Items filtered by date: Saturday, 01 July 2017

Raid of online firm in Philippines yields sex-trade data

(The Philippine Star)


MANILA, Philippines - An American real-estate company’s court-ordered raid of an online outsourcing company’s headquarters in the Philippines has yielded data linking the latter to an embattled classified advertising website accused of engaging in human trafficking and prostitution, an exclusive story by NBC News has reported.

CoStar, a multibillion-dollar enterprise behind, carried out the daring raid in the offices of Avion in an undisclosed location, emerging with 262 hard drives containing 35 terabytes of data that indicated it was used by Backpage to drum up business in the sex trade overseas, the report authored by Anna Schecter and Kenzi Abou-Sabe said.

Backpage is a US-based online site that has listings for a wide variety of products and services, including automotive, jobs and real estate. It has been under fire since 2011 for allegedly using its adult services subsection for prostitution that particularly involved minors.

The company is facing legal battles, including criminal charges refiled last year by the state of California against its chief executive officer (CEO) and two founders and a civil lawsuit now headed for trial in Washington state after the courts declined to dismiss it, according to the report.

Backpage was also subjected to a 20-month US Senate investigation that found it complicit in trafficking.

For its part, Avion has claimed it does nothing more than “host and moderate ads.”

The report said, however, that there were hackers at Avion “believed to be stealing proprietary real-estate photos and information on behalf of an industry rival.”

CoStar claimed that its raiding team’s yield contained proof that its intellectual property was being ripped off, but has been denied by its competitor.

CoStar senior vice president told NBC News that they got 1.7 million photographs in the December 2016 raid.

“It was building picture, building picture, porn, porn, prostitute ad, building picture and then – bang! – a picture that couldn’t be anything other than, you know, child pornography,” the report quoted Ricketts. “We just immediately shut the computer off, picked the phone up, called the attorneys. They called the FBI.”

Thousands of documents linking Avion to Backpage were found with the photographs, the report said.

Based on the yield of CoStar, Avion “worked to promote adult ad business on behalf of Backpage” overseas, including the United Kingdom and Australian markets.

Audio recordings of Avion workers contacting people who posted sexually explicit ads on rival escort sites and offering them a free ad on Backpage were also discovered during the raid, according to the report.

Citing a non-disclosure agreement he signed with Backpage, Avion CEO Von Nagasangan did not give any comment to NBC. Backpage legal counsel Liz McDougall also declined to say anything regarding the Philippine raid.


Duterte threatens to put martial law critics in jail

(The Philippine Star) 

Photo: President Rodrigo Duterte said he would only lift military rule in Mindanao if the security forces tell him that people on the island are safe from threats. PPD/File

MANILA, Philippines - President Duterte has threatened to put behind bars those who insist on lifting martial law in Mindanao even if the Marawi City crisis remains unresolved.

Duterte said he would only lift military rule in Mindanao if the security forces tell him that people on the island are safe from threats.

“When is the time to lift the martial law? And then I will ask the military and the police, ‘is this safe now?’ And when the chief of staff and the PNP (Philippine National Police) would say ‘everybody would be safe and it’s OK now,’ I will lift it,” the President said in a speech in Digos City, Davao del Sur on Saturday.

“Otherwise, it’s not dependent on the whim na punta kang Supreme Court, maniwala kaya ako? Tingin ko magulo pa, ipa-lift mo? Huhulihin kita, ipasok na tuloy kita sa kulungan (that if you go to the Supreme Court, will I believe you? I think it is still unstable, you will ask the court to lift it? I will have you arrested and place you in jail),” he said.

Duterte did not say what cases would be filed against critics who would insist on lifting martial law.

While Duterte claimed that he imposed military rule to save the people of Mindanao from terrorists, his critics believe he has no sufficient basis to do so and questioned his move before the Supreme Court.

The President declared martial law in Mindanao last May 23 after Islamic State-aligned Maute terrorists raided Marawi City to protect Abu Sayyaf leader and wanted terrorist Isnilon Hapilon from government troops. A total of 317 Maute group members, 82 government troopers and 39 civilians have died since clashes erupted.

The military has been claiming that the Maute group is losing strength since the early days of the Marawi siege but has yet to fully reclaim the predominantly Muslim city.

Security officials no longer set deadlines for the operations against the terrorists after repeatedly failing to meet self-imposed targets. They also could not say when the martial law in Mindanao would be lifted but stressed that the decision hinged on the assessment of ground commanders.

Security officials have repeatedly claimed that there was enough basis to impose martial law in Mindanao, saying they got reports that the terrorists had tried to establish an Islamic State province in Marawi City. They also revealed that money from illicit drugs trade is funding the terrorists’ activities.

Duterte, who has apologized to Marawi residents for declaring martial law, stressed that he does not enjoy imposing military rule in Mindanao.

“You don’t like martial law? S***. So be it. You don’t like it? Fine… Why should I enjoy declaring martial law? For what? I won by six million (votes). So what’s the problem? And you know, you do these things in Marawi, terrorists killing, beheading Christians and Moro alike, those fools, I will not forgive them,” the President said.

“Huwag mong ipapasubo ng… lalo na ang bayan ko (Do not place my country in danger). We can talk of anything else and make compromises maybe, but not when the interest of my country is at stake... That is not negotiable,” he added.

Duterte admitted that he reads daily updates about the Marawi crisis “with a heavy heart.”

“I am with a heavy heart because by the time I reach home, the briefers for the day are there and the narratives are there,” the President said.

“I get to read the so many soldiers and police who are dying... I’m telling you the truth: every time I read it, it’s too unsettling. Sometimes I cry, my tears will just flow if the numbers are great,” he added.

Duterte said his only consolation was the fact that he had to do his duty to preserve and defend the Filipino people from security threats.

SC to resolve ML legal issues tomorrow

Meanwhile, the SC is set resolve tomorrow the legal issues involving Duterte’s martial law declaration in Mindanao.

An insider bared that the three consolidated petitions seeking to strike down Proclamation No. 216, which were heard in three-day oral arguments last month, have been included in the agenda of the high court’s regular session.

Article VII, Section 18 of the Constitution gives the high court a 30-day deadline in resolving petitions against martial law proclamation.

The provision allows the SC to “review, in an appropriate proceeding filed by any citizen, the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ or the extension thereof, and must promulgate its decision thereon within 30 days from its filing.”

The first of the three petitions was filed last June 5 by a group of opposition lawmakers led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman. Two similar petitions filed by local Mindanao leaders led by lumad leader Eufemia Campos Cullamat and a group of women from Marawi led by Norkaya Mohamad followed suit.

This means the SC has until July 5, Wednesday, to rule on the case.

The source said several justices have already submitted their opinions for deliberations and voting. The draft opinions, the insider hinted, showed differing positions on Duterte’s martial law and indicated a divided Court.

During oral arguments last June 13 to 15, petitioners asked the SC to void the martial law declaration and argued that there was no sufficient factual basis to justify martial law implementation as several information cited in the proclamation were “false, inaccurate and contrived.”

They further alleged that a key element in the act of rebellion – culpable purpose of removing allegiance from the Philippines and preventing the President and legislature from exercising their functions – was not present in the attack of local terror group Maute in Marawi City last May 23 that triggered martial law proclamation.

Solicitor General Jose Calida, on the other hand, defended the martial law declaration before the SC.

Not just terrorism

He said the attack of Maute was not just an act of terror, but clear rebellion and actually part of a plot to establish Islamic state in Mindanao.

Calida argued that elements of rebellion – raising arms against the government and culpable purpose of removing allegiance from the government – were present in the crisis that required the President to use his power of declaring martial law under the Constitution.

He cited linkages between Maute and other rebel groups in Mindanao like Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Abu Sayyaf.

Top martial law officials also appeared before the SC in a closed-door session to present the factual bases for Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, martial law administrator, and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Año, martial law implementor, presented confidential information to the justices to justify the need to declare martial law.

In its memorandum, the Office of the Solicitor General has listed 20 other terrorist groups in Mindanao with similar ties to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria that have launched attacks in Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga and Davao. And their main objective is to remove the whole Mindanao from its allegiance to the Philippine government.

Calida also said that there were already 43 violent attacks by the terror cells consisting mostly of improvised explosive devices, harassment and kidnappings.

“As the survival of the State hangs in the balance, I implore the Honorable Supreme Court to sustain the constitutionality of Proclamation No. 216, and allow the President to perform his constitutional mandate of protecting the people,” he appealed.

The SC is also set to resolve two other consolidated petitions seeking to compel the Senate and the House of Representatives to convene jointly to review Duterte’s martial law declaration.

Calida has also asked the SC to junk the petitions filed by separate groups led by former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada for lack of merit.

Calida argued that Congress is not required to convene in joint session to support a martial law declaration under Article VII, Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution.

The provision states: “The Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President. Upon the initiative of the President, the Congress may, in the same manner, extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.”

In the existing jurisprudence on post-Marcos martial law, the SC considered martial law as a political decision when it ruled on former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s declaration of martial law after the Maguindanao massacre in 2009 was questioned before the tribunal.

In April 2012, the SC dismissed the seven petitions challenging the martial declaration only on the basis of being moot and academic because martial law was only effective for eight days following the massacre of 58 people in Maguindanao, mostly journalists, on Nov. 23, 2009 by the Ampatuan clan and their private army.

The high tribunal did not settle the constitutional issues raised in the petitions against Arroyo’s Proclamation No. 1959, the first case of a president declaring martial law since the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. – With Edu Punay, AFP


Retaking Marawi: Snipers, mortars, bombs

(The Philippine Star)

Photo: Thousands of soldiers are battling to retake Marawi, where gunmen of the Maute group loyal to Islamic State (IS) launched a lightning strike on May 23. AP/Bullit Marquez, File

MANILA, Philippines - Sprawled on the boarded-up balcony of a two-story house, the barrel of his rifle poked into a hole cut in the wood, an Army sniper calls for quiet before taking his shot.

“Firing,” he says evenly, before the .50 caliber shot rings out, sending tremors through the house. He was firing at a home less than a kilometer away, believed to be a stronghold of Islamist Maute group of militants who have been holed up in Marawi City for over five weeks.

A spotter sat next to him, with his scope set into another hole. The two spoke quietly to each other as the sniper took three more shots across the Agus River into the militant-held commercial district of Marawi, now a battleground strewn with debris from ruined buildings.

Scores of bodies are rotting in the area, and the stench mixes with the smell of gunpowder.

Thousands of soldiers are battling to retake Marawi, where gunmen of the Maute group loyal to Islamic State (IS) launched a lightning strike on May 23.

Southern Philippines has been marred for decades by insurgency and banditry. But the intensity of the battle in Marawi and the presence of foreign fighters from Indonesia, Malaysia, Yemen and Chechnya fighting alongside local militants had raised concerns that the region may be becoming a Southeast Asian hub for IS as it loses ground in Iraq and Syria.

As troops poured in to contain the siege, few were expecting a slow, difficult and unfamiliar urban war.

“We are used to insurgencies... but a deployment of this magnitude, this kind of conflict is a challenge for our troops,” said Lt Col Christopher Tampus, one of the officers commanding ground operations in Marawi.

He said progress in clearing the city has been hindered by militant fire and booby traps like gas tanks rigged with grenades.

Reduced to rubble

After weeks of military airstrikes and shelling, Marawi, a lakeside city of around 200,000 is now a ghost town, the center of which has been reduced to charred rubble and hollow structures. Buildings in the military-controlled areas of the city are still standing but deserted after residents fled.

Authorities estimate around 100 to 120 fighters, some of them as young as 16 years, remain holed up in the commercial district of the city, down from around 500 at the beginning of the siege.

The militants are holding around 100 hostages, according to the military, who have been forced to act as human shields, take up arms or become sex slaves.

Military aircraft drop bombs on the militant zone almost every day. From the outskirts of the city, mortar teams take aim at what they call “ground zero,” the heart of the conflict.

“Mortars are designed to target people and smaller areas than the airstrikes,” said mortar specialist Sgt. Jeffery Baybayan, as he jotted down coordinates that come crackling over a radio from an observer closer to the conflict area.

“Hitting targets accurately can be difficult and we’re expending rounds without hitting targets. We are concerned about our own troops that are very close to the enemy area,” he added, as the mortars exploded in the city, sending up plumes of thick black smoke.

Surrender or die

During the day’s battle, Tampus received reports that three civilians, trapped for weeks near the fighting, were trying to escape.

Several soldiers responded to help rescue them – moving to the area in two lines along the sides of streets to avoid sniper fire.

Three civilians – two men and a woman using a walking stick – came out and sat by the side of the street once they were in the military zone.

“The bombs were so frequent coming from both sides,” said Jose Locanas, a 53-year-old man trapped with his wife and friend in his house. “We were caught in the middle.”

Troops said they received word from their relatives that the three were trapped and managed to escort them out.

More than 400 people, including over 300 militants, 82 security forces and 44 civilians are known to have died in Marawi.

Some of the bodies of civilians were found decapitated and the military has warned the number of residents killed by militant “atrocities” could rise sharply as troops retake more ground.

Every day, troops make announcements through loudspeakers for the militants to “surrender now or die.”

To the trapped civilians, they offer help to get out of the conflict area.

Authorities say they believe the militants are running out of supplies and ammunition, but they say there is no deadline to retake the city.

Tampus said when troops reinforcements come into Marawi, they are initially apprehensive because of the high death toll.

“But once they are here, the discipline kicks in and they are focused,” he said.

Humanitarian crisis

The fighting in Marawi has dragged on for over a month as casualties continue to mount. It created in its wake a worsening humanitarian crisis the government has to deal with.

More than 320,000 people or about 69,000 families have been displaced since the fighting between government forces and the Maute group broke out last May 23.

The Department of Health has recorded five more deaths among the evacuees, including children from conflict areas in Marawi.

Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said death among Marawi evacuees has increased to 32 as of June 29.

Ubial said eight of the casualties were children who died of diarrhea.

“The last death recorded among the evacuees was last June 25,” she said.

Except for one who died while in transit, Ubial said all of the 31 died in hospitals.

Ubial said the DOH is verifying if the one who died in transit was the nine-month-old infant wrapped in a bed sheet as televised being carried by its father.

The DOH earlier reported 27 deaths among the evacuees staying at various evacuation centers.

The DOH has sent teams of psychologists to counsel the Marawi evacuees, she said.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is planning to put up temporary shelters for the evacuees.

DILG officer-in-charge Catalino Cuy said temporary shelters and evacuation centers will be erected as soon as the evacuees return to Marawi after the fighting has officially ended.

“We really hope that we can start the rehabilitation efforts very soon so that Marawi residents will be able to pick up the broken pieces of their lives, stand back on their toes again and rebuild their lives,” Cuy said.

Malacañang has ordered shelter agencies to find a way to use their gender and development budgets to provide immediate assistance to the evacuees.

Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. issued the directive during a meeting of agencies under the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) last June 21.

The meeting sought to start discussions on the government’s reconstruction efforts in Marawi.

Evasco has instructed HUDCC shelter agencies to find a way to reallocate up to half of their budgets and all remaining unused funds from previous years to provide for the needs of women in evacuation centers like hygiene kits and psychosocial support services. – Reuters, Alexis Romero, Mayen Jaymalin, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Gerry Lee-Gorit


Foreign Investment pledges imperilled

By Richmond Mercurio (The Philippine Star)

Photo:Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) director general Charito Plaza said her agency has so far managed to hold the fort as no one has pulled out just yet, but concerns over the delays have been increasing. File

MANILA, Philippines - Foreign investment pledges secured by the country are on the verge of being pulled out as delays on the proclamation of new economic zones have resulted in applications piling up in the Office of the President (OP).

Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) director general Charito Plaza said her agency has so far managed to hold the fort as no one has pulled out just yet, but concerns over the delays have been increasing.

“I am so uncomfortable because we have already registered so many new locators who are waiting to build their industries in the economic zones and they cannot do so unless the proclamation (comes) out. Their problem is they want to put up their industries already because they are already registered with PEZA but they cannot because the proclamation of the economic zones (have) not yet (been) released,” Plaza said.

Upon the approval of the PEZA board, economic zone applications are forwarded to the OP for a presidential proclamation. Unless their chosen location is proclaimed a special economic zone, investors do not begin construction of their respective facilities to ensure they will enjoy the promised incentives.

“So we might lose them because these industries have their respective timetable and they may pull out all of a sudden. After all, the payment they made in registering with PEZA is only very small compared to the delay that they are encountering. They might change their minds (and) transfer to other countries’ economic zones who are giving them similar incentives,” Plaza said.

According to Plaza, many locators whose investments have been approved by PEZA reported that their principals abroad have already been inquiring as to “how many more months do they have to wait.”

She said one company eyeing to invest P1.2 billion for a manufacturing facility in Cebu, for instance, has been given three months by its principal before they pull out their planned investment.

“If it (the proclamation of new economic zones) is not fast-tracked, they are now thinking of transferring to other countries’ economic zones. I keep talking to our locators saying please hold on,” she said.

At present, Plaza said only 16 new economic zones have been proclaimed under the current administration, while 46 proposed economic zones valued at over P30 billion are pending the presidential proclamation.

Of the pending economic zone developments, six were from the time of former president Benigno Aquino III while the other 40 came during the term of President Duterte.

Plaza said she already sent a number of follow-up letters to the Office of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea regarding the economic zones, which are pending presidential proclamation.

“This is the action of Executive Secretary Medialdea’s office. Before the President signs the presidential proclamation, of course it will be recommended by his office. That is where it remains pending and I don’t know why,” Plaza said.

Plaza is urging the OP to speed up the approval to complement the President’s aggressive invitation to investors during his state visits. Aside from Duterte, she said both local government units and the private sector are also inviting investors to locate in their respective economic zones.

“Now if the approval of the proclamation is slow, they might change their minds. We’re not the only ecozones in the world. We’re not the only ones giving incentives to industries. We are competing so we need to hurry up, strike while the iron is hot. We have a very aggressive and a credible President that is why investor confidence is with him so all his lieutenants should work hard and faster. Take advantage of the credibility of the President which attracted investors,” she said.


LPA turns into storm

By Helen Flores (The Philippine Star)

Photo: The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said Emong was forecast to move northwest at a speed of 30 kph. Screengrab from

MANILA, Philippines - A low-pressure area off Luzon that developed into a tropical depression intensified into a storm yesterday and enhanced the southwest monsoon, bringing rains in some parts of the country, including Metro Manila, which will last until the next few days, according to state meteorologists.

The weather disturbance, which was locally named “Emong” (international name Nanmadol), however, was moving rapidly toward Ryukyu Islands, Japan as yesterday afternoon.

Emong is the first tropical cyclone to enter the Philippines this rainy season.

As of 3 p.m., its center was located 405 kilometers east-northeast of Basco, Batanes, packing winds of up to 80 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 95 kph.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said Emong was forecast to move northwest at a speed of 30 kph.

PAGASA weather forecaster Aldczar Aurelio said Emong was not expected to make landfall in any part of the country, but it will continue to trigger monsoon rains over Southern Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao until tomorrow.

Cloudy skies with light to moderate rain showers and thunderstorms will be experienced over the Zamboanga peninsula, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, as well as in Palawan, according to Aurelio.

Meanwhile, partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated rain showers or thunderstorms will prevail over Metro Manila and the rest of the country.

Aurelio said the southwest windflow would prevail over Northern Luzon and eastern sections of Central and Southern Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, causing moderate to rough seas.

Emong was expected move further away from the country this afternoon and move toward Japan, where it is seen to weaken into a tropical depression by tomorrow.

Aurelio said the weather condition would improve in most parts of the country by Wednesday, but the public could still expect thunderstorms in the afternoon or evening.

PAGASA earlier said two to three cyclones normally enter the country in July.


Leni corrects COA report on ‘underspending’

By Helen Flores (The Philippine Star)

Contrary to the report of the Commission on Audit (COA), the Office of the Vice President spent 86 percent of its budget allotted for indigent people in 2016, Vice President Leni Robredo clarified yesterday.

MANILA, Philippines - Contrary to the report of the Commission on Audit (COA), the Office of the Vice President spent 86 percent of its budget allotted for indigent people in 2016, Vice President Leni Robredo clarified yesterday.

Robredo said while the OVP has a total allocation of P219 million for financial assistance in 2016, only P151 million was released to them.

“Of the P151 million, we spent P130 million, so that means we used 86 percent and not 60 percent, notwithstanding the election ban on such expenses from February to May 2016,” the Vice President said in her weekly program BISErbisyong Leni over dzXL yesterday.

According to the COA report for 2016, the OVP used only P130.693 million or 59.42 percent of the total fund for medical help, burial aid, relief operations, medical missions and purchase of wheelchairs.

COA said the unused balance represents “undelivered services that could have benefited more indigent Filipinos.”

Robredo, however, noted the agency’s spending “slowed down” beginning February last year because of the election ban on public projects.

“If we recall, 2016 was an election year. The provision of services (to needy people) slowed down even before we took over,” she said.

“But after we assumed (the vice presidency), it normalized again. The money that were not released to us we can still use that this year,” Robredo explained.

She said P125 million of the P130 million were used for medical, burial and transportation assistance for the poor, while P3 million were provided to victims of calamities.

“We make sure that we use our budget properly, and we observe prudent spending,” the Vice President said.

Robredo said she chose to hold office at the Quezon City Reception House in New Manila instead of the Coconut Palace in Pasay City, where a month’s rent costs the government P500,000.

“We don’t just save on monthly office lease but on electric bills as well because we have a smaller office,” she said.

In a separate statement released yesterday, the OVP said it continues to exert all efforts to cut costs when able and ensure that every centavo of the people’s money is spent responsibly.


‘Rescue operation’ for Maute parents not farfetched — BJMP

By Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star)


Photo: BJMP Director Serafin Barretto Jr. confirmed the threat of a possible “rescue operation” for Cayamora Maute and his first wife Ominta Romato, alias Farhana, who are under BJMP custody in Taguig City. File

MANILA, Philippines - The Maute terror group may spring from detention the parents of its leaders Omar and Abdullah Maute, who led the Marawi City siege on May 23, the Bureau of Jail Management of Penology (BJMP) disclosed yesterday.

BJMP Director Serafin Barretto Jr. confirmed the threat of a possible “rescue operation” for Cayamora Maute and his first wife Ominta Romato, alias Farhana, who are under BJMP custody in Taguig City.

Barretto did not provide details for security reasons.

He assured the public that the BJMP is capable of thwarting attempts to get the Maute couple out of jail.

Baretto said the couple is being treated humanely despite being the parents of bandits who caused massive damage in Marawi.

“Mas masuwerte pa nga sila kasi nandun sila sa isang lugar na maluwag at bago (They are even luckier because they are in a spacious and new place),” the BJMP chief said.

“Actually, BJMP is only in charge of safekeeping and of course we will protect them while under our custody (and monitor) especially their health and I believe, I would like to give everyone an assurance, especially their relatives that they are safe,” Barretto said.

On June 6, the Maute patriarch was apprehended at a checkpoint in Sirawan, Toril, Davao City while on board a Toyota Grandia van.

Arresting officers said they stopped the van when they noticed one of them was wearing a surgical mask and bore a resemblance to Cayamora, who was with his driver, Aljon Ismael, his other wife Kongan Alfonso Balawag, their daughter Norjannah, who was with her husband, Benzarali Tingao.

On June 9, Farhana was apprehended in the town of Masiu in Lanao del Sur, along with two other wounded family members and seven other unidentified females.

After their arrest, authorities brought the couple one after the other from Mindanao to the BJMP facility in Taguig City.

Farhana was spotted in Marawi on the first day of the clashes between government troops and Islamic State-inspired bandits, prompting authorities to include her among those facing rebellion charges.


‘Marawi siege derailed deadline to defeat terror groups’

By Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star)

Photo: The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) admitted the fighting in Marawi had upset its timetable in the campaign against terrorism. AP/Aaron Favila, File

MANILA, Philippines - The fighting in Marawi City derailed the goal of the military to defeat the Abu Sayyaf and other terror groups by June 30.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) admitted the fighting in Marawi had upset its timetable in the campaign against terrorism.

However, the AFP said the battle will be won and significant accomplishments during the last six months showed it is on the right track in the fight against terror groups.

“We have neutralized 519 terrorists (including 178 Abu Sayyaf and 317 Maute) since Jan. 1 until June 30, 2017,” AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Año said.

Año said the AFP also recovered a total of 548 firearms, which reflects a significant reduction of the enemy’s strength and capabilities, and prevented or minimized piracy and kidnappings.

“The desperation of Maute-ASG to claim recognition as an ISIS state prompted them to stage the rebellion and occupy Marawi City. These acts have derailed our objective to defeat them based on our timeline,” Año said.

Año though emphasized that while the Marawi siege is catastrophic, painstaking and destructive, the AFP will prevail in the end.

He said the military would not be pressured nor bound by timelines or deadlines, adding President Duterte has given orders to finish off the Maute group and clear Marawi of terrorists to pave the way for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the war-torn city.

“We will do this with highest dignity and code of conduct of the professional soldier; and respect to human rights for our country, for the people and for our soldier heroes who ultimately gave their lives for this cause,” Año assured. – With Ben Serrano



Pain in Brisbane

By Abac Cordero (The Philippine Star)

Photo: Manny Pacquiao trades blows with Jeff Horn during their title fight in Brisbane, Australia yesterday. AFP

Horn stuns Pacman; retirement or rematch mulled

BRISBANE – Australian challenger Jeff Horn turned “Sunday Bloody Sunday” into one of boxing’s greatest upsets as he shocked Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao to win the WBO welterweight belt before over 50,000 fans at Suncorp Stadium here.

All three judges had Horn winning the bout, the biggest in Australian boxing history, 117-111, 115-113, 115-113. In the eyes of the judges, it was unanimous.

Pacquiao climbed the ring as the heavy favorite, and sought to score his first knockout win in nearly eight years. Instead, he took a loss, his seventh against 59 wins and two draws.

It was his fourth defeat in his last nine fights. And it’s one that should remain at the back of his mind, and raise questions on whether or not it’s time to call it a day.

Unless there’s a change of plan, Pacquiao will fly home to General Santos City today.

Neither boxer went down, and while Pacquiao was rocked a few times by Horn’s uppercuts and big rights, it was Horn who seemed on the verge of going down in the ninth.

Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, had told reporters here a few days ago that if Pacquiao won the fight but struggled, he may have to ask his favorite boxer if it’s time to step down.

Michael Koncz, ring adviser, said if Pacquiao failed to be impressive against Horn or was unable to score a knockout, they would have to talk about retirement.

Everything is now up in the air.

Nothing is definite as of Sunday here in cold Brisbane although inside the ring, just moments after the bloody war, there were early talks of a rematch.

It was stipulated in the contract that if Horn won, Pacquiao would get a rematch.

“Yeah, that’s fine,” said Horn, his voice filling the entire stadium that had never seen a crowd this big.

“Absolutely. No problem,” said Pacquiao, the smaller fighter.


Roach says Manny was short-changed

By Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star)


Photo: Pacquiao and Roach in the dugout after the fight. Joaquin Henson

BRISBANE – Hall of Fame boxing coach Freddie Roach said Manny Pacquiao was short-changed by the judges and referee Mark Nelson failed to keep order in the ring as Jeff Horn brawled his way to a unanimous 12-round decision in wresting the WBO welterweight crown at the Suncorp Stadium here yesterday.

Roach was particularly critical of judges Waleska Roldan, Chris Flores and Ramon Cerdan who scored the ninth round, 10-9 for Pacquiao despite dominating Horn and nearly prompting a stoppage. Roach said that should’ve been 10-8 even without a knockdown. The beating that Pacquiao administered was so severe that Nelson told Horn before the start of the next round, he would stop the fight unless the Australian showed signs of recovery.

Roach said “something’s wrong” when in nearly every round, Horn clamped a headlock on Pacquiao when they got close without receiving a single warning. He also wondered why Nelson never reprimanded Horn for elbowing, hitting during the break and brushing the back side of his glove on Pacquiao’s face. Under the rules, a fighter who resorts to dirty tricks is warned or slapped a point deduction or even disqualified for malicious intent with dire consequence. Pacquiao was butted twice on both sides of his head, spewing crimson that smeared his face.

Despite Horn’s roughhousing tactics, he was never warned, much less given a deduction. Roach said Nelson had no control of the fight. Horn’s strategy was to closet Pacquiao and restrict his movement so he wouldn’t be able to use his speed and lateral movement. If Horn was restrained by Nelson as he should’ve been, Pacquiao would’ve had an easy time picking his shots.

Roach said it’s hard to score a fight from the corner. “I’m too close to what’s happening so I don’t get a wide view of the action but I think Manny won the fight by two or three rounds,” he said. “Give credit to Horn for being a durable fighter. He did what he had to do to try to win. Horn came to fight and why not? It was his big chance to win the world title in front of his countrymen.”

Roach said after Pacquiao almost knocked out Horn in the ninth, he asked for another dominant round to seal it. “I told Manny to use distance and combinations,” he said. “In the ninth, he rocked Horn with combinations. You won’t take him out with one punch. I wanted another round like that. Somehow, Manny couldn’t do it again. I don’t think he ran out of gas. It’s just that the other guy wouldn’t slow down.”

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Pacquiao’s conditioning coach Justin Fortune called Nelson an “idiot” for not doing his job. “I don’t even know who he is and where those judges came from,” he said. “I knew it would be tough winning in Australia over an Australian. You’ve got to beat the hell of a guy to win. I thought Manny won the fight but I would’ve been happy with a draw.”

Fortune, who is Australian, said he’ll fly to Los Angeles today to be with his wife Tamara who expects to deliver twins on Aug. 4 and he can’t wait. They’ve been together for five years. “Our first kids,” he said. “I’ll fly my mum over from Australia when Tamara gives birth.”

As for Roach, he’s also headed back to Los Angeles today. Initially, Roach planned to fly to Los Angeles then relieve chief assistant Marvin Somodio in working WBA cruiserweight champion Denis Lebedev’s title defense against Australian Mark Flanagan in Ekaterinburg, Russia, this weekend. Roach said Somodio will stay with Lebedev for the fight while he starts training Miguel Cotto who reports to the Wild Card Gym today for his first day of camp. Cotto is getting ready to face Japan’s Yoshihiro Kamega for the vacant WBO superwelterweight belt at the StubHub Center in Carson City, California, on Aug. 26. Roach said he assigned one of his trainers Ernie Zavala to take care of Cotto while he’s in transit.

Roach said he’ll sit down with Pacquiao soon, review the fight with Horn then decide whether or not to continue boxing. “Retiring is an option,” he said. “It will depend on how we review the fight. If Manny decides to do a rematch, we’ll do it. Maybe, in a place like New Zealand. Now that Manny’s in the Senate, the work is more demanding and he’s very hands-on. The work he’s doing is very important not just to him but also to the country. If he decides to continue fighting, he’ll need to free up some time for his training.”

  • Published in Sports
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