded ten million pesos ransom to be deposited in a bank account in Zamboanga City," the source said.
The source said the terrorists are holding their companions as "collateral."

The military said the remaining captives are Luis Recio, Angie Montealegre, Luis Bautista lll, Francis Ganzon, Lalaine Chua, Kimberly Jao, Guillermo Sobero and Christian missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham.

Those freed were Reghis Romero ll, Raul Recio, his wife, Divine and son, RJ Recio; Teresa Ganzon, Letty Jao and Janice Go, Aldrin Morales, a resort security guard who escaped execution, and Maria Rizza Santos.

The source said: "All the families of the remaining victims, including the Americans, were contacted by the terrorists and had been told to pay ransom."

But military officials insisted the hostages escaped separately.

Two resort security guards, Armando Bayona and Sonny Dacquer were executed.

Police on Sunday found their mutilated corpses in the jungle village of Bulanting in Lamitan town.

The military yesterday said it has lost track of the Abu bandits since they slipped through a cordon in Lamitan town last Saturday.

Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan, AFP spokesman, said the bandits headed south and southeast of Lamitan after slipping through the military cordon around Jose Torres Hospital and St. Peter's Church which they attacked on Saturday and took some more hostages.

Hundreds of soldiers surrounded the area. but when evening fell, the bandits evaded the dragnet with the help of "outside forces".

They left five hostages from Dos Palmas but took 11 hospital staff, said Adan.

He said that since Sunday morning until noon yesterday there were no reports of encounter with the bandits.
Adan said some of the rescued hostages told him that the remaining hostages are "generally sound" although they are under stress.

He also accused local residents in Basilan of providing logistics to the bandit group numbering about 100.
"Logistics support comes from the people... people who sympathise with them. They provide medicines, clothes, shelter, basically a base where they could relax," Adan added.

The military had received a lot of flak from civilian officials for allowing the bandits to escape and some of its officers were denounced for ignoring an official's advice on local conditions.

"I told them (the troops) to be careful at night because the rebels would breach the cordon," Basilan Gov. Wahab Akbar said. "They would not believe me."

Akbar accused a local military commander of ignoring advice. "All of us felt challenged by his arrogance. So none of us cooperated," he said. (Malaya)
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June 5, 2001, PHNO, GMA More Determined to Pursue AFP Modernization,

Malacanang, June 5, 2001 - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today reiterated her determination to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to provide it with advanced equipment and effectively defend the country from any threat to national security like the Abu Sayyaf bandits and other extremist groups.

The President made this statement even as the military leadership confirmed it was considering movements among the field commanders operating against the Abu Sayyaf bandits in Mindanao.

In a press conference at Malacanang this afternoon, the President lamented that during the past years, the budgetary outlay for the AFP modernization remained totally zero.

Despite the P5-billion fund coming from the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA), the President pointed out that the modernization program calls for P10 billion a year for the first five years of its implementation.

The BCDA allocation represents the AFP’s share from the sale of portions of Fort Bonifacio during the administration of former President Fidel V. Ramos.

While the country is pursuing the agricultural modernization program that has an allocated budget of P20 billion from its original P12 billion, the President expressed her belief that a similar move must also be replicated in the case of the modernization program for the AFP.

"It’s not a question of whether a funding is excess or not. It’s just do you have it funded at all," she said.
Last Saturday, the President asked visiting Sen. Richard Lugar for the United States’ assistance in modernizing the Philippine military.

Also last week, the President told Reuters news agency that the latest kidnapping conducted by the Abu Sayyaf in a high-end resort in Palawan magnifies the need for modernization funds.

"I think one of the lessons of these recent events is that it’s really time to start paying them (soldiers) what’s due to them in terms of the modernization budget," the President said.

With regards to the expenditures in the ongoing military pursuit operation against the bandits, the President clarified that she has not sought supplemental funding for that purpose.

"It’s all part of the regular budget. I haven’t given them (military) any additional budget because of this (Abu Sayyaf military episode)," the President stated.

On the possible movements of field commanders in Mindanao, Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes said he has already discussed the matter with AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Diomedio Villanueva and an appropriate recommendation will be submitted to the President soon.

"Definitely, we expect some movements among the commanders there. Not necessarily because they are bad commanders but there’s a need for change," Reyes told reporters.
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June 5, 2001, Philippine Headline News, Lacson Masterminded Dacer Murder -- Suspect,

Camp Crame, Quezon City, June 4, 2001 - Former Philippine National Police chief Panfilo Lacson was tagged today by Chief Insp. Glenn Dumlao of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force as the alleged "mastermind" in the slaying of publicist Salvador "Bubby" Dacer and driver Manuel Corbito.

A radio report said Dumlao identified Lacson as the person who allegedly ordered the liquidation of Dacer. The motive of Lacson was however unclear.

Dumlao was arrested today in a bus station, reportedly on his way to Baguio. He was then presented in a press conference by the Department of Justice, PNP, and Department of Interior and Local Government at Camp Crame this morning.

Dumlao was named in affidavits issued by suspects as the one who allegedly "relayed" the order to kill Dacer and Corbito. According to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, Dumlao, so far, is the highest-ranking officer to have a direct hand in the killings.

Senior Supt. Reynaldo Berroya said Dumlao was the highest-ranking police officer indicted in the Dacer case.

Interior Secretary Jose Lina said the government will not stop until it has resolved the Dacer case. He said the DILG, the Department of Justice, National Bureau of Investigation and the National Police will continue to will coordinate efforts to pin down all the persons responsible for the two murders.

Justice Secretary Hernando Perez said his office would try to get Dumlao's cooperation to unmask the real masterminds behind the slaying.
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June 5, 2001, PHNO, Martial Law an Option vs. Sayyaf -- Gloria,

Manila, June 5, 2001 - President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo admitted she was considering imposing martial law on Basilan island as fighting raged between troops and Muslim guerrillas holding U.S. and Filipino hostages.

The military said two soldiers were killed and several wounded on Tuesday in the running gunbattle on Basilan.

At least 18 soldiers and an undetermined number of rebels and civilians have been killed in the fighting.
``Martial law is the prerogative of the president. We are studying the situation,'' Arroyo told a news conference when asked about proposals for the armed forces to be given wider powers to deal with the hostage crisis.

``We are studying the concept...whether we should declare martial law at all,'' Arroyo said. ``You have to consult because the question is what can you do with it that you cannot do without it and (whether) that difference will make a difference.''

Civilian and military officials who had made the proposal said such emergency powers would be limited to Basilan island only.

Arroyo said the 10-day hostage crisis needed to be resolved quickly but with the safety of the hostages as top priority.

``We have had enough of the terror brought by the Abu Sayyaf ... Society must unite against the Abu Sayyaf so that this pest will disappear from our lives,'' she said. ``We will bury the story of the Abu Sayyaf.''

There were no reports of casualties among the Abu Sayyaf rebels in the latest fighting and all the remaining hostages were alive, an army spokesman said.

Senior officials said the Abu Sayyaf contacted a government-designated mediator on Tuesday to try to end the stand-off and initially demanded that soldiers back off.

``The talk, at least, was for the military to withdraw. That is normal,'' Interior Secretary Jose Lina said on local radio. He did not say what the government response was.

It was the first known contact between the government intermediary and the Abu Sayyaf since the rebels snatched three Americans and 17 Filipinos from the Dos Palmas island resort on Palawan on May 27.
Lina said there was no need to declare martial law or a state of emergency in Basilan or nearby areas where the rebels operate.

``It's not necessary because the (region) has been in such a state for quite some time. It's now a problem of confronting the problem directly,'' Lina told radio station dzRH.

The military claims the population on Basilan provides support to the rebels, and that troops needed wider powers to end the crisis.
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June 4, 2001, PHNO, Sayyaf Eludes Cordon w/ 59 Hostages,

Manila, June 4, 2001 - The Abu Sayyaf guerillas now has up to 50 hostages, including nurses, from a hospital they occupied in southern Philippines aside from nine captives taken from a tourist resort.

National Security Adviser Roilo Golez told ABS-CBN television "It is possible that they might be holding up to 50 civilians, some of them nurses," taken from the hospital in Lamitan town in Basilan island before they broke through a military cordon and fled.

The Abu Sayyaf rebels had first taken 20 hostages, including three Americans, from a tourist resort off the western island of Palawan on May 27.

Nine captives fled while the rebels were battling the military as they were holed up in the hospital and the captors slaughtered two others.

The Abu Sayyaf gunmen might have taken with them up to 50 hostages from about 200 people they held captive while in the hospital, Golez said

Justice Secretary Hernando Perez and Philippine National Police chief Leandro Mendoza will file multiple murder and kidnapping charges against the Abu Sayyaf, a radio report said.

This developed after the bandits beheaded two of the Filipino hostages they kidnapped at the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan on May 27. Military offensives over the weekend cornered the bandits in Lamitan until their escape yesterday.

The raging gunbattle left more than a dozen soldiers dead and 100 more injured. Government troops have rescued 9 hostages, including an 8-year-old boy.
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June 4, 2001, PHNO, Bandits, Hostages Now in Tubuan, Sampinit,

Basilan Island, June 4, 2001 - The Abu Sayyaf bandits reportedly tied their eleven remaining Palawan hostages, including the three Americans, to prevent them from escaping like nine of their companions who successfully escaped in two batches while the bandits were engaged in battle with government men.

The bandits who were last sighted at the border of Tuburan and Sampinit complex in Basilan have also been using some 50 to 60 other civilians they seized from Lamitan town which they fled after a daylong battle with military and police elements.

Basilan Rep. Gerry Salapuddin confirmed reports that the bandits were sighted with their hostages in Bgy. Bato-Bato, 20 kilometers away from Lamitan.

Factions of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front who were followers of the slain Abu Sayyaf commander Yusop Jalal have reportedly reinforced the bandits. A military source said Jalal was also an active MILF commander.

Villagers who saw the bandits and their hostages are reportedly urging the military to end the whole thing in Bato-Bato which is the same place where the initial clash between government troops and the bandits took place last Thursday.
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June 4, 2001, PHNO, Bandits, Hostages Now in Tubuan, Sampinit Border,

Basilan Island,  - The Abu Sayyaf bandits reportedly tied their eleven remaining Palawan hostages, including the three Americans, to prevent them from escaping like nine of their companions who successfully escaped in two batches while the bandits were engaged in battle with government men.

The bandits who were last sighted at the border of Tuburan and Sampinit complex in Basilan have also been using some 50 to 60 other civilians they seized from Lamitan town which they fled after a daylong battle with military and police elements.

Basilan Rep. Gerry Salapuddin confirmed reports that the bandits were sighted with their hostages in Bgy. Bato-Bato, 20 kilometers away from Lamitan.

Factions of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front who were followers of the slain Abu Sayyaf commander Yusop Jalal have reportedly reinforced the bandits. A military source said Jalal was also an active MILF commander.

Villagers who saw the bandits and their hostages are reportedly urging the military to end the whole thing in Bato-Bato which is the same place where the initial clash between government troops and the bandits took place last Thursday.
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June 4, 2001, PHNO,  All Kidnap Cases Initiated by Defunct PAOCTF Resolved - DOJ,

Malacanang, June 4, 2001 - All the kidnapping cases initiated by the defunct Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF) have been investigated and resolved by the prosecutors of the Department of Justice, according to Justice Secretary Hernando Perez.

In a report to Malacanang, Perez said that of the 56 PAOCTF-initiated kidnapping cases from Aug. 12, l998 to May 15, 2001, 50 have either been filed in courts or have already been decided.

Four of the kidnapping cases were dismissed by the courts for insufficiency of evidence, one ordered archived because the accused was at large, and another case endorsed to the Ombudsman.

Perez said that of the six convictions won by the DOJ, 42 of the respondents were meted the death penalty while one was sentenced to life imprisonment.

He said that 25 kidnapping cases have already been filed in the various courts while the trial of the other 19 cases are now ongoing.

In April, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, through an executive order, abolished the PAOCTF, saying that the task force was "a shadow Philippine National Police" that undertook questionable operations that might have violated human rights.

The President said investigations showed that some PAOCTF agents themselves were behind some kidnap-for-ransom cases, especially those involving wealthy Chinese-Filipino businessmen.

The PAOCTF was created early on the administration of former President Joseph Estrada with former PNP Director General Panfilo Lacson as its first chief.
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June 4, 2001, PHNO, GMA Urges Mindanaoans to Support AFP, PNP in Hostage Rescue

Malacanang, June 4, 2001 - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today called on the people of Mindanao, particularly Lamitan in Basilan and other areas believed to be lairs of Abu Sayyaf, to support and cooperate with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police who are doing their best to rescue the remaining hostages being held by the gang of bandits.

In a statement, the Chief Executive commended the members of the military and the police, particularly those who were wounded during their rescue operations in Lamitan, for all the sacrifices they have to make and the great odds they have to face in order to win the safe release of the hostages.

The President also cited soldiers and the police for their exercise of maximum tolerance and observance of rules of encounter in an emergency situation involving the lives of innocent civilians and hostages.

"Let us respect the military and the police for their decision not to fire back at the Abu Sayyaf bandits," the President said.

"It is not easy for them to run after these bandits who are using their hostages as human shields," the President added, referring to the ring of hostages tied together and used by the Abu Sayyaf kidnap gang as human shields, forcing the military pursuers to hold their fire.

The President also called on all the people to "pray that the military and the police will be successful in rescuing the hostages safely."

"We have seen what our soldiers and police have gone through," the President said, appealing to the people not to allow their sacrifices to go to waste.

The President went to Villamor Air Base in Pasay City last night to personally greet the newly-rescued hostages and 10 wounded soldiers who arrived on board a C-130 military plane from Basilan.

"This is a happy moment, the return of more rescued hostages, for it also reunited the Recio family," the President said.

The five hostages rescued yesterday and flown to Manila were Teresa Ganzon, Letty Jao, Janice Go, Raul de Guzman Recio and Divine Recio.

The Recios were finally reunited with their 8-year old-son RJ, who was rescued early Saturday from the Abu Sayyaf together with property developer Reghis Romero II

Earlier, Romero personally thanked the President for his rescue even as he exhorted the leaders of the Abu Sayyaf bandit gang to release the rest of the hostages and surrender.

Romero, who read his statement at the doorsteps of the President’s family family residence in Forbes Park, Makati City, said that he was very fortunate to have been among the first to be rescued by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
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June 4, 2001, PHNO, Social Welfare Dept Assists Displaced Families in Basilan,

Malacanang, June 4, 2001 - The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) today said that it is currently undertaking a relief and rehabilitation program in Lamitan and other towns of the island province of Basilan affected by the recent clash between government troops and the Abu Sayyaf bandits.

In a radio interview, DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman said the DSWD Director for Region IX is already on her way to Isabela town to supervise the delivery of relief goods and supplies to the evacuees, especially in the town of Lamitan.

Soliman said she herself would personally supervise the relief operation if instructed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit also assured affected residents in Basilan that health personnel are now on their way to the island-province to distribute medicines and to provide medical attention to the injured.
In her nationally-televised address on Saturday, the President said she has directed the DSWD and other government agencies to immediately extend assistance to the evacuees and other civilians affected by the fighting.

Soliman likewise noted that the President has already instructed the Engineering Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to start the repair and restoration of the St. Peter’s Church and other buildings burned or damaged by the Abu Sayyaf as they retreated from the area.

She said that based on field reports, at least three houses were totally burned, adding that DSWD social workers have already identified the affected families and they were already assured of government assistance.

The DSWD head also said that her office will extend assistance to the relatives of the slain hostages identified as Sonny Dacquer and Armando Bayona, both employees of the Dos Palmas Resort in Palawan where the hostages have been abducted by the Abu Sayyaf a week ago.

Their bodies now lie at Funeraria de la Cruz in Isabela, Basilan.

Soliman said that since the information on the death of the two Dos Palmas employees had already been released, the DSWD will now try to look for their next-of-kin so that the necessary assistance could be provided them.

"Mula po doon ay tutulungan po sila ng pamahalaan na maiuwi kung saan po dapat iuwi iyong mga bangkay nila," (From there, the government will assist in bringing the bodies of the two hostages to their homes)," Soliman said
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June 4, 2001, PHNO, Press UnderSec Remonde to Zamboanga to Assist Local Media,

Malacanang, June 4, 2001 - Press Secretary Noel Cabrera has sent Press Undersecretary Cerge Remonde to Zamboanga City to make sure that information regarding the Abu Sayyaf kidnapping in Basilan is properly communicated to the media.

Presidential Spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao stressed during a press briefing today the need to have a ranking Press Office official in Mindanao to facilitate the needs of the media in gathering information.

"This (hostage) crisis is obviously a major flashpoint and Secretary Noel Cabrera thought it would be wise to send a ranking official of the Press Office to be there just to make sure that information is being communicated, that the media are being assisted (in their work)," Tiglao said.

Tiglao said Remonde was dispatched to Mindanao over the weekend to make sure that somebody with an official stature whom the press could talk to, and whom the press could seek advise or help from, would be present, "and of course, to continue convincing the press to help out, in their own way, in resolving this crisis."

Tiglao noted that the government still maintains a news blackout policy on three matters, first, not to air interviews of Abu Sayyaf spokesperson Abu Sabaya; second, not to report on the military operations against the Abu Sayyaf; and third, not to reveal the background of the hostages.

Tiglao denied reports that Undersecretary Remonde was in Zamboanga City to ask radio stations like Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) to desist from asking interviews with Abu Sayyaf members.

He said that Undersecretary Remonde explained to him that since he is a broadcaster, he held some friendly discussion over breakfast with RMN officials and officials from the National Telecommunications Commission.

"This administration won’t go to such levels as to stop a radio network from operating," Tiglao assured the public
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June 4, 2001, PHNO, 2 Resort Employees Beheaded by Abu for Lack of Monetary Value,

Manila, June 4, 2001 - The Abu Sayyaf killed the two employees of Dos Palmas resort whom they held hostage for several days apparently because "they have no monetary value," National Security Adviser J. Roilo Golez said today.

Golez said in a radio interview that the Abu Sayyaf bandits showed they were only after money when they separated the Dos Palmas resort employees from the rest of the hostages and killed or attempted to kill them.

Tragic and painful as it may sound, Golez said, it appears that the Abu Sayyaf considered the Dos Palmas employes as mere burden ("pabigat lamang") and too poor to pay ransom.

Golez said the Abu Sayyaf also displayed their viciousness and brutality by chopping off the heads of their victims.

The two Dos Palmas employes killed by the Abu Sayyaf were Armando Bayona, 22, a security guard, and Sandy Daquer, 33, cook. Bayona was beheaded and Daquer bore hack wounds in the neck.

A third Dos Palmas employee, Eldrin Morales, also a security guard, played dead after he was hacked in the neck by one of the Abu Sayyaf bandits and was rescued by the military and flown back to Manila.

Morales said he and fellow guard Bayona tried to escape when fighting erupted between the military and their captors.

Golez also attributed the rescue of the hostages to the pressure exerted by the military.

"Because of the pressure exerted by the military during their assault against the Abu Sayyaf, the bandits got confused and were not able to pay attention to their hostages. That was basically the situation when the military was able to recover the hostages," Golez said.
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Basilan Island, June 2, 2001 Local and foreign journalists, trapped in the firefight between government troops and Abu Sayyaf rebels in the town of Lamitan, are likely to spend the night in an underground bunker of an abandoned private residence, one TV report said.

A TV crew of GMA-7 reported that dozens of local and foreign journalists flocked to Lamitan as news spread of the escape of several hostages from the Abu Sayyaf group holed out inside a hospital and a church.

At 6:00 this afternoon, a GMA reporter broadcast live via a satellite phone that there were reports the Abu Sayyaf had encircled Lamitan town, and that the journalists had decided it was too dangerous to try to drive out of Lamitan to return to the capital town of Isabela.

PHNO sources in Manila confirmed that among the journalists are reporters and photographers from the Associated Press and other major wire service agencies and foreign TV networks.
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June 2, 2001, PHNO, Newsflash! GMA Shocked by Sayyaf Takeover of Hospital,

Malacanang, June 2, 2001 - Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was "shocked" by reports that Abu Sayyaf bandits had taken over a church and hospital and seized 200 more hostages, an official said Saturday.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel said in a radio interview that he spoke to Macapagal after the rebels claimed over radio they had occupied the church and hospital in Lamitan town in the southern island of Basilan and boasted they had seized 200 more hostages.

"President Gloria Arroyo was shocked by the news of a church and hospital occupation," Pimentel said.
The Abu Sayyaf in Basilan were being pursued by the military following their kidnapping of 17 Filipinos and three Americans from a resort off the western island of Palawan a week ago.
However, despite a military assault that began on Friday, they still managed to slip into Lamitan where they seized the hospital and church.

Four Filipinos among the 17 seized in Palawan have been recovered but residents of Lamitan said the three Americans were being kept inside the hospital.

Shortly before sunset, GMA-7 reported that government troops and tanks, which had been slowly advancing to retake the hospital and the church, were slowly retreating as news spread that the Abu Sayyaf rebels had surrounded the town of Lamitan.

The battle, which began before dawn, was still raging as the sun began to set, trapping local and foreign journalists who were unable to leave the town safely with the retreating government troops.
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Diigo, June 2, 2001, The Philippine Star, Government urged to abrogate VFA, by Ding Cervantes,

ANGELES CITY --- President Arroyo was asked yesterday to urge Congress to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) on the ground that it had not helped modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Sonia Soto, chairman of Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KPD), said two years after the VFA, the AFP "remains backward" despite its annual budget of more than P8 billion, the largest in the government.

"Even the so-called benefits from this lopsided agreement cannot be seen by the Filipino people," she said. "Clearly, the country gains nothing from continuing to honor this agreement and instead are pawns in the forward deployment of the US."

Soto said the Presidential Commission on the VFA's "knee-jerk reaction" in adopting stricter guidelines may not prevent more deaths from unexploded shells just like the incidents in Toledo City in Cebu last year.

"The mere fact that they (at VFA Com) are imposing stricter compliance now means that there have been violations, including some which have been kept secret from the public," she said.

As for the US offer to rescue the Abu Sayyaf's hostages, Soto said: "Foreign intervention in domestic affairs cannot be discounted as it has been a common US preoccupation, especially if US business interests are on the line."

Some 1,400 American soldiers are expected to take part in various joint military exercises at Subic Bay in Zambales and in Ternate, Cavite this month.
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June 1, 2001, PHNO, Troops Attack Sayyaf Lair, 2 Killed,

Basilan Island, June 1, 2001 - Two soldiers died and more than 2 dozen military men and villagers were injured today when Philippine troops attacked Abu Sayyaf rebels holding at least 20 hostages on Basilan Island.

A spokesman for the Abu Sayyaf rebels told a radio station by telephone that two of the hostages -- who include three Americans and 17 Filipinos -- had been killed in the fighting and others would be executed if the military continued its attack.

There was no confirmation of the rebel claim but radio reports said at least 12 guerrillas were killed.
Thousands of villagers fled the fighting as the military used howitzers and rocket-firing helicopter gunships to pin down the rebels.

At Malacananag, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said she would not back off until the guerrillas surrendered or were killed. Arroyo vowed not to back down, as relatives of some of the hostages pleaded for a halt to the offensive, saying more lives would be lost.

"Military operations is the only option,'' she told Reuters in an interview. "If the bandits find it in their hearts that they will surrender their hostages unconditionally, then that is the other option.''

"We are showing the world we are enforcing the law. That is our response. We are not surrendering to lawless elements. We have a job to do and we are going to do it as best we can,'' Arroyo said.

Asked about possible casualties among the hostages, she said: "I don't think it's wise to be discussing the consequences.''

The military said it had no reports that any of the hostages were hurt in the fighting. It was the first encounter between the terrorist band and soldiers since the hostages were seized on an island resort on Sunday. About 100 guerrillas were involved in the clashes.

Military commanders said the rebels were fleeing with their captives toward a stronghold atop a 1,900 foot mountain. Troops were attempting to keep "in contact'' and sporadic fighting was continuing, one officer said. Late into the evening, truckloads of soldiers could be seen moving toward the battle zone from other parts of Basilan.

Pursuit operations were slowed by heavy rains at nightfall.

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June 1, 2001, PHNO,  Sayyaf Lair Captured, No Hostages Found,

Basilan Island, June 1, 2001 - Government troops overran an Abu Sayyaf lair in Tuburan, Basilan this afternoon following heavy fighting this morning but the military said they found no trace of the hostages.

Col. Jose Mendoza, AFP deputy chief for civil military operations, said the Abu Sayyaf bandits escaped in different directions with heavy casualties.

"Several bodies were discovered, some were dragged away by their fleeing comrades," Mendoza said. He confirmed the earlier report issued by AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan that two enlisted men had already perished in the fighting and added that two civilians were also wounded in the crossfire.

Some 500 families have already fled three barangays in Tuburan to escape the fighting. Most of the estimated 2,000 displaced residents of Bgys. Pegengan, Bohe Bessey and Upper Sinangcapan have sought shelter with relatives, in the Tuburan poblacion or in campsites.

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June 1, 2001, PHNO, Safely of Foreign Travelers Tackled,

Manila, June 1, 2001 - The Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) are set to discuss today plans on the safety of foreign travelers.

The meeting between the heads of the two government agencies will tackle proposals to ensure the safety of tourists travelling on board domestic shipping firms, according to Marina legal chief Hiyasmin Himbing-De los Santos.

De los Santos said DOT Secretary Richard Gordon would lay out plans with Marina to enhance the capability of the ship’s crew members in handling emergency situation on board their vessels.

The meeting was an offshoot of the recent kidnapping of three American tourists and 17 Filipinos in a resort off Palawan last Sunday, which brought a black mark on the county’s tourism industry.

Crews of the three giant domestic shipping firms the WG&A, Negros Navigation and Sulpicio Lineswill be the main proponents of the training.

"Since Secretary Gordon is with Red Cross now, he wants to put a Red Cross personnel on board every vessel who will administer medical cases, Celine Jalandoni, Gordon's executive secretary said.

Jalandoni added that Gordon got the idea after he witnessed in Iloilo City how the local seafarers there cope with emergency situation involving foreign visitors.

A consultant from the Philippine Airlines who had designed a program for the safety of air travelers will also share his expertise during the meeting.

The meeting is also expected to discuss the current unregulated rates of the local shipping firms plying the domestic routes.

Based on Marina’s rules and regulations, since the rates for the domestic firms catering to tourists are not regulated, shipping firms are allowed unregulated increase in their rates.

De los Santos said the increase in rates are subject to the approval of Marina.

According to De los Santos, if the shipping firm is accredited by Marina and DOT, there are no more public hearing for a fare increase, but their rates should first be published in newspapers in general circulation.

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June 1, 2001, PHNO, Palace Thanked Media for Cooperation in Govt Policy vs. Sayyaf

Malacanang, June 1, 2001 - Malacanang today thanked the media for its cooperation in observing the government’s request for a news blackout on the military operations against the Abu Sayyaf bandits who have abducted 20 tourists from a resort in Palawan last Sunday.

"We find the media very helpful and cooperative despite some breaches in the informal agreement," Presidential Spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao said in his regular press briefing.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Tuesday met with owners and publishers of newspapers, television and radio stations and asked them not to give the Abu Sayyaf bandits media mileage as this would "embolden them" in undertaking terrorism.

Tiglao said the President hopes that as the situation drags on, the media would continue to exercise self-restraint in reporting the latest Abu Sayyaf kidnapping.

"We’re appealing to the media to please understand the situation and that the paramount concern is the safety of the hostages," Tiglao said.

So far, Tiglao noted, only the Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) aired today an interview with gang leader Abu Sabaya.

"I talked to them and their explanation is that they thought it was an emergency situation, that they even heard some sounds of gunfire," Tiglao said.

"This bandit leader (Abu Sabaya) kept on demanding that he be put on air. I talked to the radio station and again appealed to their sense of patriotism, that if they could hold off any obvious appeal to use the media for their (Abu Sayyaf) own purposes," Tiglao said.

Tiglao said he trusts that the media "are very well-principled enough to defy" threats hurled by these bandits.

 "They could even call the police and the military to help them out in case any real threat is hurled," he said.
The President has appealed to media to understand how delicate the military operations being conducted against the Abu Sayyaf terrorists are.

On radio stations that give airtime to the Abu Sayyaf, the President asked them particularly to avoid interviewing the Abu Sayyaf members and their leaders, "because that is what makes them brave."

"That is the psychology of the terrorists. They want to have international acclaim," the President said. "It is not a patriotic act to give them that forum," she added.

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June 1, 2001, PHNO, Military Intermediary Named to Work for Release of Hostages,

Malacanang, June 1, 2001 - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today appointed a military intermediary to work for the release of the 20 hostages, which included three Americans, kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf bandits at a high-end tourist resort in Palawan last Sunday.

Presidential Spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao, in his regular press briefing, emphasized that the intermediary, whom he declined to identify, will not undertake any negotiations for ransom payment.

"This government could not and would not give in to their demand for a stop in the military operations nor can we give to their demands for ransom payment," Tiglao said.

Tiglao described the intermediary as someone "known to the Abu Sayyaf." "If they would want to talk about releasing the hostage and laying of their arms they could talk to this military intermediary," he said.
Tiglao noted that the only mission given to this intermediary is "to open a line of contact, a line of communication."

"His only role is to talk to the Abu Sayyaf if they would be willing to lay down their arms and release the hostages," Tiglao said, adding that "no ransom payment and no other concessions would be given."

According to Tiglao, military reports given to the President indicated that a firefight broke out this morning between the military and the "main force" of the Abu Sayyaf at Barangay Tuburan, Basilan Island.

Seven soldiers have been wounded and two were killed in the still-ongoing combat, according to reports.
"The military believes that even bigger casualty has been inflicted on this bandit group," Tiglao said.

The President has put out a total of P100 million bounty for those who can give information that would lead to the capture of the Abu Sayyaf gang leaders and members.

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May 31, 2001, PHNO, GMA Prays for Hostages,

Manila, May 31, 2001 - President Arroyo sought divine mercy and intervention for the nation to hurdle the tests on its strength and for the 20 hostages of the Abu Sayyaf bandits, at the 25th anniversary celebration of Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin at the Manila Cathedral this afternoon.

The President prayed that the hostages be protected from harm. She specifically asked that they remain in good health.

"Calm their hearts. Make sure they have enough to eat and drink, that they may never lose hope," she said.
The Chief Executive also prayed for their abductors so that they will realize the wrong they committed and that they will be enlightened not to do evil again.

The President hailed Cardinal Sin for being the Prince of the Church, the prophet of the times, and the pillar of the Catholic Church.

She asked the Lord to give the Cardinal more fruitful years of service to the Lord, the nation and especially to the poor. 

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May 31, 2001, PHNO, Hostages Aboard Booby Trapped Boat Off Sulu,

Zamboanga City, May 31, 2001 - Military boats and aircraft blockaded a 60-mile-long area in the Sulu Sea today, after residents reported sighting the hostages aboard a boat booby-trapped with grenades.

DZBB radio said residents saw the boat yesterday off Keenapusan Island, not far from another island where military searchers earlier found some hostages' belongings.

According to the Associated Press, military spokesman Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan would not comment, but a high-ranking military officer speaking on conditional anonymity confirmed the report.

There were other unconfirmed reports of a sighting off the island of Basilan. The Abu Sayyaf has said it has divided the hostages into two groups, though the military says it does not believe this is true.

Adan said the blockade was aimed at restricting access to southern islands where the Abu Sayyaf operates, especially Jolo, where the group has its main base. The military has 5,000 men actively involved in the search, Adan said.

He said the guerrillas were using a "well-organized'' resupply system set up in advance with sympathizers who were providing food and fuel. He said they have hugged the shorelines of islands as much as possible.
The Abu Sayyaf gunmen seized 3 Americans and 17 Filipinos from the Dos Palmas resort off Palawan Island.

With the Philippine president vowing to crush the rebels, one of the leaders of the search, Brig. Gen. Romeo Dominguez, said his forces were on a "rescue and destroy'' mission.

"We just need one initial positive contact and we will get them,'' Dominguez said.

But finding the rebels - who have threatened to kill all the hostages if a rescue is attempted - has proved difficult, with troops chasing their trail among the islands strewn across the Philippines' southern Sulu Sea.

Adan said the U.S. government offered to help the Philippines search for the 20 hostages. Ongoing talks focus on U.S. loans of equipment to hunt down the rebels. Adan said the military lacks aerial and nighttime reconnaissance capability.

"We don't need combat troops here,'' Adan said. ``What is needed here is information.'' He emphasized the complexity of the search, saying the area where the Abu Sayyaf operates is scattered with more than 60 islands.

The U.S. Embassy issued a statement saying that while it remains in close contact with the Philippine government because three Americans are among the hostages, "The U.S. has not intervened in this matter.''
"The United States condemns this latest act of terrorism by the Abu Sayyaf group,'' the statement said. "All of the hostages should be released immediately, safely and unconditionally.''

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May 31, 2001, PHNO, Hostages in Basilan, Govt Readies Attack,

Zamboanga City, May 31, 2001 - Philippine military authorities in Zamboanga are preparing to attack an Abu Sayyaf camp on Basilan Island, where Muslim rebels holding 20 hostages are suspected to be holed out after slipping through a tight dragnet in the Sulu Sea.

"We're just waiting for an initial positive contact and we'll get them,'' area commander Brigadier-General Romeo Dominguez told newsmen.

Initial reports indicate that the kidnappers had slipped through a naval blockade and taken their three American and 17 Filipino hostages to their main base on Basilan island. The Abu Sayyaf is known to enjoy considerable support from the residents of the mountainous, heavily forested island.

Basilan provincial governor Wahab Akbar warned an army attack could result in heavy casualties. "The Philippines must be prepared to sacrifice many lives,'' Akbar said.

The military said personal items recovered on Basilan suggested the possible presence there of the rebels and their hostages.

"We are still verifying whether these items came from the hostages or from other visitors on the island,'' military spokesman Brigadier-General Edilberto Adan told reporters.

"It's possible they have reached Basilan. It's very possible they are there now,'' Adan said.

This would confirm that the rebels, who took their hostages from a resort on Palawan island last Sunday, had broken through a cordon of naval gunboats and sea-borne police search teams, backed by helicopters and reconnaissance planes.

The guerrillas and their captives were on two speedboats -- each equipped with three 200-horsepower engines -- at speeds of 40 knots an hour, outrunning the fastest Philippine Navy boat.

Adan did not specify what the recovered items were but said troopers had also found a luggage tag and a speed boat abandoned by the kidnappers on another island nearby. Earlier, the military reported the recovery of a camera and an ATM card apparently belonging to the hostages.

Adan did not say how many hostages might have been taken by their captors to Basilan. The Abu Sayyaf, who claimed responsibility for the kidnapping as early as Monday, had said they split their captives into two groups, taking one group to Basilan and another to Jolo, another rebel bastion.

The guerrillas appeared to have used the same tactic they employed last year when they seized about two dozen mostly foreign hostages from nearby Malaysian resorts and took them on speedboats to Jolo, slipping through naval patrols.

They also kidnapped several other people on Jolo, including foreign journalists, triggering a hostage crisis that lasted for months, to Manila's deep embarrassment.

Local officials say the Abu Sayyaf received about $20 million in ransom payments before most of the hostages were freed. Others escaped or were rescued by soldiers.

The Abu Sayyaf has an avowed goal of establishing an independent Muslim homeland in the south of the mainly Roman Catholic country, but its preoccupation appears to be kidnapping.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has announced a reward of $2 million for information leading to the capture of the rebels and vowed to crush the group, saying the government was sticking to a no-ransom policy.
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