Items filtered by date: Tuesday, 19 September 2017

300 buildings still to be cleared in Marawi

The military said these buildings are within a 10-hec-tare area where continuing airstrikes and ground assaults are focused. File
MANILA, Philippines — Government security forces still have to clear around 300 buildings in Marawi believed occupied by Maute militants.

The military said these buildings are within a 10-hec-tare area where continuing airstrikes and ground assaults are focused.

Most of the buildings are either occupied by snipers and machine gunners or laden with booby traps, Col. Edgard Arevalo, Armed Forces of the Philippines-public affairs office chief, said yesterday.

“The terrorists are now left with a 10-hectare maneuvering area…Overall, there are still 15 to 18 hectares that should be cleared,”Arevalo said.

He clarified reports that the terrorists are holed up in only a 500-square-meter area.“I think there was a confusion…It has been corrected,” Arevalo said.

He said military operations to defeat the terrorists are gaining ground.

However, Arevalo declined to give a timeline on when the fighting will end, saying that the matter is in the hands of ground commanders.

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Eduardo Año had earlier expressed confidence the military offensive in Marawi will be over before he retires from the service.

Año will reach the mandatary retirement age of 56 on Oct. 26.

Marawi rehab

Meanwhile, Valenzuela Rep. Wes Gatchalian said the budget of the Road Board should be realigned to rehabilitate Marawi.

Gatchalian said he supports the move of the Senate and House of Representatives to abolish the agency and divert its proposed budget of P1.2 billion next year to more noble causes.

“I would be more comfor-table seeing that money go to the Free Higher Education Act or the rehabilitation of Marawi City. There is no cogent reason why...this body should still exist,” he said.

“Whatever function or mandate (the agency) is currently performing could be handled by the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways). Adding another layer of bureaucracy…increases the chance of inefficiency and irregularities in government,” Gatchalian said.

The Road Board was created under Republic Act 8794 to ensure the maintenance of national and provincial roads. Its budget is sourced from road users tax.

House Bill 6236 filed by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez seeks to abolish the agency and transfer its functions to the DPWH and Department of Transportation.

Alvarez cited allegations that the agency misused more than P90 billion in road users’ tax. – With Delon Porcalla


P1.3-M drugs seized in Mandaluyong condo

PDEA chief Aaron Aquino (left) presents alleged online drug dealer Jovet Atillano in a press conference yesterday. BOY SANTOS
MANILA, Philippines — Anti-narcotics operatives seized P1.3 million worth of illegal drugs from a suspected dealer during a raid on a condominium in Mandaluyong City yesterday.

Jovet Atillano, 32, has reportedly been involved in the illegal drug trade since July 2014, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) director general Aaron Aquino said, citing their intelligence reports.

Atillano uses Facebook and Instagram as well as other websites to sell his products, Aquino said in a press conference yesterday.

Atillano is said to be a major distributor of illegal drugs in Metro Manila, Baguio City, Cebu and Boracay island.

“Most of his customers are young professionals and affluent persons,” said Aquino, adding they are not discounting the possibility that celebrities and public figures could be among Atillano’s clients.

Atillano admitted to selling illegal drugs in the past but claimed he stopped when President Duterte assumed his post last year. He denied owning the illegal drugs reported to have been found in his condominium unit.

PDEA agents, armed with a search warrant, raided Atillano’s unit at GA Towers in Barangay Malamig at around 5 a.m.

They seized 500 tablets of the party drug ecstasy, with a street value of P1 million; 50 grams of shabu, with a street value of P350,000; 83 tablets of nitrazepam, an anti-anxiety drug, with a street value of P5,810; and 12 tablets of diazepam, another anti-anxiety drug, priced at P200 each; and assorted drug paraphernalia.

To avoid detection, Atillano transfers to another condominium building every six months, Aquino said.

Alleged dealers like Atillano also use drivers of transport network companies like Grab to deliver drugs to their customers. This way, law enforcement authorities have difficulty in tracking their locations, according to Aquino.

1 dead, 11 arrested

In other parts of Metro Manila, a drug suspect was killed and 11 others were arrested.

Valerio Villaflor, 48, reported to be a high-value target, was shot dead by unidentified motorcycle-riding assailants along Manuel Quezon street in Barangay Cupang, Muntinlupa City at around 2 a.m. yesterday.

In Quezon City, three minors were caught using marijuana in Barangay Marilag, and four alleged dealers were caught in separate stings in Barangay Tatalon.

Two of the alleged dealers were identified as Janrei Gallardo, 27, and Danilo Cullera, 53.

In Pasig City, Jason Padayao, Marvin Batica, Bonifacio Luciano and Paulino Mallari were arrested in separate stings on Monday.


45 Zamboanga City minors get counseling after gang hazing

The barangay chairperson said the recruiter was only a 17-year-old boy and his recruits were minors, including an 8-year-old boy and some girls.
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — Barangay officials in Zamboanga City have provided counseling for at least 45 minors who went though hazing rites over the weekend.

The initiation rites were discovered when Barangay Tumaga Chairperson Jacky Lim overheard some parents in a waiting shed talking about recruitment by a certain "fraternity" last Saturday.

Lim said she immediately had the reports of recruitment investigated and discovered the hazing of the 45 young recruits took place near a riverbank in her village.

The news comes as the National Bureau of Investigation is set to launch a probe into the death of University of Santo Tomas law freshman Horacio Tomas Castillo III, 22, who was pronounced dead last Sunday allegedly after hazing rites by the Aegis Juris fraternity.

“I was alarmed because it was not really good. So I called all the parents of the children and the recruiter for a confrontation and dialogue to prevent the recruitment further,” Lim said.

Lim said that during the dialogue at the barangay hall on Monday, she found out the recruiter was only a 17-year-old boy and his recruits were minors, including an 8-year-old boy and some girls.

She said the recruits were all students. Some of them still had signs of bruising, which, Lim said, suggests the hazing happened on Saturday.

The Anti-Hazing Law defines hazing as "an initiation rite or practice as a prerequisite for admission into membership in a fraternity, sorority or organization by placing the recruit, neophyte or applicant in some embarrassing or humiliating situations such as forcing him to do menial, silly, foolish and other similar tasks or activities or otherwise subjecting him to physical or psychological suffering or injury."

The law, however, is focused on organizations based in schools and universities.

Lim said that the young recruits told her that the "fraternity" started from a simple bonding activity, where the recruiter collected P10 from each of them for a picnic along the river.

She said the gang initially used banana stalks in the hazing but later on used a wooden paddle.

Lim immediately coordinated with City Social Welfare Officer Socorro Rojas and counseling was held with the parents, the minors and the young recruiter.

“Most of the victims claimed they joined just out of curiosity,” Lim said.

Lim said she has directed village watchmen to be alert against similar incidents in the village. She also lamented the lifting of a curfew that she said would have kept children from going astray.


Father and son, Solano primary suspects in hazing death

Close friends, classmates, fellow law students, and other students of the University of Santo Tomas offer their prayers and sentiments through lighted candles at the Civil Law lobby of UST for Horacio Castillo III.

Solano was initially considered a witness after reportedly discovering Castillo’s body wrapped in a blanket in Balut, Tondo in Manila, but barangay officials disputed his claims.

“It was found out that Solano deliberately and intentionally gave false statements to the MPD in the course of this investigation,” Coronel said. “He claimed he only found the body of the victim in the early hours of Sept. 17 and brought him to the hospital when in fact, Solano knew the victim even before the death of Castillo.”

Solano, Coronel said, has been confirmed to be a law student of UST and a member of the Aegis Juris fraternity.

Coronel presented to the media a closed circuit television (CCTV) footage showing Solano with Castillo and other alleged fraternity brothers walking along Dapitan Street in UST around 11:45 a.m. on Saturday, a day before the victim was declared dead on arrival at Chinese General Hospital.

Castillo told his parents that he would attend an overnight fraternity welcome party and would be home by Sunday morning. He was however found by his family at a funeral home with hematoma and candle drips before dawn Monday.

Police also showed the media the photo of Solano when he gave his initial testimony to MPD and a photo of him wearing Aegis Juris fraternity shirt.

The red vehicle with plate number ZTV 539 which initial reports said brought Castillo to the hospital, meanwhile, has been found to be registered under one Antonio Trangia, father of Ralph, an Aegis Juris official.

Coronel however said that it was not clear who was driving the vehicle at the time of the incident.

“Solano, with the assistance and cooperation of the Trangias deliberately misled our investigation by providing us false and fraudulent statements, which we feel was a cover up for the actual killing and murder of Castillo, which is why they are now considered suspects,” Coronel said.

Coronel added that all the eight officials of the Aegis Juris fraternity enrolled this semester are also considered suspects.


Team Sky fade to third in Worlds TTT

They came, they saw, but in the end Team Sky's galacticos had to settle for bronze in the men's team time trial in Bergen. Steered by Tour de France and Vuelta a España winner Chris Froome, the British team had led at the first checkpoint but were overhauled by winners Team Sunweb and BMC Racing.

Team Sky team arrived in Norway with a stacked squad that included Froome, former yellow jersey Geraint Thomas, former world time trial champion Vasil Kiryienka, one-time road world champion Michal Kwiatkowski, Vuetla revelation Gianni Moscon and the highly-rated Owain Doull. Yet in the end Sunweb's proficiency and BMC's experience shone through.

"We gave it everything out on the course today," Froome told Cyclingnews and De Telegraph at the line.

"It wasn't good enough for the first place but we've got to be happy with that. It's a very tough circuit and maybe we could have done things differently in hindsight but we've got to be happy with third place."

While several teams, including BMC and fellow pre-race favourites QuickStep Floors, organised training camps ahead of the race and arrived several days in advance, Team Sky's approach was somewhat different. They selected riders from the Tour of Britain and the Vuelta but spent less time riding reconnaissance than several of their rivals.

Froome and company started in impressive fashion, hitting the first checkpoint in the fastest time, with Quick-Step second, BMC third and Sunweb a distant fourth but according to Froome the early pace may have come back to punish Sky.

"We probably started a little bit fast, so maybe we'd start a little bit more controlled," Froome said when asked if he and his team would have tackled the course differently after the experience.

"I think we went out a bit fast and then paid the price towards the end. Maybe we could have put more emphasis on getting more guys over that climb with 11km to go. It seems like there were big time gaps made and lost against the teams that got over there with six guys."

On the major climb of the race – a 1.4-kilometre slog with pitches of nine per cent – Team Sky showed signs of frailty. They weren't the only team to do so, of course, but by then Doull had peeled off and Thomas was jettisoned with Froome seemingly making the call to push on with four riders left.

"Initially the plan was to try and get over the climb with Geraint but towards the top of the climb he said 'no guys, it's enough' and signalled to us to keep going," Froome added.

"For me personally it's not something I've really focused on. I'm just here on the back of the Tour and the Vuelta. I still feel good and the legs feel good. I was happy to be part of the team and bring something to the team but as you said, a lot of teams have focused for this and pulled riders from Grand Tours to be ready for this. We just put the best squad we could together."

Froome's next and final outing of these World Championships will come on Wednesday when he looks to win the individual time trial.


  • Published in Sports

Contador: It was the right time to retire

Although he appeared in the race just three times during his career, Alberto Contador seems to hold the Giro in special regard. It was the Giro, after all, that provided him with a lifeline in May 2008, when his Astana team was barred by the organisers of the Tour de France.

Contador was welcomed back warmly in 2011, despite the fact that he was in the process of appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport – ultimately unsuccessfully – against his positive test for Clenbuterol the previous year. In 2015, Contador made his third and final appearance, claiming what he maintained to be his third win, though only two remain in the record books.

No matter, Contador hit all the required notes when he appeared on stage at the Waldorf Astoria in Jerusalem on Monday to promote the Israeli Grande Partenza of the 2018 Giro d'Italia. He was applauded by local attendees at the presentation when he downplayed the idea that bringing the Giro to Israel constituted a security risk.

"In my opinion, I don't think it's a problem to be here," Contador said. "I was in Israel in 2012 for close to two weeks on a training camp and the support was incredible. Now the situation of the world is a little crazy but it's not a question for just one country or another, it's all the world. I'm sure all the riders will be happy to come here and won't think of these things."

RCS Sport will have been equally content with Contador's comments to reporters after the presentation, when he suggested that Chris Froome ought to line out in next year's Giro in order to complete the rare feat of holding all three Grand Tour titles at once. Contador pointed in particular to the strength of Froome's supporting cast at Team Sky.

"If I were Froome, I'd ride this Giro, but clearly the decision is up to him," Contador said. "He can definitely do it. He's used up a lot of energy in the last few months both physically and mentally, but he has a great team around him, and that allows him to make the difference in the time trials or in the last kilometre of mountain stages. So if I were in his place, I'd aim for the Giro, especially with this spectacular and difficult start."

Barely a week on from his hanging up his wheels, it is perhaps too early to wonder whether Contador has any regrets about his decision. He is, after all, still only trying the mantle of ex-professional cyclist for size, but he evinced no doubts in Jerusalem on Monday, not least because he signed off on his turbulent career with a valedictory win atop the Angliru on the final weekend of the Vuelta a España.

"I don't feel nostalgia, I'm just happy for the way I finished my career by winning on the Angliru. It was the right time to leave," Contador said. "I decided at the Tour when I crashed. I've always given everything and I think it was the best thing to leave while I was still at a high level. At the Vuelta, every day was like a fiesta for me. The last month of my career was incredible, and I couldn't have asked for better."

Contador explained that his time in retirement will be divided between supporting his Fundacion Contador development squad – which will step up to Continental level after taking over the running of Trek-Segafredo's development team – and acting as an ambassador to promote stroke awareness.

"Maybe people don't know the symptoms and it is very important to know to catch this disease in time," said Contador, who suffered a stroke at the Tour of Asturias in 2004.

"I will continue to ride my bike, but I will also have other commitments and a great part of my time will be dedicated to the Fundacion Contador, where we have several cycling teams, including this year a new Continental one." 


  • Published in Sports

Nationwide quake drill postponed

Court employees during the earthquake drill/Photo by Supreme Court PIO
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday announced the postponement of the nationwide earthquake drill scheduled for Sept. 21 after President Rodrigo Duterte declared that day a national day of protest.
The Nationwide Simultaneous Earthquake Drill scheduled for Thursday was supposed to be the third this year. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), chaired by Lorenzana, holds quarterly drills to promote earthquake awareness, preparedness and resilience among communities.
Malacañang said the President’s declaration meant a suspension of classes and work in government offices. Government offices and public schools are usually the main venues for the earthquake drills.

The NDRRMC said it was necessary to postpone the drill “to ensure maximum participation” when it would be held at a date still to be set.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Sept. 21, the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, would not be a special holiday. Private offices and schools could decide on their own whether to suspend work and classes on that day, he added.

He said the day was “for people to exercise their constitutional rights to freedom of speech, peaceful assembly and to seek redress [of] their grievances against the government, past or present.”
“The President understands that some people want to vent, and I suppose he also assumes most people want to vent on something … It’s a national day of protest,” Abella told reporters.
Groups critical of the administration, such as the Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) and the newly formed #TindigPilipinas, are set to hold protests on Thursday.
Ferdinand Gaite, national president of Courage, a leftwing coalition of government office unions, told the Inquirer that holiday or not his group will join Thursday’s protest rally. —With reports from Leila B. Salaverria and Jaymee T. Gamil


Martial law victims find no justice in ‘moving on’

TORTURED Ruben Manog shows his hands that were chained when he was then 14 years old while he and his father were tortured by soldiers in Western Samar. —GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE
(First of a series)
Fourteen-year-old Ruben Manog was alone and crying. His whole body shook with a dreadful thought: This is the day I’m going to die.
That did not happen on that day in 1982. Still, for one year and seven months — in isolation and during torture sessions—Manog was certain he was good as dead.

Today, the 49-year-old with the calloused hands of a welder feels lucky to have survived the strongman rule of Ferdinand Marcos.
More than 3,200 extrajudicial killings and 35,000 torture cases were recorded from 1975 to 1985, according to American historian Alfred W. McCoy.
Forty-five years since the declaration of martial law on Sept. 21, 1972, martial law survivors like Manog face a new kind of horror — historical revisionism and whitewashing of the suffering under the dictatorship highlighted by Marcos’ burial at Libingan ng mga Bayani.
“How could Marcos ever become a hero, when thousands of innocent civilians died during his regime?” Manog told the Inquirer. “I wanted to be an architect, a designer. His martial law stole that from me.”
Family of rebels?
It was in 1982 when the 6th grader and his entire family were tagged by the military as members of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in Western Samar.
Manog recalled that Army soldiers passing through their village had seized him, branding him — a 14-year-old, though muscular from working in the farm but shorter than most kids his age — an NPA commander.
He could not believe the accusation. “I don’t even know how to wear long pants then … and I barely reached up to their waists,” he said.

What followed were daily fist blows and beatings with the butts of M16 rifles he called “frightening massages.” Soldiers also burned his hands and feet with cigarettes and once told him to strip and play with his genitals, which he refused to do.
Solitary confinement
He was thrown into solitary confinement in various Army camps where his hands, feet and abdomen were tied so that he could hardly move. He said he became “skin and bones” because he was fed only watery rice, much like pig slop, every two weeks.
“With all that torture, what was only left was for them to finally shoot me in the head,” he said.
His agonies ended only after a court ordered him freed from detention in 1984. With his release papers he headed straight home.
“I walked 15 kilometers from the prison to my house, only to see soldiers rain bullets on our home and take my father away,” he said.
Manog wept as he recalled how his 42-year-old father, Uldarico Manog, a farmer and businessman, suffered even worse abuse.
Soldiers skewered his father’s neck with a bamboo stick and flayed the soles of his feet, he said. They found the decaying remains of his father in the middle of a road about a month later.
“I think I was just used as bait to get my father … It is still so hard to accept that he was killed,” he said, wiping his tears. He said he was very close to his father who taught him all he knew about farming.
No body to bury
For Joey Faustino, it was the loss of his brother that had opened his young mind to the horrors of martial law. But unlike Manog, the then 13-year-old from Quezon City had no body to grieve over and bury—up to this day.
In 1977, 21-year-old Gerardo “Gerry” Faustino, a graduating student from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), was abducted along with nine others from the university. The “Southern Tagalog 10” was considered the single biggest case of abduction under martial law.
Faustino said his brother was a student activist and was an outspoken supporter of farmers and workers. His brother discussed what ailed Philippine society with him and introduced such concepts as fascism.
“But what is that to a 12, 13-year-old?” he said.
The discovery of Gerry’s ransacked dorm room and the family’s frantic search for him, or his remains, had opened Faustino’s eyes to what his brother had been fighting for.
Mass graves in Quezon
The search for his brother brought them and other families who had sons and daughters also missing around that time to two mass graves in Mauban, Quezon province, where soldiers had buried “young rebels” who were supposedly killed in an “encounter.”
“It was not a sight to see for a 13-year-old boy,” Faustino said in an interview, trying to hold back his tears. “All [nine] bodies had smashed skulls… and bullet wounds all over their bodies.”
They did not find his brother in the mass graves. “A part of me wanted to see him there, so we can finally end our search. But on the other hand, I also wished he was still alive,” he said.
“Right there and then, in front of my eyes, the word [fascism] came alive—the cruelty of the state, of the military,” he added.
“The state did not just steal my brother, but also my family … We were left a wreck, and I was left all alone to deal with his disappearance,” he said. “But [what happened to us] never left me. It has practically ruled over my life.”
878 disappearances
Faustino is helping others who are in the same situation as secretary general of Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearances (FIND). He is also executive director of the Coconut Industry Reform Movement, which works for the return to coconut farmers of the coco levy funds that were purloined during martial law.
FIND has documented 878 disappearances under martial law out of 1,800 recorded since the Marcos regime.
Faustino said the Marcos family and their fervid defenders deeply insulted the families of the disappeared when they told them to simply “move on.”
“How can you move on, when our wounds would not heal because our loved ones are still missing?” he said.
“If you want to move on, move on to seek justice, to fight for justice, to defend human rights, and not let martial law and authoritarian rule to rule over again. That is moving on,” he said.
(To be continued)


Only P500,000 in bank account with daughter, says Duterte

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte
Dismissing claims that he amassed ill-gotten wealth, President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night said he had only around P500,000 in a bank account that he shared with one of his children.
The President said he had a bank account with his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara “Inday” Duterte, as his codepositor, but it contained money that was less than the P200 million that his critics claimed he was hiding.
“I have one with Inday. It’s about P500,000 something,” he told lawyers of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) during their convention in the Manila Hotel.

“I have one and my codepositor is my daughter so that, if something happens to me, my family can immediately use it. That is true,” he said.
“My salary, my codepositor is Inday because I … I trust her. I have little with my (sons) because they only know how to have a good time,” he added in jest.
AMLC challenge
Mr. Duterte said he had challenged the previous Aquino administration and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to look into accounts to find out if he had ill-gotten wealth.
“You look at the bank … during their time—the time of (former Interior Secretary) Mar (Roxas)—I said, ‘Look at it. You have control of everything and machinery,” he said.
“You AMLC who are listening right now, if I’m a money launderer, why don’t you file a case against me?” he added.
Mr. Duterte said he signed a bank waiver before but his critics “did not use it.”
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV has challenged the President to sign a new waiver to open all of his bank accounts.

“(He’s) saying I should sign again … Are you making a fool of me? Lucky you. Open everything, including the rural bank. If you see P200 million and confirm it that Duterte has it, I will step down tomorrow,” the President said.

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