CAPTURED by Arlyn dela Cruz


April 29, 2009
Posted 9:27 AM

After President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's term, is there a possibility that another woman president succeeds the seat of power in Malacanang?

Political analysts are quick to say---very unlikely, chances dim, especially after the many controversies and scandals under the presidency of the sitting female president, Mrs. Arroyo.

But Senator Loren Legarda, a known presidential aspirant does not seemed a bit bothered by this common political analysis of many if not the majority. "A pastor told me, it's not the gender, it's the character that makes a person, the character, not the gender that defines the presidency" Legarda said, quoting a conversation she had with a protestant preacher in Southern Philippines.

The other reason for Legarda's optimism was an unreleased survey result conducted by the group Pulse Asia Survey some 9 months ago, from the period of 1st to the 14th of July last year to be exact.

The survey data was shared with this writer and several other journalists invited for lunch at the Manila Polo Club.

On the Pulse Asia Survey of July 2008, the data tracked the sentiment of Filipino voters about three possible presidential and vice presidential tandems identified in the survey form as: Senators Legarda and Francis Escudero, Senator Manny Villar and Vice President Noli De Castro and the third tandem, being Senators Mar Roxas and Francis Pangilinan. Legarda said, "The Pulse Asia survey indicated that the Legarda-Escudero pairing, if it happens, has a high chance of winning, almost 40%, but an Escudero-Legarda tandem, only 20% chance."

Based on the Pulse Asia Survey---the 40% poll high for a possible Legarda-Escudero tandem was among the "D" class voters. But among the ABC-class, it is also high, placing at 43% and close to 40% at 38% among "E" class voters. Trailing the tandem considerably are the Villa-De Castro and Roxas-Pangilinan pairings.

It's not clear why Pulse Asia did not release the said survey results last year or who commissioned that particular survey.

Both Escudero and Legarda belong to the Danding Cojuangco-led Nationalist People’s Coalition. Legarda said, NPC, her political party can only have one presidential candidate. If she's the one, she said, it's really up to her party mates. But apart from the decision coming from her NPC party mates, Legarda too said that she will have to make the decision herself on whether to pursue the presidential bid for 2010. “I am continuing to talk to my local leaders trying to discern what to do in 2010 but I am giving myself until July to make an official declaration,” she stressed.

The lady senator also shared that while she is with NPC, there are other political figures requesting her to join them in visits and consultations in the provinces. Among them she shared, former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada. "The former president has invited me to join his provincial consultations, I spoke with him this morning," Legarda said.

Does that mean she's joining Estrada's provincial visitations on a regular basis? "We'll check our schedule, there may be dates we could be together for consultation," Legarda clarified.

The former president also remains very high in terms of rating and popularity based on various survey results. In several media interviews, Estrada expressed his intention to run again for the presidency, "should the opposition block fail to come up with a common and strong candidate" stressing however, that, that decision will be a "last option."(end)

NEWS UPDATE: Where is Eugenio Vagni?

April 27, 2009
Posted 9:33

Where is Eugenio Vagni, the Italian aid worker of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) kidnapped along with two others, Swiss national Andreas Notter and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba?

Notter is now back in Switzerland, Lacaba to her family in Davao, April 16 and April 2 respectively, one walked away to freedom, one released without ransom.

The answer to that question is---no one knows for sure. Albader Parad, the once very accommodating commander of the Abu Sayyaf Group, his cellular phone accessible to a number of reporters, is now incommunicado, cellphone out of coverage area, most probably in the running, as monitored by the military especially after the very recent clashes between the ASG and members of the armed Civilian Volunteers Organization (CVO) of Sulu Governor Abdulsakur Tan.

Various sources from Sulu offer different reports about the whereabouts and condition of Vagni.

MNLF Commander and Vice Chairman for Political Affairs Abuamri Taddik says Vagni is just being kept in a safe place and will soon be visible again. "Itinatago lang yan, lalabas din yan," he said in Filipino. 

Just last weekend, Taddik received a very bad news, a raw information from one of his field sources in Maimbung, which turned out to be false. That raw information suggested Vagni's dead, buried in one area in an area in Maimbung, Sulu. "Wala talagang malinaw na information makuha ngayon, may nagsasabing patay na, may nagsasabing mahinang-mahina na, pag ganyan, mas malamang, itinatago lang at inililigaw lang ang impormasyon para di makita," Taddik said stressing that he believes, Vagni is still in the hands of the ASG, not with Parad but still within the ASG. "Marami namang commanders mga yan na puwedeng magsaluhan at magpasahan ng bihag," Taddik explained.

As for Governor Tan---he said, he is certain Vagni is still alive.

The Philippine National Police has offered half a million peso reward for anyone who could pinpoint the location of Vagni who was believed to be abandoned by the ASG as early as last Friday. It's the first time government offered a reward for civilian informers, to encourage them to cooperate in locating a missing hostage---Vagni.

So far-- no takers.

In the meantime ICRC repeated it's appeal for the unconditional, immediate and safe release of Vagni. (end)


April 20, 2009
Posted 12:15 PM

Police Sr. Superintendent Franklin Moises Mabanag and all officers under him at the Quezon City Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit handling the investigation of the death of Trinidad Etong have been placed under preventive suspension by the National Police Commission.

Not only the QC-CIDU officers placed under preventive suspension, the entire QC-PD--the Philippine National Police as an organization is now taken out of the investigation according to Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno citing a case of an organization sacrificing, so as to "restore the confidence and credibility of the entire police organization" in the eyes of the community.

Aside from Mabanag, the other QCPD-CIDU placed under preventive suspension are his deputy Superintendent Gerardo Ratuita; Senior Inspector Roberto Razon; Senior Police Officer 3 Jose Fernando, Police Officer 2 Andy Salonga, and Police Officer 2 Reno Riparip.

The Administrative Charges against the officers headed by Mabanag will be heard and decided upon within a 30-day period.

The principal responsibility of investigating the case is now transferred to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). "Effective today, the investigation will be turned over to the NBI. The QC-PD can still function as a support group. It's not a parallel investigation anymore for NBI.They are now the primary investigating agency."

The preventive suspension stems from the complaint that the QC-CIDU used excessive force in handling the case of the death of Ted Failon's wife, specifically the arrest made on the night of April 16, Thursday of relatives of Failon's wife at the New Era General Hospital.

Puno also directed the QC-PD to turn over to the NBI all pieces of evidence gathered as far as the Trinidad Etong case is concerned. "Yes, the entire set of files, all pieces of evidence will have to be turned over to the NBI, for evaluation and further investigation," Puno explained.

Here's a very important order too from Puno and the NAPOLCOM---while the QC-PD may forward to the NBI their own conclusion in the investigation of the case, mainly centered on determining whether it's a case of suicide or foul play--the NBI according to Puno is not bound to "adhere to the conclusions made by the QC-PD."

Why transfer to the NBI when another higher unit within the PNP can assume responsibility of the investigation of the Trinidad Etong case?

Puno's explained that it's a sacrifice on the part of the PNP because the primary concern is to remove all suspicions that there's already a pre-set conclusion on this case brought about by accusations of biases on the part of the QC-PD against Failon.

Failon in earlier statement to the media says, the QC-PD is getting back at him for his hard-hitting commentaries against members of the Quezon City police.

"We want to regain and poster confidence in the PNP. That's the only thing that we want to accomplish here," Puno explained.

NBI Chief Nestor Mantaring said he only heard about the decision to transfer the main responsibility to them through radio reports. Mantaring said, the NBI welcomes the challenge and said, they will have to do their own interview of some of the individuals already questioned by the QC-Police.

Failon will also be questioned according to Mantaring but this will come after his period of grief. "Pababayaan muna naming magluksa si Mr. Failon," said Mantaring.

While the NBI welcomes the transfer of responsibility of primary investigation on the Trinidad Etong case, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales sees the development in a different light, calling it very unfortunate. He said, “Right now, the investigation has been shrouded with issues like police abuse. It is no longer concentrating on whether it was suicide or parricide. That is not good for criminal investigation."

Gonzales also believes---the move of the NAPOLCOM casts more doubt on the capability of the police to conduct an credible investigation. Interviewed by reporters the secretary said, “I thought that was not the proper step to take because that will stigmatize the police already."

The QCPD was supposed to reveal today the results of its forensic test conducted in connection to the shooting incident inside Failon's home in Tierra Pura in Quezon City last week.

Sought for reaction, Mabanag's short reply through text message was: "Wala tayong magagawa."(end)


April 18, 2009
Posted 6:36 PM

Enthusiastic, yes, overuse of force, no.--This is how Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales see the actuation of members of the Quezon City Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit (CIDU) involved in the arrest of in-laws of broadcaster Ted Failon last Thursday night at the New Era General Hospital.

In an interview with this reporter, Gonzales said "I do not think there was an overuse of force. Maybe the police, because the case involves a celebrity, a popular personality, they want to solve the case immediately, showing enthusiasm, over enthusiasm maybe, but nothing that maybe considered excess use of force."

The Justice Secretary comes into the defense of the police force assigned in investigating the circumstances of the death of the wife of Failon, Trinidad Etong, amidst growing support for Failon, especially from personalities in the opposition.

The latest criticism against the QC police comes from United Opposition leader and Makati mayor Jejomar Binay who said--it seems like it's Martial Law all over again. "During martial law, the police would use obstruction of justice to justify the arrest of oppositionists and activists. It seems that the practice continues and is being invoked against ordinary citizens," said Binay.

But the justice secretary pointed out that the police should not be faulted for the passionate way of investigating the case. Under Republic Act 157, Gonzales said, the police is obligated to conduct a thorough investigation when a suspected crime scene is cleaned and tampered with.

It was Failon who got it coming, says Gonzales.

When the crime scene was cleaned, the automatic response is to inquire why and it doesn't stop there according to the justice secretary. "I find it unusual that they cleaned it. You don't have to be an expert to see that it was unusual and anyone who is saying that this is usual is trying to condition minds," Gonzales explained.

The justice secretary is confident that even if the suspected crime scene was cleaned, the forensic experts would still be able to reconstruct what really happened inside the residence of broadcaster Failon, specifically, inside the bathroom at the second floor, where Etong's body soaking in blood was found last Wednesday, April 15.

This is the reason according to Gonzales why the National Bureau of Investigation was directed to conduct a parallel investigation. "They have the technical capability and they can help the police in determining what really happened. Of course, everyone is interested to know what really happened, suicide, or not, the people has to know, this is not a private matter especially given the circumstances surrounding this case," Gonzales added.

But independent senator Francis Pangilinan who was among the first to cry foul on the way the relatives of Failon were handled by the Quezon City police insisted that the removal of police officers in the case was not enough. The one who ordered the arrest and the one who supervised should also be removed from the case according to Pangilinan.

Pangilinan is referring to Police Superintendent Frank Moises Mabanag who heads the QC-CIDU, investigating the claim of suicide and a possible case of parricide.

Mabanag and his team, along with QC SOCO team are expected to release by Monday the result of the forensic test and the reconstruction of the crime scene. Mabanag remains on top of the case.(end)


April 23, 2009
Posted 2:23 PM

Authorities are now offering half a million pesos to anyone who could pinpoint the location of Italian hostage Eugenio Vagni. The reward money was decided upon during an emergency meeting of the Sulu Crisis Committee presided this morning by Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno, following reports of fresh encounter between military troops and the Abu Sayyaf Group.

PNP Chief Director General Jesus Versoza who joined Puno in the emergency meeting in Sulu said they received information that Vagni may have been left behind and abandoned by the ASG after yesterday's encounter with the military.

Versoza also said that there is a possibility that Vagni is now under the custody of another group also allied with the ASG.

This morning's emergency meeting also comes after the International Red Cross (ICRC) said that the organization is "extremely worried" about the health of Vagni who has been held hostage for over three months now.

"I want to emphasize that we remain extremely worried about the fate of our colleague Eugenio Vagni who has been held for 98 days now," said Pierre Kraehenbuehl, operations director of ICRC.

"We have serious concern about his worsening health situation," he said, adding that he was making a "pressing call for the immediate and unconditional release" of the 62-year-old Italian.

Vagni according to military intelligence reports is experiencing extreme pain and could no longer walk. Swiss national Andreas Notter who has already flown back to his country also said upon his freedom that Vagni needed to be rescued and released at once because he needed surgery for a hernia.

Notter walked free last Saturday, while Filipina hostage Mary Jean Lacaba was released last April 2. (end)


April 21, 2009
Posted 1:06 PM

It's definitely suicide, Trinidad Etong's death that is, according to an independent forensic expert Dr. Raquel Fortun.

In a press conference this morning at Arlington Memorial Chapel, Fortun told reporters that the depth and the range of fire is consistent with "suicide, self-inflicted and intentional injury." Fortun was asked by the family of Ted Failon to conduct an independent forensic study on the cause of death of his wife Trinidad.

"Everything is consistent with suicide, based on the forensic test I did and the statement of the relatives, I can say she did kill herself," Fortun said explaining that in examining Etong's gun shot wound, she did took a lot of pictures from all angles, examined the depth, the range of fire, the skull, every angle so as not to miss anything. "Clearly, the trajectory is right to left," Fortun added.

Etong was initially reported as left-handed but Fortun that it's still possible that she used her right hand in firing the gun, a case of ambidextrous person.

The QC-PD was not able to issue the result of their forensic test they did on Etong and the reconstruction of the suspected crime scene yesterday because of an intervention from NAPOLCOM's decision to transfer the pieces of evidence they gathered to the National Bureau of Investigation as lead agency.

The QC-PD was directed to forward to the NBI all raw evidence, the entire file case including their recommendations and findings to the NBI. But Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno said, the NBI is not compelled to adhere to the findings and recommendations of the QC-PD.

The QC-PD, before the function of lead investigating agency on the Etong-case was transferred to the NBI was looking into two possible cause of death of Failon's wife: suicide and parricide. (end)


April 19, 2009
Posted 5:45 PM

The "sorry note" could really be the "suicide note" of Trinidad Etong according to a veteran investigator, but someone who is not directly involved in the investigation on the wife of popular broadcaster Ted Failon, Teodoro Etong in real life, really did commit suicide or not.

The Quezon City Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit (CIDU) refers to the note handed to them by Failon as a mere "sorry note". Superintendent Frank Moises Mabanag who leads the investigation says the note lacks the basic content of the typical suicide letter. "The letter does not state the intention to kill. It does not say, the writer wanted to take her life. It was a short note that's all about apology, Nag-so-sorry lang ang letter" Mabanag noted.

But Atty. Edmond Arugay, a seasoned and veteran investigator and officer of the National Bureau of Investigation, now assigned as Deputy for the Presidential Task Force on Anti-Smuggling (PASG) said, while Mabanag's analysis of the note reportedly written by Etong is correct, it could also be interpreted and validated as the actual suicide note itself through a process he refers to as Statement Analysis.


First--how do investigators determine authenticity of a suicide note?

Second--is there such a thing as a template for a suicide note?

What do investigators look into in proving reported suicide cases?

Arugay explains that while most suicide notes are prepared, well written and usually dramatic in content, there are also cases of suicide notes, done in haste, depending on the personality of the individual.

"It is important to check the specimen of the note. Was it really done in the handwriting of the victim? It is not enough that other individuals affirm it is indeed the handwriting of the victim. There are scientific method on how to validate this, one of the first things that should be done in investigating or profiling a suicide case," Arugay said.


The next step according to Arugay is to interview close friends of Etong since this will provide pieces of information on the behavior of the individual. This is part of an investigative approach called psychological autopsy.

"It is necessary to do a complete background check of the deceased to establish her state of mind prior to her death. This is what we call Psychological Autopsy. May problema ba? Depressed ba? May suicidal tendency ba?Interviewing everyone close to the victim would help investigators see the over-all picture and pattern of behavior," Arugay explained.

Is there a direct relation between suicide and personality? Is it possible that one person or individual who does not display any suicidal tendencies at all still ended taking his/her own life because he/she was pushed to the wall?

The answer according to Arugay is a yes---it is possible.

In an interview aired over ABS-CBN, close friends of Etong described her as a jolly person. But at the same time, at least two of them, admitted on camera that Etong told them, rather casually about her intention to kill herself. Etong according to her friends even mentioned a time frame, "after the graduation of her youngest child Kharisma."


The next step explains Arugay is to determine the intention and motivation. "There can never be a suicide without motive," Arugay said stressing that in most cases of suicide, the intention and the motivation is usually rooted to a major emotional and psychological depression.

Arugay said that it is inevitable for investigators to dig deep into the reason of that major depression. The cooperation of all parties involved, family members, everyone is essential in determining the source of this major depression.

"The source of this major depression maybe associated with the individual loosing face, low self-esteem, lack of trust, or feelings of abandonment, it could be anything, but whatever it is, the emotional factor here is very heavy. No one just commits suicide, the reason from the point of view and interpretation of the individual is usually something that is grave, a point of no return," said Arugay.

The NBI in its parallel investigation on the Etong case is first focusing its attention on the suicide angle because this was the information and claim made by broadcaster Failon, a correct move according to Arugay. However he also noted that the police who was first on the scene and the first to appreciate the circumstances on Etong's case cannot also be faulted for suspecting something else--especially so when the suspected crime scene, the bathroom, was cleaned.

As far as criminal investigation is concerned, Arugay explained that even if the crime scene was not cleaned --there would still be a presumption of homicide, "unless pieces of evidence show otherwise", pointing that this is the essence of criminal investigation.


In the final analysis, according to Arugay, despite the controversy attracted by the Etong case, the authorities will always go for what the result of the investigation shows, suicide or foul play.

When prominent persons are involved in a possible criminal case, the more the process of investigation will be tighter and more thorough because every development and every move is entrusted into the public for scrutiny according to Arugay who says, "while this is a very tragic and very private pain of the Etongs, it has not become a very public one, and the authorities knew, that the public is watching very carefully." (end)

Sulat ni Trina, sulat ni Lota...

Ang naka-scan na papel sa itaas ay ang sulat na tinutukoy na gawa ni Trina Etong. Ang nasa ibaba naman nito ay ang sulat kamay ni Carlota, ang isa sa kasambahay ng mga Etong, sa kanyang sinumpaang salaysay. Ayon sa Quezon City Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit, may pagkakahawig ang "strokes" ng dalawang magkahiwalay na panulat. Ano sa tingin ninyo? Ang totoo--ang palagay ay hindi mainam dito, kundi isang ekspertong pagsusuri.


Photos courtesy of Sonny Y. Abing III
OIC, Prov'l Information Officer, Province of Sulu


April 18, 2009
Posted 1:02 PM

Wearing a gold shirt, black jacket, khaki pants and a very wide smile, Swiss national Andreas Notter faced the media---hours after he was found by troops of the Sulu Civilian Auxiliary Forces of Sulu Governor Andulsakur Tan.

Very briefly, Notter made a statement, thanking everyone who made sacrifices for them.

In full, this was Notter's statement just a few minutes ago:

"Assalamulaikum! I am very glad to be here with you. I am still a bit confused as to how it happened but I am very happy to be alive and safe. My concern now is for the freedom of my companion, Mr. Eugenio Vagni. I would like to thank you all. I know that a lot of you did a lot of sacrifices, the authority most specially. Thank you very much. Magsukol!"

The first line---Assalamulaikum is a Muslim Greeting of Peace. The last word "Magsukol" is a Tausug word that means--Thank You.

With more than three months as a hostage, Notter, obvioysly learned a number of words associated with his captors, the Abu Sayyaf Group. Just like Mary Jean Lacaba, Notter would be subjected to a thorough psychological and stress debriefing.

Notter was formally turned over to representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) by Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro and governor Tan.

Puno said---Notter was a bit uncertain that he's really free and appeared to be finally convinced when he saw his colleagues in the ICRC.

Puno credited the efforts of all forces on the ground for the freedom of Notter. "This is a result of a very intense operation, " he said explaining that the ASG was located very near government forces, "500-meters" accoding to Puno.

The kidnappers were forced to move to a different place, running towards a different location when they failed to pass through one cordon of the military, explained Puno and it's at that point of running that Notter was left behind.

"The kidnappers left behind Notter, they were not able to drag him anymore," Puno said.

For his part Teodoro credits the full cooperation and coordination of forces on the ground as the key pressure that eventually lead to the release of Notter. He is praying that the same would happen to Italian national Eugenipo Vagni who is still in the hands of the ASG." Sana ganun na rin ang mangyari sa kanya, makalaya,"

Governor Tan is visibly happy when he faced the media and in statement, he credited everyone under him as Chairman of the Sulu Crisis Committee for the success of effecting the release of Notter. He also thanked his vice governor Lady Ann Sahidullah, a statement that may well end speculations that all is not well between him and the lady vice governor.

Tan also vows to continue pursuing efforts and pressure in freeing Vagni. "Only one is left out there and we will continue to put more pressure," Tan said.

Puno also credited the Civilian Emergency Forces of Tan by saying, their presence helped put more pressure on the kidnappers.

Tan's civilian armed volunteers are now numbering to more than a thousand. In their earlier demand to the government, the ASG demanded that Tan's forces be pulled out along with troops of the Philippine Marines in key areas of Sulu, a demand that was not granted by the government. "Never", says Tan in many ocassion.

Notter's case is the first high profile kidnapping case in Sulu that resulted in this manner---freedom through military and police pressure and not through any other condition or consideration, ransom payment to be exact.

From Jolo, Notter will be brought to Zamboanga City by a military chopper. (end)

BREAKING NEWS: ANDREAS NOTTER, FOUND ALONE IN INDANAN SULU...(was he released or did he escape?)

April 18, 2009
Posted 8:30 AM

Swiss national Andreas Notter is now out of danger, out of the hands of the Abu Sayyaf Group.

It was Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro who reported to media that Notter is now safe and in physical custody of Sulu Governor Abdulsakur Tan. "Nandun na siya sa bahay ni Governor Tan," he said.

But the circumstances on Notter's freedom from the ASG is not yet clear.

Teodoro said that Tan called him early this morning to inform him that Notter is now inside his residence in Jolo town proper.

Initial reports from Sulu indicated that Notter was found alone in the vicinity of Poblacion in the town of Indanan at around 7 in the morning.

Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross are also in now Sulu to see the condition of Notter. He is expected to be brought immediately to Zamboanga City.

Tan has yet to give a statement to media about Notter's release.

Senator Richard Gordon said he received reports last night of there may have been an encounter between the military and the ASG. "Ang natanggap naming ulat kagabi, magulo, nagkakagulo, at kaya nga worried kami. Kung may makakatakas, si Notter na yun kasi siya ang malakas kaysa kay Eugenio," Gordon explained.

Notter together with Italian national Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba were kidnapped last January 15 within the vicinity of the Sulu Provincial Capitol in Patikul.

Lacaba was released ahead of the two, no ransom, according to various government officials, including Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno and Gordon. (end)


April 17, 2009
Posted 3:45 PM

Vice President Noli De Castro calls on the Philippine National Police to act with utmost professionalism in the handling of the Ted Failon case.

"As in every other case, this should be handled with due process and highest act of professionalism on the part of our law enforcers," De Castro said.

Failon and members of his household are facing charges of obstruction of justice and tampering of evidence by the Quezon City Police for cleaning the crime scene inside their Tierra Pura residence last April 15.

Failon's wife, Trinidad Etong, 45 years old was rushed to the New Era General Hospital with gun shot wound on her head, a case of attempted suicide, Failon insisted, but police investigators are looking at another angle, although the angle of suicide is not yet overruled.

Etong died in the hospital after 48 hours inside the hospital's ICU.

Failon was issued a subpoena by the Quezon City Prosecutor's Office on Friday in connection with the obstruction of justice complaint filed by the Quezon City police.The subpoena was issued following Failon's failure to appear at the inquest proceedings into the death of his wife Trinidad.

The prosecutor's office said Failon should defend himself on allegations he told members of his household to keep silent. (end)

NEWS UPDATE: Ted appeals to colleagues in the media:" Kahit sino sa atin puwedeng mangyari ito, kailangan ko ng pang-unawa."

April 17, 2009
Posted 3:01

Visibly shaken emotionally and physically, broadcaster Ted Failon dropped by Camp Karingal this afternoon to visit the members of his household still detained by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit of the Quezon City Police.

Failon for the first time expressed his anger as to the manner his in-laws and household members were handled and harassed by law enforcers last night when they were forcibly arrested inside the New Era General Hospital. Failon believes, the QC Police has an ax to grind against him. "Kung ako ang gusto ninyong tirahin, wag ninyo nang idamay ang pamilya ko," Ted said.
On Thursday night, the QCPD’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit filed charges of violation of Presidential Decree1829 or obstruction of justice against Failon and five others.

The other respondents – house helpers Carlota Morbos and Frida Bolleser, driver Glen Polan, helper Pacifico Apacible and Pamela Arteche – were subjected to inquest proceedings before Pamittan on Thursday.

Police filed the charges because the respondents failed to report the shooting of Failon’s wife Trinidad on Wednesday and for cleaning up bloodstains in the bathroom where she was found in the Failon residence and in the vehicle used to rush her to a hospital.

Speaking briefly before reporters in Camp Karingal, Failon said, he needs understanding at this time and stressed that his family especially his children are in grieving for the death of his wife Trina. "Nagkataon lang na ako ang nasa sitwayong ganito ngayon, kahit kanino sa atin puwedeng mangyari ito, " Failon told colleagues in the media covering the QC-PD beat.

Failon left Camp Karingal at once, and tole reporters that he is going somewhere to take care of his two daughters who are experiencing psychological trauma. He made special mention to his 12-year old whom he said, only learned about what happened to her mother only this morning.(end)


April 16, 2009
Posted 9:45 PM

Doctors at the New Era General Hospital tried to revive her but there was no more left to do---the monitoring machine at the ICU indicated a flat line.

At 8:50 in the evening, Trinidad Arteche Etong, the wife of broadcaster Ted Failon, passed away.

The 45-year-old Etong sustained a gunshot wound in the head---a suicide according to Failon but police investigators are not taking this claim pointblank because of several circumstances related to the incident---among them, the cleaning of the crime scene, where Failon and members of their household said they found Trinidad's body--soaked in blood, a gun in her right hand.

Trinidad was brought to the NEU in Quezon City at about 11 a.m., Wednesday. Dr. Adonis Gascon, a neurosurgeon who was Trinidad's attending physician pronounced her dead at 8:50 in the evening. “The immediate cause of death is penetrating cranial missile injury and then disseminated intra-vascular coagulation, and subsequent multi-organ failure," Gascon told reporters.

Gascon also explained that based on previous cases patients who suffered gun shot wound only have “less than five percent” chance for survival.

Failon and Etong's relatives were seen crying while two doctors and four nurses were trying to revive Trinidad whose blood pressure had continued dropping minutes before she died.

Peter Musngi, a DZMM Executive described the scene inside the ICU, "Hindi tumitigil ang pag-iyak ni Ted. Nandito si Ted at ang anak niyang si Kaye." Musngi was among the first DZMM executives who rushed to provide moral support for Failon. (end)


April 16, 2009
Posted 11:20 AM

The result of the paraffin test is negative, the police did not find any gunpowder residue on the hands of broadcaster Ted Faion, Teodoro Etong in real life.

But the authorities were quick to add that this does not mean that Failon is already off the hook. In a press conference this morning at Camp Karingal in Quezon City, PNP NCRPO Head Director Roberto Rosales said, "the paraffin test is not conclusive" explaining that given the time lapse when the incident of alleged suicide took place and the actual test for gunpowder burns were administered on Failon, "there's a possibility that he may have washed his hands."

Rosales also stressed that the crime scene will be thoroughly investigated. "The crime scene is under total scrutiny. Even if they cleaned the crime scene, there's science involved here, we will be able to determine what really happened," Rosales explained.

The bathroom of Failon's eldest daughter Kaye is referred to by police investigators as "crime scene" and that what happened is not an ordinary thing.

Failon insisted his wife committed suicide. In an interview with DZMM, Kaye also said she is inclined to believe her father's version that her mother committed suicide.

"There's a crime that took place and it is our duty to find out what happened and check the facts based on the statements Ted Failon gave us, we will do this slowly, but surely, the public and you in media would be the judge," Rosales added.

The case will be treated like any other case, the PNP maintains and assured the public that if and when Failon would be released or arrested, it will only be because of "valid reasons."

Failon was allowed to visit his wife at the New Era General Hospital. Trinidad Arteche-Etong, who has a gunshot wound to her temple, remains at the Intensive Care Unit of the said hospital.

Police described Failon's status as "under protective custody." (end) 


April 18, 2009
Posted 6:15 PM

The International Committee of the Red Cross based in Geneva, Switzerland appealed to the Abu Sayyaf Group who are still believed to be holding an Italian aid worker Eugenio Vagni to release him unharmed. Swiss aid worker Andreas Notter, who was held hostage for more than three months was found alone, left behind by the ASG, after escaping pursuing government troops.

Vagni, was who is suffering from severe hernia, was left behind.

In an official statement made by the ICRC's Alain Aeschlimann, head of operations for South-East Asis and the Pacific said, "We are, of course, very relieved that Andreas will soon be back in the arms of his loved ones."

In his statement, Aeschlimann added, "But we remain very concerned about Eugenio’s safety and we call on the abductors to let him go safely, immediately and unconditionally."

Senator Richard Gordon who is also the Chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) also appeals to the ASG to release Vagni unconditionally.

In a press conference in Manila, Gordon said, "Isauli na ninyo si Eugenio. Ibalik na ninyo siya. Sabihin ninyo na kung ano ang gusto ninyong sabihin sa gobyerno, tutal wala naman kayong hinihinging ransom."

Gordon who patiently talked and appealed to the ASG to release the hostages was also able to speak with Notter on the phone. Gordon said, Notter is fine and just needs a lot of rest.

"He should not be pressure into answering questions right now. He needs to rest. He is very tired," Gordon said, sharing his conversation on the phone with Notter.

Gordon said he has plans of seeing Notter but only when Notter is ready.

One of the most important messages from Notter according to Gordon is that he is certain he was released, without any ransom or any financial consideration.

Notter and Vagni, along with Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba were kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf group on January 15 as they left a prison on Jolo. Lacaba was released on April 2, also without ransom according to the Philippine government. (end)

NEWS UPDATE: Notter looks haggard, tired but visibly relieved of his freedom...

April 18, 2009
Posted 12:30 PM

First report was---Swiss national Andreas Notter was found alone by police forces in Indanan at a choke point as past 6 in the morning.

Now--a police provincial officer said, Notter was rescued after police forces saw the Abu Sayyaf Group trying to get through a police cordon.

Notter has already undergone psychological debriefing but this is just preliminary, a more thorough psychological debriefing will be conducted by the International Committee of the Red Cross once Notter is flown out of Sulu.

Italian national Eugenio Vagni remains in the hands of the ASG. Vagni is in a critical health condition, suffering from severe hernia and needing medical treatment at once.

Last Friday, Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno said that they are expecting a breakthrough in the release of one of the two remaining hostages and hinted, if anyone would be freed, it would be Vagni.

Puno's statement was based on the mission of 5 Ulamas or Muslim religious leaders tasked to directly negotiate with the ASG.

Rescued or lucky to have escaped finally---it was obvious in Notter's very relieved to be a free man again.

He has yet to issue a statement to the media.

When Lacaba was released some weeks back, the ICRC did not allow any press conference of press interview with Lacaba.(end)

Statement from National Press Club President Benny Antiporda on Ted Failon's case:

This reporter sought the reaction of the National Press Club President Benny Antiporda on the case of Ted Failon.

Via e-mail, this is what Antiporda has to say about the three-day old human drama and tragedy faced by a colleague in the media:

"Dapat maging mahinahon tayong lahat on this issue.

In the first place namatayan sina Ted Failon and I can feel their hearts bleeding.

On the other hand I can also feel the sense of responsibility of the police but they don't need to be rough just to solve this case. We in the media should also be vigilant that Failon and his family will not be harassed because of being a hard hitting journalist at the same I also call on our brothers and sisters in the media to respect the family of Ted Failon and stop speculating on what really happened, it will only add insult to injury." (end)


April 17, 2009
Posted 2:30 PM

Philippine National Police-National Capital Region Director Roberto "Boysi" Rosales says the team of forensic investigators have enough resources and capability to reconstruct what really happened to Trinidad Etong, 45 years old, wife of popular broadcaster Ted Failon.

"We are doing the investigation thoroughly, slowly, but surely, because we want to know what really happened. Whether this is a case of suicide or parricide, our forensic team is doing what is referred to as reconstruction of the crime scene," Rosales told reporters in a press conference in Camp Crame this morning.

This is the first time that the possibility of parricide is mentioned by the police in the case of Failon's wife who was rushed to the New Era General Hospital at around 10:50 in the morning reportedly for attempting to commit suicide.

Failon's wife died at the ICU last night, her remains now lies at the Arlington Memorial in Quezon City.

It would have been easier to solve the case, say with certainty if it's suicide or something else if the crime scene was not cleaned and corrupted according to Rosales. "We also have to determine if the cleaning is deliberate or not. That is very important although the claim of the household helpers of Failon is that they did the cleaning on their own," Rosales added.

The Chief of the PNP-NCRPO too said that aside from determining through scientific and forensic examination, they are also hoping, praying even that one of the members of Failon's household would crack and say something. "May magsasalita at magsasalita diyan, maaaring dahil sa di na kayanin ng kanilang kunsiyensiya. We are praying someone will crack. Malakas naman akong manalangin," Rosales stressed.

In a separate interview, Police Superintendent Franklin Moises Mabanag, Head of the Quezon City Criminal and Detection Group said the SOCO team was able to find the information they needed in reconstructing the incident. He reveals that this has something to do with the posture and position of the gun and measurement of the bullet's trajectory.

Mabanag hinted three angles that investigators are pursuing. The three angles: money, third person and something that would make someone really mad. "There's a motive in any crime. Tha hardest to prove is motivation, " he said.

Mabanag said he is not daunted by the negative commentaries against him by some media, and insisted that what he is doing is simply just his job as law enforcer.

Under questioning of broadcaster Mike Enriquez over DZBB, Mabanag's voice almost cracked when he said that he is really determined to get to the bottom of this case, "Personally, hindi ko tatanggapin na mas matalino ang kriminal kaysa sa amin. Please respect our existence as investigators. Trabaho lang ito, " Mabanag stressed. (end)


Below is a statement coming from the office of Senator Francis Pangilinan. Pangilinan and Ted Failon were former co-hosts for the defunct TV show Hoy Gising over ABS-CBN:
Independent senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan assailed the PNP’s seemingly reckless manner in handling the case of the alleged suicide of news anchor Ted Failon’s wife Trinidad Etong.

“Even now, as the family is grieving, the police seemingly are bullying into their custody family members and households,” said Pangilinan. “Do they intend to coerce answers from these people? Is this how our law enforcers deal with cases? This is condemnable!”

The police are reported to have taken ‘forcibly’ Trinidad’s brother Maximo and sister Pamela into custody and without warrants of arrests.

“The arrests made do not fall under warrantless arrests enumerated in Section 5, Rule 113 of the revised rules of criminal procedure. The alleged crime committed by the relatives is not considered as continuing crimes to allow warrantless arrests. The arrests made are without basis and are patently illegal,” added Pangilinan.

The police have also been reported to have tried to perform a paraffin test on Trinidad even as family members were emotionally and mentally strained from the whole incident.

“Bakit hinahayaan ng PNP na maging ganito ang asal ng mga pulis sa Quezon City? Wala bang konsiderasyon sa nararamdaman ng pamilya ang mga law enforcers natin? Natural masama loob ng mga kamag-anakan, magiging hysterical talaga yang mga yan!”

Pangilinan was also furious on the manner in which the arrests were conducted. “Were they read their Miranda Rights? Bakit binabatukan at hinihila ang mga kapamilya? These police officers are supposed to be protectors of civil rights. Their treatment of this case is devoid of humane and just conducts. Does the QCPD have an ax to grind against Ted Failon? Bwelta ba ito sa pagpapalabas ng ABS-CBN sa video ng mga pulis na lumalabag sa human rights ng mga suspect na ni-rub-out sa NIA Road, Quezon City? ” (end)


April 16, 2009
Posted 8:45 PM

Police investigators maintain they still have no reason to believe that what happened to Trinidad Etong, Ted Failon's wife was a case of suicide.

Investigators however have yet to determine what exactly happened through forensic analysis of the crime scene, cleaned by members of Failon's household, one factor why investigators say, it's not easy to simply rule the incident as suicide.

But for now---Failon, Teodoro Etong in real life, and five others were charged with obstruction of justice for supposedly failing to immediately report the shooting incident involving his wife and for cleaning the crime scene. Failon's co-accused are his sister-in-law Pamela Arteche and house helpers Pacifico Apacible, Carlota Morbos, Wilfreda Bolliser, and Glen Palan, according to Superintendent Franklin Moises Mabanag, chief of the Quezon City Police District Criminal Investigation Unit.

Police said Failon could have obstructed justice for failing to report the shooting incident to police.

Medical doctors at the New Era General Hospital – where Trinidad was rushed – were the ones who alerted police about the incident.

The housemaids and the driver said they cleaned up Failon’s vehicle and bathroom on their own volition and for fear that Failon’s young daughter might see blood in the house.

Lawyer Alfred Molo, legal counsel of all the accused except for Failon said they would post bail as soon as the court opens Friday.

Investigators also said that the position of the bullet mark found in Failon’s Quezon City residence casts doubt on claims that the broadcaster’s wife shot herself or tried to commit suicide.

The bullet mark – discovered at the back of the toilet bowl in the bathroom where Failon’s wife was found – indicated that the bullet’s trajectory was downward, according Mabanag.

In most suicide cases, those who shoot themselves in the head would hold the gun in such way the bullet slug would travel upward, not downward, Mabanag explained.

In the case of Failon’s wife, Trinidad Etong, the bullet entered through her left temple, exited through her right temple, and ricocheted to the toilet bowl, indicating a downward path of the bullet.

The trajectory would seem to jibe with an earlier finding by investigators that the wound on Trinidad’s head showed a smudging that suggested that the shooting did not involve a close contact of the gun muzzle on the temple.

The bullet mark was found inside the bathroom at the second floor of the Etong residence only on the second day of investigation, when investigators trooped back to the house to gather more evidence.

Failon's wife, Trinidad Etong, expired at the hospital at 8:50 p.m. Thursday, a day after she was shot in the head. (end)

REFLECTIONS: TRINA'S BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN DEEP SADNESS, SILENCE...(If they suspect any foul play, why is no one talking about it?)

April 16, 2009
Posted 2:35 PM

Coverage of crimes, human tragedy and controversial cases are part and parcel of my career resume as a journalist.

Name it---all the most controversial and most intriguing cases of crimes and human tragedy in the last two decades, I have covered.

To name some: the Twin murder case of Aileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez, the two UP-Los Banos students found dead. From day one, to court hearings, daily, up to the conviction of former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez, I was there. 

The Rolito Go case.

The Claudio Teehankee case.

The case against Hubert Webb et. al.

The execution of Leo Echagaray on death row.

The Kuratong Baleleng case...etcetera...etcetera...

The reason why I mentioned these cases here is to lead to a very interesting observation on the behavior and demeanor of the relatives of Ted Failon's wife, Trinidad Etong, who as of this writing is still inside the Intensive Care Unit of the New Era General Hospital.

Having exposed countless times to these kinds of stories, I can say that there are patterns of human behavior, profiles, that are naturally there when something foul happened. To be specific---when relatives suspect a crime has been committed when another scenario is being presented to them.

I was there from 10 in the evening of April 15 up to past 3 this morning. I was in and out of the ICU--five times, and I was there seated beside Trina's brothers and sisters---almost all 12 of them.

Not one of them wanted to say anything. Deep silence, deafening silence, most are in tears, but that kind of cry that is restrained, a more disturbing pain registered on their faces. But not one of them wanted to talk. In one instance, I held the hand of one lady beside me whom I did not bother to ask the name. She was crying, silently, like all the rest.

In my years of covering stories like this, human tragedy unfolding to the public, involving a very public and prominent personality like broadcaster Ted Failon who was also a former congressman, there was something that struck me while I was there in their midst.

They recognized me, some of them, after all Ted and I used to be under one roof, one network, ABS-CBN.

This early, there are various speculations going around on what could have really happened to Trina especially after police investigators revealed that the place where Trina's body was found, soaked in her own blood, with a gun in her right hand, was cleaned by members of Failon's household. They did it on their own, this is what they told the police.

That act alone ---whether deliberate or not--in itself and any journalist would surely take note of that---at hindsight, even Ted too---is open to a lot of questions and speculations.

Here's my question:if any of the relatives of Failon think, something, other that the reported attempted suicide happened to their sister Trina, the normal reaction would be to show anger, express it, seek help, alert someone of their suspicion, the police, or the media for example on their fears and suspicions,--and yet---none, not one of Trina's siblings expressed anything close to anger or suspicion that something really foul and terrible happened to their Ate Trina, their own flesh and blood.

In my experience in covering stories of foul play, when a crime is committed or when someone suspects that a crime is committed, the siblings of the victim, normally gives indicators, expressed most of the times, of their own suspicion as to what happened. The cry for justice ---a natural human emotion. The seeking of help of others who may be able to help them, the next logical and practical step.

But none did.

Not to me---or to any other journalist who was able to come near them, alone and in their unguarded and most vulnerable moments.

Inside the ICU--the scene was truly heartbreaking. If I am a relative of someone in that condition, fighting for dear life, with a gun shot in the head, with a 50-50 chance of survival, brain dead according to the attending physician who I spoke with yesterday, I would have raised my voice and cry out loud for justice.

It would not hurt to express it--air it--share it.

Any member of the media would be the right channel for airing any suspicion is they have one at all.

At least one of them--all 12 of them, plus other relatives present that night up to the wee hours of the morning that I was there at NEU would have said something already, something against Ted Failon is this is what they feel in their hearts.

But none---silence.Dead silence that's what I got.


For now---I would take it at face value. They are worried, of sadness over them.

I see their silence as a statement that at this point they have nothing to suspect that something foul happened to their sister. For someone to attempt suicide is a very tragic and devastating thing to say the least. But to be in that situation under a different circumstance, say, a foul-play is something else. Who would not cry out for justice?

If indeed foul play was the real story here---certainly, at least one would talk for the burden of not seeking justice for a beloved one would just be unbearable to contain forever sealed and locked in one's heart.

If indeed foul play took place---as they say---the truth will always come out.

For now---as a journalist, I am respecting the silence of sadness and shock I saw in Trina's siblings. (end)

NEWS UPDATE: There's no crime here, it's a family tragedy"--Ted's daughter Kaye insisted

April 16, 2009
Posted 11:45 AM


April 15, 2009
Posted 7:45 PM

He came as soon as he heard what happened to the wife of his long time friend and colleague Ted Failon.

Vice President Noli De Castro just arrived yesterday afternoon from a trip abroad when he learned about the initial reports about what happened to Failon's wife Trina.

De Castro and Failon reside inside the same subdivision, Tierra Pura in Quezon City.

In an interview with this reporter over the phone, De Castro shared that Failon was very, very sad and cried uncontrollably on his shoulder upon seeing him.

"Malungkot itong nangyari," De Castro said.

The vice president clears that he came not as a public official but a long time friend of Failon. In the industry, De Castro is the acknowledged mentor of Failon, especially when the latter started his career as a broadcaster over DZMM of giant broadcasting network ABS-CBN.

Failon told him everything, De Castro said, including the problem, between husband and wife. In his statement on television, Failon hinted that the problem had something to do with financial matters.

"Ayokong magsalita pero nandito naman na ang mga imbestigador, nagsisimula na ang imbestigasyon," the vice president said, "hindi iyon tulad ng mga iniisip ng iba," he added.

Failon said his wife committed suicide.

Failon also said his household helps, did the cleaning of the bathroom and the Pajero van. He explained further that it was not intentional to hide anything or distort evidence, but an act, voluntarily done by the household helpers mainly to protect his 12-year old daughter---who still doesn't know what happened to her mother.

The police is not taking that statement pointblank pointing to "inconsistencies in the statement of Failon and members of their household." (end)


April 16, 2009
Posted 2:45 AM

Broadcaster Ted Failon was placed under arrest by the Quezon City Police for alleged obstruction of justice and tampering of evidence.

But initially---police from the QC Central Investigation and Detection Unit said, Failon and the other members of his household, especially those who cleaned the crime scene would be simply invited for further questioning at Camp Karingal. CDU also said, the paraffin test would have to be administered in Camp Karingal and not inside the broadcaster's residence as requested by Failon himself.

Aside from the crime scene, the bathroom of the couple's daughter, the pajero vehicle of Failon, the gun used in the incident, was also cleaned according to Senior Superintendent Franklin Mabanag.

Failon maintains his wife Trinidad Etong committed suicide. In his official statement aired over his home TV network ABS-CBN, Failon said he doesn't have to defend himself. "Talk to my in-laws. Hindi na ako mag-de-depensa sa mga ganyan."

Failon was visibly in pain, emotionally. His daughter Kaye accompanied him at Camp Karingal.

Failon's wife is still at the Intensive Care Unit of the New Era General Hospital. A medical bulletin issued by the hospital states that Failon's wife, Trinidad is still in a very "unstable condition". (end)


April 15, 2009
Posted 8:30 PM

If it was a case of suicide, why clean the crime scene?

This baffles police investigators who as of this time has not yet ruled the gunshot on the temporal area of Ted Failon's wife as a suicide case.

"Not yet, " says Senior Superintendent Franklin Moises Mabanag of the Quezon City Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit (CDU).

Mabanag noted that the letter, Trinidad Etong  allegedly wrote a night before she was found inside her daughter's bathroom, with gun in her right hand, blood all over the place was given to them by Failon, Teodoro Etong in real life, 5 hours after the incident.

Mabanag also said that the fact the bathroom, the crime scene and the vehicle used in rushing Failon's wife to the New Era General Hospital were cleaned places doubt on the suicide angle.

The letter allegedly written by Failon's wife reads this way, short, apologetic:


I'm so sorry. Gustung-gusto ko ang magsabi sa ito ng totoo pero hindi ko po alam kung paano uumpisahan. Sobrang takut na takot ako. Umalis muna ako, kasi hindi ko kaya at nahihiya akong humarap sa iyo. Sana po mapatawad mo ako, papa.Sorry, sorry papa.


But while investigators are not yet taking the incident as a suicide case, it remains one of the angles they are looking into explains Mabanag adding that the other angle is foul play.

The crime scene will be subjected to ultra-violet examination to be able to determine the trajectory of the gunshot." There are some inconsistencies in the statement made by Failon and the members of his household as to the position of the victim and the position of the gun," Mabanag explained.

Failon and 5 other members of the household will be thoroughly investigated according to Mabanag stressing that at this point, "all six are considered suspects."

Failon remains inside his residence in Tierra Pura. Friends and colleagues from ABS-CBN rushed to Failon's side, one of them, a long time and very close friend, Vice President Noli De Castro. (end)


April 15, 2009
Posted 6:29 PM

The wife of broadcaster and former Congressman Ted Failon is in critical condition, 50/50 and now is in a  medical state referred to as “brain dead” after sustaining gun shot wound in the temporal area.

“It appears to be a clear shot, through and through ang tama, entry point is at the left side of the temporal area and the exit area of the bullet wound

But what exactly happened? –no information was given to the resident doctors and nurses of the New Era General Hospital in Quezon City where the by Failon who was the one who brought the patient to the Emergency Room at around 10:50 in the morning.

Upon arrival and begging doctors and nurses to attend to the patient immediately, Failon openly asked everyone in the NEU-ER to not allow any media and any police to enter the hospital premises. “No Media, No police, please, nakikiusap ako, walang pulis, walang media,” Failon begged according to a female resident physician assigned at the NEU-ER.

While the patient was immediately attended to by the NEU-ER staff, they also asked what are considered SOP questions to anyone who brings patient for treatment to the hospital but Failon refused to answer any of their questions, especially the most basic and the most obvious question begging to be answered: What happened? How did the patient get the gunshot wound?

Failon all throughout remained silent, in tears and visibly, very, very worried. The only information that Failon gave the hospital, verbally and through the official hospital form for patients attended to was the name of the patient, Trinidad Etong, and her age, 45 years old. Etong is the real name of Failon. In between tears, he managed to tell the hospital staff that the patient is his wife.

“Asawa daw niya, nurse daw, iyak nang iyak,” a resident doctor of NEU said.

But doctors, nurses and staff of the NEU-ER did not immediately recognize that the man who brought the female patient was the popular broadcaster who is one of the main anchors of ABS-CBN’s TV PATROL and DZMM’s Tambalang Failon and Sanchez, one of the longest running programs of the said radio station.

Some of the guards remarked, “Si Ted Failon yun ah,” but they’re not sure for the man wore a baseball cup, his eyes, almost hidden, according to the hospital staff. They were only able to determine for sure that he was indeed Ted Failon was when the hospital operator received a phone call from someone from ABS-CBN looking for Ted Failon and when he asked the man wearing a baseball cup if he would take the call, he said no, and repeated his appeal to the hospital staff. “No media, No police, please, please,” a resident physician who attended to Failon’s wife said, quoting the broadcaster’s appeal.

After being informed of a call from ABS-CBN that Failon did not answer, more calls came, from more members of the media---and upon learning that more members of the media are making calls to inquire about him, Failon stood up and left the hospital without saying a word. “Basta na lang umalis, balisa, umiiyak,” the resident doctor said describing Failon’s demeanor at the time he left the hospital.

Shortly after Failon left NEU, the police came according to the resident doctor but the female companion of Failon when he rushed his wife to the hospital also refused to say anything to the police.

NEU-Administrator Dr. Salvador Corpuz said, they did not exactly heed to Failon’s request to prevent the media and the police from entering the hospital premises. “Our immediate concern was to attend to the patient,” Corpuz explained adding that they too were surprised to see Failon rushing, crying and at an obviously distraught state this morning. “Iyak siya nang iyak kaya di na naming pinilit na sagutin ang mga tanong namin,” the female resident doctor who attended to Failon’s wife added.

The next 24 hours is very critical according to the female resident doctor of NEU. “There are vital indicators that patient is brain dead, bagsak na ang BP, body fluids are also at a critical level, 50-50 ang pasyente,” the doctor said.

ABS-CBN issued an official statement to colleagues in the media. Mr. Bong Osorio, the network’s Head for Corporate Communications in his statement said, “We appeal to everyone to respect the privacy of Ted Failon and his family. His wife is fighting for his life.”

As of this afternoon, investigators from the PNP-Central Police District were already able to question Failon about the incident. According to initial statement from the police aside from Failon, 5 other members of the Failon household will be placed under investigation.(end)


April 14, 2009
Posted 10:41 PM

We never wanted to meet that way. A reunion was in order, long overdue, but not in that manner, not under a very painful and tragic event.

But who are we to choose how it will be? For all we know, the reunion that took place was, after all, meant to be. We all came for the right reason, a unifying reason if I may stress. And in the death of the one man we all dearly love and respect---it became a reality.

On short notice from colleague and veteran journalist Manny Mogato, journalists who have covered the defense and police beat troop to Arlington Memorial Chapel in Quezon City. Many of the DPC members made it but many others failed to come for one reason or another. But we are all very certain that while they were not there with us that night, Sunday, the 12th of April, they join us in spirit for who doesn't love this man, Joecap? Who doesn't love Tatang? Tata? Tatay? Manong?

One by one, the DPC members stood to pay tribute to the man. Each narrating his/her own little story, anecdote of how Joecap was with us, then, his memory, very much alive in our hearts and minds.

Even former President Fidel V. Ramos came to give honor to JOECAP, His death was a "blaze of glory" he said, noting the fact that Joecap died with his "boots on", a "dream for most soldiers...a dream for most journalists", he added.

It would have been perfect had former Defense Secretary Renato De Villa was in attendance that night. But we know, he will always remember our JOECAP with only the fondest and kindest of memories.

But that night---the most important message I heard came from journalist Glenda Gloria. It was the one message that hit us the most. Glenda and Joecap both covered the defense and police beat for the old Manila Times. Looking back, Gloria said, she can't remember a story that is identified with Joecap, not one big story that one can associate with Joecap. Witnessing the number of people, especially friends from the media who came to pay their last respect to Joecap's remains, a sudden realization came, Gloria said. "In the end, it's not the big story that you cover that your colleagues will remember about you, but who you were and how you treated the people around you."
Well---said---for in the end---we all remember only one very real thing about Joecap, one we could embrace as the unquestionable truth: JOECAP was one loyal friend, a colleague in the media who truly cared for the welfare of his own flock---fellow journalists, all searching for truth, in the service of one nation. (end)


Hindi ko alam kung paano ko ito sisimulan.

Naninikip ang dibdib ko at magpahanggang sa isinusulat ko ito ay umaasa pa rin akong mali ang balitang walang nakaligtas sa pagbagsak ng presidential helicopter na patungo sana ng Banaue mula Baguio noong Martes ng hapon.

Kahit sa mensahe na aking ipinaskel sa bulletin board ng NUJP sa Friendster ay hindi ko magawang banggiting wala na si Tata JoeCap.

Halos hindi ako nakatulog noong Martes ng gabi sa kahihintay ng balita sa isinasagawang search and rescue operation.

Umaasa akong baka biglang mag-ring ang aking cellphone at si JoeCap ang nasa kabilang linya dahil nakasisiguro akong isa ako sa mga nasa unahan ng kaniyang directory dahil sa letter “A” nagsisimula ang aking pangalan. Mangyari kasing may balitang nakatawag pa si JoeCap sa tanggapan ng MARO sa Malacanang kung saan sinabi niyang makapal ang ulap sa himpapawid ng Cordillera at naghahanap sila nang lugar na malalapagan. Sana lang may tumawag para sabihing kinukupkop nila si JoeCap o mismong si Tata JC 'yon para linawing OK sya.

Inaalala ko si JoeCap dahil sa ginawin ang “matanda” at baka ubuhin na naman siya sa sobrang lamig.

Saang anggulo man sipatin, tila kailangan ko nang ihanda ang aking sarili na hindi na kami kailanman magkikita ng isa sa aking mga naging ama-amahan sa industriya ng pamamahayag.
Napakamasayahing tao, masipag, walang ere kahit noong panahong namamayagpag ang kaniyang pangalan sa industriya at isang taong napakadaling mahalin itong si Jose Capadocia.

Una kong narinig ang kaniyang pangalan noong mga huling bahagi ng dekada ’80 noong panahong isa si Tata JoeCap sa mga batikang reporter ng DZXL at ‘di naglaon ay maging sa Manila Times.

“Iskupero” o isang mamamahayag na laging nauuna sa balita ang tawag noon kay Tata JoeCap ng mga anchor ng DZXL at maging nang kaniyang mga nakasama sa Defense beat.

Sa panahong uso ang kukurukuku, lahat nang nagnanais na makauna sa balita ay nakikinig sa anumang ulat mula kay JoeCap sa DZXL o dili kaya’y nagbabasa nang kaniyang mga detalyadong ulat sa Manila Times.

Star-struck ako kay JoeCap noong una ko itong nakilala sa National Press Club nang minsang isama ako doon ni Raymond Burgos na noo’y labor reporter ng Times.
Mag-iisang buwan pa lang yata akong correspondent sa Chronicle noong panahong yon at wala pang sapat na “clippings” para makakubra ng sahod kung kaya't si Raymond ang madalas na taya sa hapunan sa Press Club dahil sa medyo sagana na siya sa kita mula sa kilo-kilometrong column inches na kaniyang naipapanganak.

Nasa loob kami ng conference room ng NPC na noong mga panahong iyon ay naging “reporters lounge” kung saan naman naglulungga ang mga bagitong reporters gaya nina Jinky Jorgio ng Daily Globe at Jessica Domingo ng Newsday nang biglang pumasok si JoeCap at kumustahin ang mga naghahabol ng deadline. Ipinakilala ako ni Jinky kay JoeCap at mahigpit ang kaniyang pagkamay sa akin at nagpaalam na kukumustahin niya muna ang mga matatanda sa kabilang silid.

Lahat ng tao sa Press Club ay halos napapalundag sa tuwa sa pagdating ni JoeCap. Mistula siyang “Godfather” o isang taong matagal na hinintay para pawiin ang kanilang problema o kalungkutan.
Subalit kaiba sa imahe ng “Ninong” sa ating lipunan, hindi umaasa at hindi rin naman mistulang ATM si JoeCap na handang mamudmod ng salapi sa sinumang manghihingi o nangangailangan.

Sa madaling salita, hindi niya kailangang mamigay ng pera para makuha ang respeto ng kaniyang mga kabaro. Ang tanging pagdating lang ni JoeCap ang ikinasisiya ng karamihan sa mga tao sa Press Club – bagay na hindi kailanman nagbago hanggang sa huling panahong nagpang-abot kami sa NPC.

Bilang pangalawang pangulo ng NPC, si JoeCap ang nagsulong nang paglagda ng Memorandum of Agreement sa pagitan ng NPC, pulisya at military kung saan mahigpit na ipinagbabawal ang pag-aresto sa isang mamamahayag nang walang abiso sa kaniyang kinapapaloobang news organization.

Bagama’t hindi kami nagkasama sa beat, sala-salabat na kuwento na ang narinig ko hinggil sa kung anong kabutihan at pag-aalaga ang ginawa sa kanila ni JoeCap.

Sa mensahe ni katotong Rey Mercaral – alyas Muymuy – sa Facebook, naikuwento niya na noong panahong nagipit sila sa pag-cover ng state visit ni GMA sa Indonesia (dun nga ba?), ipinagamit ni JoeCap ang kaniyang kama kay Muymuy para may matulugan ito. Sa blog naman ni Ralph Guzman, kaniyang inilahad kung paano siya sinorpresa ni JoeCap nang mag-organisa ito ng party nang siya’y magbalik mula sa pagkaka-stranded sa Dubai airport at doon datnan ng kaniyang kaarawan. Marami pang kuwento subalit ayokong pangunahan ang aking kuwento.

Dahil sa angking charisma at popularidad ni JoeCap sa kaniyang mga kabaro sa media, naudyukan siyang tumakbong pangulo ng NPC noong dekada ’90. Kahit hindi pa kami miyembro ng NPC noong mga panahong ‘iyon, all out support kaming mga bagito sa kandidatura ni JoeCap.

Naging mahigpit ang laban nina JoeCap at Fred Gabot ng Bulletin. Isang boto lamang ang naghiwalay sa kanila. Bagama’t dumagundong ang sigawang magkaroon ng recount ng mga balota, tumanggi si JoeCap at hinayaang maupo nang matiwasay bilang NPC president si Gabot and the rest 'ika nga ay history.
Hindi man naging pangulo ng NPC si JoeCap, lalo namang tumaas ang pagtingin sa kaniya ng kaniyang mga kabaro.
Naging biruan nga sa NPC noon ang magsisihan kung sino ang hindi bumoto o sinong nagbenta ng boto na dapat sana’y para kay JoeCap. Pinagsisihan rin namin kung bakit hindi namin pinursige ang pagiging voting member ng NPC – bagay na madalas ipaalala sa tuwing nakakabarikan si JoeCap na kaniya lamang susuklian ng ngiti.

Nagkasama kaming muli ni JoeCap nang buhayin namin ang National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) na matagal nang natiwangwang mula nang yumao ang isa pang haligi ng peryodismo na si Tony Nieva.

Halos araw-araw kaming magkakasama nina JoeCap, Leo Santiago, Mentong Laurel, Joel Palacios, May Rodriguez, Inday Varona, Rey Sabio, at marami pang iba sa pag-organisa ng revival congress ng NUJP na ginanap sa Subic noong taong 2000. Masalimuot ang naging proseso at si JoeCap ang tumimon upang balansehin ang samu’t-sari – at kadalasa’y magkakalabang – personalidad at paniniwala ng bawat isa.
Sa Subic convention ko napag-alamang close pala si JoeCap at si GMA na noo’y bise presidente pa lamang. Panauhing pandangal ng NUJP si GMA sa nasabing pagtitipon. Itinalaga ako ni JoeCap na sumama sa kaniya sa pagsalubong kay GMA dahil sa magkasinglaki lang daw kami ni GMA. Housemates rin kami ni Tata JoeCap sa Subic kung kaya’t magkasama pa rin kami sa kabulastugan.

Noong naging pangulo si GMA, inasahan kong isa sa mga mabibiyayaan ng puwesto si JoeCap. Subalit laking gulat ko na lang na wala ang pangalan ni JoeCap sa mga bagong talaga sa alinmang ahensiya ng pamahalaan at maging sa mga GOCC gaya ng aking dating tanggapan sa Journal.

Madalas kong kulitin si JoeCap na puntahan na si GMA sa Malacanang at baka sakaling ibigay sa kaniya ang pagiging isa sa mga bossing ng Journal subalit ayaw niya. Hayaan lang daw namin ang takbo ng panahon.

Jobless si JoeCap noong mga panahong iyo at ramdam ko na medyo nabuburyong na siya sa kaniyang sitwasyon. Dahil dito, kapal-mukha ko na ring pinahahagingan ang aking kaibigang si Bobby Capco -- dating media officer ni GMA noong VP pa lang ito at noo’y bagong talagang undersecretary sa OPS at kilalang malapit sa kusina ng Malacanang – na nariyan lang si JoeCap sa tabi-tabi. Hindi ko alam kung nakatulong iyon dahil makalipas ang ilang buwan ay naitalaga rin si JoeCap bilang OIC ng OPS Operations Center sa Arlegui.

Madalas kong dalawin si JoeCap sa OpCen. Doon ko muling nakita ang pagiging “hands on general” ni Tata JoeCap. Kahit na tambak sa trabaho, iniistima pa rin niya ang kaniyang mga nagiging “bwisitor”. Dahil sa kaniyang naging trabaho sa Malacanang, naging madalang na ang aming pagbabarikan. Hindi na rin siya madalas makapamasyal sa NPC o makadalo sa kung saan mang pagtitipon dahil sa lagi siyang nasa tabi ni Madame.

Huli kaming nagkita ni Tata JoeCap noong mga huling araw ko sa Pilipinas noong Enero 2006. Dinalaw ko siya sa kaniyang opisina sa Arlegui upang pasalamatan nang patulungan niya ako sa MARO na ma-authenticate ang aking mga papeles na kakailanganin ko dito sa Dubai. Binigyan rin niya ako ng endorsement para sa travel tax exemption subalit hindi ko na ito nagamit dahil binayaran na pala ng Gulf News ang lahat ng gastusin sa ticket.

Magkikita sana kami ni Tata JoeCap noong umuwi ako noong Enero. Kinumusta ko siya sa text at sinabing dadaanan ko siya sa Malacanang para man lang makapag-kape. May inihanda pa nga akong "Dubai" T-shirt na XXL para kay Tata JoeCap.

Subalit isang maigsing text message lang ang kaniyang naging tugon. TANDA NA INO. CEBU PA AKO.

At magpahanggang sa huli, trabaho pa rin ang inatupag ng aming Tatay JoeCap.

Joecap's greatest Inday Varona

The voice sticks in the mind. Low, husky, a gentle growl. I suppose JoeCap (always Tata Joe to me) could bawl like any master sergeant -- at his prime, he had the build, too -- but I never saw that side of him. He was a veteran of the defense beat, where reporters sometimes out-swagger the troops; perhaps JoeCap showed some derring-do on the beat. But I met him in the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP). He was elected chair in the Subic congress that resurrected the organization. As Ares wrote in his blog, JoeCap was the middle ground, the guy who could cajole and pressure contending forces to come to the table. Some of the time, at least :)

Tata Joe showed very little bluster despite having learned backslapping tricks. The NUJP is a collegiate body; there is always the possibility of a chair having to accept a directors' vote he or she may not agree on. JoeCap accepted such incidents, rare as they were, with grace.

I was sad when he resigned as NUJP chair. But it was an honorable move. He needed a job and Malacanang beckoned. Before leaving, he pulled me aside and said, "huwag kang mag-alala, hindi ko ipahihiya ang NUJP."

Tata Joe kept his word. He was that rare Palace functionary; a man who valued work above the perks. One time, during my term as chair, Tata Joe called up. Malacanang wanted him to ask NUJP for a truce over the issue of killings.

He was frank. I'm doing this because I was told to, he said. You don't have to answer. I know the answer. I'll tell them you said the protests will stop when the killings stop. We both laughed and then said goodbye. The was the last time he was sent to pass on such messages.

I have heard of Tata Joe helping media people in need. But he was not the godfather type; his prestige did not rest on favors dispensed. Nor on principles sacrificed.

Their are sins of omission. Tata Joe's greatest deed, I think, in his last years, was a refusal to be a mouthpiece for lies.(end)

This is the Official Press Statement from The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP):

"Grieving for Joecap"

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines grieves the loss of Press Secretary Jose “Joecap” Capadocia, our former chairman, who was among the eight passengers of the Bell 412 presidential helicopter that crashed in the mountains of Ifugao on April 6, 2009.

Joecap was a consummate newsman and a beloved colleague who always looked after the welfare of his fellow journalists.

He was elected chairman of the NUJP during the historic Subic congress of 2000, when the organization was striving mightily to bring its calling to full fruition after the passing of our founding chairman, Tony Nieva.

Indeed, Joecap played a crucial role in molding NUJP’s vision and mission. Those involved in planning the Subic congress recall that Joecap, then already one of, if not the most, senior NUJP members and officers, spoke of his vision of the Union as an organization that would unite Filipino journalists, represent their rights and establish high professional and ethical standards.

Joecap was always ready with sage but practical advice, an assuring and steadfast presence in times of uncertainty. He was a tireless worker but was never one to call attention to his accomplishments. And they were many.

We did not begrudge Joecap’s giving up his chairmanship to join government for he never succumbed to the blandishments that lesser mortals thrust into officialdom easily succumb too.

Even in government, Joecap never lost touch with his original and, now it can be said, true calling. He remained a colleague and could always be counted on to quietly help advance press freedom and the welfare of media workers. And it is now of record that he planned to return to journalism when his stint with government ended.

To Joecap’s family, we offer our deepest sympathy and our gratitude for your generosity in sharing with us the wonderful person and colleague that he was. Indeed, we feel his passing deeply for he, too, was family to us, in more ways than one.

Yet, as we mourn the loss of Jose Capadocia, we hail his many contributions to the cause of press freedom in the country and vow to continue upholding the principles he, and we, committed ourselves to upholding.

Goodbye, Joecap. Mabuhay ka!


We called him “Tatang” because he seemed to relish this affectionate title.

Joe Capadocia – JoeCap to all who knew him – was more than a colleague, father figure or willing mentor, he was my friend.

When I first heard that he was aboard a helicopter that was reported missing in the Cordilleras, I was tempted to dismiss the danger because I know he has flown as many hours aboard Hueys and Fokkers as any grizzled Airforce pilot. He knew better, I thought. But I also remembered another oft-repeated incantation, “if the pilot is willing to fly it, I’m willing to ride it”.

I wept when I read the report that all died in that helicopter crash. I wept because I knew the world lost a good, decent man. I wept because I lost a friend.

Perhaps it’s instinctive to seek company in time of loss, and perhaps JoeCap’s family and friends will have many opportunities to talk about their own Remembrances (incidentally, I recall, that was one of his favorite watering holes). I’m sure each has a tale to tell about “Tatang”.

My earliest and perhaps fondest memory of JoeCap is the way he would pretend to struggle up the stairs of the Department of National Defense building in Camp Aguinaldo.

Panting, he would loudly complain that the elevators were not working. This would elicit laughter from the men, concern from the women. The media affairs office was on the 3rd floor, if I remember right.

In fact, that pant became his trademark of sorts when he dabbled with broadcasting. Working for DXZL, I remember we’d constantly urge him to slow down because he always seemed to be catching his breath while delivering his live report.

I remember how his glasses would always seem to fall, forcing him to use those chained necklace; the pouch that he proclaimed was really his chest but he just got tired of holding it up.

JoeCap, along with the other senior Defense Press Corps members, would mysteriously slip away at twilight for “Bible Study”. For a time, I really thought they were pious people.

But JoeCap’s sparring mate was the late Buddy dela Cruz of the Philippine Star. We used to call him “Tata Buds”. He used to run a string of bars in Quezon City where many of us hung out.

I can just imagine them together again, arguing, debating with an ice-cold bottle of San Miguel on hand. When it was time to sing karaoke, JoeCap would veer towards Sinatra or Bennett. But I always enjoyed when he sang “You Make Me Feel So Young”, often to loud teasing from other reporters.

He was a father figure to everyone, but perhaps more so to the young female cubs. They even branded themselves as “Cafgus”, quite a charming militia force that became one of JoeCap’s key constituencies in the DPC.

I remember he often kept his ideas to himself, but was generous with they were sought out. He was a kind, forgiving soul, easy-going but uncompromising in his convictions. To this day, and after the heights he’s reached, I can honestly say I still have to hear one ill word about him.

He always talked affectionately about his family, especially his children. I never got to know that side of him – I believe Tata Buddy and the others did – and now I wish I did too.

JoeCap lived his own life and I believe we were fortunate that for some moments ours intersected with his. I know we had become richer for it.

After I moved out of the defense beat and left print for the “greener pastures” of TV news, JoeCap and I would occasionally bump into each other especially when he joined Malacanang.

The last time I saw him was at Ali Mall in Cubao. He seemed to walk with more than his usual limp; he told me he had just undergone surgery. We talked briefly. I was amazed he was already up and walking about – not in some quiet, therapeutic place – but in the hubbub of a busy mall.

It struck me that JoeCap was not the type to settle into peaceful retirement. He will work until he can not anymore, I thought. But how would he be when he can no longer do the things he loved to do? Go to his favorite places?

I read he was planning to go back to media after 2010; no doubt he would have blazed fresh trails for himself, still everyone’s “Tatang”.

When Gen. Douglas MacArthur – whose greatness was occasionally debated by JoeCap and Tata Buddy – was told that North Korea had invaded the South, he reportedly burst in prayer to God, for giving one aging warrior one final battle to fight.

I read that JoeCap was mining stories that may come out from President Arroyo’s visit to a remote Benguet town. He reported that the weather had closed in all around their helicopter. He knew no one flew in or out of Loakan after 2:00 PM. I’d like to believe God gave an aging journalist one last story to tell. (end)

(Si Mercaral ay nakasama ni Joecap sa RMN-DZXL, matagal ding nag-cover ng Palasyo ng Malakanyang si Mercaral)






















THIS ONE IS RAFFY JIMENEZ' take on who Joecap was for his friends and colleagues in the media. Raffy writes for GMA News.TV:

“Talaga bang iiwanan mo na ako? Sabagay, mas bagay sa iyo ang bumalik sa private media. Good luck."

These were the words uttered to me by Press Undersecretary Jose Capadocia middle of 2006 when I was tendering my resignation as senior reporter for the Philippine News Agency.

At the time, Tata Joecap, as he was fondly called by colleagues in media, was head of the News and Information Bureau, an agency under the Office of the Press Secretary. The PNA is a unit of the NIB.

That turned out to be my last conversation with Tata Joecap, who was one of eight fatalities in the helicopter crash in northern Philippines last Holy Tuesday.

While I would see him accompanying President Arroyo in public events, I contented myself inside the newsroom as one of the editors of the news Web site of GMA Network.

My first encounter with Tata Joecap was in the early 1990s when I joined a group of defense reporters covering the Philippine Military Academy foundation day activities in Baguio City.

Both of us were with Manila Times then, he a senior reporter and I, a struggling correspondent assigned to another beat.

When nighttime fell, the chilly Baguio breeze smelled of liniment we later found out emanating from the room of Tata Joe and another “elder" colleague, Dando Redondo.

We had a good laugh to see Tata Joecap and Tata Dando putting on liniment to each other’s aching body parts. Incidentally, Tata Dando had passed away ahead of Tata Joecap.

“Tatanda rin kayo [You would also grow old]," Tata Joecap would jokingly say to us whenever we would remind him of that incident in Baguio.

He would also point to Tata Dando as more senior than him, and the latter would take it all in stride.

I could just envy the other reporters who would tell of other moments being both with Tata Joecap and Tata Dando while pounding the military and police beats back then.

Yet, more than the good sense of humor that Tata Joecap had, the man was also equipped with a good heart. One that cares for the welfare of others.

At one time after our meeting at the Times office in Mandaluyong, I overheard him discussing with Ruben Manahan about the salaries of employees as well as concerns of fellow correspondents like me. Tata Joe and Ruben were officers I think of the Manila Times union at that time.

That moment forever stuck in me that this man – Tata Joecap – the “big personality" that he was in the office, also looked after the welfare of smaller persons within our organization.

The “father" in him was truly manifested.

Years after he left Manila Times and joined other media entities, we would occasionally bump into each other’s path at the Senate or at Camp Aguinaldo and would exchange jokes every now and then.

I would always grab to bless his hand, to which he would say. “Lalo mo akong pinatatanda niyan [You always make me feel old]."

He even egged me to do good in looking after the welfare of the Manila Times employees when it was my time to head the union. “Alagaan mo sila [Take care of the employees]," came his fatherly advice to me.

His sense of understanding was further reinforced when I politely turned down his offer for me to join him in Malacañang to cover the President.

“Tata Joe, hindi ako bagay sa ganyan. Mahirap sa akin magsulat nang diretso Palasyo ang linya. Dito na lang ako sa kampo [It would be difficult for me to always go along with Malacañang’s line. I would be more effective covering the security beat]," I would always tell him.

Tata Joecap would then pat may back, saying, “Ikaw talaga."

But there was never any doubt that he was dedicated to his work at Malacañang, no matter the odds.

After a storm hit Metro Manila, the President was to go to Camp Aguinaldo to preside over an early morning briefing of the National Disaster Coordinating Council.

As I arrived there on a weekend, Tata Joecap sounded apologetic, yet filled with humor as I approached him. “Pasensya ka…pinatawag tayo ni Presidente. Tapusin mo na lang ang paglalaba mo o kaya pamamalengke mo pagkatapos ng briefing."

I remembered replying to him: “Ganyan naman kayo. 'Pag dito sa Pilipinas, aakagin ninyo ako 'pag si Presidente. Pero sa ibang bansa, hindi na."

To which, Tata Joe would whisper. “Pasensya na, wala talagang pera…walang budget. Every encounter would end with both of us laughing and shrugging the limitations of working in government.

That’s why when news of the missing helicopter was confirmed and that Tata Joecap was one of the passengers, me and my wife Tex, who he also knows, prayed that they will be all safe.

Until now, we are mourning the loss of not only a public servant, but a colleague, a mentor, and more importantly, a friend.

To Tata Joecap, thanks for the memories worth treasuring. And by the way, give our regards to Tata Dando, too. You can now put liniment on each other again. (end)


Sino ang hindi makakaalala kay Tata JoeCap? Si Jose Capadocia, isang beteranong mamamahayag.
Nakilala ko si Tata JoeCap sa Camp Agui­naldo sa Quezon City noong 1990s. Presidente siya noon ng Defense Press Corps (DPC), Defense Secretary naman si dating Pangulong Fidel Ramos.
Nakilala ko rin si Tata JoeCap bilang laging kalmado, at kung bago ka, aalalayan ka niya sa coverage. Sa DPC, itinatak ni Tata JoeCap ang kanyang sa­rili bilang ama ng mga mamamahayag. Siya ang presidente ng DPC, at kaming mga bagong salta sa pamamaha­yag, sina Annie Eugenio at Tess Camarines ng dating Bagong Araw ay tinawag niyang mga CAFGU.

Nang mapabalitang nawawala ang helicopter na sinasakyan ng advance party ni Pangulong Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sa Ifugao, nakakakaba, at ang una kong naisip ay si Tata JoeCap na posibleng kasama doon bilang press undersecretary.
Napakalungkot ng matiyak na nag-crash ang sinasakyan nilang presidential helicopter at walang survivor.

Noong nasa Malacañang na si Tata JoeCap, lagi niyang binabanggit sa mga kaibigan na gusto niyang mag-organisa ng reunion para sa mga taga-DPC. Pinakahuli niyang banggit ay noong Disyembre. Wala na si Tata JoeCap pero matutupad pa rin ang reunion na pangarap niyang iorganisa. Mamayang gabi, alas-siyete, inaasahang dadagsa ang mga taga-DPC sa Arlington sa Araneta Avenue, Quezon City, kung saan doon nakahimlay ang ama ng DPC. (wakas)

Ang peryodistang si JoeCap
at partidistang si  Guillermo Capadocia

sa panulat ni Raymond Burgos
Sa pahayagang Manila Times (1989-1991) ko nakasama si Jose Capadocia na mas kilala sa tawag na “Joecap” at kilalang beteranong reporter na naka-assign sa Camp Aguinaldo at Camp Crame kung saan naroroon ang Department of National Defense at mga headquarters ng Armed Forces at Philippine Constabulary.

Reporter na ako ng Philippine Daily Inquirer (mula 1992 hanggang 1998) nang makasama ko sa Philippine National Police at defense beat si Joecap kung saan nakasabay ko rin sa pag-cover ang aking ama na si Bobby Burgos na nagsusulat noon sa Manila Standard.

Ang tatay kong si Bobby at si Joecap ang magkasabayan sa pagiging peryodista at ilang kudeta rin ang kanilang pinagsamahan sa Camp Aguinaldo at Camp Crame kung kaya hindi nakakatakang hanggang bago siya mamatay ay magka-text mate sila ng aking ama.

Stringer na noon ng DZXL si Joecap kaya maaga pa lamang ay naririnig na ang kanyang boses sa loob ng PNP Press Corps office habang nagbabato ng pinakamaiinit na balita sa kanyang radio station kung saan naging station manager din siya sa maikling panahon.

Matagal ko nang gustong itanong kay Joecap kung kamag-anak niya si Guillermo Capadocia na kilalang lider ng Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas at isa sa mga nagtatag ng lumang partido noong 1930 na unang pinamunuan ni Crisanto Evangelista.

Minsan na rin akong naging istudyante ng Marxismo-Leninismo at Kaisipang Mao Zedong kung kaya pamilyar ako sa kasaysayan ng PKP-1930 hanggang sa muling itinatag na Communist Party of the Philippines na si Jose Ma. Sison ang founding chairman.

Nakakalungkot nga lang isipin na nitong patay na si Joecap ay saka ko lang nalaman na tatay niya pala si Guillermo Capadocia na kauna-unahang secretary-general ng PKP.

Hindi ko alam kung anong probinsiya ni Joecap pero ang kanyang amang si Guillermo ay tubong Negros Occidental at galing sa uring anakpawis kung kaya madali para sa kanya ang maunawaan ang doktrina ng Marxismo-Leninismo lalu na sa usapin ng kapitalistang pagsasamantala.

Naging cook at waiter sa mga restaurant si Guillermo Capadocia noong 1920s at dito rin siya nagsimulang malulng sa trade unionism at maimpluwensiyahan ng mga rebolusyonaryong kaisipan lalu na pagkatapos ng “Great October Socialist Revolution” sa Rusya noong 1917.
Nang maitatag ang PKP noong Nobyembre 30, 1930 ay ibinuhos na ni Guillermo ang kanyang buong panahon sa rebolusyonaryong kilusan kung saan ang pangunahing gawain niya ay ang pagpapalawak at pagpapalalakas ng partido bilang pangkalahatang kalihim.

Naaresto ng mga Hapones si Guillermo noong 1942 pero pinawalan siya ng mga ito matapos mangakong hihikayatin niya ang kanyang mga kasamahan sa PKP na itigil na ang armadong paglaban sa mga Hapones sa pamamagitan ng bagong tatag na Hukbalahap o Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon.

Dahil sa pag-amin ni Guillermo sa kanyang mga kasamahan sa PKP hinggil sa pagpayag niya sa kagustuhan ng mga Hapones ay ipinasailalim siya sa disciplinary action at ilang buwan ding naka-floating status habang sumasailalim sa re-edukasyon.

Naisip ko lang na habang naka-D.A. si Guillermo nabuo niya at ng kanyang asawa si Joecap dahil kung hindi ako nagkakamali ay 1943 ang taon ng kapanganakan niya kung kaya 66 na ang edad ni Joecap nang mamatay sa helicopter crash noong Abril 7.

Nang makabalik sa partido si Guillermo ay trade union organizing pa rin ang kanyang naging pangunahing gawain hanggang sa lumabas ang direktiba ng Political Bureau ng PKP na ibayong pagpapaigting sa armadong pakikibaka at pagtaya na maaaring manalo ang kanilang rebolusyon sa loob ng dalawang taon mula 1950 hanggang 1952.

Sa mga panahong nabanggit ay itinalaga ng partido si Guillermo Capadocia bilang commander ng Visayas Regional Command ng HMB o Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan at noon ngang Setmebre 20, 1952 ay nahuli siya ng mga elemento ng 15th Battalion Combat Team sa Barrio Yubog, San Remigio, Antique.

Buhay na nahuli si Guillermo Capadocia pero matindi ang natamong sugat mula sa engkwentro kung kaya hindi siya nagtagal at siya ay binawian ng buhay.

Gusto kong isipin na dahil sa pagiging partidista at rebolusyonaryo ni Guillermo ay hindi siya talaga nakilala o nakapiling nang matagal na kanyang anak na si Joecap.

At ngayong lumisan na si Joecap ay marami na siyang panahon para makilala at makasama niya ang kanyang amang si Guillermo na kinikilala bilang isang bayani at dakilang rebolusyonaryo ng kanyang mga kapwa partidista. (wakas)

In different ways JOECAP did say goodbye...

by Arlyn dela Cruz
April 10, 2009
Posted 7:09 PM

Press Undersecretary Jose "Joe" Capadocia or simply Joecap to most of his friends and colleague bid his goodbye to a lot of people in different ways---and probably the most casual and direct to the point farewell he said was to his wife, Marret, also a member of the Official Staff of the First Family.

Joecap's farewell to a lot of people are some of the stories that kept the room busy that morning at Arlington Memorial in Quezon City.

I came earlier than the scheduled visit of the Defense Press Corps, my group, Joecap's original family in media, because I wasn't able to sleep well the entire night of Thursday. I was thinking that if I wait until Sunday night...I would continue to feel restless so I did what my heart told me to do and went to Arlington this morning with my husband Edwin and colleague Ed Versola and his family.

On the way to Arlington, Ed already told me a story of his last meeting and conversation with Joecap, a conversation that when he recalls now---turned out to be a veiled farewell from Joecap.

Ed and Joecap anchor their own radio shown at PBS-Radyo ng Bayan. Every Saturday, Ed's program airs first then Joecap's. Every Saturday, it had been their practice to treat the technicians to breakfast. They would share, split the bill, normally P500.00 (five hundred pesos) each--for the boys, they call it according to Ed.

But last Saturday April 4, Joecap did not give his share of P500.00 and told Ed he had no money in his pocket, smiling, joking, his usual jolly self. And as Ed was about to compain, Joecap told him, "Ikaw na ang bahala, kailangan ko nang mauna" ("You take care of it. I have to go ahead."). Scratching his head, Ed recalled that he would never forget Joecap's smile to him that Saturday morning. Now he said, he knew what that meant. Joecap's way of saying goodbye, leaving the "boys", the PBS technicians, under his care from then on.

Joecap's sister DSWD Undersecretary Celia Yangco also showed us a text message Joecap sent to one of his best friends in media, Bobby Burgos who is now based in Baguio City. The text message was very poetic yet very casual at the same time. It was usual for Joecap to send this kind of message but then again...maybe not. The text message read: "KEEP THE BEERS COLD AND THE DAISIES WARM...UNTIL MY RETURN."

To his wife Marret, Joecap's farewell sounded so direct that hearing him said those words did not create any worry on her part, simply because---Joecap talked about a very ordinary thing: his schedule for the week, from Mariveles, Bataan to Pampanga and then to Baguio and the Mountain provinces.

"Nagpaalam, sinabi sa akin ang schedule niya mula Bataan hanggang Baguio at Mountain Province, dire-diretso, tuhog, sabi niya. Tapos bigla niyang sinabi sa akin, hindi na tayo magkikita. Dun ako nagtanong---kako bakit hindi na tayo magkikita? Hindi ka ba darating ng Easter Sunday? tanong ko, tapos ang sagot naman niya, darating siya siyempre" ("He said goodbye, he told me about his schedule from Bataan to Baguio then to Mountain Province, straight he said. Then suddenly he told me we will not see each other anymore. That's the time I asked why, is he not coming home for Easter Sunday. Then he answered, of course he will.")

Joecap did something unusual too last Saturday. He dropped by at the house of his relatives in Manila and asked about all his nieces and nephews. "Nangumusta lang bigla. Biglang dumating, walang pasabi, tapos umalis din agad," ("He just asked about everyone, he just arrived, unannounced, then he left at once") Tita Marret added, recalling a call from Joecap's relatives telling her about the unexpected visit he made.

There was something else too, Tita Marret shared, Joecap talked about loosing his job in a matter of time. About two weeks ago, Joecap suddenly told her, that their time serving the president would soon be over.

"Sabi niya, malapit na pala tayong mawalan ng trabaho MA. Ako naman, nagbilang ng buwan, kako, mahigit isang taon pa naman bago matapos ang term ni presidente. Pero sabi niya, mabilis na lang iyon. Tinanong niya ako kung ano ang gusto kong gawin. Sabi ko magtatanim at magbebenta na lang ako ng halaman. Siya naman sabi niya, babalik siya sa first love niya, mag-rereporter daw uli siya" ("He said, MA we would soon be jobless. I counted the months and told him that it's still more than a year before the president's term expires but he told me, it would be over, more than a year would soon be over. Then he asked me what I intend to do after that and I said, I will plant and sell plants. Then he told me, he would go back to his first love. He would be a reporter again.")

At Arlington , I had a lengthy conversation with Joecap's wife, Tita Marret who obviously looked very tired and extremely sad but still managed to welcome all the visitors that morning. Joecap's remains were transferred to Arlington after spending the night at the Hero's Hall in Malacanang.

Joecap talked about Tita Marret many times in the past, in passing, dropping short lines about his wife that would give anyone who is listening a clear grasp of just how proud he is of his wife. But I realized, I have never met her in person that's why I felt a little awkward at the beginning.

I was searching for the right words to say to her when from where I stood, our eyes met each others' gaze and in a matter of seconds, we locked ourselves in a very tight embrace. "Arlyn," she said, and welcomed me like we have seen each other many times in the past. The bond that is Joecap is simply there...unmistakable and very, very real.

Then Tita Marret said something that I will never forget for as long as I live. Something I knew in my heart to be true but something that I never thought his wife would one day tell me in the most loving manner that could only come from a mother like her.

These are the words she said to me, "Ikinukuwento ka niya sa akin. Mahal ka niyan tulad ng isang tunay na anak. Nag-alala siya nang husto noon nung ma-kidnap ka. Rebelde ka daw kasi sabi niya sa akin, matigas ang ulo at hindi tumitigil hanggat hindi nakukuha ang istorya kahit pa malagay sa panganib ang buhay mo. Alam ko na napagalitan ka niya dahil dun, pero alam mo, mahal ka ng Tatang Joecap mo." ("He talks about you. He loves you like his daughter and was worried so much when you were kidnapped. He told me you are a rebel and hard-headed girl who would not stop until she gets the story to the point of risking your life. I knew of the times he scolded you for all the risks that you took but your Tatang Joecap loves you").

"I know, I know..."-these are the words that I only managed to say in response to what Tita Marret told me.

I came there to give her comfort but it was she who provided me the comforting.

Indeed, Tatang Joecap had been a father figure to me. Openly he would tease me whenever he sees me, "O ayan na ang Abu Sayyaf...ay MNLF  pala na MILF din..minsan..NPA...ay Marine Rebel Officer pala. Ah basta rebelde ang batang ito" (Here's comes the Abu Sayyaf...I mean the MNLF, MILF too sometimes, NPA too, ..I mean the Marine rebel officer..Ah...this kid is a rebel.")

Then he would motion me to go over to him and I would put his hand on my forehead, doing the customary and traditional "MANO" intended for the elderly. He would pretend not to like the gesture  and complain, "Sinong matanda dito? Wala akong nakikitang matanda dito." ("Who is the old one here. I don't see anyone who is old here.")

But in very private moments, quick ones though, he would tell me to be careful of my every decision, both in my professional and personal life.

I won't miss a week without sending him a text message, most of the times, just to say hi. He would respond not through text message as well but by calling my cellular phone.

His last call to me was during the height of the ICRC running story, days before Mary Jean Lacaba was released. He called to simply asked if I am in Metro Manila or in Sulu again. When I answered I am in Metro Manila and no plan at all to go back to Sulu---he told me "Good. Manahimik ka dito." ("Good. You stay put here.")

I'm glad his last message to me was nothing close to a goodbye or a farewell but just the usual and constant expression of fatherly concern from Tatang Joecap, one very special man who has indeed touched the lives of many. (end)

"It was the first time, a chopper was allowed to fly that very late in the afternoon"---Ifugao governor

April 10, 2009
Posted 7:41 AM

Malacanang ordered a thorough investigation of what really happened to the presidential chopper that crashed in Barangay Eheb in Tinoc town in Ifugao Mountain Province.

Investigation is already in progress starting the recovery of the chopper's black box. The black box   will be the source of recorded conversations that took place between pilots before the crash. Data on the condition of the Bell-412 chopper would also be available through the black box.
But even before results of the official investigation is released to the media, a statement from Ifugao Governor Teodoro Baguilat may provide concrete leads as to what happened that fateful afternoon of April 7.

Baguilat in a media interview said, it was the first time that a chopper was allowed to fly that very late in the afternoon. "Usually, pilots are advised not to fly that route after 12 noon. That's why we were surprised to learn that the chopper took off from Loakan at past 4 in the afternoon, a time when it was really very cloudy and foggy in the mountains" the governor said.

The governor of Ifugao added, "Maybe they are confident about the superiority of the bell-chopper, with all it's instruments like GPS. Baguilat added that the confidence in the capability and skills of the two pilots may have also given them the confidence to fly that afternoon. "Maybe they thought the risk is not that high,"he said.
Two years ago, on April 9, 2007, in the same mountain terrain of Ifugao and the Cordilleras, the pilot of a small private chopper was also advised not to fly because of heavy fog and clouds. But the main passenger was insisting, they should fly.

That chopper crashed but all passengers survived.

The VIP on board was Deputy National Security Adviser Luis "Chavit" Singson who was a senatorial candidate for Team Unity at that time. Three others were with him in that flight, all suffering only minor bruises and injuries.

Looking back at that chopper crash, Singson said, he thought it was his end, and thinks he's one "lucky man to have survived it."

Singson's rented helicopter then crash-landed near Mt. Polis in Bontoc.

The R-44 Robinson Helicopter with tail number RPC2782 R-44 developed engine trouble causing it to crash in the mountainous area in Barangay Bayyo, Bontoc, Mt. Province at around 2:30 p.m.
Based on official investigation conducted on this incident, heavy fog blanketed the flight path of the helicopter while it was flying in the area of Barangay Bayyo, Mt. Province.

With very low visibility, the pilot reportedly hovered near a mountainside while looking for a flat area to land. However, a strong gust of wind suddenly blew forcing the tail part of the chopper to hit some vegetation.

As a result, the pilot lost control of the aircraft then hit the mountain side causing the aircraft to go down on its side and roll down the mountain at least three times.The chopper stopped rolling some 20 meters above the Banaue-Benguet road in Barangay Bayyo.

There maybe some similarities on the circumstances of Singson's chopper accident in 2007 and the accident of the presidential bell-chopper that killed eight people including top aides of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The ill-fated presidential Bell-Chopper that crashed Tuesday afternoon also took off from Loakan Airport in Baguio City at a time when Baguilat said, air crafts are discouraged to fly the Ifugao-Cordillera route because of heavy clouds and fog. It took off---past 4 in the afternoon, while Singson's rented private chopper in 2007, took off earlier---2:30 in the afternoon, where the fog and the clouds are not yet that thick.

Other incidents of crashes in the Cordillera-Ifugao mountains also took place ...mostly in the afternoon based on available records.

Some of the recorded accidents in the past years aside from Singson's chopper crash in 2007 include the following:

On April 13, 2001, an Air Force helicopter carrying eight members of the Presidential Security Group and Presidential Management Staff and three crew members crashed into a fog-shrouded ravine in Bokod town in Benguet. They were on their way from Baguio City to Ifugao province to prepare for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s visit. All were rescued with minor injuries. On Nov. 21, 1998, a private helicopter carrying First Gentleman Atty. Mike Arroyo, two cameramen, and an aide crash-landed on a rice paddy in Kibungan, Benguet. No one was seriously hurt. The group was to meet then Vice President Arroyo in Kibungan, where she was checking on typhoon victims.

In 2007, two helicopters figured in separate accidents in Mountain Province, causing injuries to passengers. On April 9, Singson's chopper crash-landing in  Mt. Polis in Bontoc. On June 10, a PAF Huey carrying nine passengers crash-landed in Besao.

On June 26, 1987, a Philippine Airlines twin-engine turboprop slammed into fog-shrouded Mt. Ugu in Benguet, killing all 50 persons aboard. Among the fatalities were Marawi Bishop Bienvenido Tudtud and Gloria Mapua-Lim, wife of PAL executive vice president Roberto Lim.

On Dec. 7, 1999, an Asian Spirit twin-engine turboprop crashed in foggy weather into Mt. Mamparang in Nueva Vizcaya, killing all 17 persons on board including pilot Rolando Salandanan, the carrier’s vice president.

All incidents pointed to fogy and cloudy weather as cause of accident.

In his last text message, Press Undersecretary Jose Capadocia said, they "experienced zero-visibility and that the pilots were finding a safe place to land."

Palace officials and the Philippine Air Force have already ruled out any angle of sabotage on the presidential bell-chopper. (end)

The president feels "an extreme sense of sadness" over death of 8-Palace aids

April 10, 2009
Posted 2:30 PM

It was a rare display of grief, in action and in words.

The soft side of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo surfaced the moment she saw the casket of eight members of the Presidential Staff who died in a chopper crash, in the line of duty, on a mission to another town in Mountain Province, with only one goal in their minds: to make sure that everything will be smooth for the president's visit.

"I will miss them so much..." the president said as she openly grieved for the death of some of her most trusted aid in Malacanang.

It's not everyday that you see President Arroyo cry and seeing her this way gives us all an idea of how close she was to those who died in the crash or presidential Bell-Chopper 412 last Tuesday afternoon.

In her speech last night at the Heroes Hall of Malacanang Palace Mrs. Arroyo said, "she feels an extreme sense of sadness.

One by one, she shared stories on how she regard and remember the presidential aids that perished in the line of duty.
"Malou was the perfect co-worker," says the president, stressing that she too was one of the most trustworthy and loyal" of those working for her.

The president acknowledged too that Malou's "sunshine personality" was the perfect match for her "short temper."

General Clet was being groomed to be the next chief of the Presidential Security Group revealed the president. Other assignments were also given to Clet according to the president because of his ability to get the job done.

Joecap was a long time supporter in media since she was a senator, the president recalled. His wife Marrett is also a Malacanang staff and refers to her as a "colleague in the Office of the President."

The president was observing Joecap all these time afterall, when she acknowledged in her speech that Joecap has a very good "camaraderie" with the media. She said, not only Joecap's family felt the loss, the Malacanang Press Corps too and other members of media.

Last Sunday on her birthday celebration, the president remembers that Perlie "had a big smile and kissed her Happy Birthay." She also look her straight in the eye and said, "Thank you ma'am for the trust." 

The two pilots, Major Sacatani and Captain Aligata, were "veteran and conservative pilots" according to the president, the kind that " would recommend not to take off if the weather turned bad" The president said she believed that on that fateful afternoon when the presidential bell-chopper crashed in the heavily forested mountain of Ifugao, the pilots "did what they believed was right."

Sgt. Perez was the silent presence according to the president, "opening and closing the door for her." She was hoping that since the Sgt. was seated near the door, that he managed to jump and survive the crash.

Reyno's 9-month old baby would be raised by an entire village the president assured, the entire PSG, would assist in raising the child she left behind.

In closing the president said that the only and biggest comfort she can offer to those who grieve is the message she heard from one of her friends. Quoting that message, she said, "All of us have to die sooner or later. It’s not for us to choose. God knows when is the best time for us to go."

The president too acknowledged that all eight died with the "highest sense of public duty under a most challenging work environment".

In closing the president said, "we send them off with our prayers and remembrance." (end)


by Arlyn dela Cruz
April 8, 2009
Posted 10:49 PM

For someone who writes as fast as she talks, I am at a lost for words. I do not know how to begin. I cannot find the right words. I needed air--fresh air to breath. No, I needed more! I want to be in an open space-- some place where I can really shout and pour out my heart's content.

Just minutes ago, the Palace confirmed earlier reports by local officials in Ifugao Province that no one survived the crash, no one on board that ill-fated presidential Bell chopper that went missing since past 4 o'clock Tuesday afternoon. Among the eight passengers include a man whom everyone I know in media, (probably even President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself) calls Tata Joecap or Tatang Joecap.

Will someone help me type the right words? Will someone lead me to the right angle to this one? Anne? Tex? Sandra? Marielle? Malou? Cena? Maki? Charie? Dave? Aris? Lailee? Tito Bobby? Debra? Raymond?Ira?Rodney? Pia? Manny?Kiko?Raffy?....anyone?

Oh, I could  could see him laughing, teasing, asking , "Ano na naman yan Arlyn?" ("What is it this time Arlyn?")

Yes, "Tang", for once, I do not know where to start, words suddenly became scarce as if they have abandoned me. This should be easy. This is about someone I know, someone I care about, someone I love, someone everybody loves!!!!

How do you really begin, when all you want to do is cry? Grieve?

But knowing that this is about the man who showed the highest act of professionalism until the very end, his last breath, you sit-up straight and go back to your senses at once. He would have done the same thing for any colleague he cares about, he would do his job, grieving but doing his job for that is what is expected of him.

Before becoming the workaholic that he was as Press Undersecretary, he was one of us, 24/7, running after the news, breaking the news, getting the scoops and reporting them on-air, via RMN-DZXL, then writing at the same time for The Manila Times. I can't remember if he had "TABO" then, a term we journalists use for an extra writing or reporting job, usually for foreign news organizations, the international wires but if he had one then, I will not be surprised for he is one indefatigable guy who can do a lot of things to make his every hour worthwhile.

Back in the early '90's...when he was still younger, we already called him Tatang in the Defense and Police Beat. He would complain and even showed effort in chasing you, just to show that he is not that old and someone who can still catch up with the rest of us. But we all knew that he really didn't mind being called such. To be called "Tatang" was afterall our affirmation that he is the one whose integrity and credibility, we look up to. He was no doubt the "father-figure" in our midst. He knew it and played the part with sincerity, dedication and loyalty of a true friend.

A real survivor---that's who Joecap is...was.And by that I mean, surviving actual brush with death, cheating it, surviving it, and most of the stories he told us, was about how he survived one, one after the other ---while in flight, in mid-air.

I do not remember how many times he rode in a military chopper just like most of us who started in the Defense and Police Beat. But am certain, he had been in one flight where he thought, would be the end for him, for there was a period when flying with the likes of former President Fidel Ramos, then Defense Chief and former Defense Secretary and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Renato De Villa, meant, a sure encounter with an emergency situation while up there in mid air, a real scary ride. This usually happened with Fokker planes of the Philippine Air Force and Huey helicopters.

Surviving a flight with either Tabako (everyone's pet name for Ramos) and Devil Boy (De Villa) would be a feather in one's shoulder, something one can brag about. And Joecap had told us many stories about such kinds, some of us not believing the story at first---until we ourselves experienced it, either with the "Devil Boy" or the "Tabako."

That's why we all know that Joecap would be the last person to get scared to board any aircraft, especially air crafts by the Philippine Air Force. He trusted PAF's pilot, we all did. And even if we all knew that the country's Air Force needed a lot of upgrading and modernization to do, we take comfort and confidence in the capability of PAF pilots, among the bests in their field--at par with the rest of the world. ....If only they would be manning more sophisticated and more high-tech air crafts.

When I heard the initial report that Joecap was even able to send text messages about the weather condition, the "zero-visibility" they experienced on air and the information that the "pilots were finding a safe place to land"--- in hindsight, I told myself, that's our "Tatang" alright---a true reporter and journalist up to the last minute. He could have sent a text message with a different content, something that would raise alarm or panic, but he did not for that's not his character at all.

Instead, he gave text messages that are plain, factual and current---as if he was reporting it on-air, and everyone whose tuned in, listening, to his blow by blow account of an air accident that was about to happen, glued to what would happen next. No doubt about it. Up to his last breath, JOECAP was on duty, reporting in mid-air---until that final crash that ended his life and seven others on board that presidential Bell chopper.

We in media are grieving for the lost of one colleague who is so lovable and easy to work with, that even the oftentimes hot-tempered president can't seem to live without. In her report over DZBB, Aileen Intia recalled that whenever on a provincial coverage with the president and Joecap was nowhere in sight, the president would openly say, "Where's Joecap? where's Joecap?"... stopping the inquiry only upon seeing the man who seemed to have all the charm to deal with the media that has remained critical to her administration since her Day One in office. The president knew who her lucky charms are...and one of them was none other than our very own Tatang Joecap.

Intia obviously held back her tears, for after all, like the president, she too and the rest of the Malacanang Press Corps dealt with Joecap almost everyday of the week. I know why Intia tried her best to keep calm and composed in her reportage. It was what Joecap would have done. In fact--that's exactly what he did when he sent those last text messages --- minutes, probably even seconds...before he breath his last.

We reported his story with a grieving heart but we knew---this is no less than what he expected from us.

To say that Joecap will be missed is truly an understatement. It was a great honor to have walked the same road with him.

Tatang, salamat sa lahat ng halimbawa, sa lahat ng payo, sa lahat ng suporta at higit sa lahat sa lahat ng pagmamahal na nagmula sa iyo---pagmamahal na tanging ikaw lamang ang makapagbibigay, dahil naging tunay na ama ka para sa marami sa amin. (end)

Sa kanyang Facebook, isiniulat ni kasamang Bobby Capco na si Joecap na naman ang nagsilbing "advance party". Ganun talaga si Tatang, gustong mauna, para ayos ang lahat, yung bagay na alam niyang kakailanganin ng mga mamamahayag, pati mga personalidad at anggulo sa istorya, tinitignan na niya agad, bago pa ang aktuwal na coverage. Palibhasa'y dugong mamamahayag---kapakanan ng kanyang mga kasama na nagbabalita sa aktibidad ng pangulo ang kanyang laging isinasaisip.

Hindi marahil batid ng marami---true performer po itong si Joecap--ala Gary V. ha!---Gridiron days ng NPC, ilang beses din siyang kasama sa pagtatanghal. Pero kahit wala sa entablado---lalo na kapag may karaoke sing-a-long---di puwedeng wala siyang kakantahing piyesa. Isa sa mga paborito niya----My Way, siyempre pa!

At dahil nga sa Tatang ng lahat, kapag may ikinasal na reporter, di na sisipat pa ng malayo, una agad siya sa listahan ng mga Ninong. Magrereklamo yan, sasabihin, "Ako na naman? Wala na ba kayong makuhang iba?" Akala mo ayaw, pero gustong-gusto noon at kapag sinabi niyang di siya makadadalo---proxy na lang, wag kang maniwala---una pa siyang darating sa lahat ng mga Ninong at Ninang. At pag nakita ka, tatanungin ka, "O guwapo na ba ako?"


April 8, 2009
Posted 10:19 PM

Stricken with grief, palace officials made the inevitable announcement: No one survived among the eight passengers of the presidential chopper Bell-412 that went missing since late afternoon, Tuesday.

Press Undersecretary Lorelie Fajardo made the announcement from the Mansion in Baguio City where the president, the first family are staying for the Lenten Break.

The eight persons on board the ill-fated chopper include the following: Press Undersecretary Jose Capadocia, presidential military aide Brig. Gen. Carlos Clet, Undersecretary for Presidential Engagements and Appointments Malou Frostrum, Presidential Management Staff assistant director Perlita Bandayanon, Navy Petty Officer 1 Demy Reyno, Air Force Staff Sergeant Roe Gem Perez and pilots Major Rolando Sacatani and Captain Alvin Aligata.

Earlier, Presidential Management Staff Secretary Hermogenes Esperon said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was very-very sad about the accident. (end)

Up to the last minute, Press Undersecretary Jose Capadocia was doing his job, coordinating the activities of the president on her scheduled visit to the Cordilleras, an activity that was called off because of the accident.

In this picture from PIA files are Presidential Undersecretary Malou Frostrom and Presidential Management Staff Assistant Perlita Bandayanon.

NEWS UPDATE: "The president is very, very sad..." Secretary Hermogenes Esperon

April 8, 2009
Posted 5:20 PM

Most of the passengers of the presidential Bell-chopper that crashed in the heavily forested area of Sitio Mangingihe in Barangay Eheb in Tinoc, Ifugao are very close to the president.

In a press conference at the Official Presidential Residence in Baguio City, Presidential Management Staff Secretary Hermogenes Esperon said, "The president is very, very sad." Before Esperon spoke with the media, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo gave a very brief statement wherein she said she is saddened by the discovery of the three bodies.

But the president expressed hope that the five other passengers are still alive and asked the nation to pray for the survival of the 5 other passengers. She did not entertain any questions and left at once, leaving the handling of the media to Esperon and Press Secretary Cerge Remonde.

Talking to the media, Esperson confirmed that most of the passengers are very close to the media. He mentioned three of them, Presidential Undersecretary for Engagement and Appointments Malou Frostrum, who directly coordinates with the president on a day to day basis, Brig. General Carlos Clet, who according to Esperon has been serving the president under the Presidential Security Group since Mrs. Arroyo assumed power and Press Undersecretary Jose Capadocia, who according to Esperon, was always with the president almost everyday.

"You could just imagine how sad the president is," Esperon said.

Esperon also said they have reason to believe that the remaining five passengers are still alive and are just waiting to be rescued.

The three bodies found on the crash site, two inside the chopper and one immediately outside the chopper, have not been identified as of this time.(end)


April 8, 2009
Posted 3:10 PM

Wrecked and totally burned. This is the state of the missing chopper located on foot by a combined team of rescue team from Ifugao-Philippine National Police and the Philippine Army.

Speaking to the Malacanang Press Corps, Presidential Management Staff Secretary Hermogenes Esperon said, the chopper was located at around 2:30 in the afternoon in the heavily forested area of Sitio Mangingihe in Barangay Eheb in Tinoc, Ifugao.

Rescue team from the area of crash sent messages to Directorate for Integrated Police  Operations for Northern Luzon Director Leopoldo Bataoil informing him about the actual sighting and the discovery of three dead bodies.

Bataoil said determining the identities of the three dead bodies will take some time.

Eight passengers were on board the presidential chopper that went missing since late afternoon of Tuesday and authorities are not discounting the possibility that the other five are still in the thickly forested area of the crash site. "We are keeping our hopes that the others are still alive," Bataoil said in an interview.

The missing Bell 412 aircraft  with tail number 1946 was carrying Press Undersecretary Jose Capadocia, presidential military aide Brig. Gen. Carlos Clet, Undersecretary for Presidential Engagements and Appointments Malou Frostrum, Presidential Management Staff assistant director Perlita Bandayanon, Navy Petty Officer 1 Demy Reyno, and Air Force Staff Sergeant Roe Gem Perez.

The two pilots mannging the presidential chopper were identified as Major Rolando Sacatani and Captain Alvin Aligata.

The chopper took off from Loakan Airport in Baguio City at about 4:15 p.m. Tuesday and was supposed to arrive in Ifugao about an hour later.

A few minutes after that, one of the passengers, Capadocia, was able to send a text message to the someone at the Office of the Press Secretary's MARO and reported that they are experiencing zero visibility and that the pilots are locating a possible landing place. (end)

NEWS UPDATE: Negatibo ang resulta ng unang search operation sa isang bahagi ng Mt. Pulag

April 8, 2009
Posted 2: 07 PM

Negatibo ang unang ground search and rescue operation sa lugar na unang natukoy na posibleng kakikitaan ng nawawalang presidential chopper.

Mula sa mismong bayan ng Kabayan, Benguet, iniulat ni Directorate for Integrated Police  Operations for Northern Luzon Director Leopoldo Bataoil na negatibo ang naunang impormasyon na natukoy na sa bahagi ng  Junior Pulag area na nasa pagitan ng Kabayan at Mt. Pulag ang nawawalang Bell 412-chopper na may lulang walong pasahero.

Ayon kay Bataoil, nagtungo mismo sila sa Tinoc, Ifugao upang suyurin ang lugar at maging sa sinasabing Junior Pulag. Sa panayam sa kanya, ito ang sinabi ni Bataoil,"Nandito kami sa Kabayan, Benguet, galing kami ng Tinoc, Ifugao, we scoured the area 'yong Junuior Mt. Pulag na sinasabi nila na may narinig na helicopter doon kahapon, so far negative.  Nag-landing kami sa Kabayan Benguet, and  we are also getting  hold one teacher na narinig din niya".

Lulan ng nasabing aircraft sina Press Undersecretary for Media Relations Jose Capadocia,  Undersecretary for Presidential Engagements and Appointments Malou Frostrom, Assistant Secretary Perlita Bandayanon, senior military assistant ng Pangulo na si Brig. Gen. Carlos Clet, dalawang aide-de-camp, ang dalawang piloto, at isang crew ng 250th Presidential Airlift Wing.

Nauna rito ay sinabi ni Philippine Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Oscar Ravena na posibleng ang masamang panahon o makapal na ulap ang naging dahilan ng pagkawala sa contact nila sa helicopter kahapon.

Nang pabalik na kasi ito sa Loakan airport sa Baguio City mula sa pagkabigong makalapg sa Banaue ay nawalan na sila ng contact pagsapit ng aircraft sa bahagi ng Benguet at Ifugao.

Ang negatibong resulta ng ginawang search operation sa Tinoc, Ifugao ay lalo pa ngang nagpalakas ng loob ng mga otoridad na maaaring  nag-emergency landing ang chopper sa isang lugar na walang signal.

Nauna rito, sa palasyo ng Malakanyang kanina, sinabi ni Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita na nananatiling mataas ang kanilang pag-asa na ligtas ang lahat ng lulan ng nawawalang presidential chopper. (wakas)

A US military aircraft, a CH-46 was deployed before lunch time this morning from Clark Air Base to Baguio City to assist in the search and rescue operation for the missing presidential chopper.

The website GLOBAL AIRCRAFT describes as CH-46 aircraft as a the US Navy's Sea Knight helicopter used for shipboard delivery of cargo and personnel.

The CH-46 is used by the Marine Corps to provide all-weather, day-or-night assault transport of combat troops, supplies and equipment.

The CH-46 Sea Knight was first procured in 1964 to meet the medium-lift requirements of the Marine Corps in all combat and peacetime environments since that time.

CH-46 choppers are stationed in the Philippines right now for the Balikatan Military Exercises.

The US aircraft and personnel, mostly US marines, are participating in the search and rescue mission in response to an official request made by the Office of the Foreign Affairs Secretary to the US Embassy.

"The president was very sad. She told me that we  can just pray hard enough" Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said, in a response to a question as to how the president reacted to the report of the missing chopper carrying officials of the Presidential Management Staff and the Presidential Security Guard.

NEWS UPDATE: Search in progress for the missing Presidential Chopper...

April 8, 2009
Posted 9:57 AM

The search for the missing presidential place in Northern Luzon still turns "negative" as of this time.

The Philippine Air Force and the Regional Disaster Coordinating Council (RDCC) in Northern Luzon have already beefed up the search operation and has appealed to residents to help them locate the Bell 412 chopper.

PAF 1st Air Division commander Brig. Gen. Lino Horacio Lapinid said they are hopeful they can locate the chopper before the end of the day.

The chopper's last recorded signal was 5-7 nautical miles northeast of Baguio City according to PAF spokesman Maj. Gerardo Zamudio Jr.

In Malacañang, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said they spent the entire Tuesday night monitoring developments on the missing chopper. The Press Secretary said, they remain "hopeful and prayerful" the helicopter merely landed in an area without cell phone coverage.

Remonde's high hopes is based on the report he received from the Palace’s Media Accreditation and Relations Office (MARO) that Press Undersecretary Jose Capadocia, one of the chopper’s passengers, had called to say they were looking for a place to land.

Capadocia in his last call to MARO that they were looking for a landing place because of zero visibility. "That was the last contact, naghahanap sila ng ma-landing-an," Remonde said.
Aside from Capadocia, the Bell 412 was carrying presidential military aide Brig. Gen. Carlos Clet, Undersecretary for Presidential Engagements and Appointments Malou Frostrum, Presidential Management Staff assistant secretary Perlita Bandayanon, Clet’s aide de camp and two pilots.

The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said that because of the tail-end of a cold front, Northern and Eastern Luzon will experience mostly cloudy skies with scattered light rains.

This tail-end of a cold front affecting Northern and Eastern Luzon may make the search harder. (end)

NEWS UPDATE: Rescue teams found more bodies, counting 3, then...7

April 8, 2009
Posted 9:33 PM

The bodies found now counts

As rescue teams on the ground explore the crash site in the heavily forested area of Barangay Eheb in Tinoc town in Ifugao Mountain Province, more bodies were discovered, hopes of survivors, now very dim.

Five bodies have been taken from the wreckage of a presidential helicopter while another body was sighted buried under debris, Senior Superintendent Danilo Pelisco, Benguet Provincial Police Director said, hours after the downed aircraft was found in the hills of Tinoc town. The presidential chopper, Bell 412 with body number 1946 had gone missing at around 4:30 in the afternoon, Tuesday, shortly after taking off from Baguio City’s Loakan airport.

Pelisco described one of the recovered bodies as clad in a blue uniform, possibly that of a helicopter crewman. Others, he described as “burned beyond recognition.”

Pelisco said the search for the remaining one missing passenger would continue into the night.

All recovered bodies would be flown to Baguio for identification. But from the crash site, the cadavers found according to Pelisco would be evacuated by foot to the town proper of Tinoc before airlifting the bodies to Baguio City.

Aerial operations were suspended in the afternoon because of torrential rains, he said.

On board the aircraft were Arroyo’s military aide, Brigadier General Carlos Clet, Undersecretary Marilou Frostrom of the Presidential Management Staff, Undersecretary Jose Capadocia Jr. of the Office of the Press Secretary, assistant director Perlita Bandayanon of the PMS’ office of regional concerns, chopper pilot Major Rolando Sacatani, his co-pilot Captain Alvin Alegata, Petty Officer 1 Demy Reyno, and Air Force crewman Staff Sergeant Romeo Gem Perez.

The ill-fated presidential chopper that carried Malacañang aides was the advance mission for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's inspection of the Bontoc -Banaue road project in the tourist town of Banaue, an activity that was called off after the chopper was confirmed missing.

Immediately upon take-off from Loakan, Capadocia was still busy doing his job, coordinating Ms Arroyo's itinerary by telephone with Helen Tibaldo, Philippine Information Agency Director for the Cordilleras.
Tibaldo in an interview said Capadocia sent his list of requests by text messages, including background details on Jovie Ann Decoyna, the topnotcher of the recent nursing licensure examinations.Capadocia wanted to present Decoyna, a Benguet native, to the President in Banaue, she said.

One of Capadocia's text messages was about them encountering a problem of zero-visibility. (end)

The presidential Bell Chopper was found in a thickly forested portion of Sitio Mangingihe In Barangay Eheb in Tinoc, Ifugao. Residents say it's still a virgin forest that's why it took almost a day for a composite rescue team to reach the area by foot.

The official announcement on the sighting of the presidential Bell Chopper came from Presidential Management Staff Secretary Hermogenes Esperon Jr. Esperon said he has every reason to hope that there are survivors among the passengers of the presidential chopper that went missing at past 4 o'clock in the afternoon, Tuesday.

A member of the Ifugao-PNP informed Police Director Leopoldo Bataoil through text message (SMS) about the discovery of the crash site. Bataoil broke in the information on radio at around 2:36 in the afternoon.

"The president is asking everyone to refrain from making any speculations about what could have happened to the other 5 passengers that are still to be located,"-Press Secretary Cerge Remonde


April 8, 2009
Posted 12:48 PM

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita this early rules out any possibility that an act of sabotage was behind the reported explosion of the missing presidential chopper.

"No we are ruling that angle," said Ermita who also stressed that whatever happened to the missing chopper has something to do with a bad weather condition based on the call made by Undersecretary Jose Capadocia informing someone from MARO that they are encountering "zero visibility and was finding a safe place to land".

Philippine Air Force Chief Lt. General Oscar Rabena also ruled out any sabotage saying it is impossible because according to him,"presidential helicopters are well secured. They have guards in place, and it is very remote that a saboteur was able to come near the choppers.”

The sabotage angle was raised by one palace reporter because of an earlier report that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was supposed to board the missing chopper.

"No, that's not true. It was a back up chopper," Ermita clarified.

The president too already issued orders to the National Disaster Coordinating Council and other agencies to hasten the search and rescue operation.

The president is personally monitoring the progress of the search and rescue operation according to palace officials. (end)

NEWS UPDATE: Residents heard explosion between 4-5 in the afternoon, Tuesday

April 8, 2009
Posted 10:31 AM

Residents of Barangay Eheb in Tinoc town in Ifugao province heard an explosion around the time the presidential chopper carrying government executives went missing on Tuesday afternoon, this according to Police Senior Superintendent Samuel Deciano.

"They heard an explosion yesterday which is about the time that the helicopter was missing sometime between 4-5 in the afternoon.We are validating the report," Deciano said.

The missing presidential chopper Bell 412 carrying four Palace officials, one aide and two pilots, left Loakan Airport in Baguio City around 4 p.m. Tuesday and should have reached its destination of Banaue, Ifugao in just a matter of 15 to 20 minutes.

The four passengers are:Press Undersecretary Jose Capadocia, presidential military aide Brig. Gen. Carlos Clet, Undersecretary for Presidential Engagements and Appointments Malou Frostrum, Presidential Management Staff assistant secretary Perlita Bandayanon, Clet’s aide de camp and two pilots.

Ifugao Governor Teddy Baguilat also said in a radio interview that the possible crash site has already been identified, in a mountain that is still part of Mt. Pulag. The information also came from residents of Barangay Eheb.

The provincial government has already disptached its own search and rescue team.

The Palace officials on board the Bell 412 chopper were on their way to Ifugao to conduct an ocular inspection of the site in preparation for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's scheduled visit. The visit was postponed following the incident. (end)

The missing Bell  412 chopper is one of two units that is used by the Presidential Airlift Wing.  It's a very durable chopper, considered an all-aircraft that can cope up with any kind of weather condition.

Since the time of former President Fidel Ramos, the said chopper used as an executive carrier has no recorded accident or any mechanical trouble at all.

Two of the best pilots of the Philippine Air Force are also on board the missing Bell 412 chopper. 

This is a file photo of Press Undersecretary Jose "Joecap" Capadocia, wearing a pink checkered polo shirt, in one of the activities attended by the President in the provinces. Photo came from the files of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA).

Mt. Pulag is considered a National Park and is the highest peak in Luzon and second highest mountain in the Philippines with an elevation of 2922 meters above sea level.

Pulag is also known for its unique characteristics, that of changing color on different occasions and seasons. Testimonies from climbers who have trekked Pulag attest that during dry season, Mt. Pulag is brown similar to the chocolate Hills of Bohol, but on Rainy Monsoon season, the colors will vary from light green to rich dark green rolling plains, almost similar to a well maintained golf course. Residents of Benguet believed that Pulag serves as a "playground of the gods."

by Arlyn dela Cruz

April 7, 2009
Posted 9:25 AM

"SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE", this is the very timely and interesting observation by a former hostage of the Abu Sayyaf Group. The one speaking is one of the 21 mostly European hostages kidnapped in the famous Dive Resort of Sipadan in Malaysia in the year 2000.

I will not mention her name here, a recognition of the fact that she has moved on and forward with her life. A mere mention of her name may place her in the limelight again, something that I know, she would not want to happen.

But from where she is now, especially after learning about the story of the aid workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), held hostage by the very same group that kidnapped them some nine years ago, she can't help but give a piece of her mind, timely insights that I hope would government of what is really at stake in this recent kidnapping crisis in the province of Sulu.

Via message in one of the social networking spaces that reunited this reporter and this one particular former hostage from the Sipadan batch of 21, she noted that some personalities involved in the negotiation for their release are also players in this latest hostage crisis in Sulu stressing that the same problem among negotiators persists. Her message reads, , "I even see some of the old names - like Tan and Nur... and see that the negotiators are once again fighting."

This former Sipadan hostage too recognized Albader Parad from the pictures and video about the ICRC hostage crisis. She remembered that at that time, year 2000, Parad was just a "kid" but already married.
In her message to this reporter she wrote, "I do recognize the new AS leader. I am sure he was a youngster when we were there. I remember him telling us that he was married - and he was still a kid."

I cannot help but nod my head in agreement. Very true indeed, some things never changed. I knew this for a fact since I was the first reporter who was able to locate the hostages taken from Sipadan, more than a week after they were reported kidnapped from that paradise island resort in Malaysia--ahead of the authorities that is, who at that time has still no idea where the hostages were taken after they were forcibly taken from Sipadan. Pardon me if I had to say that last part, not to brag, but to acknowledge the glaring truth that somehow what happened to me, a reporter who became a hostage herself in January of 2002, had something to do with that very controversial and exclusive story that I did on the Sipadan hostages. That is of course...another story.

But the fact is, the Sipadan crisis has has somehow created this bond amongst us, the former victims and the first reporter who saw them with the ASG, that puts us in the same level of concern for the two remaining hostages still in the hands of this Al-Qaeda linked group in Southern Mindanao.

Let us explore that observation that some things never change and that one of the similar factor about Sipadan and this ICRC hostage crisis is that negotiators are fighting, bickering, not behind closed doors, in high level meetings of policy makers, but in media, and in a very public way. Something that is monitored and taken cognizance by the kidnappers.

The bickering is now reduced to politicking, especially between two personalities, Senator Richard Gordon and Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro who both do not deny their aspirations to become the next president of the Republic.

I can just imagine Parad glued to his transistor radio, most probably that kind that gets the signal of BBC Radio and Voice of America, hearing blow by blow how personalities in government and in public office squabble over how to best solve the hostage crisis they perpetrated. Former hostages taken from Sipadan could attest to this, that the ASG leader who led the group that took them from the Malaysian Island Resort, Ghalib Andang, more popularly known as Commander Robot, listened and monitored all the reports and statements made about the hostage crisis through his transistor radio, and was most of the time tuned in to no less than the radio broadcast of Voice of America!

Needless to say, apart from gaining international millage by kidnapping ICRC aid workers, the ASG has obviously succeeded in creating an image of disunity and divisiveness amongst policy makers and stakeholders in government. Twice over, the ASG have succeeded in the game of psychological warfare. The fact that they still have the hostages is not even included in that equation.

During the Sipadan hostage crisis, while it was true that there was bickering between then Presidential Adviser on Special Concerns Secretary Robert Aventajado and Presidential Adviser on Mindanao Affairs Secretary Lee Peng Wee, between then Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Sulu Governor Abdulsakur Tan, Aventajado versus Misuari at one point, then later between Aventajado and former Libyan Ambassador to the Philippines Rajab Azzarouq---there was still a clear line of authority on who was really in charge of negotiation to free the hostages then: Aventajado.

There was bickering left and right, that was true but it was clear that he was in charge on how everyone should move on the ground, including the disposition of the troops in Sulu. It was at least clear then who gives the order and who directly reports and consults with then President Joseph Estrada on how the negotiations are progressing, stage by stage. It was clear who took full responsibility in handling that hostage crisis.

It should also be noted that the military option at that time was pursued after the release of all 21 hostages.The full might of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in full blast after the release of the last remaining hostage. The military claimed victory after that offensive. But we all know what happened years after that. More kidnap victims were added in the list, the perpetrators, still the same group, the ASG.

The armed group that the military claimed it neutralized, crippled in previous offensive has managed to make a comeback. The center stage of international attention is at their feet again earning and prompting an appeal that came no less than from the Vatican, when they threatened to behead one of the ICRC hostages.

The attention enjoyed by the ASG is blamed by some sectors in the media. While that maybe true to some extent, it is a misconception to conclude that it was deliberate and intentional. The only reason that the ASG hugs the headlines these days is the fact that they have new hostages, not just any ordinary hostages for that matter, but members of the ICRC, whose symbol, the red cross, is respected and revered even in war torn countries like Iraq, Sudan and Afghanistan.

After Sipadan, the most daring act of kidnapping by the ASG, one would imagine that by now, the government has gained a deeper and wider understanding of the enemy, that one group, really small in terms of numbers, that they would know by now how to really stop this thing that they do, over and over again.

In her message to this reporter, the former hostage from Sipadan asked, "when will this thing stop?"

The question is best directed to the government. Government holds the key to a final and lasting solution to the real problem in Sulu and in areas in Muslim Mindanao. It's cliche, but getting there is all about political will and determination.

But that is a really long shot and needs full and undivided attention.

The urgent thing to do right now is for government to find a way to free the two remaining hostages, Swiss national Andreas Notter and Italian national Eugenio Vagni, through rescue of negotiation, it's really up to the government. The most important thing is the assurance that in whatever formula, government chooses to apply, the safety of the hostages must be given the highest priority.

For now, just like everyone else, we await the ending of this kidnapping crisis in Sulu, hoping only for the best, that just like we did, Andreas and Eugenio survive this ordeal so that they too can be reunited to their loved ones. We know that their lives will not be the same again after this experience. But if there's any comfort and consolation to this kind of human experience, this is the truth that former hostages know, that life is more meaningful, more beautiful and more cherished than before.

We are very thankful that Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba is now free, slowly picking up the pieces, starting anew with her family, after 77 in captivity, a life-changing journey that behan when they were taken at gunpoint in the vicinity of the Sulu Provincial Capitol in Patikul, Sulu.

We are hoping only for the best, and that means, our common belief that Andreas and Eugenio survive this ordeal just like all the other hostages before them.

"All we can do is pray" this former Sipadan hostage said in her message, saying she is following up on the development of this story with faith in the Lord.

In the final analysis, this is the only one true and powerful truth that all former hostages embrace. When people play "god" and threaten to take your life, just like that, as if it's worthless and meaningless, surrendering your fate to God is the only way to truly survive.(end)

Journalist Nelly Sindayen, proud to be Tausug

April 6, 2009
Posted 9:10 AM

When I was still the new kid on the block so to speak, many journalists who have been there years ahead of me welcomed and supported me in my pursuits as a journalists. That list is long, names of colleagues older that I am taught me what I needed to know when I was just starting and colleagues who take pride in the steps that I made, big and small, as I carve my pwn little space, my mark, niche in this very competitive industry.

They are the ones I can really call my friends.One of them is none other than Nelly Sindayen, a journalist born in the island of Siasi, a town in Sulu, a true-blue Tausug who is proud of her heritage. Tausugs are known for their bravery and fearless traits as fighters. In Nelly's case, her bravery was seen and reflected in all her works as a journalist.

Nelly died in her sleep last Saturday, in the comfort of her home, after she spent a number of months at St. Lukes Medical Center in Quezon City. Since June of 2007, Nelly has been battling with severe diabetic stroke. She died at age 59, three days shy on what could have been her 60th birthday.

I met her in 1992 during the Regional Elections for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). It was her kababayan and good friend Sylvia Calderon, then a stringer for People's Tonight, who introduced us to each other. From then on, we would become really good friends, catching up on what's happening on each others' lives whenever we can. Yes, I also had this girly-bonding time with Nelly. She's older than I am but I never called her Tita or Ate for she insisted the very first time when I called her Ma'am, "Day, just call me Nelly, that would do."

When my career started to bloom, scoops left and right, exclusive here and there, some people in the industry that I am in, suddenly became critical and raised questions that bordered on intrigues and baseless innuendos and accusations. There were many times that these unfounded criticisms reduced me to tears.

In one of those moments, Nelly offered a shoulder to cry on and offered a sisterly advise that helped me got through the many storms that crossed my path as a journalist. I would never forget what Nelly told me, " Dear, focus on the thing that you do. You are not here to please everybody. Being a journalist is not being about popular, you will certainly make enemies and earn criticism from your peers. In the end, you have a job to do. Report the truth as you uncovered it. Ganun lang yun Day, I tell you."

Coming from a journalist who is fiercely competitive, I took comfort hearing from someone like her that all that I had to go through are all part and parcel of my chosen career.

The last time that Nelly and I really bonded was along that Street in Evangelista in Makati, where there are many vintage and "ukay-ukay" furniture and other stuff for the house. Everything second hand at very affordable and reasonable prices. She did her shopping for anything vintage in her traditional Malong piece, simply tied at one end over her right shoulder.

I purchased one wall clock that day, something I still hang in the house and everytime I look at it, I remember Nelly and all her practical advises. "Day, pag isinabit mo sa bahay mo yan at nilinis mo, sino ba ang mag-aakalang dito mo lang sa Evangelista binili yan?"
Nelly Sindayen will surely be missed by her peers and by the lives she touched and inspired through the years.

Below is an article Nelly Sindayen wrote for Time Magazine some years ago. I posted here to remind everyone of how good a writer she is. The piece is incidentally about the Abu Sayyaf Group, now hugging the headlines again because of the hostage crisis involving aid workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).


Another movie-star-handsome young man was nabbed on terrorism charges last week, and he had a story almost as chilling as Amrozi's in Indonesia. Abdulmukim Edris, a 30-year-old computer school graduate, was arrested in Manila and charged with last month's bombing of a shopping mall in the southern Philippine city of Zamboanga. Police said Edris was planning more mayhem, this time for the country's capital, including an attack on the U.S. embassy, shopping malls and the stock exchange, apparently by using truck bombs. "He's the top bomber, the No. 1 bomber, of the Abu Sayyaf," crowed President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at a press conference at which a silent Edris was displayed to the media. Abu Sayyaf gained notoriety as a kidnap gang, snatching Filipinos and foreigners for no greater cause than cash. But the allegations against Edris suggest it may have morphed into a more dangerously political outfit. Why else would a bunch of kidnappers be blowing up buildings and people? Last week, Edris provided some troubling answers.

According to Philippine armed forces Chief General Benjamin Defensor, Edris admitted heading the group's "urban special operations and explosives team." In late August 2001, two alleged al-Qaeda operatives from Yemen sneaked into the southern Philippine island of Basilan to train Edris and two other members of the gang to use explosives triggered by clocks or cell phones, according to the military. After the training, Abu Sayyaf leader Khadaffy (Daf) Abubakar Janjalani told a Zamboanga radio station that the group was being renamed Al Harakatul al Islamiya, or the Islamic Movement. The change of name was accompanied by a new mission: international jihad. Janjalani called upon all Muslim faithful to launch attacks against the U.S. and other foreign interests.

Abu Sayyaf once had an anti-Western ideology—and links to al-Qaeda. Ramzi Yousef, who tried to destroy the World Trade Center in February 1993, spent time in the southern Philippines training the group, and involved it in an aborted 1995 plot to blow 11 airliners out of the sky over the Pacific. But in the following years, the lucre of kidnapping was Abu Sayyaf's chief interest. "For the Abu Sayyaf to transform to a regional Islamic movement is not a big step," says Rex Robles, a security consultant and a former domestic intelligence chief. "They're just going back."

Manila television journalist Arlyn de la Cruz went to Basilan last December to interview Janjalani, and one of her three escorts through the jungle was Edris. En route to the interview they were ambushed by a rival gang, who stabbed the three escorts and left them for dead.

When De la Cruz saw Edris on television last week, she shrieked, "What? He managed to live?" He did, and investigators say he has told them that 20 other bombers from Abu Sayyaf have been dispatched around Manila. Philippine authorities say they cannot confirm that Edris is working for al-Qaeda, but according to Defensor, "We believe there is some link somewhere."

In Zamboanga last week, two men were arrested for alleged possession of more than 50 kilos of ammonium nitrate, blasting caps and detonating cords. In Manila, police say, four more Filipinos—including an army sergeant—were arrested with explosives, a rocket-propelled grenade, two pipe bombs and a fuse buster hidden in crates of bananas. They, too, police say, had plans to bomb the U.S. embassy. The Philippines caught one alleged bomber last week—it better keep looking for the rest. (end)


April 5, 2009
Posted 1:17 PM

A slight touch on her arms still jolts her. She can’t stay in one place for a long time, sitting from one chair to another, always on the move. Her actions seemed guarded. She smiles at people but her  eyes, restless, always looking at her back as if she was expecting someone to appear or something else to happen. That was Mary Jean Lacaba’s demeanor on the day she reunited with her family and was flown back to Manila.

Corazon Dacong, a volunteer for the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) was there up close and she shares us her observations. Dacong was assigned as a close-in to Mary Jean that day and she said even Mary Jean's husband noticed this about her. According to Dacong Manny said he thinks his wife is still frightened up to this time. “Takot pa siya hanggang ngayon,” Dacong quoted Mary Jean’s husband Manny.

Dacong was PNRC’s point person for media relations and documentation. That day, she was hoping, she could get to talk to Mary Jean at once hear directly from the former hostage of the Abu Sayyaf Group her experience and ordeal while still in captivity.

But according to Dacong, Mary Jean politely told her that she’s not yet ready. “One day I will share my story, but not at once, not this time,” this was what Mary Jean told Dacong.

In an interview with this reporter Dacong explained that part of her volunteer job in the PNRC is to ask questions related to the documentation of cases, thus her attempt to extract answers from Mary Jean about her experience. “Hindi pa raw siya handa, gusto raw muna niyang magpahinga,” Dacong said.

Lacaba was released ahead of her two co-aid workers, Swiss national Andreas Notter and Italian national Eugenio Vagni. The government and even Abu Sayyaf Commander Albader Parad maintain that no ransom was paid for Lacaba’s freedom which Parad describe as their “act of goodwill”, a proof of his gentleman’s agreement with Senator Richard Gordon.

Dacong was with Gordon when he fetched Mary Jean’s husband and son in Davao. Dacong observed that Mary Jean’s husband appeared shy and timid but did embrace the senator many times, his words of gratitude, overflowing. “Speechless si Manny, thank you lang ang sinasabi, pero yakap nang yakap kay senator,” Dacong said sharing what she saw when the senator, who is also the Chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross met with Mary Jean’s husband, Manny.

When the family finally reunited, there were even more hugs and kisses. No words were uttered, just hugs and kisses, tight ones, according to Dacong who saw first hand how the Lacabas reunited. She recalled that the three never wanted to break the embrace, “Ayaw nilang magbitiw ng pagkakahawak, yakap sila ng yakap, lalo na yung tatlo, si Mary Jean, si Manny at ang anak nila.“

While Mary Jean now gives a ready and easy smile to everyone she met upon her release, Dacong noticed one thing about the former hostage’s demeanor. “Magugulatin siya. Hinawakan ko ang braso niya, katabi lang niya ako, pero nagulat talaga siya,” says Dacong adding that aside from that she also notice that Mary Jean’s eyes are restless, always looking at her back, as if she was expecting something or someone. “Lingon siya nang lingon. Lakad siya nang lakad sa kuwarto. Di mapakali sa upuan, Sabi ko nga sa kanya, relax lang siya,” Dacong said, stressing that it was not only she who observed this about Mary Jean, but everyone in the room, especially ICRC officers who decided to protect her from the prying eyes of the media.

There was one other thing too. Every time she wants to do something, like go to the comfort room or talk to someone, Mary Jean would ask permission from her, from Gordon or from anyone from the ICRC. Dacong noted that this behavior might be directly related to the experience Mary Jean had while in captivity where she got used to receiving orders from the Abu Sayyaf Group and having to ask permission for her every move. “Sasabihin niya sa amin, puwedeng umupo? Puwedeng umihi, lahat ipinagpapaalam. Sa kanya rin naming nalaman na lahat ng ginagawa nila dun sa bundok, ipinagpapaalam nila. Pati pagbabawas, binabantayan sila, kailangang magpaalam talaga,” Dacong narrated.

In her statement to the media Sulu Vice Governor Lady Anne Sahidullah said, she was glad that it was Mary Jean that the ASG decided to free first because she was the one they threatened to behead in the afternoon of March 31, the deadline the ASG set for a military pull-out. “Sa eroplano, yun ang sinasabi ni Vice gov. Hindi naman nagsasalita si Mary Jean, pero nung marinig yun, mula sa pagkakangiti, napaiyak, napayakap sa asawa niya,” Dacong added.

But while Mary Jean is not yet ready to tell her full story, she was able to narrate to Gordon, to Sahidullah and everyone listening from the limited number of people from the ICRC and the PNRC that the three of them, she, Andreas and Eugenio, gave first aid to the wounded ASG members. There were many of them according to Lacaba but she cannot recall how many. Some of the ASG members even called her “ate” she said.

But in telling this part of her experience with pride in her voice, Mary Jean’s voice suddenly turned low, sad and even frightened, Dacong observed, when she turned to that part where she said, she saw many dead bodies from both sides: the military and the ASG.

Mary Jean also repeatedly mentioned, upon release, the message she said, Parad wanted to relay to the government: “For the military to stop their offensive in the province of Sulu.”

Dacong also remembered Mary Jean saying that a stop in the military offensive would be in the best interest and survival of her co-aid workers, Andreas and Eugenio. “Nag-aalala pa rin siya sa dalawa hanggang ngayon, sana raw maghinay-hinay ang military at ang mga kasamahan niya na naiwan ang mas malamang na mapahamak,” Dacong said quoting Mary Jean’s words.

Lacaba and her family is still at an undisclosed place in Metro Manila mainly because she is scheduled to undergo stress and trauma debriefing from a doctor directly sent by the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Gordon has offered a Subic-vacation for the Lacabas but Mary Jean said, “thank you, some other time. That Subic vacation can wait.”

After the debriefing stage with medical doctors of the ICRC, Lacaba expressed her desire to go back to Davao and to simply be with her family again, husband Manny and only son Christian. “Gusto daw muna niya sana na makasama at mayakap nang mayakap ang kanyang mga mahal sa buhay,” Dacong quoted Mary Jean’s words to her, the day after her release, and the day she was physically reunited with her family in Zamboanga.

Davao is home to the Lacabas and this is where they want to start anew after surviving a life-threatening experience, 77 long days, in the hands of a notorious band of armed groups in Sulu known for its extremist and radical interpretation of Islam. (end)


April 4, 2009
Posted 1:46 PM

Money is still the bottom line that would resolve the current hostage crisis in Sulu according to an anti-terrorism expert.

Only this time, there is a high percentage that government can take the word of the Abu Sayyaf Group through Albader Parad who declared "it's not ransom, but something else".

According retired police General Rodolfo "Boogie" Mendoza, an acknowledged expert on anti-terrorism issues especially related to the ASG and links to Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya, reading the pronouncements made by the ASG, he believes that what they are aiming for at this time is sustainability of support. "Ransom is temporary, they want something else and reading their posturing and pronouncement, I think what they intend to do is to revive their financial support network overseas," Mendoza explained.

In an interview with this reporter, Mendoza said that he is taking at face value the statement made by ASG Commander Albader Parad that indeed there was no ransom paid for the release of Filipina hostage Mary Jean Lacaba, 77 days after she and her co-aid workers, Swiss national Andreas Notter and Italian Eugenio Vagni, were kidnapped last January 15.

The two others were left behind and it's not clear what the ASG want in exchange for their freedom.
They hinted that it's not ransom, but "something else" but would not give details.

Mendoza believes, the bottom line, the end-result for the ASG would still be about money.
"Of course they need money to sustain their organization. If they claim they do not want any ransom in exchange for the remaining hostages, Vagni and Notter, then the only explanation behind this seemingly surprising posturing of the ASG is that they are trying to revive their financial support system overseas through this very high profile kidnapping," Mendoza said.

In a press conference in Camp Crame last week, Interior and Local government secretary Ronaldo Puno says he believes the remaining two hostages, Notter and Vagni would the ones used as bargaining chips of the ASG in their "extortion activities" noting that it was obvious, the ASG believes they would get more ransom through Vagni and Notter.

Analysing the latest ICRC hostage crisis, Mendoza said, the high profile attention that the incident garnered, especially from the international community is exactly the right ingredient, the ASG needs in reviving their overseas fund system. The ASG's initial years was financially sustained by donor organizations in Muslim countries and one of these is through the International Islamic Research Organization or IRRO through Mohammed Jamal Khalifa. "I believe that is exactly what they are trying to achieve in this latest hostage incident and to a certain extent, I believe they knew they were able to do just that" Mendoza stressed.

The retired police general who was one of those responsible for discovering the terror cell in the Philippines of bomber Ramsey Ahmed Yousef in 1995
even suspects that prior to the ICRC kidnapping, the ASG already enjoys financial sustainance from allied groups like the Jemaah Islamiya. "Did you notice their new uniform and high powered firearms they displayed in the video they released to media?" Mendoza asked pointing to what he says is a clear sign that even before the latest hostage crisis in Sulu, financial support to the ASG flows through JI.

Puno to revealed to the media that a Singaporean-Indian national that is a major personality in JI is aiding the ASG, serving as "interpreter" to Parad's conversation with the relatives of the two foreigners, Vagni and Notter.

Mendoza agrees, a number of JI personalities has indeed penetrated the ASG, he says. "And I am not even referring to Omar Patek and Dulmatin, but others who have other expertise, one JI personality like Maruwan for example, whose expertise is financial support system," Mendoza explained.

Marwan according to Mendoza was monitored by the intelligence community to have entered the lair of the ASG in Sulu a number of times especially in the last two years. Like Dulmatin and Patek, Marwan is also wanted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) according to Mendoza.

The release of Lacaba without ransom, an act that surprised many, was meant to show moral authority on the part of the ASG according to Mendoza. He noted that when calls and appeals started pouring in, including that from the Vatican and the Swiss Federal Authority, the situation was ripe for releasing a hostage. Mendoza also said that it would serve in the interest of the ASG to show that they can fulfill a commitment announced in public through media. "Yung usapang lalake nila ni senator Richard Gordon, that was meant to project a different personality for Parad," the retired police general observed.

According to Mendoza, the presence of Yasser Igasan in the ASG serves as the unifying force in the once very divided ASG. "Igasan is the key personality in the ASG right now," he adds. Very little is known about Igasan, except for a description coming from other sources, who says, he is "very religious."

Igasan is also one of the original founding members of the ASG under the original leadership of the group under the late Ustadz Abdurajack Abubakar Janjalani. When the older Janjalani died in 1998, Igasan, according to police intelligence reports, was asked to assume the role of Amir but instead, he gave way to the younger brother of the founding leader.

During the entire reign of Khadaffy Janjalani as ASG's Amir, Igasan stayed abroad and only returned to the country after the death of the younger Janjalani in September of 2006.

Mendoza is confident, the two ICRC workers will be released unharmed, the threat to kill them will not be carried out. "Ang peak nito, and ending na nakikita ko, i-release din ang dalawang ICRC workers. Kung papatay sila ng isa man sa hostage, deliberately, alam nila na they will invite an aggressive response from the government, something that they clearly wanted to avoid by demanding a halt in military operations in the province of Sulu" Mendoza said, reading the actions and posturing by the ASG.

The demand for a suspension of military operation in Sulu was a demand they relayed to Lacaba upon release. Then to Sulu Vice Governor Lady Anne Sahidullah and Gordon.

To the members of the media who has access to his cellular number, Parad also said the same thing. This time, the specific demand is for government to halt all military operations in the entire province of Sulu.

But it looks like, this time, government, through the Sulu Crisis Committee has no plans of giving in, not even an inch, to any of the ASG's demand.(end)

A view of Uacon Lake from a new restaurant in Candelaria, Zambales

April 4, 2009
Posted 11:15 AM

Summer is all about collecting memories shared with loved ones.

These days, it is an understatement to say that a family vacation can really be costly that even if all you want to do is go for that beach get-away, staying home is the most practical thing to do.

But what if you get to go to a place that offers truly scenic and wonderful discovery of nature?

This summer, nature tripping need not be costly. Try Candelaria in Zambales. Google and see the many expriences of those ahead of you who discovered the what this unassuming place down north has to offer.

And while you are there, try to visit a newly opened restaurant owned and managed by the very bubbly and enterprising Arnell Garcia.

It's located in Uacon, Candelaria,Zambales and it's called Baywatch sa Mayanan Restaurant.

They offer local Filipino dishes of course but takes pride that they too serve International cuisine from Italy, U.K. and India.

Arnel's Restaurant is open from 4pm to 11pm only.

But they do serve breakfast or lunch if you have a reservation.

The magnificent view of the nearby lake is an added attraction.

Visit them and for more info please call Arnell Garcia, his numbers are: 0920-9823081 / 0921-3080365 / 0927- 2743198

And Oh by the way, Arnel is a good friend of mine, a batchmate from high school, the formidable Batch 1987 of the Olongapo City National High School (OCNHS) (end)

"Bukod kay Gordon, alam din niya na tinawagan ni Parad si Vice President Noli. Ikaw daw, lagi daw niyang naririnig na kinakausap ka ni Parad, pati si Ces (Drilon), tapos yung ibang media na di niya matandaan ang name. Sinasabi naman daw sa kanila kung sino-sino ang mga nakakausap. Lalo na pag walang sumasagot, sinasabi din nina Parad daw," kuwento ni Corazon Dacong sa mga sinabi at narinig niya kay Mary Jean Lacaba.

Sulu Vice Governor Lady Anne Sahidullah coordinated directly with senator Richard Gordon her decision to go to Indanan, that afternoon when she was told by a lady emissary that Albader Parad wants to see her, ASAP. Had she hesitated to go that afternoon, there's a high chance that the ASG would have changed their mind and not release Mary Jean Lacaba that night. "Sabi kasi nila sa akin, di sila nagtatagal sa isang lugar, mabuti daw dumating ako at kung hindi, nakaalis sila, di ko nakuha si Mary Jean" Sahidullah recalls.

"Everytime na kinakausap ni Parad si senator sa phone, tumatabi daw siya o kaya tumatabi si Parad sa kanila, nakikinig sila. Alam nila lahat ng pinaguusapan. Kaya alam daw niya kung paano nahirapan si senator sa pakikipag-usap kay Parad," kuwento ni Corazon Dacong tungkol sa mga sinabi at narinig niya kay Mary Jean Lacaba.


The photos of Mary Jean Lacaba reunion with her family, husband Manny and son, Christian, and with Senator Richard Gordon, Sulu Vice Governor Lady Anne Sahidullah and some military officers of the Western Mindanao Command and AFP General Headquarters are courtesy of Miss Corazon Dacong, Volunteer, Philippine National Red Cross, Media Affairs.

Is ICRC kidnapping intended to regain ASG's foreign funding?

MOHAMMED JAMAL KHALIFA based on police intelligence reports in the past used his position in the International Islamic Research Organization (IRRO) to help finance the early years of the Abu Sayyaf Group. Retired Police General Rodolfo "Boogie" Mendoza believes, the ASG is trying to revive the same financial support system through the ICRC hostage crisis.

Could it be that the ASG has been receiving financial support from outside sources that's why they insist, they will not demand for any ransom this time around?

"It will not be that easy," this is what Albader Parad said, referring to how the remaining two hostages, Swiss national Andreas Notter and Italian national Eugenio Vagni would be released.Filipina hostage Mary Jean Lacaba was released on her 77th day of captivity, no ransom, says Parad. Government confirmed, no one paid ransom to free Lacaba.

Don't forget to do the "JUMP"when you visit POTIPOT Island

Dear Friends,

This is an unsolicited advise and I am certain you will not regret if you heed this one from me.

I do recommend Uacon,Candelaria,Zambales for your summer vacation 2009 because of its natural beauty. The mountains, the lakes and the virgin island called Potipot. I am sure you have heard about it somewhere so maybe it's about time you check it yourself.

Potipot is one of the beach attractions in Zambales.  I think it covers less than 2 kilometers, enough for you to explore and enjoy walking down the beach.

The water is clean, I tell you.

In the island you will find a few nipa huts to rent in for only 500pesos and entrance fee of ony 50 pesos! They also have free tables to put your things.

Banca rental will cost you 500-pesos, that's back and forth. I don't know for how many person but I think it depends on the size of the banca.

I hope you will visit Candelaria this summer.

And oh don't forget to take souvenir pictures and don't forget to do that JUMP---it's becoming a tradition of sort to every visitor of Potipot.

Courtesy of my friend, Arlyn, I am posting some pictures here of Potipot and Uacon Lake.

See the beauty of Candelaria this summer!

Thanks a lot,

Arnell Garcia

Vantage point for a perfect view....Arnel's Restaurant in Candelaria

Once just a "sitio", Candelaria, now a major tourist destination

Candelaria is a 4th class municipality best known for Uacon Lake and residents in the area takes pride that the said lake remains the cleanest lake in Central Luzon.

Nestled at the foot of the the Zambales Mountain Range in the east and the coastline of the South China Sea, Candelaria is home to a variety of beach resorts.

Did you know that during the pre-Spanish era, Candelaria, currently a 4th class municipality, was just a sitio of Masinloc, one of the oldest towns in Zambales.

Sambals or Zambalenos from Masinloc resettled in this once unsettled forest land. In 1870, according to a Wikipedia, Candelaria was officially granted the town status.

Presently, Candelaria has an estimated population of almost 30,000 people. (end)


April 3, 2009
Posted 10:50 PM

After a sigh of relief, an answer to a nation' prayer, here comes another threat from the jungles of Indanan Sulu via cellular phone.

Yes, the cellular signal in the area where the ASG are located has apparently been restored, (by whom and for how long, probably only the Sulu Crisis Committee knows) and as of 8:35 this evening, Commander Albader Parad made a call to this reporter, just minutes after he contacted Senator Richard Gordon, Chairperson of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC).

Coming from an impression that he and his group has displayed a sense of humanity, not just sparing Mary Jean Lacaba's life but releasing her, freedom granted, a life back with her loved ones, Parad delivers another threat, a reiteration of the one we all heard in the past few days, that they will and that they are determined to kill one of the hostages if government will not give in to their demand.   

As I hear him say this on the phone, the words of Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno crossed my thoughts. This morning in a press conference in Camp Crame, Puno said, he "does not believe that suddenly, overnight, the kidnappers were bothered by their conscience," in reference to the statement made by Sulu Vice Governor Lady Anne Sahidullah that the ASG told him, "they wanted a chance to have a new life", "bagong buhay" the vice governor said in Filipino.

Parad puts it this way, the release of Lacaba without ransom does not mean that the other remaining two hostages Swiss national Andreas Notter and Italian national Eugenio Vagni would be released that easily. In fact Parad said their group is prepared to hold captive the two aid workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) longer, insinuating, things are going to be more difficult for the remaining two hostages.

Breaking his silence since the evening of March 31, basically due to the non-availability of cellular site signal in the Indanan and Parang area in Sulu, Parad said the release of Lacaba was a sign of goodwill, his word of honor, the fulfillment of the gentleman's agreement between him and senator Richard Gordon. "Gusto lang naming ipakita na tuparin namin ang sinabi namin. Yun ang sinabi ko kay senador, yun ang ginawa namin. Alam namin na napagod din siya sa usapan namin, baka sabihin niya, hindi ako lalake kausap, kaya ayan ibinigay ko si Mary Jean," (" I just want to show that I will do what I said I will. That's what I told the senator and that's what we did. We know he is so exhausted talking to us, we don't want him to say that we do not take seriously our gentleman's agreement, that's why I released Mary Jean") Parad explained.

Parad confirmed, Lacaba was freed without any ransom payment. "Oh, alam nilang walang ransom yan, baka sabihin nila, may ransom. Baka may nagsabi may ransom, baka sila naghanap ng ransom, hindi kami," ("Oh, they know that's without ransom, maybe somebody will say there's ransom. If somebody say there's ransom, perhaps they are the ones who asked for ransom, not us") Parad chided, with a tone of sarcasm.

Parad still did not elaborate or give any hint what they want or what would it take to secure the freedom of Vagni and Notter. He only explained that their demand will be known once the government sends a negotiator to seriously discuss, point by point, what they want. Parad hinted that it's not ransom but "something else."

"Pero kung hindi nila kami intindihin, sabi nila di ba mahalaga ang buhay, eh di ipakita nila sa amin na mahalaga sa kanila ang buhay ng dalawang ito at kung hindi naman, eh di wala kaming magagawa, mas lalong walang halaga sa amin ang buhay ng dalawang ito," ("But if they will not take us seriously, they say life is precious, then they should show us that lives of these two are precious, but if not, we really have no choice, the lives of these two are worthless for us") Parad said on the phone repeating what he said one time before the March 31, deadline he set, a threat that is specific, obviously, meant to frigthen, anyone who listens, "Makikita na lang nila kung ano talaga ang gagawin namin, at alam yan ni Mary Jean" (They will just see it what it is that we will really do and even Mary Jean knows that").

When Parad mentioned Mary Jean's name, he suddently turned silent, as if in restrospect and asked this reporter, "May number ka ba ni Mary Jean? Kumustahin ko lang at kumustahin ko ang asawa at anak niya" ("Do you have Mary Jean's number? I just want to know how she is and also her husband and child.")

For a moment there, the humanity displayed by Parad and his group, in releasing Mary Jean, seemed to have overtaken his senses. But only for a few seconds. He went back to want he wanted to say, his threat, his return to his hardline stance.

Parad said, he is also in touch with senator Gordon again. "Kausap ko siya, una sa iyo, kanina, sinabi ko sa kanya banta ko, ganun pa rin, totohanan na ito, sabi ko" ("I spoke with him ahead of you earlier and I told him about my threat, I told him, it stays, and it's for real.")

The senator thanked him for releasing Lacaba, Parad narrated and to the senator he said it was because it was what he promised. "Yun ang sinabi ko sa iyo, yun ang ginawa ko".

But just like what Parad told this reporter in a phone interview, to the senator he said he also stressed that it will not be that easy for the Andreas and Eugenio."Nagtiyaga makipagusap sa akin si senator, kaya hindi ko siya pahiyain. Mataas na tao, nasigawan ko pa nga, pero kahit pa ganun, gawin pa rin namin ang banta namin. Hindi pa ito tapos. Makikita nila. Depende na sa gobyerno," ("The senator has been patient talking with me that's why I will not humiliate him. He is a respectable person, I even shouted at him sometimes, , but even then, we will still carry out our threat. This is not yet over. They will see. It depends on the government") Parad explained.

How are the two coping now that Lacaba is free and they are left behind?

Parad offered a sarcastic answer, and to tell you the truth, I was put on the spot, and he's quite right, I really don't have to ask the question.

"Nagtatanong ka pa. Alam mo na ang sagot. Naging hostage ka. Alam mo na yun. Alangan namang sabihin kong okey, siyempre di sila okey, galit na ang mga ito, sa amin, sa sitwasyon, sa gobyerno, ayaw nila siyempre dito, gusto na ring umuwi pero sabi namin, hindi sila uuwi nang katulad ni Mary Jean," ("Why ask the question when you became a hostage once. You know the answer. It's awkward if I say they are okey, of course they are not okey, they are really angry, at us, the situation, the government, they don't like their stay here of course") Parad said answering an inquiry about the condition of Andreas and Eugenio.

I requested that I speak with the two on the phone. Request rejected. "Huwag muna, hindi pa puwede" ("Not this time, it's not yet allowed").

On the phone, this reporter sought Gordon and inquired if indeed Parad called him and he said yes, Parad did.

Gordon and I have the same observation. Parad sounded more aggressive this time. "It was as if he stands on moral ground because of the release of Mary Jean. He told me, he will carry out his threat on one of the hostages. Ilalagay na lang daw sa sako, dadating sa bayan," (" They said, they will just put it a sack, then delivered to the town") Gordon said, sounding a bit disappointed again, worried for the two remaining hostages.

There are still no detailed list of any demand from the ASG according to Gordon, just a reiteration of an earlier demand, a variation actually, a major variation, this time, not just pull-out of troops, but a total halt in all military operation in the province of Sulu. According to the senator, this is also the message relayed to him by Mary Jean, for government to stop military operation in Sulu.

Round two for another series of talks between Gordon and Parad---only for the sake of the hostages, Andreas and Eugenio. For how long, nothing is definite. Even Parad said on the phone this evening, this time---his threat has "no deadline, no ultimatum". (end)


April 3, 2009
Posted 11:03 AM

The courage and charm of a Tausug princess served as the final stroke that eventually weakened the defenses of the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group that eventually led to the freedom of Filipina hostage Mary Jean Lacaba without ransom at all, a first in the history of the Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya linked group based in Sulu in the last 9 years since the high-profile Sipadan hostage crisis of year 2000.

And who is this princess?

None other than Vice Governor Lady Anne Sahidullah who fetch Lacaba directly from the custody of the ASG in the jungles of Indanan last night and from there, escorted and protected her to Jolo town proper, and finally at the Marine Headquarters in Barangay Busbus where Lacaba was able to really exhale a cry of relief that indeed, she's out of danger after 77 long days of captivity.

Sahidullah is known as the "dayang-dayang" of Lupahsug or Sulu. "Dayang-dayang" is a Tausug word that means princess. In the Tausug dialect, Sahidullah would be described this way, "Babai pilihan duon kanya in kabantugan iban magpang tungod sila," which in English means, " a princess who has everything, beauty, courage, compassion, power."

The turn of events leading to Lacaba's freedom went on very fast. In the afternoon of April 2, the vice governor was informed by the ASG through an emissary that they want to see her in person. Upon receiving that message, Sahidullah, who is also the Provincial Chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) called Senator Richard Gordon about the call, not really knowing, what would be the agenda of the meeting.

When she got the green light from Gordon to go, Sahidullah quickly but silently gathered a handful of escorts that would accompany her to Indanan. But before proceeding directly to Indanan, the vice governor coordinated with the Acting Head of the AFP's Task Force Comet Colonel Eugene Clemen, so that the marine forces on the ground are duly informed about the trip that she's about to make in the critical area of Indanan where the ASG and the hostages are located.

It was a quick meeting, according to Sahidullah and she was surprised and at the same time delighted that the meeting was about the release of one of the hostages and not just another meeting about demands from the ASG. While the quick meeting between the vice governor and the two ASG commanders also dealt about specific demands of the ASG, the bottom line according to Sahidullah is that, it resulted in the release of Lacaba.

According to Sahidullah, it was the ASG's choice to release Lacaba but before releasing her, she was told that it was Lacaba that the they threatened to behead. The other good news that resulted in that quick meeting in the jungles of Indanan also resulted in the actual validation on the ground that the other two hostages, Andreas and Eugenio are still alive contrary to rumors, that one of them, particularly Notter, has been shot while trying to escape.

When Sahidullah met with one of the senior commanders of the ASG, Jumdail Abu also known as Doc Abu in Parang on the last week of January, she recalled that the ASG commander welcomed her by saying, "what can I do for the princess of Lupahsug?" in Tausug. Sahidullah and Doc Abu are related by blood but according to the vice governor, it was the first time, she met one of the most elusive commanders of the ASG. "Hindi ko nga alam na siya na pala iyon, itinuro lang sa akin, eto na nga yung nakikita ko sa picture na nasa mga wanted ng Abu Sayyaf sabi ko sa sarili ko," ("I didn't know who he is, somebody just pointed him to me and when I saw him, I said to myself this is the Doc Abu that I see in the gallery of pictures of most wanted ASG commanders"), Sahidullah recalled.

That meeting with Doc Abu was instrumental in the January 29, trek to Indanan by the vice governor accompanied by a handful of escorts, a trip that gave them access to the ASG group headed by Albader Parad and eventually to the three hostages, Lacaba, Swiss national Andreas Notter and Italian national Eugenio Vagni, thereby producing the first picture and first proof of life of the three aid workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

On the evening of April 1, 2009, a day before Lacaba's release, this reporter was on the phone with Sahidullah who shared details of that meeting with Doc Abu who according to the vice governor, already told her as early as that stage of the more than two month hostage crisis, how the ASG, intend to handle and end the hostage drama.

"Kawawa yung tatlo, pero ang totoo gagamitin lang namin sila sa pagbabagong buhay namin. Hindi namin sila sasaktan, palalayain din namin sila, buhay, walang masasaktan," ("We pity the three but the truth is, we are just going to use the three in our desire to have a new life. We will not hurt them, we will free them, alive, no one will be hurt,") Sahidullah told me on the phone, quoting ASG's Doc Abu.

The lady vice governor also told me that Doc Abu told her as early as their January 29 meeting in Parang that the ASG will not demand for any ransom in exchange for the freedom of the three aid workers. "Talagang walang ransom sabi nila, sinabi ko rin ito noon sa unang interview sa akin," ("There's really no ransom, he said, and I also mentioned this in my early interview with media") Sahidullah said.

According to the vice governor, she told Sulu Governor Abdulsakur Tan everything that Doc Abu told her, but her words were not taken seriously and that the governor insisted, the ASG only wants ransom money. "Pera-pera lang yan," was the gobernor's response according to Sahidullah.

Since the ICRC hostage crisis began, the media, quoting directly from various sources including officers of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, acknowledged Chairman of one faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and even the Sulu governor himself mentioned of a P50-Million ransom demand which in his interviews with the media, ASG commander Parad, denied repeatedly.

In her statement to the media last night, Sahidullah said, releasing Lacaba without ransom was the ASG's way of reiterating the message they told her from the very beginning of this hostage drama---that they want something else, not ransom. The vice governor said, "Yun na nga, para maipakita nila na gusto na nila ng kabutihan at kapayapaan at gusto na nilang magbagong buhay, yun ang gusto nila sabi nila sa akin," ("That's it, for them to show that they now want goodness and peace and they also want to have a new life, that's what they want they told me"), Sahidullah said last night.

But even Sahidullah admits that she has still no idea what the ASG meant when they said, "they want a new life for themselves".

Although in her statement to the media too last night, she said, the ASG also mentioned to her many demands, which she did not elaborate, but added that even Lacaba was told about the said demands. "Hindi ransom, basta marami" ("Not ransom, but many"), Sahidullah explained.

What does the ASG really want this time?

What does it take to free the remaining two hostages?

If they showed they can free one hostage, without ransom, then why can't they simply release the other two?

The Tausug princess told this reporter she wish she knows all the answers. For now, she takes comfort in the fact that one of three, Mary Jean, is now finally free, reunited with her family, husband Manny and son Christian. (end) 

Eugenio and Andreas---very much alive according to Sulu Vice Governor

April 2, 2009
10:05 PM

Andreas Notter and Eugenio Vagni are still alive contrary to rumors circulating through text messages that one of them was killed, shot, while trying to escape.

Sulu Vice Governor Lady Anne Sahidullah said she met and talked with the two---just less than an hour ago, the same time, she went to the Indanan area to fetch Mary Jean Lacaba who was released ahead of the two other aid workers.

Sahidullah said, she had no idea, the ASG will release Lacaba to her. She thought they simply wanted to talk to her. The vice governor of Sulu revealed that ASG Commanders Albader Parad and Jumdail Abu also known as Dr. Abu sent someone to her, relaying a simple message, "they wanted to talk".

"Hindi ko alam na i-release na nila sa akin si Mary Jean, napakiusapan ko rin sila, at sabi nila, ginawa nila ito para maipakita at pakinggan na sila na iba talaga ang gusto nila, magbabagong buhay na at si Mary Jean alam niya na ang mga detalye, pero talagang iba raw ang gusto nila, naawa din sila kay Mary Jean at mabait naman si Mary Jean," Sahidullah said.

The lady vice governor also told reporters in Jolo that she learned that it was Mary Jean, the ASG threatened to behead. She did not elaborate.

Sahidullah informed senator and Philippine National Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon about her mission to Indanan before proceeding to the area.

By 9 this evening, the ASG released Lacaba to Sahidullah who is also the Provincial Chairperson of PNRC.

No ransom was paid, according to Sahidullah although she said, the ASG mentioned other demands, which she said, she cannot say at this point. (end) 


April 2, 2009
Posted 9:20 PM

Less than 30-minutes ago, a nation's prayer was answered.

Mary Jean Lacaba was released, freed by the Abu Sayyaf Group exactly 77 days after she was abducted within the vicinity of the Sulu Provincial Capitol last January 15 along with Swiss national Andreas Notter and Italian national Eugenio Vagni.

Vice Governor Lady Anne Sahidullah was the one who went to ABU territory to fetch Mary Jean and escorted her back to Jolo, visibly exhausted, traumatized, but still managed to smile, a sigh of relief, finally, she's free and out of harms way according to reports by veteran radio reporter Benjie Liwanag of DZBB-GMA-7.

Liwanag also reported that he saw Mary Jean speaking to someone over a cellular phone, smiling, crying, and he commented that he is assuming, Lacaba is talking directly to her family.

It's not yet clear if Lacaba was directly released to Sahidullah by the ASG. The Sulu Vice Governor was also the one responsible for producing the first proof of life of the three hostages, released to the media last January 29.

"She was recovered", was the response made by Lt. General Nelson Allaga of the Western Mindanao Command in describing the circumstances as to how Lacaba was freed. "What is important is that she is free and we are all happy," the general said.

Official statement from Malacanang states that the president is very, very pleased with the freedom of Lacaba.

Lacaba is presently at the Infirmary Center of Camp Teodulfo Bautista in Busbus village in Jolo. (end)

"Spare the lives of the hostages"--appeal from SWISS FEDERAL COUNCIL

April 2, 2009
Posted 1:39 PM

The Swiss Federal Council made a humanitarian appeal to the kidnappers of three aid workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). One of the three kidnap victims is Swiss national Andreas Notter.

In his March 19 phone conversation with Senator Richard Gordon, Notter expressed anger and rage as to how the Philippine government is handling the hostage crisis. One of the things he told Gordon was this: 'IF I SURVIVE THIS, I WILL MAKE SURE THE WHOLE WORLD KNOWS WHAT HAPPENED HERE."

Below is the exact appeal expressed by the Swiss Federal Council posted in their website. We took the liberty of putting the said appeal in this space:

It is now more than 70 days since one woman and two men were taken hostage on the island of Jolo in the Philippines. The Federal Council is deeply concerned about their situation and the threats that have been made to their lives.These three ICRC workers went to the Philippines, in particular to Jolo, to help the local people in purely humanitarian ways. We implore the kidnappers to show compassion and to release Mary Jean, Andreas and Eugenio without further delay and in good health. The three hostages have dedicated their lives to the cause of peace and to helping the most disadvantaged people in the world.Switzerland will not cease in its efforts and to work in close co-operation with the ICRC, the governments of the Philippines and Italy to find a peaceful outcome to this hostage taking.We appeal to your sense of humanity. Please spare the lives of the hostages.

This morning, text message coming from various sources Jolo, Sulu and reaching a number of journalists, this one included, refer to an incident that may have happened to one of the hostages, Notter in particular. The information needs to be verified and since up to this time, there is no direct contact to the kidnappers holding the three hostages, Notter, Eugenio Vagni and Mary Jean Lacaba, we leave to the authorities the task of validating the said information which this journalist is certain, they learned ahead of us.

Unless we receive an independent and credible validation of the said information, we will not put the details of the information we received through text about what could have happened to one of the hostages.(end)

OPINION: Why talk to someone like ALBADER PARAD?

April 2, 2009
Posted 11:22 AM

Senator Richard Gordon was berated and accused of meddling with how the military and the local government handles the hostage crisis in Sulu. There are those who even condemn him for using the hostage crisis to promote himself in preparation for 2010 for let's face it, it is no secret, this man also has his sights in the palace by the river, Malacanang.

In not so many words, he is being told to simply shut up and stop talking to the Abu Sayyaf Group commanders who are in direct custody of the three aid workers, Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba.

The fact is, it's easy, even convenient to blame someone, especially someone as high profile as Gordon in defending how this hostage crisis has reached more than two months without a clear picture on how this one will end.

Government should never negotiate with the terrorists, that's the policy, the official policy. We agree and that policy must be uphold at all time. But in a situation where the lives of three individuals are at stake, threatened, lives directly at harms way, what is government to do?

It is convenient to label the ASG as a mere bandit group engage in criminal activity, kidnapping-for-ransom, a cottage industry in Sulu, Basilan and other Muslim provinces, but the truth is, it does not take an extensive analysis of this group to see that while they are bandits, criminals, this group has shown that they are capable of inflicting damage ans shame to the Philippine government by one single act of kidnapping.

It's a cycle that is too familiar, de javu even, here we go again---that one is compelled to raise one basic question in the government's campaign to finally and completely annihilate this homegrown terrorist group. And the question? HOW WELL DO THEY REALLY KNOW THE ENEMY?

I will not expand on that...for now.

Let's just focus on why I believe and support Gordon's effort and initiative to talk, appeal and take the word, to a certain extent, even trust the statements and commitment made to him by a terrorist, a bandit, a criminal, like Albader Parad.

The answer: Gordon has no choice and the best disposition he must adopt in dealing with someone like Parad is to trust his instinct, judgment and rely heavily on a universal sense of humanity.

To begin with, Gordon is not even an official negotiator. It only appeared that way.

The official line of negotiation has already been established between the Sulu Crisis Committee and the ASG long before Gordon focused his energy and attention in dealing with Parad and the rest of the ASG commanders.

But while Gordon was not even an official negotiator, it is his moral responsibility as Chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross and the Regional Chairman of the ICRC to make sure the lines are open between him and the kidnappers because it is only in doing so that he gets to talk directly with the hostages.

Every communication between Gordon and Parad through cellular phone represents a lifeline, an assurance, especially on the part of the hostages, that they are not abandoned and left to die in the jungles of Sulu.

On the part of the hostages, believe you me, any voice, anyone's voice on the other end of the line, represents hope that he/she is not abandoned and left to die.

I should know for I was once on the other end of the line, life threatened, hands tied, a caliber .45 on my head, my eyes blindfolded, left to sleep overnight in a grave they dug in front of me.

Let me stress the importance of an open line of communication with the kidnappers by sharing a portion of my own story.

My kidnappers played "god" too. They threatened to kill me in the morning of February 3, 2002, almost a month after I was taken waylaid by armed men in military uniforms with the insignia of Tabak Division, faces I know, for how could I forget their faces, when I was the only journalist who covered and did a special report on their training at Camp Capinpin in the province of Rizal before they were officially integrated into the Philippine Armed Forces? Yes---the men who took me hostage that night of January 20, 2002 were members of the MNLF Integrees directly under the command of a Tausug who in the process of integration into the AFP, was given the rank of Captain.

Andreas, Mary Jean and Eugenio has Gordon in these most trying times of their lives.

In my case, I had my godmother, my Ninang Cherry Cobbarubias, who answered that frightening call from one of the leaders of the renegade armed group that took me, Lakandula, Salip Abdullah in real life. It was 2 in the morning when Lakandulah made the call. I was not really sure my Ninang Cherry would answer that call that when she did, I was reduced to tears, cried my heart out and beg her to take care of my two kids should my kidnappers carry out their threat to kill me...a few hours after that call.

"Focus, Focus. Huwag kang ngumalngal diyan at huwag mong tanggaping papatayin ka na nila. Mag-isip ka kung ano ang puwede mong gawin, alam mo kung ano dapat at kaya mong gawin, at tanggapin mo sa sarili mo na kasalanan mo rin diyan, dahil ikaw ang pumunta diyan kahit delikado ang lugar, hindi kita tutulungan kung iiyak ka nang iiyak. Manalangin ka nang mabuti, maghintay ka at magtiwala, ako ang kakausap sa mga kidnappers mo, ibigay mo ang phone sa kanila," those were my Ninang Cherry's words.

My Ninang Cherry could have made a different choice, put down the phone, reject the call and completely shut it off. But she trusted her gut feel and used her natural maternal instincts in dealing with the very frightening words she heard on the other line. That was the beginning, a call that was actually answered, entertained and taken seriously and attended with patience, love and compassion.

The first conversation between Lakandula and my Ninang Cherry was totally frightening. No one would dare talk to someone like him but my Ninang Cherry did make a breakthrough and changed the way Lakandulah dealed with her.

My Ninang Cherry's approach was direct, truthful and motherly.

"Alam kong mabuti kang tao kahit hindi pa tayo nagkikita. Alam kong hindi mo pababayaan si Arlyn, dalawa ang anak niyan, maliliit pa. Walang pera yan. Maniwala ka sa akin. Ako ang nakakaalam. Mukha lang may pera yan dahil sa sikat-sikat, pero tanga yan pagdating sa pera. Tinuturuan ko ngang magnegosyo yan, paguwi niyan dito, hayaan mo, tuturuan kong mag-negosyo at balang araw makakatulong din siya sa inyo. Matagal ko nang sinasabi diyan na tama na yang scoop,scoop na yan, dito ko na pagagalitan nang husto yan."

It did not take long before Lakandula found himself answering my Ninang Cherry's call with "Opo Ninang, Opo Ninang."

With God's mercy, her patience paid off. After 98 very long days, she succeeded in finding a formula that was acceptable to my kidnappers that made them decide to finally grant my freedom.

On the morning of April 27, 2002, on the day that I was released by my kidnappers to senator Loren Legarda, my Ninang Cherry told me that Lakandula made a call to her to assure that I was able to completely leave Sulu safe and out of reach of the real personalities, the real masterminds of my kidnapping.

"Nakalipad na po ang eroplano ni senator, naisakay na niya si Arlyn, wala na po siya sa amin, hindi po siya nakuha ng "ulo". Nagulat po iyon, akala nila, pinatay na namin si Arlyn," Lakandula told my Ninang.

At the end of the more than three month ordeal that completely changed my life, my Ninang Cherry and Lakandula have become friends.

Hearing Gordon speak with Parad through cellular phone, I have a very strong feeling that he will succeed in a sense that his approach is something similar to the one used by my Ninang Cherry. 

Gordon spoke with Parad without judgment. It was hard speaking with Parad. You need more than patience in dealing with him. It was true that there were instances when Gordon and Parad ended up shouting at each other but Gordon managed to muster a great amount of humility to level with Parad, and in doing so, touching deep into the sensibilities of the ASG commander. Gordon would say, "Huwag mo akong sisigawan, iginagalang kita, kinakausap kita, igalang mo ako," to which Parad would respond, "Opo senator" or "Yes senator" and at one point, "pasensiya na po senator."
In a radio interview this morning, Gordon said that it is his nature not to make judgment on anyone citing his experience as mayor of Olongapo City in the 80s when the so called flesh trade, prostitution as part of the R and R industry in the city was at its peak. In Filipino Gordon said, "Kahit kailan, walang makapagsasabi diyan na babaeng hinamak ko sila. Napakaraming hostess noon sa Olongapo pero wala akong hinamak. Kinilala ko na ang tulad nila, ang panaginip makapag-asawa ng Amerikano. Makaangat sa hirap. Makatulong sa pamilya."

To Parad, Gordon explained that he cannot directly say to Parad that he is bad person, a criminal, a terrorist and instead, what he told Parad according to Gordon, is that he believes, he can be trusted. "Di ko masasabi na masama silang tao directly. Ang sinasabi ko,pinagtitiwalaan ko sila. Sabi ko kay Parad, alam ko matapang ka, pero mahirap yung matapang ka, tapos papatay ka ng bihag, nakatali. Alam kong may natitira kang kabutihan."

I remember my Ninang Cherry's words to Lakandula, "Walang taong ipinanganak na masama, Pinipili lang niyang maging masama. Puwede niyang piliing maging mabuti."

The decision to declare a State of Emergency in the entire province of Sulu serves its purpose in addressing an immediate threat and a security concern with both national and international implication brought about by the kidnapping of three aid workers of the ICRC, whose symbol is recognized and respected worldwide, the only symbol you can trust in war zones, the red cross, representing humantity and the preservation of life.

The sooner the Sulu Crisis Committee headed by Governor Tan solves this problem, the better, not only for his province but for the image of the Philippines.

But as they pursue that option, operational details, we do not care to inquire at this point, recognizing and fully adhering to the sensitivity of the task, let the communication lines between the ASG and someone like Gordon continue.

The power of persuasive talk in solving a life-threatening crisis such as this one should never be underestimated much less ruled out.

Should Parad find a way to get to Gordon again, on the phone, let it be. Understand that he is not glorifying Parad and see that this is simply necessary and justified to find out the real condition of the hostages.
"We should not judge especially if we don't know how to fix the problem and what we only know is how to fix the blame," Gordon said, stressing that he will remain patient in waiting for that next call from Parad or anyone from among the commanders of the ASG so that he would know for certain, that the three hostages are still alive.

In the radio program where he guested this morning, he gave this message to the ASG. "Sa ASG, kung nakikinig kayo, alagaan ninyo ang mga kasama namin, Huwag ninyo silang sasaktan. Ibalik ninyo sila sa amin ng buhay."

For as long as the lines of communications are open---freedom for Andreas, Eugenio and Mary Jean is almost certain.

Sometimes waiting is the hardest thing to do, particularly on the part of the relatives of the victims, who are as confused as their loved ones, caught in this gripping drama of very real human tragedy.

But if that is the only thing they need to do given the circumstances, I encourage them to simply do that. Wait, keep the faith, never, ever give up and do not forget the very real power of prayers. (end)

No cellular signal, no power supply, ASG now virtually isolated from the rest of the world...

April 2, 2009
Posted 1:00 AM

"The subscriber cannot be reached. Please try again later"--this is the recorded response you'll get when you dial any of the known contact numbers of Abu Sayyaf Leader Yasser Igasan alias Abu Ali, Albader Parad and another commander who identifies himself as "WARWOLF".

Was it intentional on the part of the ASG holding three aid workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross to deliberately cut off lines, shut their cellular phones and make no contact with anyone outside of the mountain ranges of Sulu they are in?

It could be, under a critical situation such as the one in Sulu right now, but it turned out, it was not a move that came from their side.

Cellular sites and satellite signals in the area of Indanan, Parang and Patikul where most of the ASG forces are located were deliberately shut down, a move that was first carried out and authorized by Governor Abdulsakur Tan, hours after he declared a State of Emergency in the entire province of Sulu.

We learned about the cutting of power lines and blocking of cellular site and satellite signal in the Indanan, Parang area from Congressman Yusop Jikiri in an interview with DZEC-NET-25, yesterday afternoon. Jikiri explained that he failed to answer text messages and return any call made on his cellular phone because there was practically no signal in Pasil, part of Indanan where he is based and many of his supporters and relatives.

It was only when Jikiri decided to go down to Jolo town proper that he learned from other local officials, the military and the police, that satellite signal and cellular site in Indanan and Parang were blocked, shut-off, intentionally. In Filipino, Jikiri explained on air, "Pasensiya na kayo, wala na palang signal dun sa amin sa Indanan, 8 o'clock pa kagabi. Inalis na rin ang power supply sa lugar namin kaya hindi talaga kami maka-kontak. Dito lang namin nalaman sa Jolo."

Jikiri is in the Indanan area beginning March 31 to pursue direct communication and negotiation with top commanders of the ASG who happened to be his former comrades in arms as Chief of Staff of the Bagsamoro Army of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Jikiri until 7 o'clock in the evening, he told us, was still in contact with one of the senior leaders of the ASG, Dr. Abu....that is until there was no cell site in Indanan.

Shutting off any means of technical and electronic communication from the ASG to anyone, especially their supporters and the rest of their forces in nearby towns is part of the plan to put additional pressure on the local terrorist group to release hostages Eugenio Vagni, Andreas Notter and Mary Jean Lacaba, this we learned not from Jikiri, but from Vice Governor Lady Anne Sahidullah. "Pinaalis na talaga ang signal ng cell dun sa lugar na nandun sila para wala nang makakontak, yun ang gusto ni Gov. para mas ma-pressure sila," the vice governor explained in a phone interview.
This explains why up to now---no contact was made by the ASG to any member of the media or to senator Richard Gordon and to other government officials, local and national, whom they have established regular contacts since the hostage crisis began last January.

For journalists with access to the ASG's cellular phones, establishing contact with any of the groups commanders could mean a chance to speak with anyone of the hostages again, an opportunity to produce, even through audio, a fresh proof of life that the three hostages are still alive.

The need for a fresh evidence of a proof of life for Andreas, Eugenio and Mary Jean is very important at this stage in a sense that after the crucial hours of March 31, there are conflicting reports as to what really happened to the hostages.

While Tan and even Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno and other sources in Sulu said they received information that all three hostages are still alive, rumors still persisted, especially through text messages about what happened to the three ICRC aid workers. One version states the threat to behead one of the hostages did happen at around 5 in the afternoon of March 31. Still another, text message states, that the beheading took place later in the evening, while a third and more recent version, is that one of the hostages, tried to escape and was shot.

Gordon said he wants to talk to the three hostages and to the kidnappers to rebuild confidence and to affirm that the lines of communications for a peaceful and unconditional release is still very much open. "I want proof of life, I need to speak to any of them. If they can hear me, I want them to know that I am waiting for their call," Gordon said in an interview.

With the satellite signal and cellular site deliberately blocked, to include power supply in the area where the ASG are, Gordon's wait may turn out futile, unless, the governor of Sulu changes his mind and adopt a new tactic to pressure the ASG in releasing their hostages.

But while electronic communication lines to the ASG and to their hostages may be out of the question at this stage, there are other ways to produce a fresh proof of life.

In the DZEC interview with Jikiri, he promised he will go back to Indanan and dispatch his men to locate the ASG's present location to be able to produce the needed proof of life of the three ICRC aid workers. "Maguutos ako ng civilian, yung tao ko, papahanap ko sila at para makatiyak sa kalagayan ng mga bihag," the congressman promised.

But according to Jikiri, based on his last phone conversation with ASG's Dr. Abu, he received an explicit assurance that all three are still alive and no beheading took place. "Ipinangako niya sa akin, na hihintayin niya akong magkausap kami para mapagusapan ang tamang gawin para makalaya na ang mga hostages.Naghahanap pa tayo muli ng paraan kung paano sila makakausap," Jikiri added stressing that he has no reason, not to trust the word of Dr. Abu, someone who was once under him as Chief of Staff of the MNLF Bangsamoro Forces, someone who once fought with him side by side in the battle fields of Sulu.

How long can he produce the proof of life, or how long can he sustain a parallel effort to negotiate the immediate release of the hostages, Jikiri can't answer with certainty. His only hope, he said, in accomplishing his mission entrusted to him by no less than President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, depends not in his power he said, but in the power of the Almighty. "Sa Diyos tayo manalangin na magkaroon ng katuparan ang misyon ko," Jikiri said assuring his commitment to do everything he could to secure the safe release of the hostages, even if his tasking, was a last minute decision, a day before the ultimatum set by the ASG last March 31.

In the meantime, for those who wonder why Parad, Abu Ali and the rest of the known contacts in the ASG are unreachable since evening of March 31, wonder no more. (end)

From Indanan town, ASG moves hostages to Parang town

April 1, 2009
Posted 1:20 PM

The Abu Sayyaf Group holding three hostages from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has successfully moved out of the Indanan area towards the nearby town of Parang in Sulu and are now joined by reinforcement groups that came from the town of Patikul, the main base of the Al-Qaeda linked terrorist group.

This information came from a source in Sulu, a former local official, who said, he received the report directly from residents of Parang town. Residents of Parang town according to the source spotted the three hostages and the ASG in Barangay Linuho in Parang last night. The residents also told the former local official that some of the ASG members, fully armed even walked on the concrete portion of the circumferential road in Parang.

Barangay Linuho is approximately 11 kilometers from Pansol Indanan according to another source, a senior commander of the Moro National Liberation Front. "Tuloy-tuloy na lakad, kahit sa gabi, mabilis lang makalipat dun kung galing sila sa Pansol," the MNLF commander said commenting on how far the ASG holding the hostages have managed to move from their last known location in Indanan. Parang and Indanan towns according to the MNLF commander shares the same boundary he identified as barangay Kuppong.

Moving from Pansol, Indanan to the town of Parang was a strategic move for the ASG according to the source because it is the hometown/base of one of their senior commanders Jumdail Abu also known as Dr. Abu. The transfer to Parang according to the source also signaled the reinforcement from other ASG members from other towns of Sulu. "Ang nalaman namin, yung kalahati ng puwersa ni Radhulan Sahiron sa Patikul ay sumama na sa puwersa ni Albader Parad," the source said. Sahiron is another senior commander of the ASG based in the town of Patikul.

As of this morning, the ASG has also split into four groups directly under the command of four commanders, one under Dr. Abu, the second under Parad, the third under Sahiron and the fourth under Yasser Igasan also known as Abu Ali and the present chieftain or Amir of the ASG. According to the source, the three hostages, Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian national Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba are directly under the physical custody of Igasan.

The source explained that the ASG's move to split into four groups was in preparation for the impending offensive by the military and the Civilian Volunteer Organization (CVO). " Nagpapakiramdaman, naghihintayan na lang, handa na pareho sa giyera, yun ang nakita kong sitwasyon ngayon sa field," the source added. The source also said he is confirming another intelligence report from the field that a group of ASG also arrived from Basilan through Indanan. "I received that information, but it's not yet verified, we have no confirmation from my own assets," the source said.

The ASG has not yet made any statement on the condition of the hostages after the deadline they set in the afternoon of March 31, threatening to behead one of their captives. No beheading took place, all three are still alive, Governor Abdulsakur Tan, announced, a day after he declared the State of Emergency in the entire province of Sulu. "Nakatitiyak kaming walang pugutang nangyari," Tan said in one interview.

The cellular phones used by Parad and other commanders of the ASG who respond to questions from the media are still unreachable as of this writing. Parad's last text message via this reporter came early evening, March 31, containing a short message, "text lang. malapit militar."

Senator Richard Gordon in a radio interview this morning said, while his cellular phone lines remain open to the ASG, he has yet to receive a text or a call from Parad. (end)

"OUR TIME IS RUNNING OUT..."--Mary Jean Lacaba

April 1, 2009
Posted 9:11 AM

From the jungles of Indanan, Sulu on the evening of March 30, Monday, around 9:30 in the evening, Filipina aid worker of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) unloads her sentiments and that of her two companions, Swiss national Andreas Notter and Italian national Eugenio Vagni.

Lacaba expressed fear that one of them could be executed, a statement that was made by the female hostage hours away from the threat of the Abu Sayyaf Group that one of them would be beheaded.

The deadline passed...extended indefinitely, opening doors for a fresh wave of initiative by other local official in Sulu to persuade the ASG to peacefully turn-over to them the hostages, without condition and without monetary consideration.

As of this time, there is still no direct contact with any of the commanders of the Abu Sayyaf Group that would make possible a direct contact with the hostages. Various sources including Sulu Governor Abdulsakur Tan confirm that all three are still alive.

Senator Richard Gordon who is also the Chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) said his last contact with Albader Parad via text message on his cellular phone was at around 8 o'clock in the evening last night.

This reporter received a last text message from Parad at around 7 in the evening. He evaded answering questions related to the condition of the hostages and sent very short responses via text. "Malapit sa military, text lang"--this was one of his last text messages.

An independent source from Sulu told this reporter just this morning, around 8 o'clock that the ASG is now in the vicinity of Barangay Linuho in Parang town. From Pansol in Indanan, the ASG crossed towards Parang where one of their senior commanders, Dr. Abu is based.

Eyewitness accounts according to my source in Sulu told him that some of the ASG members even walked in the concrete portion of Parang, a small group, numbering to 17 fully armed men, serving as a blocking force, while the hostages and the rest of the ASG members walked in the forested part of barangay Linuho.
By this morning, according to the source, the ASG has already split into four groups. One under Dr. Abu, another under Radhullan, a group that directly came from Patikul, an indication that reinforcement was made possible in the last 24 hours, a third group under Parad while the fourth group is under the ASG's present chieftain or AMIR, Yasser Igasan also known as Abu Ali who is now in direct physical custody of the 3 aid workers of the ICRC.

The situation on the ground is one where the military gears up for an offensive, a possible rescue operation on the ICRC hostages while at the same time, a top-level government authorized mission is also in progress, one pursued by Congressman Yusof Jikiri who is still in the area near the hostages, trying to use his moral authority over the other ASG commanders as his former comrades and direct subordinates when they were still part of the Bangsamoro Forces of the Moro National Liberation Front.

Three individuals await freedom. Today marks their 77th day in captivity.

From the jungles of Indanan, we print below, a transcript of what Mary Jean Lacaba said in my conversation with her on the phone, on the night of March 30.














STATE OF EMERGENCY IN SULU: Governor Abdulsakur Tan takes charge

April 1, 2009
Posted 8:09 AM

Taking charge, Sulu Governor Abdulsakur Tan uses his power under the Local Government Code in declaring a State of Emergency in the entire province of Sulu.

Tan, as local executive is no stranger to high profile hostage crisis that puts the world spotlight in the island province of Sulu. In the year 2000, Tan was also the sitting governor when the Abu Sayyaf Group kidnapped 21 foreigners from the Island Resort Sipadan inside Malaysian territory.

The Sipadan Hostage crisis lasted for months but Tan did not resort to the declaration of a State of Emergency. Instead of an outright military solution, direct negotiations were given priority, through then Presidential Adviser for Special Concern Secretary Robert Aventajado. Tan's role then was very limited to the aspect of mobility and coordination. His residential compound served as the venue for the meetings related to the Sipadan hostage crisis, that was all.

This is the first time Tan uses his power under the Local Government Code as Chief Executive of the province to fully take charge of resolving a more than two month long hostage crisis involving three aid workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian national Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba. 

The difference this time, the one factor that may have given Tan the confidence to declare a State of Emergency is the fact that he now controls more than 1,000 fully armed members of the Civilian Volunteer Organization (CVO).

Midday of March 31, 2009---Tan made the announcement, a historic declaration that would test the power of local governments in times if crisis that involves matters related to national security.

Below is the text of the Official Declaration of the State of Emergency in the province of Sulu:

WHEREAS, the Abu Sayyaf bandits led by Commander Albader Parad have kidnapped three (3) ICRC workers in Sulu last 15 January 2009;

WHEREAS, this is a terroristic act which is a heinous that deserves to be punished to the fullest extent of the law;

WHEREAS, under the provisions of the Human Security Act (RA 9372), terrorism is defined as an act whereby any person who commits Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention, among others, to sow and create a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populacve and coerce the government to give in to unlawful demand;

WHEREAS, this dastardly act as well as other kidnapping cases perpetrated by the group, if not properly addressed, may inspire and embolden other lawless elements in the province to commit similar acts of terrorism;

WHEREAS, under Section 465 of the Local Government Code of 1991 (RA7160), the Chief Executive of the Province may carry out such emergency measures as may be necessary during and in the aftermath of man-made and natural disasters and calamities;

WHEREAS, under the same section, the Provincial Governor may call upon appropriate national law enforcement agencies to suppress disorder, riot, lawless violence, rebellion or sedition or to apprehend violators of the law when public interest so requires and the police forces of the component city or municipality where the disorder or violation is happening are inadequate to cope with the situation or violators; and

WHEREAS, as an offshoot of the kidnapping, a Joint Task Force was formed wherein the incumbent Governor of Sulu as Chairman of the Provincial Crisis Management Committee, may order the deployment of military and police personnel;


1. The setting-up of checkpoints and chokepoints in the province;

2. The imposition of curfew for the entire province subject to such Guidelines as may be issued by proper authorities;

3. The conduct of General Search and Seizure including arrests in the pursuit of the kidnappers and their supporters; and

4. To conduct such other actions or police operations as may be necessary to ensure public safety.


BREAKING NEWS!!!---Various sources say, all three hostages still alive

March 31, 2009
Posted 9:10 PM

A piece of really good news from various sources in Sulu.

The good news: ALL THREE HOSTAGES, ANDREAS NOTTER, EUGENIO VAGNI AND MARY JEAN LACABA are still alive, no beheading took place.

One source who gave this information was a Moro National Liberation Front commander based in Sulu who said he received reports from civilians who saw the three hostages still in physical captivity of the Abu Sayyaf Group, hands tied, rushing, walking, running, but very much alive. "Buhay na buhay pa ang tatlo, pero nakatali pa rin mga kamay," the source said in Filipino.

The same information was received by Sulu governor Abdulsakur Tan who said in a radio interview that he was told by his assets in the field that no beheading took place. "Walang napugutan," the governor said.

Another source from the police was the source of the same information: the hostages are still alive but remains in danger, now that the military and the Civilian Volunteer Organization has regrouped and reclaimed grounds near the location of the ASG and the hostages.

But while we say this is a good news, there's still no direct word from Albader Parad as to the conditions of the hostages.

After his cellular phone was unreachable from 12 noon to 3 in the afternoon, Parad resumed answering text messages on his cellular but evaded any hint of inquiry on the conditions of the hostages.

In his last text message, Parad said, "text lang, malapit sa military".

Another text message goes like this, "Dito pa rin kami. text lang."

For now we leave Parad. We will not insist on a direct confirmation on the good news that we gathered.
We trust our sources anyway.

It's enough for now, a relief, that there was a change of heart, giving way to a still wider possibility of freedom for the hostages through peaceful and unconditional persuasion from local personalities already on the ground, awaiting that opportune time, to once again establish contact with top commanders of the ASG. (end)     

A last minute effort to secure the hostages through Congressman Yusof Jikiri

March 31, 2009
Posted 8:31 PM

Yusop Jikiri, the congressman still referred to this day as the "Chief" by his comrades in the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was negotiate peacefully and without condition the release of three aid workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Swiss National Andreas Notter, Italian national Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba.

Jikiri's role in the negotiation for the release of the hostages was only considered and cleared by government, Malacanang to be exact, on the eve of the ultimatum set by the Abu Sayyaf Group, 2 o 'clock in the afternoon of March 31, threatening to behead one of the aid workers, if the government would not give into their demand for a total troop pull-out.

The top level meeting deciding on the official participation of Jikiri as negotiator began last night, ending at almost 2 o' clock this morning. It was critical to clear from the top, Jikiri's participation, as insisted by the legislator himself. Jikiri's initial apprehension to intervene in the negotiation to release the hostages was based on two factors.

First, the "trauma" amongst MNLF commanders brought about by the case of kidnapping filed against former Indanan mayor Alvarez Isnaji whom the MNLF---Sema faction in particular--where Jikiri is associated with---maintains to this day, only acted in good faith as a negotiator for the release of a broadcast team abducted in Sulu last year. "Matakot ako kung walang utos at walang clearance sa itaas, baka matulad ako kay Isnaji, " Jikiri told this reporter in an earlier interview.

Second, the decision makers on the ground. It was clear from the very start that Sulu Governor Sakur Tan is given the full responsibility to handle the ICRC hostage crisis in his capacity as Chief Executive of the province. Politically, Tan and Jikiri do not belong in the same block, extremes in fact, described by one source as "mortal na magkaaway." In deciding to engage a Jikiri-initiative, it was imperative for the government to make sure the efforts and the decisions already placed and explored on the ground by Tan in the last two months would not be disrupted.

Tan was not blinded by Jikiri's last minute role, a source privy to Jikiri-initiative said, adding that they were even surprised to get a favorable response from Tan about Jikiri's effort to secure the release of the hostages. In an interview with this reporter, Tan confirmed he knows about Jikiri's initiative and said "he welcomes any help from any local official of his province. Sana nga makuha ni congressman Jikiri ang mga hostages," Tan said in Filipino.

The Jikiri-initiative was silently pursued with urgency in the last 24 hours. At 4 o'clock in the morning, this date, Jikiri rushed to the airport in time for the first scheduled commercial flight to Zamboanga City. From Zamboanga he flew straght to Sulu and drove straight to his hometown in Pasil, in Indanan Sulu, an area very near the position of the hostages and the ASG.

Before 10 in the morning, Jikiri sounded confident in a phone call to this reporter from Pasil, sharing a  a bit of good news. "Kumakain ako ng durian, may mga nautusan na akong tao. Nagkausap na rin kami ni Dr. Abu sa phone. Pumayag na siya. Magkikita kami." Dr. Abu is Jumdail Abu in real life, a senior commander of the ASG, and a former commander of the MNLF, who was once under the direct authority of Jikiri as Chief of Staff of the Bangsamoro Armed Forces of the MNLF.

But that confident mood would not be sustained. In less than an hour, the situation on the ground would dictated the change of heart from Dr. Abu. According to Jikiri, a civilian sent by Dr. Abu informed him that his former comrade in the MNLF asked for an apology, the meeting, face to face, in the critical area in Indanan would not take place as agreed. Dr. Abu and the ASG according to Jikiri suddenly became apprehensive of the sudden volume of troops deployed back to the Indanan area.

By lunch time, it was clear why troops and forces belonging to the Civilian Volunteer Organization (CVO), all armed, numbering to more than a thousand, were now back in strategic areas in the Indanan and Patikul area.  The governor of Sulu has just declared a State of Emergency in the province.

Jikiri got a call from Manila, on the other end of the line is senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) who told him about the declaration of the State of Emergency in Sulu. Jikiri told this reporter that the senator sounded worried and expressed concern that the congressman may be caught in the midst of an impending move by the military following the declaration of the state of emergency.

To this Jikiri said, he has nothing to fear, should he get caught in the impending fight, he would be in his hometown in Pasil. "Sabi ko kay senator, wag siyang mag-alala, nasa hometown ko naman ako sa Pasil. Dito ako ipinanganak, dito ko rin gustong mamamatay, at saka 26 taon naman akong nakipaglaban sa bundok, kung maipit ako dito, nasa Pasil ako." Jikiri said, narrating his phone conversation with Gordon.

But getting caught in the middle of the impending warpath was the least of Jikiri's concern. He can't give up at once he said, not when the 2 o'clock deadline was just a few minutes away. On the phone, he spoke with Dr. Abu again and was able to convince the ASG commander to extend the deadline for another hour, from 2PM to 3PM...buying him more time to come up with a way to secure the hostages. An hour is not enough, clearly not enough Jikiri says but he can't give up.

"Mahalaga sa akin na nasabi na nila na gusto nilang makipagkita sa akin at hiniling ko talaga sa kanila na huwag nilang ituloy ang balak nila at ibigay nila sa akin ang mga bihag nila. Pag-usapan daw namin. Yun ang hinintay kong pagkakataon, ang makausap sila ng harapan," Jikiri explained.

But the second attempt to meet face to face, Jikiri and Dr. Abu within today...never pushed through.

Dr. Abu's last message to Jikiri, "he wanted to talk but they must already prepare for war."

The conversation between the two took placed way past the extended 3PM deadline. By that time, Jikiri is still certain, all three hostages are still alive.

Towards late in the afternoon, the main force of the ASG and their hostages already left Pansol, Indanan and moved somewhere else. "Nawalan na ako ng kontak, hindi ko na nakausap, wala nang signal" Jikiri said.

As the military, the police and the CVO prepare to battle the ASG, Jikiri acknowledges that the possibility of securing the release of the hostages through a peaceful negotiation between two battle tested comrades became dim. "We tried Lyn, sinubukan namin. Pero naghahanda na sila na harapin ang puwersa ni Governor Tan at ang puwersa ng military."

Is that it? A white flag raised?

"Well...I could still try. Sa awa ng Diyos, magkaroon din ng pagkakataon na makausap ko uli sila, at gagawin ko ang lahat para makumbinsi sila na ibigay na sa akin ang mga hostages na hawak nila," Jikiri promised.

He would continue, he would try his best...that is good enough for now. Not yet the good news we are all waiting for but...good enough to ascertain the fact that all peaceful efforts on the ground to free the hostages have not been completely abandoned. (end)

Another appeal from Mary Jean Lacaba: "We are running out of time, I hope media will be brave enough to check the real situation on the ground, see if there's indeed a military pull-out or not, our lives are at stake here..."

March 30, 2009
11:23 PM

At past 9 in the evening, Albader Parad texted this reporter and asked if I would like to speak with Mary Jean Lacaba, one of three aid workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) still in captivity by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

Under normal circumstances, this reporter or any reporter for that matter would have texted back at once, yes, of course and would have aired it live that very instance. But the situation is certainly not normal at this point and any information coming from the side of the ASG, even if directly coming from any of the hostages could add to the already tensed situation on the ground.

But after thinking long and hard, this reporter decided to accept the offer, talk to Mary Jean, but for a recorded interview and conversation, not a live, on-air interview. I recorded it with the intention of airing the interview the following day, March 31, 2009, first thing in the morning, a few hours from now.

The normally calm and soft-spoken Mary Jean sounded different in my interviewee with her. She needed to say her piece, she wanted to air her appeal, this time louder and more direct to the point. This interview was for her sake as well as Eugenio and Andreas who were not allowed to speak with this reporter.

It was a difficult interview that lasted for about 5-minutes. Difficult in a sense that the interviewee speaking for herself and in behalf of her co-workers, Italian national Eugenio Vagni and Swiss national Andreas Notter, face a very real danger in the hands of the ASG.

It was also difficult in a sense that no question, no comment, no assurance and no words could change what Mary Jeane expresses on the other end of the line--anger, disappointment, fright, sadness, resignation---mixed emotions of total uncertainty. 

In Filipino Mary Jeane said, a message directed at the media in general, "Naririnig namin sa radyo yung pull-out, may pull-out na raw pero wala bang matapang sa inyo na pupunta rito sa amin para makita talaga kung may pull-out o wala? Kung duwag na kayong lahat na pumunta rito, kawawa naman kami. Sinasabi pull-out pero may mga tropa naman sa kalsada," Mary Jean said, her voice trembling, angry and almost shouting, a big departure from her calm and soft voice in previous interviews with the media, this reporter included.

Indeed---at this stage of the hostage crisis in Sulu---has anyone from the national media dared foray into Abu territory to check the situation on the ground? None has dared, except for one local media based in Sulu who produced the first proof of life of the three hostages. But after a long list of members of the media ending up as hostages themselves---who would dare take that bold and daring step at this stage?

Listening on the other end of the line, it was as if Mary Jean concluded that media has turned into a coward, afraid to validate what she refers to as the "real situation on the ground."

To President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, this is what Mary Jeane has to say, "Naririnig namin ang mga hakbang, yung ginagawa ng gobyerno pero ang tanong namin ay kung alam ba talaga ng pangulo ang nangyayari dito sa amin? Kung naguutos man siya na gawin ang lahat para sa amin, may nakikinig ba sa kanya? Sinusunod ba siya? Sana alamin din niya kung sinusunod ba siya?" According to Mary Jeane, Eugenio and Andreas are asking who is really in-charge on the side of government to negotiate for their release in a peaceful manner. "Hindi na namin alam kung ano ang totoo, parang bahala na lang kami dito, iwan na lang kami dito. Sino ba talaga ang in-charge? Kaninong boses ang nasususnod?", Lacaba complains.

If it sounded that Mary Jean was in physical pain during that phone conversation, she probably is after she confirmed what Parad told this reporter earlier in the evening, at around 7:20 PM, that the hostages' hands and feet were tied to prevent them from escaping. "Nakagapos na, nakatali na," according to Parad.

During the 5-minute conversation with her, Mary Jean said, time is running out for them and she feels it, they feel it and they believe the ASG is not bluffing, one of them would be executed. "Kulang na ang oras namin. Nauubos na ang oras namin. Nakatali na kami. Itinali na nila kami. Sino man ang nangangako ng pull-out, nagsasabi ng pull-out, sana tuparin nila, wala na kaming oras. Alam naming marami ang nanalangin, tumutulong, gumagawa ng paraan pero nandito pa rin kami, 75 days na kami dito, at ngayon, kulang na ang oras namin," Mary Jean rattled off, obviously in tears, in pain and in fear for what lies ahead for the three of them.

Earlier that evening, Parad said that they served dinner to the three hostages---as usual. Fried fish and rice for this particular night but the three aid workers refused to take the food, not a single bite, not even a single drink of water. “Ayaw na nilang kumain, binigyan namin ng pagkain, pero ayaw na nilang kumain, “Parad said in Filipino over the phone.

In Parad’s own assessment, the three have accepted their fate and are resigned to the possibility that they will be sacrificed. “Alam na nila ang mangyayari kaya hindi na siguro sila kumain. Tahimik sila, minsan umiyak, pero mas madalas tahimik, nakahiga na lang,” Parad described the condition of their hostages adding casually during the phone interview that the mobility of the three hostages are now very, very limited. “Nakatali na ang paa at kamay nila, sa isang lugar lang. Nandun lang sila, tahimik, alam nila ang mangyayari,” Parad said.
Still on the phone Monday afternoon, Parad said his group has reached to one decision--that is to push through with their threat of beheading one of the three aid workers of the ICRC.  The relatives of the hostages were informed about what is “about to happen” according to Parad , but not the ICRC he said and not one from the government, not even senator Richard Gordon. “Alam na nila ang sinabi namin. Kung maniwala sila o hindi bahala na sila, basta gawin namin ang sinabi namin,” Parad declares adding that what is about to happen will be “witnessed in public” by tomorrow afternoon. “Sa bayan, sa Jolo, alas dos ng hapon, sa deadline na sinabi namin, may darating na lang sa bayan, makikita nila. Makikita ninyong lahat, hindi na kami magsasabi, makikita na lang ng lahat, mag-abang na lang kayong lahat,” Parad said without hesitation nor any hint of apology in his voice.
This reporter asked him, why continue with the threat when government has already given way to their demand for a military pull-out?

That is what the government claims according to Parad, insisting that on the ground, the pull-out was done not in the areas they demanded. "Alam ng gobyerno ang totoo, puwede nila sabihing nag-pull-out sila pero alam nila ang totoo."

On hindsight, Parad lamented that the government did not allow him and his group to prove that they are capable of honoring their commitment to release a hostage, in exchange for troop pull out.
“Sabi nila may pull-out, pero hindi naman sa lugar na sinabi namin, hindi yun yung sinabi namin, iba ang sinabi, iba ang nakikita namin dito, “ Parad explains. He wanted to prove he can be trusted with his words, but Parad laments, it seems, no one wanted that to happen. “Ayaw nila, hindi sila naniwala kaya hindi sila talaga nag-pull out,” he said.
Sulu governor Abdursakur Tan, head of the hostage crisis committee maintains that significant troop withdrawal was already implemented on the field allowing the ASG a wider mobility than before. But to give in to the demand of a total military pull-out is certainly out of the question, Tan stressed and in Filipino he said, “Hindi puwedeng sumunod kami sa lahat ng gusto nila. Kapag nag-total pull-out parang ibinigay na namin sa kanila ang buong Sulu. That is tantamount to surrendering the entire province and we will not allow that to happen,” Tan said.
Speaking for the first time directly about the hostage crisis, the ASG’s chieftain, new Amir, succeeding the late Khadaffy Janjalani, Yasser Igasan alias Abu Ali, said they have no choice but to execute the threat to behead one of the hostages. “Kung ang gobyernong ito ay handang isakripisyo ang buhay ng tatlong ito, wala kaming magagawa. Kung walang halaga sa kanila ang buhay ng tatlong ito, lalong walang halaga sa amin,” Igasan said in Filipino.
After tomorrow, Igasan said they are ready to battle with the military explaining that the only reason they demanded for a troop pull-out was for the safety of the hostages. “Pero hindi naniwala ang gobyerno. Marami sa amin dito handa nang pumatay, marami ang handa na ring mamatay” Igasan said taunting the government for a new wave of battle that clearly puts the lives of the three hostages directly in grave danger.

In Manila. DILG Secretary Ronaldo Puno says, that if the ASG execute one of their hostages, they have actually in a sense...executed the three, a very strong statement that shows government is just about ready to show its might against the Al-Qaeda linked Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). (end)

COMMENTARY: Waiting, praying for the release of Andreas, Mary Jean and Eugenio...

March 30, 2009
Posted 3:20 PM

The right people who may likely help secure the release of the hostages, aid workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba are not being tapped to play a role in the hostage crisis in Sulu.

Sometimes, the successful release of a hostage or hostages is not about the ransom but about the personality, the one who negotiates, the one who intervenes and the one who flexes his muscle to assert influence and power.

Having covered Muslim Mindanao, Sulu in particular for nearly two decades now, I believe I earned the right to say my piece on the current hostage crisis in Sulu. Sulu is not like any ordinary place, that much is clear. Identifying and knowing the different personalities and interests groups in the area is crucial in the resolution of a peace and order problem such as the present predicament of aid workers, Andreas, Eugenio and Mary Jean.

Way back in 2002, when I was taken hostage by an armed group with links to the MNLf Integrees into the Armed Forces and MNLF armed faction loyal to MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari, the right person on the ground who played a key role in my release was professor Mashur Jundam of the University of the Philippines' Islamic Studies. Jundam was the "right person" because he is identified with the MNLF section who remains loyal to Misuari's leadership.

And if I may, in the case of fellow broadcaster Ces Drilon, former Indanan mayor Alvarez Isnaji was the "right person" because she and her team plus professor Octavio Dumampo were abducted and kept within the area of Indanan. The abductors of Ces' are actually another armed group, lost command, they call them, operating in the Indanan area but a group that regularly crosses path with the ASG.

In the present hostage crisis, the choice of personality to talk to the ASG is also a crucial choice that could spell the difference and could end with swift resolution the hostage crisis in Sulu now running for more than two months. But the thing is...that person is not even considered to play a role in solving the hostage crisis.
From years of experience covering Muslim Mindanao, Sulu in particular, I have come to the conclusion that this local personality in the area is the one person who can solve the crisis. But would anyone listen if I mention his name? I chose to simply report and kept my ideas to myself.

But as the clock ticks near the ASG-imposed ultimatum on the fate of one of the hostages I decided to speak up especially after I heard the sentiment of a top official of the Arroyo Administration, National Security Adviser Secretary Norberto Gonzales, who said in an interview with DZEC-NET-25, that he will speak up about the handling of the hostage crisis in Sulu---after the deadline issued by the Abu Sayyaf Group in carrying out their threat to behead one of the three hostages. My hunch, after hearing that interview of Gonzales, that he too thinks there is another way to solve this hostage crisis through the intervention of one personality in Sulu.

"Saka na ako magsasalita tungkol sa krisis sa Sulu kapag tapos na ang deadline, hintayin na lang muna natin," Gonzales said in Filipino in the interview conducted by Vic Somintac and Mary Anne Corvera. I find it intriguing that Gonzales, the National Security Adviser of the president, answered a simple question in that manner. Gonzales is very familiar with the political lanscape unique to a place like Sulu.

If there's one person in government right now who has a wide appreciation of what is happening in Sulu, it should be him. But why is not talking about it and why the hesitation to comment?

The answer is in fact quite obvious. Gonzales is not in charge and was not tasked to take charge.

From day one, the task to handle the hostage crisis in Sulu was placed in the hands of the ICRC Hostage Crisis Committee under Sulu Governor Abdursakur Tan who reports directly to Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno and is the highest civilian official tasked to coordinate the movement of troops on the ground, the Task Force Comet headed by the now on-leave Major General Juancho Sabban.

Nothing wrong with that. In fact, what governor Tan is doing in Sulu right now is the best test case on how local governments should operate in times of crisis such as the ICRC hostage taking by the ASG. In essence, Tan was simply functioning his job as Chief Executive of his province, civilian authority over the military. His bold moves and firm stance are in fact commendable, something that has not been seen in Sulu for a long time, especially, that move to enlist the services of an armed Civilian Volunteer Organization (CVO) which is very much like the concept of the AFP's CAFGUs.

There's only one catch though---Sulu is not like any other provinces and  the deployment of armed CVOs while it may have its strengths may in fact fuel more tension in the already critical peace and order situation in Sulu. 

After the on-air interview, I called Gonzales on the phone and asked him what he meant when he said, he will comment about the Sulu hostage crisis after the deadline set by the ASG. Gonzales' answer: "They are not using the right people. They forgot what happened in previous hostage crisis in Sulu. They forgot to look at previous cases of kidnappings in Sulu," Gonzales said. It was a brief phone conversation, not exactly an interview, just a clarification, but in the process, we ended up agreeing on one thing, the name of the one person whom we both believe can exert influence on the release of the three hostages: Sulu Congressman Yusop Jikiri.

Why Jikiri?

Jikiri is the Chief of Staff of the Bangsamoro Armed Forces of the Moro National Liberation Front whose main base is in Pasil, Indanan Sulu, in the general area where the ASG are holding the three aid workers of the ICRC.

Many of the personalities in the ASG still calls Jikiri or refer to him as "Chief" up to this time, especially the ASG commanders who were former combatants of the MNLF, among them, Radhulan Sahiron, the ASG's current Chief of Staff. This is an indication that the bond between former comrades remained even if they now clearly belong to two different organization and even if in essence, Jikiri, after the MNLF signed the 1996 Peace Agreement, is now part of government, on the other side of the fence.

When Sahiron decided to join the ASG then with founding leader Ustadz Abdurajack Abubakar Janjalani, Jikiri himself told me in one informal interview that the ASG commander known as Commander Pukol (Putol), went to see him in 1992 to inform him of his decision to leave the ranks of the MNLF and join another armed group, the ASG, real name Al Harakatul Al Islamiya, a virtually unknown armed group at that time.

"Nagpaalam sa akin nun, sasama na raw siya kina Abdurajack. Ayaw niya ng peace talks, wala rin daw mangyayari dun, sabi niya sa akin," Jikiri said recalling that day Sahiron bid him goodbye. At that time, the MNLF was still in exploratory talks with the Philippine Government.

Jikiri as an MNLF commander and later Chief Of Staff of the Bangsamoro Armed Forces spent nearly 30 years in the mountains and jungles of Sulu and other Muslim provinces. To this day, he knows the mountains of Sulu like a palm of his hand...what more the Indanan area, which is his hometown, and an acknowledged area occupied by forces of the MNLF and now, an area, where the ASG, holding the hostages are now staying?

Many times on the phone since the hostage crisis began last January 15, the day Andreas, Eugenio and Mary Jean were abducted within the vicinity of the Sulu Provincial Capitol in Patikul, Sulu, I asked Jikiri this question over and over again, "Why is he not helping in the effort to free the hostages?" and always he would answer this way, "Hindi naman ako pinapatulong" ("I am not being asked to help"). 

Jikiri's hesitation to help is also based on the fact that one of the top leaders of the MNLF, Alvarez Isnaji, mayor of Indanan, ended up in jail after agreeing to negotiate for the release of a news team headed by Ces Drilon of ABS-CBN news. "Matakot ako. Baka pag tumulong, ikulong din nila. Maipit din tulad ni Isnaji" ("I am afraid. Should I help, they may jail me also. I might end up like Isnaji.")Jikiri reasons out.

But while he says he is afraid to enter the picture, it was very clear in the many instances that I spoke with Jikiri on the phone that he will do his part, provided, government asks him to intervene. "Kung utusan ako, kung may clearance, kung malinaw na pinapagalaw ako, dun ako kikilos," ("If I am asked to do it, if there's clearance, if it's clear that I am being mobilize to act, then I will") Jikiri explains.

A junior official of the Armed Forces, controversial PDEA agent Major Ferdinand Marcelino who is an organic member of the Philippine Marines and one officer who personally knows Jikiri as early as 1992 shares my opinion that  Jikiri could play a key role in saving the hostages, especially now that the crisis has reached a critical stage. "Kayang-kaya ni Yusop yan, nasa area niya ang mga hostages," Marcelino told me.

Marcelino, out of concern for the welfare of the hostages, based on feedback from his own assets in Sulu that the hostage crisis has indeed reached an alarming stage, with the ASG's threat to decapitate one of the three hostages, went to the extent of pitching the possibility of a Jikiri-initiative, simultaneous with the the efforts pursued by the Sulu Crisis Committee headed by Governor Tan. He spoke with a cabinet official who confered the idea to Puno. That option was not pursued because of "possible political implications" Marcelino was told by the cabinet secretary.

What could be the political implications that are to be considered in a scenario of a Jikiri-initative to save the hostages?

One reason could be the fact, an open secret in Sulu, that Jikiri and Tan, the sitting governor and the head of Crisis Committee on the ICRC hostages, are political foes, "mortal na magkaaway", as one source puts it in describing the relationship between Tan and Jikiri.  Tapping Jikiri to play a role in the resolution of the hostage crisis could be interpreted as a loss of confidence in the ability of Tan to

There was a period when Jikiri and Tan set aside their differences and actually became allies locally during the last elections. But not for long, the union was clearly limited and covered by a time frame, a common interest to defeat a common enemy in the last elections of 2007.

This is where the national government, to my mind, should come in. Both Tan and Jikiri are allies of the administration and any effort, separate or joined, initiated by this two local leaders of Sulu, will be in the interest of the government. A simple gesture, a simple order, directly coming from the president for Jikiri to help Tan and for Tan to welcome Jikiri, especially so at this point where the urgent and primary consideration is to save the lives of the hostages.

In his last media statement early this afternoon, Puno said, the government is now prepared to face a worse case scenario, citing the fact that government cannot simply give in to the demand made by ASG's Albader Parad to pull out more troops, an act which Puno and Tan described as tantamount to completely vowing to the demands of a group branded as terrorists. If government at this point is ready for a worse case scenario, why not welcome an option that has a possibility, a last minute intervention from one of their allies, that may prevent the "worse case scenario?"

Tapping Jikiri to play a role will not run contrary to the president's order. In her last media statement on the ICRC hostage crisis, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo tasked the Sulu Crisis Committee to explore all peaceful means to save the hostages and I believe the operative word phrase here is "all peaceful means."

The other question: Is Jikiri ready to intervene at this stage? If the order would come directly from the president, would Jikiri say no?

Tan would not be descredited if this option is considered for it would still be under the Sulu Crisis Committee under the provincial governor. In reality, he is still in charge and is just accommodating another local official to help him accomplish his main mission: to save the ICRC hostages. Above all considerations, the urgent thing to take into consideration is that alone, their freedom.

What to do with the ASG should come after the hostage crisis and they have all the time in the world to plan for that.

For now, this is just a thought, an opinion from a journalist thinking aloud who also know the reality, the bare truth that just like the rest...just in one corner... waiting, hoping and praying for the one report any journalist would want to report in a running story like this: the release and freedom of three individuals, Andreas Notter, Eugenio Vagni and Mary Jean Lacaba. (end)

SANDRA CAM: from whistleblower to radio commentator

30 March 2009
Posted 9:20AM

Sandra Cam takes on a new career. From whistleblower she is now a radio commentator via her own program called PUNTO DE VISTA ni Sandra Cam.

On her maiden broadcast over radio station Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) last March 22, Cam defended senator Panfilo Lacson and accused the Arroyo government of manipulating the recent turn of events in the 9-year old Dacer-Corvito double murder case by allegedly pressuring police Sr. Superintendent Cesar Mancao to implicate Lacson as the mastermind, the one who actually give the order to "finish" publicist and public relations man Salvado "Buddy" Dacer. Mancao's affidavit  was used as the basis of the murder case filed by Dacer's children at the Department of Justice last week.

The content of Cam's program prompted several texters to question who is behind Cam's new career as radio commentator. One texter thinks Lacson is behind Cam's radio show, launched as a vehicle to defend the senator in the Dacer-Corvito case.

But in an interview with this reporter, Cam said, the program is her own idea, personally financed through her own resources and through the support of some friends. "Wala ni singkong duling na kontribusyon dito si senator Lacson, sarili kong gastos ito na may tulong din mula sa ibang kaibigang naniniwala sa kosa ko,"(Not a single cent came from senator Lacson, this is my own expenses and also from other friends who support me in my cause") Cam explained. CAPTURED learned from a source over RMN-Manila that cam's radio program every Sunday from 8-9 in the morning is a blocktimer, with a one-season contract (13 weeks) at P120,000.00 (One Hundred Twenty Thousand) a month as blocktime-fee.

Cam said while she is a believer of Lacson's integrity, she does not need the support of the senator in sustaining her radio program. Before she became a witness on jueteng related issues at the senate, Cam said, she is already engaged in several business interests, among them, two schools, the Nazareth Institute of Alfonso in Cavite and the Worldlink Management Training Services in Batangas. "Before I became a whistleblower, I already have my own business. Sa mga nagtatanong kung magkano ang ibinayad sa akin ni Lacson, ang sagot ko, wala dahil may sarili akong pera dahil sa mga negosyo ko," Cam said.

Lacson has nothing to do with her new found career, Cam said, explaining that if there was one person she approcahed for advise before embarking on a career as a radio commentator, it was Catholic Archbishop Oscar Cruz who she said, gave her the support and reminded her to use the program as a vehicle for "truth and justice".

While Cam admits that she has set her feet in new territory, she explains that media work is nothing new to her. "About 6-7 years ago, I published a tabloid in my home province in Masbate," Cam shares stressing that for those who think she is not even qualified as a broadcaster, she can always present her Degree in Journalism. "Journalism graduate ako" Cam stressed.

Cam also justifies that the radio program over RMN-DZXL Manila also serves as a vehicle for all other whistleblowers like her who stood as witnesses in various senate inquiries that exposed irregularities and corruption in government among them ,Dante Madriaga and Jose Barredo.

"Gusto naming ipaalam sa publiko na narito pa kami na kahit na nahirapan kami, lalo na sa mga marami sa mga kasamahan ko, narito pa rin kami at hindi bumibitiw para ipagpatuloy ang pagbubulgar sa mga katiwalian sa pamahalaan," ("We want the public to know that we are still here even if we experienced difficulty, especially the other witnesses, we are still here and we will continue to expose corruption and irregularities in government") Cam said adding that they have formally registered their group, the WHISTLEBLOWER ASSOCIATION, at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) with her as the de facto leader of the group describing herself as the group's "nanay-nanayan" (like their mother).

Cam noted that Jun Lozada, one of the most popular whistleblower and witnesses against alleged irregularities and corruption in government via the NBN-ZTE broadband deal expose, is not a member of the SEC-registered organization of witnesses. Cam said than while Lozada is not among their group she is confident that Lozada is supportive of the mission of her group through her radio program to continue exposing to the public the many irregularities and corruption under the present administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Lozada is welcome as guest anytime in her show, Cam added.

Cam also volunteers that the real "inspiration" and the "driving force" behind her radio show is the present administration itself. "Buwisit na buwisit na kami sa gobyernong ito ni Arroyo. Hindi kami mananahimik. Hindi man kami nabigyan ng hustisya, magpapatuloy kami sa pagsasalita, patuloy kaming magbubulgar" ("We are really fed up with this government of Arroyo. We will not be silenced. Even if we did not get justice, we will continue to speak up and expose.")

In her second episode last March 29, Cam also delivered an editorial piece that defends Lacson in the accusation against him. Cam insists that while she continue to speak the side of Lacson, it's not because she is paid to do so stressing that she's only doing so because, "Lacson's speaks the truth".(end)

SPECIAL REPORT: Biggest shabu bust in SUBIC revisited, What really happened?

28 March 2009
12:57 PM

Where in the world is Antong Ang?

A year after Ang vanished, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director Dionisio Santiago says they already know where he is and they are ready to arrest him anytime so that once and for all he could shed light and face the necessary charges in court for shipping 745 kilograms of shabu through the Subic Bay Freeport in May of 2008.

Santiago said Ang is in China and that PDEA has already coordinated with the Chinese Anti-Narcotics Agency in the arrest and extradition of Ang. "There were reports that Anton ang is already dead but the latest information we have is that he is in China, very much alive. We will use our existing extradition treaty with China to bring him back to the country," Santiago said without detailing where exactly in China Ang stays at the moment and when the extradition procedure would take effect.

The intensified effort to locate Ang and arrest him was a result of a direct order from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who in her capacity as Drug Czar directed law enforcement agencies directly involved in the Anton Ang case to explain to her why the suspected drug trafficker behind the 745 kilograms of shabu seized last year managed to slip out of the country.


Ang is a known businessman/locator inside the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) engaged in a restaurant business and the importation and trading. He used to own a Chinese Dimsum restaurant, also inside the Free Port. SBMA officials acknowledge Ang as one of the first locators/investors who banked on the viability of the former US Naval Facility as a Free Port. In a sense, he is an ally in boosting the economic prospects and potentials of the Free Port.

In Olongapo City where he resides with his family, Ang is respected and considered a law-abiding citizen who is known for extending help to his neighbors. Neighbors of Ang who were interviewed gave the same favorable description of who Ang is. They were shocked they said, when Ang was identified as the person behind the shipment of 745 kilograms of shabu seized in May of 2008 with an estimated value Five Billion, Five Hundred Forty One Million, Three Hundred Sixty Four Thousand, Ninety Eight Centavos (P5, 541, 364.098).

But while a direct link was established between Ang and the 745 kilograms of shabu seized inside the Subic Freeport, PDEA doubts whether Ang is the real mastermind.

Santiago noted that when Ang was questioned by SBMA port sentinels, he was alone and the driver of the Mitsubushi Outlander SUV where 8 sealed boxes were loaded. “Kung ikaw ang mastermind, kung ikaw ang boss, bakit ikaw mismo ang driver? Simple logic,” Santiago said stressing that they have fresh leads pinpointing to the real mastermind of the shipment of 745 kilograms of shabu.

PDEA is also zeroing in on leads that would prove the possibility that the network used by Ang and the syndicate he belongs to may still be active, an analysis that is based on the counter-intelligence information validated by their agents that showed that known drug lords in Central Mindanao distributed and peddled shabu that originated from the Subic shipment.

In a confidential report sent by PDEA to the president dated March 9, PDEA agents found out that an” undetermined volume of illegal drugs, believed to be part of the Subic shipment got into the hands of local distributors” even before the main bulk was discovered in SBMA. One specific transaction that originated from the Subic shipment was the delivery of 50-kilograms of high grade shabu to one local official in Lanao del Sur. The mayor is in the target list of PDEA along with other members of the local drug distributors operating in the Central Mindanao area.

“We are certain that the shabu that reached Lanao del Sur came from the Subic shipment because we made a test-buy and was able to compare the quality of the shabu seized from Subic and those peddled locally in Lanao del Sur. The laboratory test matched,” Santiago explained.


The source of the shabu peddled by local distributors in Lanao del Sur was actually named in the confidential report, a Chinese businessman who was also named as one of the Incorporators of Hualong International Incorporated, the company co-owned by Ang.

Santiago believes that the president’s order to arrest Ang is very timely and essential in really unmasking the truth about the largest shipment of shabu discovered inside the Subic Bay Freeport. “We have to revisit the Subic case to really determine how did Anton Ang escaped arrest. But more than that, revisiting this case would lead us to answers as to how and why, this case appeared to be mishandled from the very beginning,” Santiago said.


Based on official report forwarded to the Office of the President and accounts relayed to this reporter by official sources inside the SBMA, the biggest shabu bust of last year began with a routine check at Port sentinels.

May 25, 2009, at approximately 8:30 in the evening, the SUV driven by Ang was accosted by SBMA Port Sentinels at the SRF gate. The sentinels asked Ang for the necessary documents for the boxes he off-loaded from the chinese vessel F/B Shun Fa Xing berthed at the Riviera Pier. Ang failed to present any document.

The sentinels did not open the boxes but as early as that point, indicated suspicion that the boxes contained something else, and not “sensitive computer parts” as Ang declared to them verbally.All 8 of them, were subjected to sniffing operation by the SBMA K-9 teams but the canine yielded negative reaction for illegal drugs.

Ang, a known investor inside the SBMA, was given the benefit of the doubt and was even accorded the respect due to any investor/locator inside the Free Port...something that is usual and not out of extraordinary consideration inside the Free Port. The sentinels eventually allowed Ang to leave after he promised to produce the documents for the boxes but the sentinels decided to held on to the boxes and referred the case to the SBMA Law Enforcement Division (SBMA-LED).

May 26, 2008, the case of the lack of documents for the 8 boxes off-loaded by Ang from F/B Shun Fa Xing fell into the office of SBMA Port Operations Manager Atty. Ferdinand Hernandez.

That morning in his office, Ang came accompanied by two persons identified as Amor Lee and Luisito Salazar, a processor, a shipping agent. Ang still has no documents to show Hernandez. But despite the lack of documents, Hernandez in an interview with this reporter recalled that Ang asked him to help him release the boxes without inspection pointing to his status as a locator inside the Free Port.

“Sabi niya, locator naman ako, tulungan mo na ako. But I was firm with my decision. I told him he has to present to me the necessary documents for his shipment and I also made it clear to Ang that I will never allow any release of any cargo, expecially those without the corresponding documents without 100% inspection,” Hernandez narrated.

Ang left his office along with his two companions,promising to produce the documents, the second time, he said he would, from the time his boxes were accosted by port sentinels. But Ang came back to Hernandez’ office only a few minutes after he left that morning of May 26, 2008 and practically begged Hernandez to allow the release of his boxes even without the documents. “Still I told him, no release without 100% inspection, and I remember him leaving the office looking very worried.”
While Hernandez admitted that while he grew suspicious of the real contents of Ang’s documents at that point, just like the port sentinels, Ang was still granted the benefit of the doubt and was still allowed the liberty of producing the documents, citing the same reason: Anton Ang is an investor/locator inside the Free Port.

Ang promised he would come back to Hernandez’ office the following day, the 27th of May, but he never did.

It would also be noted that day 2, after port sentinels accosted the 8 boxes of Ang, no other law enforcement agency of government was in direct control of the situation except the SBMA-LED.
The surprise of their lives, as Hernandez puts it, would be unfolded and revealed the following day, the 27th of May 2008.
After receiving reports from his men that the chinese vessel went missing at the Riviera Pier, Hernandez dispatched his men to locate Ang in his office but he was no longer there. Instead, Hualong’s Logistics Manager Reynaldo “Ambeth” Belino was the one who showed up in Hernandez’ office.
Belino according to Hernandez denied knowing the whereabouts of Ang.
But in an interview with this reporter, Belino admitted he managed to make a last call to Ang on his cellphone, after the boxes were opened on the night of May 27. “Sabi ko sa kanya, boss, shabu ang laman”. Belino said that Ang never responded and hanged the phone after he informed him about the contents of the boxes.”Pinatayan na ang ko telepono, tapos hindi ko na uli makontak sa cellphone,” Belino said.

Hernandez during the separate interview recalled that his meeting with Belino was the crucial point in his decision to finally open the boxes. According to Hernandez , Belino told him that a meeting took place in the office of Hualong the previous day, the 26th of May, where Ang allegedly asked him and other officers of Hualong if there’s any way, or anyone of them, knew of a way how to convince Hernandez to have the boxes released without inspection.


Hernandez quoting Belino , said, " Ang alam ko sir, batay dun sa meeting namin, naghahanap siya ng paraan kung paano kayo mabibigyan ng offer," Hernandez quoted Belino to which he said he responded, "Anong offer?" Belino's answer jolted him from his seat according to Hernandez. "Sagot niya sa akin, pera sir, P2-million, yun yung pinagusapan sa office namin, para pumayag daw kayo na i-release ang kargamento nang walang inspection," Hernandez said.

Hernandez said, it was at this point that he decided, it was time to open the boxes, the third day, after the said boxes were accosted by SBMA port sentinels. "Putang ina, sabi ko sa sarili ko, ano ang laman ng mga kahon na ito para mag-isip sila na lagyan ako ng pera, Dun na talaga ako hindi mapakali, ano ang laman ng mga kahongito? Kinabahan na talaga ako, Hernandez recalled the events of that day, May 27, 2008.

Hernandez briefed SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza about the situation and it was Arreza who told him to coordinate with the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group (PASG) and Task Force Subic about the suspicious boxes. PASG was the first law enforcement agency to assume responsibility and control of the Subic drug bust.PDEA’s presence would come in later.
For the second time, before actually opening the boxes, a sniffing operation was conducted by the K-9 dogs that again yielded a negative reaction to the presence of drugs. There was only one way left to do to find out the true contents of the 8 boxes Ang desperately wanted to be released without inspection:open the boxes!


At around 4:20 in the afternoon of May 27, 2008 in the presence of PASG, SMBA-LED, and the logistic officer of Ang, and three days after the boxes were accosted, one by one, the boxes were opened. To everyone’s surprise, each boxe which Ang insisted contained "sensitive computer parts" actually contained white crystalline substance  packed in five (5) vacuum-packed plastic bags which when tested later turned out to be methamphetamine hydrochloride or high grade shabu with an estimated volume of 81.95 kilograms.
Hernandez said, he would never forget that day. Everyone was in total shock he said. "Nagkagulatan.
Napamura ako, sabi  ko, bakit nangyayari ito sa SBMA. Lahat nagulat, pati tao ni Ang."

But if Hernandez and those who witnessed the opening of the 8 boxes thought they already had the shock of their lives, they were wrong.

A bigger shocker greeted them the following day, the 28th of May 2008.
In the morning of May 28, 2008, two (2) green leather bags were recovered at the SRF area floating near the dry dock. The two bags contained 20.49 kilograms of the same white crystalline substance, later tested to be also high grade shabu.


A third shabu seizure followed. A call from one of the SBMA locators led to the discovery of the biggest chunk of the Subic drug bust, 60 more boxes containing the same high grade shabu with an approximate volume of 612.22 kilograms.

SBMA locator Harry Yao informed the SBMA-LED that Ang pleaded with him to temporarily accommodate a passenger van in the warehouse of Yao’s company, Anglo-Asia Commodities Corporation.

A fourth seizure followed, June 7, 2007 when SBMA Harbor Patrol discovered three (3) boxes covered with black garbage plastic bag tied to an abandoned anchor at the SRF area. When the boxes were opened, 30.7 kilograms more of shabu were seized. 

PDEA learned about the Subic shabu seizure late in the evening of May 27, 2008.

In his report to the president, Santiago said, he learned about the drug bust from a confidential source, an information refuted by PASG Chief Undersecretary Antonio “Bebot” Villar who reported to the president that it was through PASG Deputy Director Atty. Edmundo Arugay that PDEA came to know about the Subic drug bust.

In a separate report to the president dated March 10, PASG mentioned that Arugay coordinated the matter with PDEA through his cousin, Jonah Arugay, a PDEA operative and a former Magdalo soldier.
The contradicting account in Santiago and Villar’s report to the president reflected the tension on the ground between PDEA and PASG in handling the case.


In his report to the president, Santiago said, “the PDEA representatives experienced difficulty as PASG did not exercise immediate cooperation” citing the “tendency of other law enforcement bodies to confine information” because of “general perception and assumption that PDEA would grab credit once it gets involved.”
Villar’s report did not directly mention or refer to any incident that would show any PDEA versus PASG turf and credit war. The only hint of difference between the two agencies as far as Villar’s official report to the president was on that part that says, “..the office of the PDEA-Region III requested from this office for the turn-over of the seized drugs, to which the undersigned heeded and agreed to. However, for reasons unknown to the undersigned and this office, the said PDEA Regional Office did not take the custody thereof; and the same was left in the custody of the PASG/Task Force Subic.”

In analyzing the lapses to the SUBIC drug bust, PDEA noted that it was the lack of understanding and knowledge of other government agencies in the “instrumentalities of the mandates of the Comprehensive Drug Law” that contributed to the escape of Ang who was never questioned much less detained for the questionable cargoes.

Santiago said the fact that SBMA has a separate and independent charter also contributed to the escape of Ang. “We practically have no personality inside SBMA and we experienced resistence from another government agency who insisted that it was a smuggling case, therefore, a task under their jurisdiction, but under the Comprehensive Drug Law, it is clear which agency takes over drug related cases, PDEA,” Santiago explained.

While both the PDEA and PASG’s report to the president offered detailed accounts on what went on during last year’s biggest drug bust, both agencies did not offer any clear explanation that would answer the question the president raised, resulting into a renewed interest in the Subic Shabu Bust of May 2008: “HOW DID ANTON ANG SLIP OUT OF THE COUNTRY?”(end)

The ASG's "Majilis Shura"

March 26, 2009
Posted 8:00PM

Abu Sayyaf Grop's Albader Parad airs the threats but is not the one who is calling the shots.

Anything he says about the three aid workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Italian national Eugenio Vagni, Swiss national Andreas Notter and Filipina Mary Jeane Lacaba, his statement to the government, the ICRC, the relatives of the victims, senator Richard Gordon and the media, are all based on the decision of the Majlis Shura or the Council of the AL Harakatul Al Islamiya, (AHAI)---this according to a source from the police intelligence community. AHAI is the real and founding name of the Al-Qaeda ASG.

While Parad remains in physical custody of the three hostages, the police describes Parad's role in the ASG as similar to the one taken by Aldam Tilao or Abu Sabaya, one of the most notorious leaders of the ASG killed in June of 2002 in Zamboanga Sibugay Area. But unlike Sabaya who demonstrated a mind of his own, Parad's statements are more restrained, calculated and direct to the point, based on the collective decision of the ASG's own "own chain of command", the Majilis Shura.

In his talks with Gordon last Thursday, March 19, Parad mentioned several times that he is not deciding alone, "Hindi lang kasi ako ang nag-decide dito, ipaalam ko muna sa kanila, kung ano sabihin nila, yun sabihin ko," Parad told Gordon. In his dealings with the media, this reporter included, Parad would always say, he would consult the other commanders first if he is free to be interviewed again or if the hostages will be allowed to speak on the phone with a member of the media.

In the history of the ASG, this is the first time that they are deciding based on a collectove decision of their commanders according to the police source. This according to the source marks a big change in the leadership organization of the ASD which was severely divided after the death of its founding leader Ustadz Abdurajack Abubakar Janjalani in 1998 and even during the reign of Khadaffy Janjalani as the group's "Amir". The source explained that the decision to refer every decision to the Majlis Shura or the Council indicates that the ASG has gone back to its primary goal and intention then, to push for an independent Islamic State. 

Presently, the ASG's Majlis Shura, accordintg to police sources is composed of Yasser Igasan, Raduhllan Sahiron Jumdail Abu also known as Dr. Abu, Julhasbi Jalmaani and Parad. But while the ASG decides as a council, Igasan according to the police intelligence source is acknowledged as the over-all Amir, or Head of the ASG.

Igasan's assumption of the role of Amir, explains why the ASG is not demanding any ransom for the release of the hostages according to the police source. Igasan is well connected with foreign supporters in Muslim countries according to th source which guarantees the fueling of funds from foreign donors. "Igasan is one of the 8 original founding leaders of the ASG. Like the late Abdurajack, he is seen as very spiritual" the source added.

The role of the Majlis Shura headed by Igasan as Amir was tested in the last few days which was described by the source as "critical" in asserting the council's control. "Dun napatunayan na hindi puwedeng galit ng isang kumander ang mangibabaw," the source explained.

The March 16 encounter was a big loss for the ASG for it resulted in the death of one of the key members of the Council, Jalmaani, who is the nephew of Sahiron, who commands the biggest armed followers among ASG commanders with stronghold in Patikul area. Intelligence reports gathered by the police source point to this incident as the basis for the threat to decapitate one of the three ICRC hostages. "It could have been worse had the military really killed Parad," the source said adding that their informants described Sahiron was hurt and angered by the death of Jalmaani and wanted to overrun one of the Marine barracks in Tanum area, " the source said.

But the Majlis Shura prevailed upon Sahiron. It was decided that Parad's talks with Gordon be given a chance to succeed. But, talks bogged down. The "usapang lalake" or the gentleman's agreement between Gordon and Parad that a hostage be freed in exchange for military pull-out did not take off due to several factors, among them, the accusation from Gordon that the military commander on the ground, Task Force Comet Chief Major General Juancho Sabban, allegedly sabotaged the success of the "deal" by prematurely pulling out troops. 

But as far as Parad's statement to the media is concerned, the gentleman's agreement is still on, but this time, with a specific time frame, a deadline, or what Parad said was the groups "ultimatum". In an official report by the police source dated March 24, 2009, it is stated that based on informers on the ground, it was Sahiron who demanded to the Council and to Parad, directly talking to Gordon, to "expedite the release of the hostages through the immediate arrival of negotiators or behead the hostages if the government will not take peaceful action to start the negotiation,"

In a telephone interview, Tuesday morning, Parad called reporters, saying that their group is giving the government and the Gordon initiative, one week, beginning, Monday, March 23, 2009, for the "serious implementation of their demand for a military pull-out" on the areas they indicated in their talks with Gordon, namely, Santol in Patikul and Tagbak in Indanan. If this demand will not be met within the time frame of one week, Parad said that he is left with no choice but to execute his threat to behead one of the hostages.If the demand will be met within the one week frame, Parad said, he will keep his word and release one of the hostages to Gordon or to any government official.

Aside from the media, Parad too called on Gordon and several local officials of Sulu, Vice Governor Lady Anne Sahidullah included, even Vice President Noli De Castro to relay the one-week ultimatum beginning March 23. "Kung mag-pull out naman dun sa areas na sinabi namin, kahit kanino, kay Gordon o kahit kaninong opisyal dito, ibigay namin ang isa. Hindi ako nagbabago sa sinabi ko kay senator, pero dapat alamin niya ba talaga ang sitwasyon kung talagang may pull-out o wala para magkaintindihan kami, yung usapang lalake namin na may pakawalan akong isa, masusunod yun, di ko nakalimutan," Parad explained.

The police source views Parad's latest threat, an ultimatum as "serious and should not be taken lightly" considering the history of the ASG. On the other hand, the police source said, maintaining the current position of the military in Sulu right now, remains a key deterrent in the repositiong and the regrouping of the ASG. "They want the pull-out because they are already experiencing heavy casulaties. This is the reason why they are prepared to sacrifice the lives of the hostages," according to the police source.

The same assessment came from Task Force ICRC spokesperson Colonel Edgard Arevalo who in a press statement said, "giving in is virtually going to deliver wholesale to the kidnappers ease of escape and allow them to regroup, refurbish war materiel and kidnap more civilian hostages in the process."

The hostage crisis in Sulu is now on its 70th day with no clear resolution. Government maintains the Sulu Crisis Committee remains on top of the efforts to rescue and secure efforts to influence the immediate release of the ICRC hostages. (end)



March 25, 2009
Posted 4:33 PM

Two high school students were kidnapped Thursday last week but were released after five days of captivity after the payment of ransom amounting to P1.5-Million (One Point Five Million Pesos) according to police sources. Teresita Ang-See of the Citizen's Action Against Crime and Corruption confirmed the said kidnapping incident saying it is actually one of the series of kidnapping cases that has suddenly become frequent in the first quarter of 2009. "Kahapon sila na-release (Tuesday afternoon)," Ang-see said.

The kidnap victims are actually brothers who are students of two international schools, Beacon School and British School, both located in Taguig City. Police sources say, the two brothers were abducted by armed men while they were on their way to school between 6 to 7 in the morning from their residence in posh Alabang.

Based on information gathered by the police, the kidnappers originally demanded for a $2-Million Dollar in ransom for the two kids thinking the parents, who are into currency trading, could afford to pay that huge amount of money. Ang-see said the kidnappers settled for P1.5million pesos in ransom after the parents of the victims convinced them that that was all the cash money they could raise in exchange for the freedom of their two boys.

"Pero sinubukang mangutang ng mag-asawa sa bangko pero hindi na sila pinautang ng bangko dahil sa naubos na ang pera nila sa pagpapagawa ng malaking bahay at nagmamadali ding magkapera ang mga kidnappers kaya tinanggap na ang P1.5million pesos na ransom," Ang-see said adding that the victims here are pure Filipino and not the usual Filipino-Chinese who are often targets of kidnap-for-ransom syndicates.

Ang-see was not able to talk to the family of the victims. The family also did not report to the Police Anti-Crime Emergency Response (PACER) and handled the negitiation for the release of their boys on their own according to the police source.

Based on the monitoring of thr CAACC, there were 17 kidnap victims in January, 20 in February and 12 in March, the latest, the cases of the two students from the two international schools from Alabang, Based on the CAACC monitoring, all kidnap victims were released after payment of ransom and in the last three months, the anti-crime watch group monitored a total payment of more than P24-million pesos in ransom to various criminal syndicates.

"We are really very bothered that there's a sudden escalation of kidnapping incidents in the first quarter of this year. In the last two years, talagang wala. Tahimik. Gutom ang mga kidnappers ngayon," Ang-see lamented.

In the last two years, Ang-see noted through vigilance and cooperation and continues dialogue with PACER, there was not a single case of kidnap-for-ransom especially from the Filipino-Chinese community. "Talagang wala, ngayon, iba ang style nila, mabilisan, madalian, hindi pinatatagal ang negosasyon, gusto ng payment ng ransom agad,: Ang-see explained on the kfr's modus operandi of holding on the victims for only 5-7 days and releasing victims for any amount offered by the family of the kidnap victims.

The ransom demand would initially be high but the actual payment would range from P500,000.00, P800,000.00 to P1-million pesos. Ang-see noted that in kidnap-for-ransom cases in Metro Manila and Luzon, the latest payment of ransom for the two students of two international schools in Taguig was the highest recorded payment of ransom. 'Hindi na kayang magbayad ng mga biktima ngayon ng malalaking ransom, mahirap na ang panahon," Ang-see added.

Based on the cases monitored by CAACC, the modus operandi on all cases are similar, which prompted Ang-see to say that the group behind these incidents could be just one group. Ang-see does not discount the possibility that the KFR grouo behind the latest kidnapping cases are protected by some corrupt policemen or former policemen or military servicemen. Based on previous arrests made by PACER, Ang-see said that former police and military officers were arrested as the ones behind KFR activities stressing that in one case, an active member of the Special Action Force (SAF) was among those arrested for KFR.

Ang-see exprssed confidence in the ability of the leadership of Philippine National Police Chief Director General Jesus Versoza and PACER in identifying and arresting the criminal groups behind the sudden escalation of kidnap-for-ransom cases, especially in Metro Manila. Ang-see says, solving the problem of KFR starts with the first step, that is, "to admit that there is a problem." (end)

"ROBIN HOOD" drug pusher--new superstar detainee at PDEA


March 23, 2009Posted 9:53

It would have been just an ordinary case of a top drug peddler in Navotas City nabbed by agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). 
Arrested was Gregorio “Palaboy” Roldan, allegedly caught in the act of selling methamphetamine hydrochloride to an undercover agent along the vicinity of H. Lopez Boulevard, Balut in Tondo on Saturday. Confiscated from Roldan’s possession were 10 grams of shabu, Santiago said. The suspect was included in PDEA’s target list in the Case Operation plan codenamed “Robin Hood.”

But this seemingly unassuming, a bit regular story of PDEA arrest turned into something else, a social and political statement of how terrible and alarming the illegal drugs problem in the country right now.
My cameraman caught it on camera, I would have posted a picture here had I not forgotten to bring my still digital camera. But am sure many of you would see the scene caught on cam since it would be aired in at least two major newscasts. It was like a scene from a telenovela, only, this one is for real.

At least 50 people, mostly women and children, some elderly rushed to the main headquarters of PDEA to demand that they see their "Robin Hood", Roldan. They were crying, shouting, bangging the gate to demand that they see Roldan just to make sure, he is not physically harmed. Some said, they simply, wanted to see him, perhaps even touch him, embrace him even. The tears were real. I have seen many of these kind of display of mass support that I will not be taken for a ride if there's any hint of dramatization in the outpour of emotions. This one is for real and the most disturbing part is that, the real tears are meant for a known drug pusher!

When PDEA finally gave in to the request of the mob, that's when the outpour of emotions were released almost in unison. The children who were there to see Roldan shouted, "Kuya, Kuya! Paano na kami." An woman shouted, "Sino na ang tutulong sa amin?" Still another shouted, "Bakit ang nakakatulong ang inaaresto ninyo?"

But the most shocking statement of support that I heard from the mob that went to see Roldan at the PDEA office came from an elderly woman who claims, Roldan is like a son to her. " Hindi lang naman shabu ang pinagkakakitaan niyan. May iba pang negosyo. Pero kahit pa pusher, tinutulungan niya kami." The elderly woman's mind set was a glaring testimony of how and why the illegal drugs trade proliferate in many depressed areas.

It has become a way of life, a livelihood, a source of income for those who have no jobs. 
Roldan found a way to suck into the depression of his neighbors that he has managed to continue with his illegal drug peddling for years because he was protected by the very community he abused by giving them financial assistance.Asked what kind of help Roldan gives them, the answers vary from "pambaon", "pamalengke", "pang-ospital" "pamburol".

It was a shock to see people rush to the side of a known drug peddler, they admitted so themselves, even Roldan, on camera, (although he insisted that at the time he was arrested, he was not in possession of any amount of drugs), ignoring what he does and who he represents, simply because they were there for them when they needed help. A case of an end justifying the means.

The question many are like Roldan in our midst right now? Those engage in the illegal drugs trade, especially in the slum and depressed area, taking advantage of the vulnerability of the community to propel their illegal dealings?
But then...looking at the bigger picture, the scene that unfolded at the PDEA main headquarters this afternoon could simply be a mirror of how rotten and how corrupt our society has become. The simple tug of war between good and evil and what is right and wrong is so clouded that it seemed to not exist at all.

Major Valentino Lopez, Chief of the PDEA's Complaints and Reaction Unit faced Roldan's supporters and told them, "We understood your support for Roldan, but' isn't it time we learn to earn a living on our own? The legal way?" In Filipino he said, "Magtrabaho na po tayo, matuto na po tayong magtrabaho, hindi po dapat asahan ang pera sa droga. Alam ninyo yan Nay, Lola..."

The crowd that rushed to PDEA to see him were only pacified when it was Roldan who told them to go home. To his supporters, Roldan said, " Umuwi na po kayo. Hindi ako napaano. Hindi ako sinaktan. Okey lang po ako."
Looking at Roldan, saying those words, it was easy to see that he could be anyone's brother, son, husband, friend.Robin Hood and drug peddler---the road has to end somewhere and it finally did for one Gregorio "palaboy" Roldan.(end)

PDEA's Marcelino to go on leave, but wants to see action again in Sulu

March 24, 2009
Posted 1:52 PM

Citing the principle of "delicadeza", Major Ferdinand Marcelino, the officer of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) who said bribery attempts were initiated to influence the recommendation to drop the case against the three Alabang boys, Richard Brodett, Jorge Joseph and Joseph Tecson by Department of Justice prosecutors, will go on leave to give way to the administrative investigation on him in compliance with a direct order coming from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In an interview with this reporter, Monday afternoon in his office, Marcelino said he is taking the leave of absence so as not to taint the investigation on him with suspicion and manipulation. He has just finished printing his letter asking that he be allowed to go on leave when this reporter met him in his office.

Marcelino is under investigation for the release of one Patrick el Khoury, the driver of Joseph, at the time of his arrest last September. In her order after a coordinating meeting with all agencies involved in the anti-drug trafficking campaign held in Malacanang last Thursday, the president questioned Marcelino's decision to free Khoury, saying he acted as if he was a "prosecutor."

"I am confident that my name will be cleared for releasing Khoury. He is innocent and he is not one of our targets, even the National Bureau of Investigation questioned him and found him innocent," Marcelino said.

Marcelino said he see victory in the order of the President for the DOJ to pursue the filing of cases against the Alabang Boys and calls on Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales to also file a leave of ansence. "I challenge him to file a leave of absence too following the president's order on the Alabang Boys. We all want good governance, accountability and transparency and I challenge the secretary to prove to the public that he too is accountable for the act of those under him," Marcelino added.

But before forwarding his letter to PDEA Director Dionisio Santiago, Marcelino was among the officers who lead another raid on a suspected shabu laboratory in Talayan Village in Quezon City this morning. Two Chinese nationals were arrested in the said raid. "Raid muna ako, tapos iabot ko na ang letter ko kay DG, papayagan naman niya ako, siguro, para walang masabi sa imbestigasyon. Baka pagdudahan pa ang resulta,"Marcelino stressed.

In a radio interview, Santiago said, Marcelino will be investigated by the Internal Affairs Service of PDEA. "We have a disciplinary arm and I am confident this matter, this issue against Marcelino will be given thorough explanation after the investigation," Santiago explained.

A Marine officer and a veteran of many battles and operations in Mindanao, Marcelino joined PDEA in 2006 on the invitation of Santiago, a former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. He says he has no regret joining PDEA but notes that the process of change in the government's campaign against the illegal drugs trade is "often misguided by vested interests of power and money holders."

But while away from PDEA, Marcelino does not see him spending the succeeding days in the barracks, awaiting the results of the administrative investigation on him. "I want to set my feet back on the grounds of Sulu where my band of brothers courageously fights the Abu Sayyaf to rescue the International Red Cross Volunteers, a battle I really miss together with the Marines," Marcelino said, adding that he has enough experience and connections in Sulu which gives him confidence that he can do something to help his fellow marines rescue the ICRC hostages, Italian Eugenio Vagni, Swiss national Andreas Notter and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba.

As a Marine Officer, Marcelino was assigned in the intelligence and monitoring unit of the Task Force behind the neutralization of one of the most notorious leaders of the ASG, Aldam Tilao, popularly known in the media as Abu Sabaya. (end)

That crucial Thursday talk between GORDON and PARAD, "Usapang Lalake"...

22 March 2009
Posted 6:00 PM

Senator Richard Gordon suspects, something else is complicating the hostage crisis in Sulu and asked the hierarchy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to conduct its own investigation.

Gordon contemplated on calling for a senate inquiry to find answers following his accusation of sabotage against Task Force Comet Chief Major General Juancho Sabban, whom the senator singles out as the officer on the ground responsible why the commitment to release one of the three aid workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross or ICRC held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf Group did not materialize.

Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba were kidnapped within the vicinity of the Sulu Provincial Capitol in Patikul in broad daylight last January 15. Initial reports pointed to a small armed group then, led by a former jail guard as the actual kidnappers of the three ICRC aid workers before they were handed over to the Abu Sayyaf Group in the Indanan area. Another version indicates that from the very start, ASG leader Albader Parad and his men were with the former jailguards when they abducted the ICRC workers, an eyewitness account that suggests that the ASG can actually stage a kidnapping without being detected by the military.

"What is happening in Sulu right now is a question of accountability. Soldiers are dying and we need to find out why this war is being launched when there are lives of hostages at stake and not when there are no hostages in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf," Gordon said explaining that a senate inquiry on a question of accountability of a public officer is well within the jurisdiction of the powerful Senate Blue Ribbon Committee which he chairs. But Gordon said, for now, he would rather have the AFP leadership find out for themselves what is complicating the hostage crisis in Sulu.

In a phone interview late Saturday night, Sabban said, he welcomes any inquiry by any investigating body on the situation in Sulu. "We welcome any investigation. We are soldiers and we are simply doing our job and that job includes following a chain of command. Okey ako diyan," Sabban said.

Other than saying he is open for any senate inquiry, Sabban refused to comment further on the heated argument in the media between him and Gordon that began in the afternoon of May 19.

The following day, Sabban said, he is now refrained from further commenting on any statement made by Gordon. "Pinagsabihan na ako na huwag na munang magsalita, kaya hindi na ako magsasalita," Sabban said without clarifying who gave him the exact orders not to make any further comment on the matter.

But just how did the verbal tussle between a two-star general and a senator erupted?

This is how the turn of events took place as recorded by Gordon and his senate staff.

Wednesday afternoon, Gordon was alerted by one reporter, not this one, that Albader Parad threatens to decapitate one of the hostages if and when the military gets closer to their location again and engage them in a gun battle. Just minutes after receiving that information, Gordon got a call from Parad himself , confirming the threat to behead the hostages.

Towards the evening of May 18, Gordon, who is also the chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) worried about the threat on one of the hostages confirmed to him through cellular phone by Parad, called on Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, AFP Chief of Staff Alexander Yano and Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno for all of them to hold an emergency meeting. "Sabi ko sa kanila, mag-meeting naman tayo, may banta sa mga tao namin (ICRC) sa Sulu at nagkakabakbakan na. Lives are at stake. We are very worried,"Gordon narrated.

But according to Gordon, the Wednesday meeting was actually too late a reaction in a sense that Monday's encounter in Sulu that resulted in the death of three Marines and the wounding of 19 others was the incident that actually led to the threat of decapitation of one of the three ICRC hostages. Gordon stressed that this is the incident that he wants the top brass of the military to first look into. "The Monday assault put the ICRC people in harm's way. They were not being threatened by the ASG, there was no threat of beheading before that incident. The rules of engagement especially with a very dangerous and notorious group like the ASG must be decided with utmost caution especially so in cases where there are hostages," Gordon said.

The day the fighting erupted, Gordon said, he was concerned on the possible effect of the fighting on the Nur Misuari mission to Sulu scheduled  between March 18-30 upon direct instructions from Puno. "Everybody knew Misuari would be going to Sulu to talk to try to talk to the ASG again and then suddenly, fighting erupted," Gordon noted.

The announcement from Task Force Comment that they killed Parad in that encounter also made him and the ICRC more worried according to Gordon for it presents the possibility of real danger in the lives of the hostages. The situation changed when Parad called Gordon to affirm the obvious, he was not killed, wounded yes, but killed, no.

Wednesday night during the emergency meeting, Gordon announced that he was able to convince Parad to free one of the hostages in exchange for a military pull-out to specific areas mentioned by Parad, Santol, Parang and Tagbak in Indanan. Teodoro, Yano and Puno agreed to give way to this initiative and tasked Major General Nelson Llaga to implement the pull-out, demanded by Parad, which in essence based on the areas he mentioned is just a pull-back, temporary repositioning of troops which, was decided from the top, as something that would not jeopardize the grounds occupied by the military troops in Sulu.

Gordon was confident, risking the only choice he had at that time, that is to trust the word of Parad who told him, "Usapang Lalaki senator, hindi ka mapahiya, kapag may pullout, kapag nakita namin, bigyan kita ng isa." Gordon had all the reasons to trust Parad's words he said, considering the long hours and the many calls he made before he was able to finally convince Parad for the pull-out-in-exchange-for-ahostage deal.

Wednesday's meeting with top brass of the DND, AFP and the DILG/PNP ended before midnight with Gordon receiving a second confirmation from Parad that he will release one hostage, if a pull-out is implemented.
 ( to be continued...)


What Nicole told Congresswoman Mitos Magsaysay...

March 22,2009
Posted 11:55 AM

Shame and fear of public humiliation and her mother's wrath may have lead Nicole, Suzette S. Nicolas in real life, to declare that she was raped by US serviceman Daniel Smith in November of 2005. This, according to Zambales Congressman Mitos Magsaysay who was among the first local officials in Zambales-Olongapo who was able to question Nicole on what really happened to her.

When Nicole was discovered by law enforcement agents of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), she was almost half naked, drunk and daze, confused. "My hindsight is that ...alangan namang sabihin niya na walang masamang nangyari sa kanya samantalang natagpuan siya sa ganoong kundisyon? Will she say that night that nothing bad happened to her and that she just had sex with consent? Hindi niya siguro alam kung ano ang sasabihin niya, paano niya ipapaliwanag ang kanyang kalagayan? So she cried rape" Magsaysay said.

Maysaysay was among the first to question and see Nicole in the early morning of November 1, 2005. The lawmaker said she received a call from the SBMA Investigation Division about a female who was found almost naked, shaking and visibly dazed and that the first impression she got from the law enforcers who alerted her about it was, the girl could have been a rape victim. "Sabi nila, ma'am mukhang na-rape". Magsaysay also received the information that US servicemen could have been responsible for it prompting her to rush to the side of the female, who turned out to be Nicole.

"My first instinct then was to find out what happened to her and if indeed there were some US servicemen who should be questioned for the circumstances by which she was found within the vicinity of the Subic Freeport," Magsaysay recalled.

The word rape was never uttered by Nicolea according to Magsaysay who explained that in trying to elicit answers from Nicole as to what really happened to her, she never asked the question directly if she was raped. The lawmaker explained that she wanted it to come spontaneously and voluntarily during her conversation with Nicole. But in questioning her for at least 2  hours, Nicole never made any indication that what happened to her was rape or is she believed she was raped. "What I remember very clearly is that she was very, very worried, especially about her mother and what her mother would say if she will learn what happened to her. She told me several times, "Takot ako sa mommy ko. Magagalit yun."

Nicole also said over and over again that early morning of November 1 that she did not ask persmission from her mother in Zamboanga that she would be going to Subic. "Tumakas lang ako, hindi niya alam na nandito ako sa Subic," Magsaysay quoted Nicole's words to her that day.

Nicole remembered drinking too many alcoholic drinks, mixing one after the other, and she also remembered "dirty-dancing" with Smith, according to Magsaysay's recolection of Nicole's statement to her that morning of November 1.

Magsaysay said she asked Nicole several times what happened in the van and she consistently answered, "Ma'am nag passed out ako" adding it could have because of the many mixed alcoholic drinks that she had at the Neptune Bar. How then could she or anyone say that Nicole was raped or not when Nicole herself told her, she passed out, asked Magsaysay who clarified that she never said, she knew right then, that very night that Nicole was not raped.

The only thing that was determined that early morning of November 1, 2005 according to Magsaysay was, when several physical tests were done on Nicole, it was conclusive that she just had a sexual intercourse because of the positive presence of sperm cells.
But Nicole's statement that she passed out can be seen as consistent with the original statement made by the driver of the van who she also questioned according to Magsaysay. The van driver told her, she heard no resistance from inside the van, no sound coming from Nicole, just chanting of Smith's companions, boosting him, cheering, "Go Smith!, Go Smith!" Magsaysay noted that it would appear in his official affidavit that the driver of the van recanted his statement and gave a written testimony that would support the allegation of rape. "But in open court, he said, he heard nothing from Nicole while she was inside the van with Smith."

Magsaysay left Nicole when SBMA officials began arriving at around 5 in the morning, this was after she got an assurance that the US servicemen who were with Nicole would be turned over for questioning by police authorities. "Sabi ko matutulog na ako at napuyat ako. I gave Nicole my cellular phone number and asked her to call me if she needed to say anything more in confidence, babae sa babae, and if she needed my help, but after that night I never saw her in person again and she never called my number," Magsaysay explained.

At what point then did the allegation of rape came about?

Magsaysay says she has no idea and could ony conclude now in hidsight that it could have been Nicole's choice then to cry help to save herself from further humiliation for for a woman, what is more humiliating. to be found a victim of rape or to be found to having casual and consentual sex with a stranger and left dumped and dazed after the incident? "To my mind, it was the circumstances that she was found that lead her to cry rape. Hindi niya kaya ang galit at kahihiyan sa pamilya niya. That's my understanding now, especially after reading her second affidavit which is close to what she told me that morning of November 1 in 2005, " Magsaysay said.

But the second affidavit would amount to nothing, if Nicole would not be able to testify about it in court according to Magsaysay who also believes Nicole should be subjected to cross-examination on the contents of her second affidavit.

Nicole, found under a very demeaning circumstances that early morning of November 1, 2005 could claim and cry confusion about many things according to Maysaysay but she added that whatever Nicole's state of mind at this point, she should not be confused about one thing, the support and the help that she got not just from one but from many sectors of government. "Nicole can never claim that government was not there for her, she got all the help she needed," Magsaysay added stressing that she has no regret helping Nicole.

In her second affidavit, Nicole said, she "would risk public outrage then do nothing to help the court in ensuring that justice is served" and now that the outrage has began from all corners, Magsaysay, the first public official who came to thr side of Nicole said that in the end, "it would only be Nicole who will live with her own decision and with her own truth." (end) 

CAPTURED EXCLUSIVE: LACSON's former driver Spo4 Reynaldo Oximoso Sr. speaks up on the Dacer-Corvito double murder case

March 20, 2009
Posted 6:20 PM

Retired Senior Police Office 4 (SPO4) Reynaldo Lopez Oximoso Sr. known as "Oxi" denied any knowledge, direct or indirect in the twin murder case of publicist Salvador "Bubby" Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corvito eight years ago.

Speaking exclusively with this reporter Monday morning in Quezon City, Oximoso said he was surprised to hear from the radio and to have read from the newspaper (not the Inquirer) that his name is being implicated in the Dacer-Corvito case. Oximoso said, friends from the police and the military called him and told him about what they heard on the radio. It was only after several calls that Oximoso decided to tune in to the AM radio and buy a copy of the newspaper that carried the article on the alleged content of affidavit of Sr. Superintendent Cesar Mancao.

This reporter was able to locate Oximoso through other sources in the Philippine National Police. He said, he was never in hiding and never in the protection of anyone or any group, just living a normal life as a retired policeman. When Oximoso showed up for a rendezvous with this reporter, he was alone, the date, March 16, 2009, the day his name was mentioned in an article about the Mancao-affidavit in the Philippine Star.

Caught by surprise, Oximoso admitted that he felt a bit frightened about the turn of events. "Sa totoo lang, nagulat ako, natakot din, baka gipitin ako, bakit idinawit ang pangalan ko? Pati middle name ko alam nila. Ano ang balak nila? At bakit ako binabanggit?" Oximoso said.

Oxi maintains he has nothing to say about the twin murder case because he simply has no knowledge about it. "Anong sasabihin ko kung wala akong alam? Matagal na akong retirado. Bukid na ang hinarap ko mula nang ako ay mag-retiro. Nagtanim ako ng kamote, nag-alaga din ako ng ilang puno ng mangga. Taga probinsiya na ako, nagkataon lang na natiyempuhan mo ako sa Manila. Buhay ng retirado, yun ang buhay ko ngayon, minsan pa-drive-drive pa rin sa mga kaibigan, pero paminsan-minsan na lang" Oximoso said, describing his life now.

Oximiso was allegedly mentioned by Mancao in his affidavit that is still undisclosed to the public as the driver at the time, senator Panfilo Lacson allegedly gave orders to Sr. Superintendent Michael Ray Aquino to finish, not just Dacer, codenamed "Delta" but also "Bero", allegedly referring to retired Chief Superintendent and nor Transportation Undersecretary Reynaldo Berroya. The conversation allegedly took place while Lacson's car was en route to a Japanese restaurant in Greenhills, with Oximiso on the driver's seat, Mancao in the front seat and Lacson and Aquino at the backseat.

"Wala akong natatandaang ganoong insidente. At ang alam ko, hindi ko naisakay si Mancao sa harapan ng kotse ni 71 (referring to Lacson). Aide lang ang sumasakay doon. At ang alam kong aide lang ni sir, sina Nartatez at Bazar.Kapitan noon, mga colonel na ngayon. Wala akong matandaang naisakay ko si Mancao sa harapan ng sasakyan," Oximoso explained in reaction to the portion of the alleged content of the Mancao-affidavit where his alleged participation was mentioned.

He was also not the lone driver assigned to Lacson when the latter was still Chief of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force and Chief of the Philippine National Police. Oximoso said, there was another driver, SPO4 Melchor Albornoz. Oximoso clarified at this point that he is not saying that Albornoz could have been the driver of the incident allegedly mentioned in the Mancao-affidavit. What he merely wants to stress according to Oximoso is the fact that he is not the lone driver assigned to Lacson during that period.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales in an interview confirmed that indeed Oximoso's name was mentioned in the Mancao affidavit, describing Oximoso's role as "important". "If Mancao's narration of events is correct, then Oximoso's role, and what he has to say is very, very important for us," Gonzales said.

Oximoso began his service career in 1973, as a corporal in the Philippine Marines. His first major assignment was for the office then of Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, as a driver. He recalled that he also had the privilege of driving for Jacky Enrile, now congressman of Cagayan, when he was still in high school in Ateneo. From the Armed Forces of the Philippines, he transferred to the Philippine Constabulary in 1979, assigned to the same task when he was still with the AFP, as driver.

"Driver ako, eversince, kaya nga ako lumipat sa PC, ayaw kong ma-assign sa Mindanao, at sa PC, driver pa rin ako, lahat ng pinanggalingan kong unit, sa manebela ako nakilala, dun ako pinagkatiwalaan," Oximoso recalls his days in the armed service beginning from 1973. Up to the time of his retirement, Oximoso said, he was still assigned behind the wheels.

Oximoso first met Lacson at the former MISG of METROCOM under the late Colonel Rolando Abadilla.

In 2004, he resigned as driver of Lacson, then already first term senator, two years after his official retirement. Since that time Oximoso said, he has not seen nor talked to Lacson. Lacson, on his part, has not also called Oximoso, his former driver since the day, Oximoso left the senate office as member of his staff.

Recalling that day, Oximoso admitted that there was a bitter taste on the way he and Lacson parted ways. Oximoso clarified that it was not him and Lacson that directly had a falling out, pointing to other people close to Lacson as the ones whom he had a falling out. "Nagpaalam ako sa kanya, hindi naman siya tumanggi.Okey raw, tutal pupunta naman siya sa abroad, kaya ayun, tuluyan na akong umalis."Oximoso said recalling that very moment when he said, goodbye to Lacson.

But even then, Oximoso said, his respect for Lacson remained. "Kung nanalong presidente yang si Panfilo (Lacson), maayos na ang Pilipinas, uunlad tayo, " Oximoso volunteered his views on Lacson, just to stress that his respect for his former boss remains solid. Lacson ran for president during the 2004 Presidential Elections.

Oximoso even said that he thinks, the reason why the case of Dacer and Corvito was revived was all because of politics. "Ang mahirap kasi,nagsisipaan ang mga kabayo, bisero ang tinatamaan," Oximoso laments.

Since Monday, when his name was mentioned as the driver "present when the alleged order to kill Dacer"  Oximoso said, Lacson or anyone from the senator's office has not gotten in touch with him.

He also stressed that no one from government or anyone from Lacson's foes, has gotten in touch with him. "Hindi ako hawak ng kung sino. Tulad ng sinabi ko, matagal na akong retirado," Oximoso added.

For now, while Oximoso admits he feels uneasy, even frightened but maintains that he sees no reason to go into hiding. "Wala akong alam, at ang tanging maipagmamalaki ko lang, nagretiro ako sa serbisyo na wala akong record ni isang aksidente, o gasgas sa sasakyan sa lahat ng mga pinaglingkuran kong unit, kasama na ang mga panahong ako ang driver ni Ping (Lacson)," Oximoso said.

Everytime Oximoso mentions the name of Lacson, alternately calling him "Ping", "Panfilo" and "71", it was evident that Oximoso hold his former boss with utmost respect, but while talking about Lacson, it was also evident, that Oximoso's wound left by the way they parted ways, remained. At one point, Oximoso even held back his tears, telling this reporter, "huwag mo na lang kayang isama yan, baka kung ano ang maging interpretasyon..."(end)


CAPTURED EXCLUSIVE: ICRC hostages asked: "Why do we have to die?!!!"

March 19, 2009
Posted 7:30pm

Angry, exhausted and seemingly helpless, the three aid workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) spoke with Senator Richard Gordon on the cellphone in the afternoon of March 19, beginning at exactly 2:20PM, a few days after the 2-day gun battle between the forces of the Philippine Marines and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Indanan, Sulu.

It took several efforts on the part of Gordon before he finally convinced ASG Commander Albader Parad to allow him to speak to the three hostages, Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian national Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba, one after the other.

The conversation was a preliminary gesture on the part of Parad who also agreed to Gordon's persuasion that he release one hostage in exchange for the "pull-out" of the troops from their present location to three specific areas in Sulu, Tagbak, Patikul and Parang.

Parad did not mention who among the three ICRC hostages he will release but assured the senator, he will keep his word, word of honor between two men, "usapang lalaki."

An emergency meeting was held on the night of March 18, lasting until 12:30 in the morning of March 19, to specifically discuss the ASG's demand for a military pull out in exchange for one hostage.

Gordon spoke to Lacaba first who spoke in very soft voice, pleading, sounding as if she was shaking with fear. "Ang hirap pong maging marangal kung ang buhay mo ay palaging nasa panganib. Kung paggising mo, hindi mo alam kung saan tatama ang bala, sa ulunan mo, sa likod mo, sa gilid mo, sa harapan mo, nakikita mo talaga ang bakbakan, mahirap maging marangal," Lacaba said in response to Gordon's words to her saying, " Do not show them that you are weak. Ipinagmamalaki kita. I am proud of you. Ipinagmamalaki kita Mary Jeane. Ikinararangal kita. Ikinararangal ka namin. Be strong."

Lacaba said the three of them were never separated with the ASG when they clashed with the forces of the Philippine Marines." Grabe, nakikita talaga namin ang barilan, sa harapan namin, nakikita namin ang patayan, putukan sa harapan namin, grabe talaga senator," Lacaba recalls their experience in the last encounter between government troops and the ASG. She also reminded the senator that the three of them have been counting the days that they are being held hostage by the ASG. "64 days na kami dito senator, di ko na alam kung makakaya ko pa," Lacaba said.

Gordon told Lacaba not to lose hope, "Lakasan mo ang loob mo, sa iyo ako kumukuha ng lakas ng loob." But in very soft voice, Lacaba said that it's very hard to have courage in the actual situation that they are in right now. "Sana po, madali pong sabihin yan senator, pero sa aktuwal mahirap, sana kaya ko, sana..."

Lacaba passed the cellular phone to Eugenio Vagni who the moment he got hold of the phone, did not even bothered to greet the senator but unleashed his anger directed at the government, shouting, on the verge of crying, "Why does the government want us to die?!!! I don't understand. I don't understand!!"

Just like what he did with Lacaba who sounded resigned to her fate, Gordon tried to counter Vagni's anger. "I am not the government Eugenio. I just can't turn my back on you. I need you to be strong. You need to be strong, can you do that for me?"

Still in high pitch voice, Vagni answered back, "I am strong. We are strong. But what is the government doing? We came to the Philippines to do something good. Why do we have to die?" At this point, it was obvious through his voice that Vagni was already in tears, sobbing, Vagni told the senator, "We have to be stronger. We will be stronger. But if the military will not pull out, we are going to die."

Hearing Vagni, sobbing, Gordon reassured him, "I am trying my best. I've had my pains in life, but it's nothing compared to yours." 

Vagni was trying to say, how painful it was for them especially in the last few days during the heavy gun battle but Gordon sensing that he is already losing hope, told him these words: "Remember who you are Eugenio. I am going to fight for you, you remember that, but you must show your dignity. Remember who you are. Do not give up. We are din our best." From an angry tone, Vagni, who was obviously crying uncontrollably at that point only managed to answer, "Ok senator, ..Ok....ok..."

Swiss national Andreas Notter sounded more angry, obviously at rage, heavy words directed against the government. Notter's words sounded that it was his understanding that government was prepared to sacrifice their lives. "The situation is very bad. It is catastrophic!!!I really cannot understand what your government is doing. Rescue? The government sent the military to rescue us? No!!!!These guys came to kill us, have us killed, not rescue us!!!"

Notter made mention that since 1982, the ICRC has been invited by the Philippine government to do humanitarian missions in the country, punctuating that remark with a clear burst of anger, uncertainty and exhaustion of their situation in the jungles of Sulu with the ASG. "Your government has been inviting us since 1982. Now they are going to kill us?"

Gordon tried to cut him, but it was clear that Notter waited for this opportunity to air his anger at the government. "One more attack, they are going to kill us! And let me tell you this senator, if I'm going to survive this, I'm going to make sure that the whole world knows what happened here. This is going too far!!!"

Notter lashed at the military offensive launched by Task Force Comet saying that what the military did was "completely the wrong move. At one point, Notter also questioned the Armed Forces of the Philippines Chain of Command, directing his anger at AFP Chief of Staff General Alexander Yano. " I cannot understand the military. There is a chain of command but what is General Yano doing?"

Just like Lacaba, Notter also mentioned how many days they are being held hostage by the ASG since January 15, 64 painful days, he said.

The conversation with the three hostages, the latest proof of life since their last communication with the ICRC last March 11, was a very emotional exercise for Gordon, who was trying to uplift the spirits of the hostages who were all clearly angry, tired, frightened, helpless and almost hopeless, that when Notter passed back the cellular phone to Parad, it was him who was reduced to tears.

Parad sounded apologetic when he heard the senator's voice, "Nasasaktan ako, dahil nasasaktan ang mga kasama ko. Umaasa ako sa iyo. Itinaya ko na ang lahat sa iyo, ang talino ko, ang lakas ko, Nagkagulo na nga kami ni Saban (Major General Juancho Saban), pati ni Sakur Tan (Sulu Provincial Government). Pinagtitiwalaan kita. Pagbigyan mo ako. Di naman aabot sa ganyang sitwasyon kung hindi mo kinuha ang mga yan."

The conversation between Gordon, the three hostages, and Parad lasted for more than an hour, with Parad promising Gordon, "hindi kita ipapahiya senator, basta magpull-out tiyak makuha mo ang isa. Yun na ang sinabi ko."

Parad never mentioned his threat to behead one of the hostages again should the military engage them in another encounter. (end)

"Implement the Peace Agreement in full, kidnapping in Mindanao will stop," Muslimin Sema, MNLF Chairman

11 March 2009
Posted 10:07 AM

The proliferation of kidnapping activities in Southern Mindanao, especially in Muslim dominated areas, is a result of the failure of government to fully implement the 1996 Peace Agreement signed with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Cotabato City mayor Muslimin Sema, also the Chairman of the MNLF faction of 15 that broke away from founding chairman Nur Misuari said the kidnapping of aid workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian national Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jeane Lacaba is a very unfortunate and condemnable incident, but one that reflects the inability of the government to really address the basic problem of poverty in Muslim Minadanao.

"If only the government went beyond just signing the agreement and really implemented the 1996 Peace Agreement in its essence and its entire content and principle, then perhaps there would be no problem of the Abu Sayyaf Group, no problem of the likes of Moro Islamic Liberation Front commander Umbra Kato, and in a wider scale, no problem of peace and order and kidnapping in Mindanao," Sema said in an interview in Manila, a day before the 3-day Tripartite Meeting between the Government of the Philippines (GRP), the MNLF and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) scheduled at the Heritage Hotel in Manila.

The hostage crisis of the three ICRC aid workers is now more than 55 days, the three, Notter, Vagni and Lacaba, were abducted near the Sulu Provincial Capitol in Patikul last January 15 in broad daylight by armed men headed by ASG leader Albader Parad.

Misuari was of the Muslim personalities tapped by government to negotiate for the release of the three hostages but Sema doubts whether their former chairman and former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) could convince the ASG to release the hostages unconditionally.

"For one, he was part of the problem, he became part of the problem and government is well aware of the animosity of many Bangsamoro group to Misuari now, including the Abu Sayyaf. The other bigger and more obvious reason is the fact that we, the MNLF, failed to prove to our Moro brothers that the peace process works and that it is the only road to achieving the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people," Sema explained.
Abu Ambri Taddik, one of the original batch of MNLF commanders and Secretary General for Military Affairs of the MNLF was more blunt in weighing Misuari's chances in securing the release of the hostages. " Di nga siya makaakyat ng bundok, di nga makalapit, alam niya maraming galit sa kanya sa bundok, dun sa ASG, sina Commander Abu, sina Radhullan Sahiron, tapos gawin pang negotiator?"
The seccesionist movement in Muslim MInadanao dates back to almost 40 years ago says Sema, who was one of the young Moro professionals who decided to wage war with government in the early 70's and looking back at the last four decades, Sema says, he can honestly say that nothing much has changed as far as the problem of poverty in Muslim Mindanao is concerned.

"40 years ago, when we were young and fighting the battle of our lives as Moros, we saw the extreme poverty of our people that inspired us all to take up arms and fight for our self-determination. The administration of President Fidel V. Ramos was able to convince us to set aside the road to war and instead take the road to peace, but after the signing of the 1996 Peace Agreement, what happened? What really happened? Go to ARMM and you'll see that more than half of the population still lives in extreme poverty," Sema explained.
Sema also narrated an incident when some of the top commanders then of the MNLF talked to then ASG founding leader Abdurajack Abubakar Janjalani and some of his commanders, convincing them to trust the peace process and let the MNLF lead the way but Sema said, they were met with resistance and were even riduculed for their decision to accept the government's hand of peace.
The same is true with rebel commanders based in Central Mindanao, including some factions of the MILF according to Sema, who also told their leadership in the MILF that they can never fully trust the government.
Sema said, now the rebel groups, the doubting Tomases, seemed to have the last laugh, "Now, you know what they're saying, we told you so!"
The Tripartite Meeting of the GRP/OIC/MNLF was called to access what happened to the 1996 Peace Agreement.
The main question according to Sema would be, "What went wrong?"

For that Sema has a ready answer, "They forgot to implement it in full, government forgot the economic package of the agreement, that most important portion in the agreement that would solve the problem of extreme poverty in Muslim Mindanao."
Days before the Tripartite Meeting in Manila, Sema presided the First Command Conference of 22 State Commanders of the MNLF under his leadership as Chairman of the MNLF. The command conference was held in Pasil, Sulu, a Tausug Territory, supposedly, a stronghold of Misuari, the former Chairman of the MNLF.
The command conference according to Sema was called to strengthen the command structure of the MNLF. We cannot let the MNLF forces disintegrate or join other rebel groups like the ASG. While we say that the peace process, the peace agreement failed us as a people in many ways, it is still our responsibility as leaders of the MNLF to make sure that they remain hopeful that government will see that it is never too late to implement the peace agreement in full. We do not want to go back to that stage again when we are always preparing for war, for battle, we want to avoid that, and the command conference was our way of providing hope to our people that everything is not lost after all, and that we are still doing our best to make the peace agreement work for the Bangsamoro," Sema explained.
Aside from the 22 State Commanders of the MNLF, also in attendance are thousands of armed components of the MNLF who never gave up their arms inspite of the signed Peace Agreement in 1996.
Sema said, in the ARMM and outside of the ARMM areas, the MNLF still has two major division with 25,000 armed component.

Abdul Sahirin, Intelligence Officer of the MNLF who was also present during the interview with Sema said that the objective of the May 7, MNLF Command Conference in Pasil, Sulu was to identify the MNLF commanders who really served in the organization. "Our plan is to deploy them  to continue advocating peace and development in our communities and after that we will request the necessary rehabilitation assistance from the government, hopefully through the Tripartite Meeting," Sahirin said.
With the theme "One people, One Bangsamoro People" Sahirin said that part of the present MNLF leadership's objective is to once again spread the principle of revolutionary leadership.
Sahirin joins Sema in saying that the peace process was a disappointment to the Bangsamoro people but he says, as leaders of the MNLF, they are igniting the flame of hope once again and doing their part to salvage the peace agreement and make it truly the agreement that the Bangsamoro people aspired for.
The Pasil command conference of the MNLF was held just a town away from where the three ICRC hostages are believed to be located. The condition of the ICRC hostages was not part of the agenda according to Sahirin but it was inevitable that they discussed it, he said.

"Hindi kasama sa agenda yun but offhand we are also waiting kung paano kami kami ma-involve. We are not initiating any move because we are quite careful in order to avoid the fate of our comdrade Alvader Isnaji who ended up in jail, after following the request of the government for him to negotiate for the case of then hostage victom Ces Drilon. All he did was help, as requested by the government, and he ended up in jail, "Sahirin said.

Would they be able to convince the ASG to release the ICRC hostages if asked by government?
Sema said they are willing but will have to be very careful and will decide as a command, also pointing to the Isnaji case as a very sad consequence of the MNLF's readiness to help release hostages of the ASG.
In previous kidnapping cases of the ASG, Sema, Taddik and other commanders of the MNLF were able to secure the release of the hostages, without ransom payment. Among these cases, the 1992 kidnapping case of Spanish nuns Julia and Fatima kidnapped by Ghalib Andang known in the media as Commander Robot and the 1994 release of the first American hostage of the ASG, Linguist and Missionary worker Charles Walton.
Sema said, as Bangsamoro, they have a formula, " but as of now, no one among our commanders will interfere in this hostage situation, act as negotiators, if there's no clear request from the government." (end)

straightforward news, questions and views with May Rivera

5 March 2009

This entry is something personal.

In this age of internet and new media, there is this school of thought that one day, AM radio will just be a thing of the past. That one day, it will be a dying industry. This I dare to contradict.

AM Radio may have undergone several transformations in the last two decades but certainly, of all forms of media and mass communications, this is the one medium that has the staying power.

In my almost two-decade career as a journalist, a large portion of it is spent doing radio shows, simultaneous with TV and print work. In fact my career as a journalist began in radio, Am radio that is, via GMA-7's DZBB. Then for sometime, I was with RMN-DZXL Manila while connected with ABC-5, (now TV-5) and then DZEC when I joined Net-25 in 2001.

Nowadays, aside from doing documentaries, co-productions and independent films, I am back with radio, my first love. Every afternoon you hear me via 1062 DZEC/NET-25 with my good friend May Rivera for the afternoon edition of STRAIGHTFORWARD.

Like myself, May started her career in media via the AM radio before venturing into TV news that's why it was a breeze working with her on a radio program. The thing is it is easy to transition from radio to TV that from print to TV in most cases and this is proven by the number of ON-CAM personalities on Philippine TV today that traces their roots on the AM radio.

May used to be the producer of the radio show which was launched some months back with Onin Miranda, my other good friend as my co-anchor. Onin is taking a much needed break after non-stop radio and TV work. But soon he will be heard back on the AM airwaves again.

The fulfillment of radio is immediate and really validates the one thing about what news is all about, current, NOW!

As a journalist, I may have sashayed with other avenues, TV, print, the internet, new media and even films, but the one thing that will truly stay in my heart as a journalist, one job that I want to continue doing for a very long time, with DZEC or with other station, remains to be delivering the news and the views on AM radio.(end)

COMMENTARY: 41 DAYS and counting...

25 February 2009
Posted 11:30pm

This afternoon we were able to speak with one of the three aid workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) held captives by the Abu Sayyaf Group. The last time that we were allowed to speak on the cellular phone with one of the hostages, it was Andreas Notter, the Swiss national who was on the phone with us. This time, it was Filipina, Mary Jean Lacaba who also metioned what Andreas told us the last time.

"Psychologically and physically, it's very hard now," says Mary Jean and the unmistakable pain in her voice, speaking very low, pleading, begging, validated the truth of the harsh condition that they they are experiencing as hostages in the jungles of Sulu.

The interview, on-air conversation with Mary Jean came at a time when there's really no clear information as to what is happening on the ground, and whether or not a negotiation is in progress, hopefully resulting to their immediate and unconditional release.

To this date, the ASG has not asked for any ransom demand. Although many believe that they are just buying some time before they declare the ransom demand, this reporter included, believing that eventually just like the Sipadan hostage crisis negotiation that Albader Parad is insisting, payment of ransom will still be the bottom line.

The interview also came into the heels of a request from Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro for members of the media, to refrain or restrain from interviewing the hostages, sending the message that it is as if, government is not doing anything to help them or rescue them.

It would be absurd to even think that the voices of the hostages on air, on radio or television, would be interpreted as a validation that government is not doing anything to help the hostages. Of course not. For one, it is widely reported in the media on how the government is doing its best to rescue and secure the freedom of the hostages. The local crisis management team headed by Sulu governor Abdursakur Tan is exploring all options available on the ground to free the hostages. The military option is also in place.

The interview was conducted not to make a statement against the one made by the DND secretary. The interview was aired as part of the humanitarian obligation and duty of media.

On a personal note, having covered many cases of hostages kidnapped in Mindanao and having experienced being a hostage myself for 98 days back in 2002, I knew how important it is for the psychological stability of a hostage to be able to talk to anyone, simply anyone, especially anyone who would be in a position to tell others, those who care to know, about your condition.

Back in 2001, when I interviewed Martin and Gracia Burnham, 7 months after they were abducted in Dos Palmas resort in Palawan, Gracia gave me this haunting words I have ever heard and recorded as a journalist: "Is there no one, is there no one in this country who could help us?"

Gracia was rescued after more than a year, her husband Martin, killed, in a rescue mission launched by members of elite members of the Philippine Army in the jungles of Zamboanga-Sibugay in June of 2002.

My own hostage story began on the night of January 20, 2002, ending on the morning of April 27, after 98 long days.

It's now 41 days for Mary Jean, Andreas and Eugenio Vagni, Italian national and 62 years old.

Counting the days as a captive, waking up in the same place, every morning, is the hardest part for any hostage and any chance to air their appeal to anyone, especially to media, is one source of lifeline, a glimmer of hope burning, that someone will listen and will really do something to rescue them the soonest possible time.

Below are Mary Jean Lacaba's statement to us during the February 25, 2009 interview aired over DZEC/NET-25.

Mary Jean's words speak volumes of what they are undergoing at this stage and I am one of the many who are praying that their suffering would end soon and for all three of them, Eugenio, Andreas, to be reunited with their respective families again.

"SA KANILA, SA PAMILYA, IPAGATULOY PO NILA ANG PAGDARASAL NILA. SAKA MAHAL KO PO SILA.KUNG PUWEDE PONG MAY MAITULONG KAYO, TULUNGAN NINYO NA PO KAMI, PARA MATAPOS NA PO TALAGA ITO. ANG HIRAP-HIRAP NA KASI TALAGA." ("For my family, I hope they continue praying. I love them. If you could do anything to help us, please help us, so that this will end. It's really very, very hard now.")

"PERO SANA PO, TULUNGAN NINYO NA PO KAMI, KASI KAYO PO ANG NAKAKAUSAP. SANA PO MAYROON DIN KAYONG MAGAWA. SAKA MAIPARATING NINYO PO SA KANILA KUNG ANO PO TALAGA ANG SITWASYON NAMIN DITO." ("But we hope you could help us. You are able to speak to them, we hope, you could help us and we hope you would be able to report about or real condition here.")

"GRABE AS IN, HIRAP NA HIRAP TALAGA. HIRAP TALAGA." ("This is too much. It's really very, very hard.")

"MAKISABI PO SA KANILA, KUNG PUWEDE, BILIS-BILISAN PO NILA KASI MAHIRAP TALAGA. MASAKIT PO SA DIBDIB. PHYSICALLY AT EMOTIONALLY , ANG HIRAP-HIRAP TALAGA." ("Please tell them, if they could please quicken what they are doing because this is really very hard. It's painful to the chest. Physically and emotionally, it's really very hard.")



MORE THAN A MONTH HOSTAGE CRISIS IN SULU: Andreas Notter says, it's now very difficult.."psychologically and physically..."

18 February 2009

Before the statements made by one of the hostage taker and one of the three hostage victims, a backgrounder on how this second interview over DZEC-NET-25 materialized.

ALBADER PARAD, the Sulu based commander of the Al Harakatul Al Islamiya, otherwise known as the Abu Sayyaf Group told me a week before that he will not allow any interview again with any of the three aid workers taken last January 15 in the capitol grounds of the Provincial Government of Sulu. In his text messages, he appeared firm and decided, "Ayaw ko Arlyn, hindi na puwede silang makausap, kahit mga kasama nila o kamag-anak nila hanggang walang pull-out and military." (I will now allow Arlyn, they will not be allowed to speak even to their companions and their relatives not until the military pulls out.).

I tried to persuade him of course, to allow a second interview especially after the last reported encounter between the military and the ASG that left two killed on the side of the ASG and 11 wounded soldiers, based on official after operations report provided by the military. The military brigade based in Jolo proper was also reported to have been targeted by mortar attacks by the ASG, missing the target and hitting civilian population instead.

Everyone wanted to know the condition of the hostages. The ICRC officials in the Philippines appealed for authorities to take into the highest consideration the safety of the hostages, carefully choosing their words and not directly appealing for the military to cease their operation against the hostage takers.

The first interview with the three hostages, Andreas Notter, Swiss national, Eugenio Vagni, Italian national and Mary Jean Lacaba, Filipina, all aid workers belonging to the International Committee of the Red Cross, aired over DZEC-NET-25 on the first week of February was essential in a sense that publicly, that was the first proof of life.

Let me note that in that interview, the three hostages sounded unusually calm, except for Mary Jean, who towards the latter part of my interview with her begged, "Tulungan ninyo kami." (Help us!)

But after the reported actual encounter between the military and the ASG, amidst the fact that three hostages are still in the homegrown terrorist's lair, nothing was heard from the hostages. Even the lines between them and their ICRC office were cut off.

Then yesterday morning, Parad texted me, "tawag ka...may sabihin ako."

It turned out Parad and the so called "new executive committee" of the ASG decided to allow one of the hostages to be interviewed again on air by this reporter.

Of the three hostages, Notter, the Swiss national was the one allowed to used the cellphone along with Pader who was interviewed very briefly before him.

Pader said nothing new and what he said was in fact, expected: "No military pull out, no negotiation. Negotiation will only take place when the military pulls out," he said, Something that will never be granted by the military.

The same day, the 17th, Parad and the same hostage, Notter were also heard in another radio/TV interview practically saying the same things, which raises the point as to the very real possibility that while everything that Notter said sounded and came across as his own feelings and sentiments, some of the things that he said in the interview were under duress.

Below are the transcript of the interview made with Andreas Notter by this reporter aired over DZEC-NET-25 and was later also aired over GMA-7's 24 Oras and Saksi.


"It's physically and psychologically very difficult for us at the moment. We are under much pressure. The group is constantly on the alert. So therefore we have to be on the alert as well. We are moving quite a lot."

"I'm very, very worried for my companions, you know their family members, it's very difficult for them. For example during the night, some have to take medicine, they are very worried of our current situation at the moment."

"Now we are constantly on the move, It's causing severe stress on us. It is very difficult at the moment for us."

"We are isolated. We don't have this information, for us it is very difficult to understand why it takes the government so long to negotiate. This we wish to understand. We constantly hear that the military is moving. We have to move for 33 days, it's on going. This is very difficult for us to understand, especially we are here as humanitarian workers. We are to help the people of the Philippines and especially the people of Lupahsug. At the moment, it is very difficult to understand."

"This is very, very difficult, the shelling against the group. So we were very close from time to time, very, very close from the shelling and the attack of the gunmen. It was very frightening and stressful for my companions and it's not easy to handle for them."

"What is the bottom line, we don;t exactly know. We were told they have nothing against our organization, there's nothing against the Red Cross, the PRC or its work and they understand what we do and they told us consistently they are going to negotiate and they don't ask for ransom. This is what we understand so far."

"You see, we have to walk with our baggage during the night, around the mountains here during the rain. This is very stressful.I'm sure you know about the age of of my companion, Vagni, so they have to take medicine from time to time. Obviously, we have to carry our own belongings by ourselves especially during the night. This is very stressful and very tiring as well."

"We have 3 hours to sleep from time to time, we could sleep the whole day, so it's very much more in stress situation, constantly, ready to go, can't wait to go home."

"Well, we hope from our part to see is that the government will be able to start its negotiation as soon as possible and to stop the operation and that we will cope otherwise, we would like to thank for all the support, from our friend, from our family who support us from the ICRC of of course from the government, that I believe it's time now, after more than 30 days, to listen to them to at least understand what they want." (end)


Posted 1:19pm
February 3, 2009

Looking at this picture posted on this page, there's no indication at all that three of the persons in this picture are hostage victims. The picture appears more like a souvenir picture taken somewhere in the countryside, not even a hint that the place is somewhere in Sulu.

But the truth is--three of these persons in the picture are hostages, still in the hands of armed men in the province in Sulu, namely Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian national Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba, all aid workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The other female in the picture, the one smiling directly at the camera, is Sulu Vice Governor Lady Anne Sahidullah who went to see the three to get a proof of life, the one who took this particular picture was none other than the Abu Sayyaf Commander who is in physical custody of the hostages, Albader Parad.

Last night I was able to speak with Parad and two of the hostages, Andreas and Mary Jean. I did not seek to speak with the ASG, not this time. They sought my number and finally traced it through one person in Sulu and thus, the unexpected call last night at around 7:35 in the evening.

I was at a Quezon City Mall when the call came. I was in a meeting for an AVP project.

Parad even asked me if I remember who he is. "Ako yung nagbitbit ng bag mo nung pumasok ka sa guimba para mag-interview sa mga hostages na kinuha sa Sipadan," Parad explained. Of course I remember him even without that backgrounder.

Parad was around 17 or 18 years old when the ASG tandem, Batman and Robin duo of Ghalib Andang and Mujib Susukan staged the daring Sipadan Resort raid in Malaysia and took 21 hostages, mostly European nationals. He was just a sidekick then, "amuyong" as we normally refer to, but one that witnessed every detail of how the negotiation progressed for each batch of the hostages that were released.

Perhaps that episode in the history of the ASG is still fresh in his mind that Parad told me that he wants to conduct a negotiation that is similar to the set-up implemented during the Sipadan hostage crisis. At that time, it was former Presidential Adviser on Special Concerns Robert Aventajado who led the negotiation. This time, Parad, now calling the shots as far as the hostages are concerned wants a different set of personalities as negotiators, 10 names in his list, and one to be lead by no less than Vice President Noli "Kabayan" De Castro.

Why the vice president, I asked Parad.

He answered, " Kasi di ba siya ang malapit sa presidente? Para siya ang magsabi ng gusto naming tulong sa presidente."

Why not ask for the president herself then?

"Bakit pumupunta ba si presidente sa Sulu? sa bundok?" Pader asked, but quickly adding that it would be best to speak with the vice president so that he would be the one to tell the president what they want.

It's hard to believe that Parad is willing to negotiate without any discussion of ransom money or without any ransom demand. But Parad said, "hindi tungkol sa pera, hindi ransom, wala akong sinasabing ransom, wala rin akong sinasabing livelihood project, wala pa akong demand, basta sa vice president namin sasabihin."

How about the three hostages? How are they doing?

"Gusto mong makausap?" Parad volunteered the question. Of course I want to speak with the hostages.

But I was only able to speak with Andreas and Mary Jane. Andreas told me that Mary Jane and Eugenio suffered severe diarrhea but is in a good condition now after they took medicine provided by their office through a runner of the ASG. Andreas too said they are being treated far. " They treat us fine, but we do not know what it is that they want." Andreas also told me that they were made to make an appeal before a camera several days back, a camera of a local correspondent in Sulu, but one that has not yet come out in the media as of this date.

When it was Mary Jane's turn to speak with me on the phone, she sounded excited. "Sa ngayon, OK na kami, na diarrhea lang, pero nakainom na ng gamot. Kahapon, nakausap ko din ang asawa ko," Mary Jane said who also confirmed that they are allowed to regularly keep in touch through phone not just with their ICRC office but also with their respective family members. Just like Andreas, Mary Jane said she has no idea what it is that the kidnappers want in exchange for their freedom. "Wala talaga kaming alam, di sila nagsasabi, basta may mga gusto daw silang makausap."

Parad, now 26 years old made it clear that he would only begin negotiation after the military vacate the detachments near the place where they are staying, a statement indicating how near they are with troops of the Armed Forces based in Sulu. "Marami kasing detachment ang militar, di ba nung Sipadan, umurong ang militar nung may negosasyon, puwede din nilang gawin yun ngayon para mag-start na ang negosasyon," Parad said, believing that he can do another "Sipadan like" event in Sulu, now that he is the one in charge.

While Parad is in physical custody of the hostages, he clarified that there are other commanders of the ASG that are above him, and may also play a part should a formal negotiation start. Parad names Radhullan Sahiron as the new Amir of the ASG, the one who officially replaced Khadaffy Janjalani, the last Amir of the ASG killed in an encounter in September of 2007.

There's no word yet from the Vice President on whether is interested to take the role of negotiator for the latest batch of hostages of the dreaded ASG group. Additional details in the Philippine Daily Inquirer by tomorrow, February 4, 2009. (end)


19 January 2009
Posted 12:25 PM
Arlyn dela Cruz

It has been years since he took the road towards changing his image for reel and more importantly--for real. His life is a living testimony that one man can change his path if decides to. He is now considered a role model to many, a title that seems impossible just over a decade ago.

Watching the transformation from afar, this journalist can't help but feel a sense of pride in knowing that the change is for real. As a journalist, I had the privilege of documenting through my reports then for TV Patrol and The World Tonight of ABS-CBN his "baddest stage" so to speak back in the early 90s, a stage of his life that landed him at the National Bilibid Prisons in Muntinglupa City.

I am referring to Robin Padilla, not just the action star anymore, but a real actor of the silver screen with several Best Actor Awards to prove this.

I have yet to see the transformation myself, up close and personal so when the opportunity came, naturally I grabbed it and was determined never to take "No" for an answer in the request to document a day in is life and do an on-cam interview.

"Alas!" I told myself as I felt the build-up of excitement from within me, "I will see for myself the new Robin Padilla of Philippine Cinema again after many years of not doing a report on him!" As far as memory takes me and I am pretty certain of this one, the last report I aired about Robin was when he was released from the NBP back in 1999.

And since I am not an entertainment reporter and writer, there is really no chance to report about him again---unless of course he does something really "bad" again, worthy of banner and front page material for days, which I doubt he would ever do again.

From a distance, I watched with awe and admiration how this man transformed his life and surrendered everything to God.

The opportunity to see and interview him again finally came through an assignment as producer for HOTSPOT FILMS of Dubai, a huge production company that supplies documentary pieces to Al-Jazeera Channel, the original station broadcast in Arabic in the whole of Middle East.

The documentary is about Balik-Islam or Muslim Reverts, also referred to sometimes as the New Muslims. There are many characters lined up for interview but close to the day of the departure of my director, Ahmed El Kedy and his cameraman and director of Photography Mohammed Abdurauf, we have yet to conduct the interview and documentation of the activities of the central character, Robin Padilla.

One could imagine the panic stage I was in the past few days, especially at the very day of our departure from Manila to Baguio, when I was confronted by this single question: "Are you really sure, Robin approved the interview?" Ady and Rauf were willing to let go of the interview but I insisted that the documentary on the growth of Balik-Islam in the Philippines would not be complete without Robin Padilla. And so patiently, we waited for the final confirmation, one that came from Robin's manager, Betsay Vidanes who told us, "Just proceed to Baguio and he is waiting for your team."

And so on the morning of January 9, 2009, we travelled to Baguio City to interview Robin and document his training for an upcoming TV series entitled, TOTOY BATO to be aired on GMA-7, a follow up for the Joaquin Bordado TV series also for the same network.

We found Robin in Cantineta Restaurant inside Camp John Hay being interviewed by a team from TV-5 for the program "I am Ninoy"dressed in sweatshirt with a logo from the Philippine Military Academy and jeans. Upon seeing us, he walked towards me and said, "Long time no see my friend," with a warm handshake and a hug that affirms that he has not forgotten this reporter who tailed his every move in the 90s, back when he was still dubbed as the "Bad Boy" of Philippine cinema.

And then he saw my director, Ady and he said in jest that he thought hardcore Al-Qaeda Arabs are coming but was surprised to see that it was "Bob Marley" who came to film him.
(Ady's curly hair is ala Bob Marley, that's why!)

Needless to say, Ady and Mohammed bonded with Robin instantly.

Our day in Baguio was a revelation for all of us as we watched in total awe the very real and very human side of Robin Padilla.

That day, he took mountain bike lessons with a local professional trekking 4 kilometers up and 4 kilometers down of Mt. Sto. Tomas.

He did not have to do this actually, but it's he who insists that in preparing for the role of Totoy Bato, a character originally portrayed in the big screen by the late screen legend and icon Fernando Poe. Jr., he undergoes rigid training.

Robin puts it this way, "I do not want to deceive the fans. They are supporting my every move as an actor, they deserve to see real action stunts done professionally."

He was perspiring amidst the very cold weather of that part of Baguio after the more than an hour mountain bike trekking. But he stil found time to bond with his fans young and old alike.

One thing that you will notice with the Robin is his sincere gratitude to his fans. At the highest point of Baguio City called Sto. Tomas, probably the foggiest part of the City, Robin finds time to talk with an elderly highlander who spoke with him in his dialect and embraced him. Robin too took the initiative of apologizing to one foreigner, a British national who was on a motorbike headed for Sto. Tomas, who hesitated to continue his motorbike trekking when he saw Muslims praying in that remote and probably the highest part of Baguio City. The short banter ended with a handshake and a photo-opportunity for Robin and the British national.

The kids who were coming home from school that day also recognized him and he made sure he talked to them even for a brief moment.

When it was time to head back to Baguio City proper where he would continue his rigid training in a gym, Robin whispered to one of his aides, "Pulutin ninyo ang lahat ng kalat natin dito, wag kayo mag-iwan kahit isa."

At a gym in Baguio city proper, Robin immediately began his warm-up exercise, displaying intricate steps of the martial arts Muai Thai. We learned from his Baguio liason officer Carol that Robin had to enroll in a Cha-Cha class to improve his Muai Thai steps. 

We also noticed that working with him for his physical training for the role of Totoy Bato are two highlanders, Igorot natives, Edsel Mina and Jerome Lumambre. Edsel is a national athlete that won awards for the Philippine team in Wushu-Sanshou and Muai-Thai in competitions in China and Thailand. Edsel is also into wrestling, boxing and taekwandoo, truly a mixed martial arts expert. Jerome on the other hand is into Wushu Sanshou and is currently training in wrestling. Edsel and Jerome are just two of the many stuntmen from the Mountain province that Robin is now organizing as a new group of stunt specialists not just for television and the big screen but also in the real world arena of Mixed Martial Arts.

Robin shared to us that one of his visions and immediate goals is to promote the Pinoy Martial Arts in the world arena of Mixed Martial Arts.

His cousin July, also a stuntman and a regular in all Robin TV shows and movies, told us, "Hindi ninyo lang kasi alam, pero mga bata pa lang kami, pinangigising na sa amin yung globes pang boxing. Bata pa lang kami, exposed na kami sa iba't ibang martial arts, kasama na ang boxing. Pinakamagaling si Robin sa boxing."

Watching Robin inside the ring, one would really get the realization that this is something that he has no acquired just recently for everything about his movies inside the ring is a validation of his years of training in various forms of martial arts---most especially boxing.

The day with Robin extended up to the wee hours of the morning---a long day indeed. I shall spare you with the details but allow me to share one last point---one aspect of my up close and personal encounter with the Robin Padilla of Philippine cinema after so many years of not interviewing him.

We found him in Camp John Hay that Friday afternoon but the truth is he was staying in a bare townhouse owned by his mom, known in showbiz as Mommy Eva.

It was so bare that no one would suspect that a celebrity of his stature would actually stay in that place, much more sleep on the floor with an ordinary mattress, "the local banig", and shares kamote and tuyo with his equally down to earth entourage.

The townhouse by the way is scheduled for renovation soon---another gift from a son to his beloved mother.

They say once that the  eyes of Robin Padilla charmed millions of fans but when you look at those eyes now compared to his so called "bad boy days"---one would quickly conclude that this man finally found his calling, one that gives him peace and purpose in this life.

It may again take years before I get another chance to do a story, a special report or a documentary on Robin Padilla. But from a distance, I know, just as what many have seen and experienced, this man has indeed changed.

Robin Padilla--thanks for deciding to make a difference in the world of Philippine Cinema and in the lives of your fellow Filipinos as well.(end)

MAJOR FERDINAND MARCELINO:From war in Mindanao to war against illegal drugs

4 January 2009
11:03  PM
Arlyn dela Cruz

Before joining the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Major Ferdinand Marcelino saw action in conflict and war torn areas in Muslim Mindanao as a marine officer.

Marcelino is the PDEA officer who revealed in an exclusive interview with this reporter, three attempts to bribe him and his men, in exchange for the release of the three so called Alabang Boys, Richard Brodett, Jorge Joseph and Joseph Tecson. In all three attempts, Marcelino said no and stood his ground.

Mindanao was one assignment Marcelino would never forget and points to the intelligence operation on the Dos Palmas kidnapping in 2001 as his most difficult assignment, one that made him sacrifice a long period of time away from his own family who during those period, needed him, physically, as head of the family. "Minsan habang napa-encounter kami sa Sumisip, na wounded and tropa ko at muntik na kaming maubos lahat, September 30, 2001. Walang reinforcement the whole day and night. Nang time din na yun, ipinanganak ang bunso ko, si Amir. It was also during that period na pinutulan kami ng kuryente at tubig sa PMA kung saan nakatira ang pamilya ko," Marcelino recalled.

He wanted to go and rush to his family but duty prevailed and he stayed in his mission, being the one on the frontline in the intelligence operation that eventually led to the neutralization of one of the most dreaded commanders of the Abu Sayyaf Group, Aldam Tilao more notoriously known as Abu Sabaya. " I was in the fronline of the intelligence operation then. Sa akin dumaraan yung mga letters ni Abu Sabaya," Marcelino recalls of his biggest mission as an intelligence officer in Mindanao.

The experience he shared with his men, no reinforcement day and night while in the midst of heavy fight with the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan would have been enough reason for Marcelino to rebel like other Jr. officers in the Armed Forces, mostly from the Marines, who eventually became members of the Magdalo Group. Marcelino was recruited to become part of the core group of Magdalo Officers but in the various attempts to gain his support, he said no.

"Nang nire-recruit ako noon sa Magdalo, ang lagi nilang sinasabi sa akin during meetings ay sirang combat boots, uniform at corruption sa military. Ang sabi ko, pare-pareho kaming na-assign sa pinamalayo at liblib na lugar ng Pilipinas na kung saan wala ngang tsinelas, damit o makain. Hindi naman kami pinag-aral ng taugbayan sa PMA para mapunta sa mga liblib na lugar at magkaroon ng magandang combat boots o damit at magandang pamumuhay. We are trained to endure all kinds of hardships," Marcelino explains his decision then to decline the offer to be part of the Magdalo Group that launched a mutiny against the Arroyo government in July of 2003.

Hardship is nothing new to Marcelino. He did not only encounter it first in the PMA as a cadet nor he saw the face of poverty in the remote areas of the country. He actually lived in poverty and had to support himself then to get an education.

As a working student, he did odd jobs, anything that would help him survive the day and this included a stint as a construction worker in the summer of 1988. He planned to enrol at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, thinking it was the only college institution he could afford. But upon enrolment, he found out he needed to pay P180.00 (one hundred and eighty pesos) and when he searched his pocket, he knew he had none, not even half of that amount needed for enrolment.

While working at a construction site in Recto to save P180-pesos, he chanced upon an opportunity for him to study in college for free. Marcelino saw the poster of the DAWN, the college publication of the University of the East. "Kapag nakapasok ka, libre na tuition, may honorarium pa," Marcelino recalled of his starving college days.

He knew he can write and knew he has a chance of being a reporter for the college publication. He applied and was taken in as a staff member. While studying in UE, working in the college newspaper, Marcelino found another sideline, as police beat reporter for the then afternoon tabloid, Headline Manila. It was while in the beat as a police reporter that he found his way to the doors of the Philippine Military Academy. " I was about to interview General Batenga then, yung commandant, tapos may nag-abot ng application. Dahil wala naman talaga ako noon, financially, nag-apply ako sa PMA bilang kadete," Marcelino adds.

Marcelino is on the spotlight right now because of his gutsy revelation of an alleged bribe attempt against him related to his arrest on the Alabang Boys. PDEA Director Dionisio Santiago described Marcelino as inorruptible. Santiago personally convinced Marcelino to join him in PDEA when he resumed the post as Director citing one basic reason, "he can be trusted, he will do good."

Before officially entering PDEA as a special unit head, Marcelino together with a fellow officer in the Armed Forces, Major Valentino Lopez, from the Philippine Army, were asked by Santiago to help him solve the case of the missing 7-kilos of shabu inside the evidence storage of PDEA. The case was solved and the masterminds were identified, two police colonels and one police major. One of the two police colonels is still at large according to Marcelino. After solving the case and following it up with the discovery of a clandestine shabu laboratory operated by Chinese nationals in Calumpit, Bulacan, the biggest in South East Asia, Santiago spoke to him and Lopez,heart to heart, officer to officer, soldier to soldier and asked them to help cleanse PDEA and prove than an agency of government can do good for the country and serve the people well.

"I can vividly recall yung sinabi sa amin ni DG noon. Kung hindi ninyo ako tutulungan dito sa PDEA, sino pa ang tutulong sa akin na puwede kong pagtiwalaan?", Marcelino quoted Santiago's words to them before he and another officer from the Army decided to join PDEA.

Marcelino said, he has so much respect for Santiago, and he could not say no. He was about to go schooling abroad when Santiago's offer came. He thought long and hard, the challenge of doing something more for the country through PDEA appealed to him.
In the next few days, Marcelino, because of his revelations would be facing several investigations, one at the National Bureau of Investigation, and two other congressional inquiries at the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Marcelino declares he is ready and once again stressed that he could defend in any investigation the operation that they did that led to the arrest of the Alabang Boys.

"Nandun yung lawyer ni Brodett nung under interrogation siya. And I know in the name of truth na alam niya na pushers ang mga kliyente niya. In fact, she was overwhelmed by her client's revelation. Kung naniniwala siya sa katotohanan at hindi sa pera, I don't think tatanggapin niya ang kaso."

The NBI investigation starts tomorrow as well as the preliminary inquiry at the House of Representative to be presided by Congressman Roquito Ablan.

A definite date for the senate inquiry has yet to be set. (end)

Family of Ronald Eusebio shows proof that he is not a member of the WARAY-WARAY Gang but a PNCC employee caught in the bloody Paranaque Shootout

8 December 2008
7:43 PM
Arlyn dela Cruz

Ronald Eusebio left their house in Las Pinas at around 9 in the evening to report for his regular duty at the PNCC's Sky Way, like he always does, during work days for the last 15 years.

For the last five years, he has been reporting for work, riding a motorcycle, in jacket and helmet.

But it was not an ordinary night.

A few minutes after he left home, he was caught in an unexpected gun-battle, a shootout between the police and suspected criminals, bank robbers to be exact, identified as the Waray-Waray Gang. But when authorities counted the dead modies on the scene, Eusebio was among those counted as suspects, a member of the Waray-Waray Holdap/Robbery Gang even with his company identification card clearly visible on his lifeless body.

Eusebio's co-workers at the Sky Way Corporation who rushed to the scene were quick to point out to the policemen on site that among those killed was an employee like them, but nobody from the police listened, according to John Justo, brother-in-law of Eusebio.  In an interview with NET-25/DZEC's Straightforward, Justo said, Eusebio's co-workers told him that they did everything to point out to the police that he was one of them and not a bank robber, or a member of the Waray-Waray Gang. "Mayroon siyang ID at itinuro pa mismo ng mga kasamahan niya sa Sky Way na rumisponde sa lugar ang ID niya pero walang pumapansin sa kanila. Sabi daw nila sa mga pulis, Boss, Boss, kasamahan po namin yang napatay ninyo. Duty ho yan, di yan bank robber" Justo said in Filipino.

Eusebio has been connected with PNCC since 1992. When PNCC was taken over by Sky Way Corporation, Eusebio was among those who were retained by the new management because of his good behavior and excellent service. Eusebio was Assistant Supervisor, with the chance of getting promoted to even higher position. But that would never happen. At 39, and while on his way to his usual duty hours at night, Eusebio was killed, mistaken as a member of a robbery-holdap gang.

Eusebio's family already sought the help of the National Bureau of Investigation and the Commission on Human Rights and while they are contemplating on filing charges against the PNP, Justo said, the most important thing for their family, especially to the wife of Eusebio, his sister Lourdes, is for the PNP to clear Eusebio's name and acknowledge that they made a mistake. " Wala na kaming magagawa, patay na yung bayaw ko, pero ang masakit ang marinig pa rin namin na ipinagpipilitan ng PNP-NCRPO na isa siyang miyembro ng Waray-Waray kahit na isang truck na ng Sky Way employees ang nagpapatotoo na di siya kasama ng kung anumang gang na yun na hinahabol nila," Justo said in the radio interview.

Eusebio's family was able to secure a certification from SKY WAY Corporation that he's a regular employee of the said company and that he is one of those trusted in his shift. "For many years, panggabi talaga siya, at hindi umaabsent yan, bihira kung talagang importante, kasi mas malaki ang bayad sa gabi, kaya panggabi siya," Justo explained.

Aside from his wife Lourdes, Eusebio left behind for kids, aged, 13, 10, 6 and 2 years old respectively.

In a statement released by Eusebio's family, they expressed the following sentiments:

1. Anger and displeasure of the incident, especially with the statement issued by PNP-NCRPO Chief Director Leopoldo Bataoil that the suspect "Ronald (surname not mentioned) was wearing a black jacket and a helmet". The family said, "wearing a black jacket and a helmet does not mean one is a criminal."

2. The police did not even bother to check if Eusebio is alive after the shoot-out. Nobody evened tried to remove his jacket or his helmet to see his face."

3. Three days after the shooting, Ronald's body was still marked at the morgue as unidentified even with his identification card with him and the testimony of his co-workers from SKY WAY Corporation.

The family is asking for mercy, for anyone, for the right institutions of government to help them.

"We want justice!' Justo told NET-25/DZEC's Straightforward program.

Eusebio's family is not the only one crying for justice.

Mrs. Lilian De Vera, the wife and mother of two other civilians caught in the same incident, the same crossfire, killed by what witnesses described as members of the Special Action Forces (SAF) with yellow bands on their heads.

Mrs. De Vera appealed to all media organizations not to allow this incident to pass, one that brutally killed her husband  Alfonso and 7-year old daughter Alyanna. (end)

Expose: Local Contractor manipulates contracts for DPWH projects....witness willing to testify in any investigation

3 December 2008
Posted 9:16 AM

ROXAS CITY, CAPIZ--The congressional investigation on irregularities in government contracts, the P728-Million Fertilizer Fund Scam, orchestrated and masterminded by former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn "Joc-Joc" Bolante inspired this former employee of the Department of Public Works and Highways in the Province of Capiz to come forward and expose what he refers to as a a total disregard of any accountability in the processing of road and other related construction projects in his province, specifically, in areas covered by District 2.

He is no Jose De Venecia or a Jun Lozada but Gene Divino, a former Civil Engineer Aid II of the DPWH District 2 in Region 6 says, he too is ready to testify to any investigation that would probe on how government contracts and projects are manipulated at the local level. Speaking to CAPTURED, Divino said, "Sobra na kasi, hindi na sila natatakot. Wala nang takot. Wala na silang pakialam"("This is too much, they are not afraid anymore. They have no fear, they simply don't care.").

Divino, after his stint with DPWH which ended in 1995, went on to become a supplier and a sub-contractor for DPWH projects. His experience inside the DPWH and as a sub-contractor he says makes him a reliable source of information of how things are manipulated inside the regional offices of the DPWH.

"Lahat ng ahensiya ng gobyerno may katiwaliaan, may alingasngas, pero may mga bagay na sobra na at ito yung gusto kong makita ng mga nasa taas, sa DPWH, nina Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane o ng mga mambabatas, ng mga senador. Walang katiwaliaan sa taas, kung hindi ito nangyayari din sa baba," (In almost all agencies of government there is corruption, there are irregularities, but there are things that are simply too much and I hope the top brass in the DPWH headed by Seretary Hermogenes Ebdane, our legislators, the senators, would care to look into. There is no corruption in the top level of government offices if there's none down the line.") says Divino.

So how are projects manipulated in the District 2 of Capiz?

This is how it's done in his district in Capiz as alleged by Divino who also supplied CAPTURED with pictures to prove his expose. (See related pictures below)

One: only one contractor gets all the projects in the second district of Capiz and Divino identified the said construction company as KIRSKAT VENTURE, a relatively new construction company that has been operating in the last 3-4 years he said. It is registered under the name of its main contractor, Engr. Leodegario Labao Jr., who is also a former employee of DPWH like Divino.

Majority of the projects comes from the congressional allocation/funds of the second District, under the office of Congressman Fredinel Castro according to Divino.

Second: DPWH contracts, especially the so called "PAKYAW-contracts" are prepared not at the DPWH District Office but inside the office of KIRSKAT VENTURE in Roxas City. Divino provided pictures of the office of KIRSKAT showing documents that appears to be official contracts and requests from DPWH.

"Dun na sa loob ng opisina ng KIRSKAT VENTURE ginagawa ang kontrata ng DPWH. Ang kontratista, di na pumupunta sa DPWH, ang mga taga DPWH na ang pumupunta sa opisina ng kontratista, (The contracts are prepared inside the KIRSKAT VENTURE office. The contractor do not go to the DPWH office anymore, rather, it is the DPWH officials in the district that goes to the contractor's office who prepares the contract for them to sign") Divino explained.

Third: While actual construction is done, the proper way of doing it as indicated in the official documents are not followed. Divino mentioned the Central Line National Highway project which is part of the Arroyo Administration's RO-RO Nautical Highways as an example. It's a P100-Million project Divino said, but in actual construction, the cost is much lesser than the appropriated amount since only the concrete pavement are placed on the road, the base course and the sub-base course, not part of the scope of the actual work, but costing wise, it is indicated and appropriated in the official documents, he alleged.

"Dun na everybody happy, dun nanggagaling ang for the boys, yung SOP na tinatawag at malaking halaga yun dahil yung concrete pavement na inilagay nila, kaunting kuskos, buhos lang naman iyon, at maliit na halaga lang iyon sa kabuuan ng kontrata," (This is where everyone is happy, this is where the for the boys come from, what is referred to as SOP and that amount is huge because the actual expenses in the concrete pavement that they pour is just a small portion of the actual cost of project.) Divino explained.

Fourth: There are instances according to Divino that other sub-contractors are involved in "paper", but he alleges that some of these companies do not even have their own offices and track records in the construction business. "Hinihiram lang ang lisensiya," (They just borrow the license) Divino claims.
Corruption through the years has evolved from worse to downright outrageous observes Divino.

In the Marcos era he says, the maximum percentage to be divided for all interested party, to include the source of funds, is only at 20-25%. These days, he says, 60-70% of the actual project cost goes to SOP and not to the actual construction. "Ganun na katindi ang katiwalian, na siguro tama nga si De Venecia, everyone is for sale, yun na ang kultura natin."

We asked Divino this question, why is he talking now and exposing all these things, information he knew as an insider in the DPWH and as a sub-contractor himself. Is it because the contracts did not fall on his lap? Does he have an axe to grind so to speak against the owner of KIRSKAT VENTURE or anyone from the DPWH in Capiz?

Divino explains, he is prepared for the consequences and pointed to us that in exposing these things, he is certain, that his son, who is a current casual employee of the DPWH in Region 6 would surely be affected, and this early he expects him to be given the walking papers.

"Gusto natin ng pagbabago pero kailan natin ito sasabihin, kapag dumating na ang 2010? Papangakuan lang tayo ng mga pulitiko. Ang hamon ko ay sa kasalukuyang gobyerno na patunayan nito na talagang sinsero sila sa pagbali sa katiwalian, lalo na ngayong papatapos na ang termino ng pangulo. Para sa akin, mas realistic ito at sana makapagdulot ng pagbabago kahit man lang sa aming rehiyon at sa aming distrito," "We want change, when are we going to say this, come 2010? Politicians will just make promises. My challenge to this government is to prove that it will really address corruption, now that is nearing the end of the President's term. For me this is more realistic and hopefully, will really bring about change, at least in our region, in our district,) Divino explains.

CAPTURED emailed the office of KIRSKAT VENTURE to get their side and have yet to get a response from their office, specifically from its president, Engr. Leodegario Labao Jr.

CAPTURED is committed to giving equal space to the side of KIRSKAT VENTURE once it is available.

In the meantime, Divino says, while he is ready to expose more on how DPWH contracts are manipulated in Region 6, he too expresses concern about the safety of his life and his family. "Maliit lang ang Capiz, puwede nila akong balikan. Pero kung hindi ito mababago ngayon, kailan pa?" (Capiz is just a small province, they can get back at me anytime. But if these things will not be corrected now, then when is the time?) Divino asks. (end)


Posted 23 November 2008
8:11 PM

Another employee of Hanjin Heavy Industries died due to vehicular accident inside the Ship Building Facility last November 20, 2008 at around 0500 hours or at around 5 o'clock in the morning.

CAPTURED received a copy of the official report of the Ecology Department that conducted an on-site investigation on the same date. Identified as the victim of the accident and the lone fatality was Philip Mendoza, 40 years old from Castillejos, Zambales. Mendoza is the 14th death recorded inside Hanjin facility, all cases, attributed to accidents and human errors.

Three other workers were injured in the recent accident and they are identified as William Liberato, 25 years old, also from Castillejos, Zambales, Rolex Dante Alog, 23 years old, from Palauig, Zambales  and Kong Jong Sik, 27 years old, Korean and the driver of the KIA Elf Truck.

All of the victims were rushed to St. Jude Hospital in Olongapo City where Mendoza was declared dead on the spot due to multiple injuries in his head and body. One of the injured workers told the Ecology Department investigator that the "driver fell asleep" that's why it hit one portion of the drydock where a metal hatch was attached that upon impact, fell on the passengers of the KIA Elf truck. It is against Hanjin safety policy according to the official Ecology Department Report to allow passengers at the back of an open truck but in this case, it was allowed, thus giving the passenger, all Filipinos very little or no protection at all.

The workers, including the Korean driver who fell asleep came from a 9-hour duty shift, from 8pm to 6AM.

The worker that died and the other severely injured in this recent Hanjin accident are not even direct employees of the giant South Korean company but employees of sub-contracting firms of Hanjin. Mendoza and Liberato are employees of Binictican Corporation while Alog is an employee of Finback Corporation. The Korean driver too is a worker of a sub-contracting company of Hanjin, Greenbeach Corporation.

One of the recommendations made after the on-site investigation was a thorough review of the long work hours implemented inside the Ship Building Facility. (end)

This athlete needs YOUR help!

23 November 2008
12:01 AM

During the golden days of the history of Philippine Sports where the likes of Lydia De Vega was the undisputed Queen of Track and Field in Asian and South East Asian Games, there were other Filipino athletes as well who competed and brought home awards and recognitions for the country. One of them was Danilo U. Bordeos.

Bordeos, now 51 years old, still remembers how it was to run, compete and eventually bring honor for the Philippine flag. In an interview with CAPTURED, Bordeos describes the moment as "incomparable, fulfilling, one that makes you shout with joy and pride that you are a Filipino. "Noong nanalo ako noon sa track and field events na sinalihan ko, sa tuwing tatakbo ako sa victory run, isinisigaw ko, Pinoy ako, Pinoy ako."

During that period in Philippine atletics, Bordeos sais, they were well supported and well taken cared of by the government. Not anymore, especially, aging and veteran athletes like him.

Bordeos once again want to run and compete for the flag and in fact is given an opportunity to do so as the country's representative in the 15th Asia Masters Atheletics Championships (AMAC) to be held in Chiang Mai Thailand from December 1-5, 2008.

But there's one major problem--funding. He does not even have the money to buy for his plane ticket much less, the registration fee that is needed for him to be able to join the event, officially.

Bordeos was chosen to represent the country by the Philippine Masters Athletics Association (PMAA) but its head, Manual R. Ibay Jr. in a letter forwarded to CAPTURED admitted that they cannot send "all the members of the association due to limited funds."

Bordeos works at the maintenance department of a radio station based in Quezon City and his meager salary is just enough to shoulder the daily needs of his family. It would have been convenient for someone like him to just retire from running and go on with his normal life as an employee but Bordeos told CAPTURED that the dream to run again, as a representative of the country, is a burning desire that consumes him to this day. Bordeos is confident he can still bring home honors for the country.

In a sense, Bordeos has not really stopped running and competing. Wheneever there's a chance to compete in local events, he would rush to join and in fact won a bronze medal in a recent marathon competition held last July in Batangas. "Kaya ko pang ipanalo ito, mabigyan lang ako ng pagkakataon, sana may tumulong sa akin," Bordeos added.

Just how much does Bordeos need to be officially considered a participant in the Thailand event?

For registration, he needs $50 or an equivalent of P2,500.00; for hotel fees $40/day for 6 days; meals $10/day for 6 days and for airplane ticket, P12,000.00 or a total of P27,500.00 (twenty seven thousand five hundred pesos).

For those interested to help Bordeos fulfill his dream of running and competing once again for the Philippine flag, you may reach him directly at (02)995-1388 or (02) 995 1362. (end)

PUNTOD poster layout unveiled

21 November 2008
10:24 AM

The film PUNTOD runs for one hour and 53 minutes. Yet in the many images from the film, this one stood out, our unanimous choice for the poster layout.

When we first posted this at Facebook, we received several reactions, most of them positive ones, ranging from "WOW" to "I can't wait to see the entire film".

One of the first reactions came from fellow journalist Sandra Aguinaldo who said, "Ang lakas ng dating ha!"

We are confident that the film's poster layout will live up to the expectation and the high interest generated by this single image from the film.
We actually decided on two versions, this one, and the plain black and white layout which is as powerful as this one too, maybe even more. (end)

Marijuana plantation in the heart of Maimbung, Sulu

Posted 16 November 2008
9:26 AM
Photos courtesy of PDEA

At the heart of ABU SAYYAF infested area in Maimbung, Sulu, joint operatives of the Philippine Marines and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) raided a marijuana plantation and uprooted some 100,000 fully grown marijuana plants measuring to 8-feet in height.

The discovery of the plantation according to 4th Marine Battalion Commander Ariel Caculitan may possibly be the first proof that the Abu Sayyaf is engaged in narco-terrorism. "There is a strong possibility that the ASG are the ones providing security to these marijuana plantation since they are the prevailing armed group in these areas," Caculitan said.

Narco-Terrorism is an act of terrorism using funds obtained from illegal drugs.

"We have long been suspecting that one way or the other, the ASG is involved in protecting these marijuana plantation for a fee or that they could be the ones maintaing it since they no longer have high profile cases kidnappings to sustain their fund requirements," Caculitan said. Incidentally, the marijuana plantation discovered in Maimbung was very near the tomb of a known ASG commander Mujib Susukan, one of the key personalities involved in the 2000 Sipadan Hostage Taking wherein 21 foreign nationals, mostly Europeans were snatched and taken to Sulu.

The operation was carried like a normal combat mission according to Caculitan who also said, his troops as well as the PDEA agents came fully armed ready for any armed encounter with lawless elements, particularly, the Abu Sayyaf.

The discovery of the marijuana plantation came from tips from civilian assets according to Caculitan.

The raid conducted last November 8, was actually the third one according to Caculutan. On their own, the Philippine Marines have already raided marijuana plantation in other areas of Sulu. It was only on their third raid that coordination with PDEA was made through Major Ferdinand Marcelino who is also a Marine officer, assigned and detailed to PDEA.

The estimated street value of the marijuana plants uprooted covering 6 hectares was at P40-million pesos according to Caculitan.

No one was arrested during the raid. The growers were never sighted and the raiding team said, it was as if, they were tipped off of the raid. "When we raided the area, we did not see any planters. It was as if they knew we were coming and had vacated the area," Caculitan said.

The other disturbing part according to PDEA officer Marcelino was the fact that they also discovered seedlings and a nursery. "It indicates that the plantation is indeed maintained by professional marijuana growers but there was no way for us to determine how long this has been going on in Sulu," he sadi.

PDEA officers led my Marcelino said there was a big possibility that the marijuana was merely grown in Sulu and transported to another country by ship, Malaysia, as a possible destination and then from there transshipped to the actual country of destination where consumption of marijuana is high, like countries in Europe.

Sulu governor Abdursakur Tan welcomes the raid but said while it is commendable, law enforcers should not stop at merely destroying the plantation indicating that what the authorities found out could just be the tip of the iceberg.

"They should also look into foreign vessels manned by Chinese nationals because the information that we got from concerned civilians is that these vessels are being used as floating shabu laboratories with front business of buying fish in the Sulu and Palawan seas such as "Mameng" and "Lapu-Lapu", Tan said.

To really address the problem of drug trafficking in Southern Philippines, Tan said, law enforces should dig deeper into the Chinese connections. (end)


Preciosa "Chuchay" Feliciano is now free, released by her captors to the vice governor of Basilan province and is now back in the comfort and loving arms of family and friends.

Chuchay was abducted in Jul in Zamboanga and was brought to Basilan and to the Abu Sayyaf lair.

Family and friends attribute her release to the power of prayers.

Negotiators formed by the Provincial Crisis Management Committee are also working on the release of the two remaining hostages, Millet Mendoza and Joel Anthony Pilanga. (end)

"Please release my twin sister..."

Arlyn dela Cruz
31 October 2008
Filed 9:25AM

Her eyes are closed but she is wide awake and cannot get herself to sleep.

She sits up, looks around her and felt uneasy, even guilty of the fact that she is in the comfort of her own room, on a comfortable bed, with a comfortable blanket, her favorite fabric, her favorite color, when miles away from her, her sister is more likely sleeping on the earth, in the jungles of Basilan, enduring the cold of the night, the mosquito bites, and who knows what else she's taking just so she survives her present predicament.

This is how it has been for many weeks now for Choy Mendoza, twin sister of hostage victim Millet Mendoza who is still in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf Group in the jungles of Basilan.

In an interview with CAPTURED, Choy says, twins like them endure the physical separation probably more deeper than most siblings. "This is not the first time that we were separated as twins and during those times, it's always sad for the both of us. But this time, it's doubly hard for the both of us, knowing that she is in danger, I feel her pain, I feel her agony. It's always been like that for the both us, especially now." Choy said.

Choy like Millet is also involved with community work for non-governmental organizations (NGOs). A strong-willed person like her twin sister, Choy's prayer is for Millet to remain strong, to never give up and believe in her heart that they are doing everything to secure her freedom.

Millet has gotten in touch with many people to seek help. She called her family many times, including Choy's number, her twin sister. But Choy said that upon the advise of the crisis management group in Basilan, they have not answered the calls, especially those directly coming from the kidnappers.

"I know that even if I have not spoken to her on the cellphone, she knew that we are doing our best to secure her freedom," Choy added.

Choy is in Zamboanga City since yesterday, October 30, 2008 in time for the release of another hostage, Esperancita "Espie" Hupida who was taken hostage by the ASG along with Millet in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan.

Espie's husband Nestor according to Claretian priest Angel Calvo and head of the NGO Nagdilaab was forced raise the ransom money of P2-million pesos because of the ultimatum and the threat made by the ASG that they will cut all the fingers of Espie if her family fails to raise the money they demanded.

Choy of course was happy about the news of Espie's freedom but feels bad that her twin sister is still in the hands of the ASG. She wonders, Is there no other way to have her sister released without payment of ransom?

The last text message Choy received indicates that the ASG is demanding a P40-million pesos for the freedom of her twin sister Millet.

Interviewed by some members of the media in Zamboanga, Choy revealed that her family has sought the assistance of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to help secure Millet's freedom. The ASG is staying that is considered "a controlled area" of the MILF.

Calvo confirmed to CAPTURED that the family of Millet has appealed to the leadership of the MILF to work on her unconditional release." We are hoping that the MILF leadership will take cognizance the work made by Millet and our NGO to their controlled communities and release her without ransom," Calvo said.

" She will come back to us, God will bring her back to us, we believe that," Choy stressed.

For now, the only thing that is left to do--is wait.(end)

These two Zamboangeños are also in the hands of the ASG

by Arlyn dela Cruz
31 October 2008
Filed 1:18PM

They are strangers who have not crossed paths in Zamboanga City where they reside and lived normal lives. Their normal lives changed one day, interrupted by intruders who took them by force and made the jungles of Basilan their new "home."

In Basilan, these two learned to cling to each other for comfort, strangers no more, they share the same hope of one day going back to their families again, and back with their normal lives--if that is still possible.

Precious C. Feliciano, 24 years old is a nurse abducted by the Abu Sayyaf Group as early as June of this year while Joel Anthony Pilangga, 19 years old, is a 3rd year nursing student at the Ateneo de Zamboanga.

The Local Crisis Committee in Basilan received confirmation that Feliciano, Pilangga and the other hostage Millet Mendoza are in the same area in Tipo-Tipo under the hands of the Abu Sayyaf headed by four commanders who are in their '20s identified as Purigi Indama, Nurhasam Jamiri, Cmdr. Long and Hudli Moya.

Esperencita Hupida, who was released yesterday morning at 3 o'clock also confirmed that the three are in the same area.

Negotiations are on going for the release of these three remaining hostages through the Provincial Crisis Committee but the Philippine Marines in the area said that a military option  ready anytime. (end)

On Tuesday, November 4, Choy Mendoza and family members of those still in captivity by the Abu Sayyaf Group will hold a joint press conference to call on government to once and for all stop the cycle of kidnapping in Mindanao.

Former hostages will also voice their support for indeed, the cycle of kidnapping has to stop.(end)

Reading ..."in these hard times..."

Last October 17, 2008, a Friday, I had the privilege of being the first storyteller of the READ ALOUD-STORY TELLING session of the Nellie E. Brown Elementary School in West Bajac-Bajac, Olongapo City.

Nellie E. Brown is the name of an American teacher who founded the school during the period of Olongapo as a Reservation area of the US Naval Facility. The school was eventually named after her.

This elementary school in Olongapo is probably the only public school named after an American educator.

When a teacher from your dear Alma Mater calls to solicit your support for a worthy project such as a reading-story telling session for elementary pupils, would you say no?

The following is an article written by Robert Gonzaga of the Central Luzon Desk of the Philippine Daily Inquirer where I am also a contributing reporter/writer.

From The Philippine Daily Inquirer, 21 October 2008
By Robert Gonzaga

Central Luzon Desk
First Posted 04:53:00 10/21/2008
OLONGAPO CITY—When English teacher Eva Imingan picked up a copy of the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper last year, a story on its Read-Along sessions caught her attention.

The project was launched in May last year by the Inquirer Research Department, Library and the Junior Inquirer to promote the love of reading among children through storytelling sessions with celebrities and volunteer readers.

Inspired, Imingan thought the project was worthy of emulation: Why not start read-along sessions for her students at the Nellie E. Brown Elementary School here?

On Friday, after more than a year of planning and enlisting support for the project, Imingan’s dream became a reality.

The project became the first of a series of storytelling sessions in her school district (with six public elementary schools) which hopes to spread the love of reading to as many children as possible.

Convincing teachers, parents and students to volunteer their time and effort for the reading project was a challenge, she said.

Following closely to the Inquirer Read-Along session, Imingan had to find a celebrity guest reader—someone who has made a name in her profession.

Local celebrity

Imingan did not have to look far. She turned to one of Nellie E. Brown’s own—Arlyn dela Cruz, a broadcast journalist and Inquirer contributor.

“She is the best choice to jumpstart the read-along session, ” Imingan said. “Last year, [Dela Cruz addressed] the graduating kids here. I am so grateful she has kept in touch all these years and has never forgotten her roots.”

Despite her busy schedule, Dela Cruz readily agreed to be a guest reader when she received Imingan’s call.

“It’s hard to say no to this because I love teaching kids and I graduated from this school,” she said.

Working student

Dela Cruz, a 1983 graduate of the Nellie E. Brown Elementary School, was formerly editor of the school paper.

She recalled her days at the school. “There was no shortage of books. Americans from the [United States] Naval Base donated books to our library. The school itself was named [after] an American school teacher,” she said.

In time, Dela Cruz would move to Metro Manila to pursue her dream of becoming a journalist.

Desperate times

“I was a working student, a teaching aide here in Olongapo while studying in college … If I had not become a journalist, I would have been a teacher,” she said.

Dela Cruz read “Tight Times” written by Jeanette Patindol, which is the story of a family of rats coping with unemployment and desperate times.

“This is a book I read to my children especially now that there is a financial crisis and we all have to cut down on our expenses,” she said.

During the session, her audience of about 50 children—from Grades 1 to 6—listened attentively, sometimes laughing sometimes frowning, especially when the story turned to the hardships of the characters.

At the end of the reading session, Dela Cruz showed her audience slides of children from poor families.

Children learn

Lester Sangil, a sixth grader, said he learned the value of hard work and helping people.

Trisha Mae Umayam, a third grader, said she enjoyed herself and hopes to join future read-along sessions.

Dela Cruz said: “If you develop a love for reading, it will stay with you for the rest of your life.”

Imingan said she was glad the project has taken off.

“I’m sure readers of the Inquirer will be inspired when they help kids to develop a love for reading,” she said.

A serious contender...

15 October 2008
Filed 8:06PM

He was among the first to announce that he is offering himself as a presidential candidate for the 2010 Elections and while many may not look at that as a serious goal , at least not just yet for someone like Bayani Fernando, Chairman of the Metro Manila Development Authority or MMDA. no one can say that he is not a serious contender in another "battle-field" of dreams: The 2nd Season of Celebrity Duets over GMA-7.

Fernando or BF, was in the company of MMDA officials, it was an after office hour thing, actually, late in the evening, doing what many suspected he was doing in the last few weeks: polishing his singing and making sure he gets the right notes for his next song for Saturday's episode of Celebrity Duets.

That night, BF was practicing a standard song, SWAY, popularized for the new generation by Michael Buble'. An icon in the music industry is going to be BF's celebrity duet come Saturday. The name of the singer-celebrity is usually announced on the episode night itself and I do not want to ruin the suspense but allow me to hint that the lady-singer can really bring the house down with her dynamic performance. (I would have said, bended performance but that would have been a give away, right?)

BF's bodyguard told me, "he practices after officer hours but the practice lasts until one in the morning."

BF's stint at Celebrity Duet may be seen as a political stunt in preparation for 2010, a gimmick, something to draw attention to himself, but whether you are a BF supporter or a BF critic, one can't help but acknowledge the amount of dedication he gives in practicing for the show, just like any other professional singers, or probably even harder than professional singers for that matter.

Will BF make it to the final three of Celebrity Duets?

With the stamina and focus he gives on his singing, it would not be surprising if he even end as the second champion next to Tessa Prieto-Valdez. Should he win, will it be considered a preview of the 2010 Elections?

In the world of possibilities, anything is indeed possible especially for those who dared to chase their dreams.(end)

A ZOObic Safari experience

by Katrina Greta D. Collantes
Grade VI-Molave
Diliman Preparatory School
13 October 2008

We went to zoobic Safari a day before my sister had her 8th birthday.

The pavilion was filled with all sorts of animals, ranging from a sleeping pot-bellied pig to owls placed in colorful carts.

Although the animals there were not-so-many, there was one tiger that caught my attention; the newest member of the tiger safari family, Snowy; a Siberian tiger- often mistaken for an albino. It was prancing about in its cage. It looked like it was searching for something.

Our tour guide was Jessie, who led us to Zoobic Park where there were camels, pot-bellied pigs, hornbills, bearcats, macaques and a single cougar. Then we went to Rodent World. It was filled with so many rodents. There were Guinea pigs, cloud rats, mouse deer, otters, and a ferret that sleeps for 18 hours.

Then we rode in a train painted like a tiger’s outer covering.

We went to the Savannah. There were ostriches, lots of them!

It was molting season and their feathers were shed. We rolled on to the Serpentarium. There was a snake named Max, the biggest of them all. He was out for a show. We then reached the most important part of the Zoobic Safari, the Tiger Safari. We road in customized jeeps. Tigers were chasing the jeeps because we had a chicken for them. One tiger lunged at the jeep behind us and climbed at the top of it.

The MuZooeum was our next location. There, lie the remains of several of the species at the reserve. A tiger named Janna, died because of many sharp consecutive strikes of a cobra somewhere in her rear end. She is now preserved in the muZOOeum in a cotton state with the red squirrels that belonged to Rodent World and died because tree trunks fell on top of the poor little creatures.

Then it was time for the Tiger Close Encounter. The cages wreaked of their urine. Our guide told us that this was because the big cats marked their territory by peeing on it. There were facts posted on each cage of the big cats. A tiger was isolated from the rest of the ambush. She was Cynthia, and she suffered from asthma. The veterinarians said she was slowly recovering but they needed to study her more.

We ventured on foot towards Aeta’s Trail. The local indigenous folk performed 3 dances for us. The most important of all three was the Monkey’s dance.

Next on our agenda was the Croco Loco. But before that I skipped to the Hip-Hop Bay-a-Walk. It was fun but my legs got tired afterwards. And now the crocodiles have our undivided attention; we crossed a steel bridge over the big and small crocodile heads. Some liked the water, some did not. But I have to say that they are quite slow.

As we made our way back to the car, I bid goodbye to Zoobic safari pets. It was truly an amazing experience to behold the sight of. That’s why the Zoobic Safari is recommended for field trips and a must-see-attraction for animal-lovers.

But the real importance of Zoobic Safari is that it preserved a culture, as well as the nature around the 25-hectare location. It also provided a home for God’s creatures and it became their haven. (end)

CAPTURED Exclusive: CHAVIT visits MILF territory

by Arlyn dela Cruz
10 October 2008
Filed 1:35PM

Deputy National Security Adviser Luis “Chavit” Singson secretly visited a known lair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat a week after the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan.

This reporter learned about the meeting from sources in Sultan Kudarat, local leaders who were privy of the quick visit made by Singson. Singson cannot be contacted on the phone for confirmation about the said visit but MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu readily confirmed the information, “Yes Chavit visited Darapanan and spoke with the members of the peace panel of the MILF.”

Singson met with Mohagher Iqbal, head of the MILF Peace Panel and a few other MILF commanders in the presence of a number of armed MILF combatants, part of normal MILF security contingent, Kabalu said.

Singson came with only one bodyguard and one local contact in Maguindanao.

Kabalu described the meeting as “exploratory in nature”. “No commitments were made from both side-especially from Chavit, he was just there for a visit and the MILF leadership welcomed him”.

Iqbal in a separate phone interview called the meeting “private” and that Singson visited them as a “private person” and not as the deputy of NSC Adviser Norberto Gonzales. The meeting pushed through according to Iqbal because it had the blessing from MILF Chairman Al Hadj Murad. The instruction from Murad according to Iqbal was specific: Explain the MILF side and listen to whatever Singson will have to say.

“It was clear to us that it was just a private visit and we also wanted him to visit the evacuation centers to see the condition on the ground,” Iqbal added.

But while the two-hour visit was described as “private”, Iqbal admitted that the issue of the peace process and the controversial Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was discussed. Iqbal said, they explained their side and Singson listened to what they have to say. Three points were raised by the MILF to Singson in that private meeting according to Iqbal, first, that the peace process if still the best option, second, that there should be a real problem-solving approach in the peace and order problem in Mindanao and third, that the peace process should be part of the national agenda of the national government and not just an agenda of who sits in Malacañang.

Iqbal was quick to clarify that there was no hint that Singson was trying to convince the MILF to go back to the peace talks.

He described Singson’s demeanor during the meeting as “sincere yet calculated.” “Secretary Singson did not commit anything and simply listened intently and with keen interest to what we have to say about what happened to the peace talks especially on the issue of the ancestral domain discussed in the last 3 years and 8 months. The only thing that he promised us was that he would relay everything that we told him to the President,” Iqbal clarified.

Would they consider Singson as a possible key player in the resumption of the peace talks? Iqbal answered that it was up to government to decide on who sits in their panel.

However Iqbal hinted that Singson is a welcome emissary, even if the visit was described as “private”. Iqbal describes Singson as someone who stands by his word and fulfills his commitments. “Ibang tao si Chavit. I was a student in Manila when he had this trouble with Bingbong Crisologo in Ilocos Sur and the reason why he succeeded was that the people of Ilocos Sur were behind him. The same is true when he went against former President Joseph Estrada. He is a man that can stand on every word he says. We find him straightforward in dealing with people, hindi maligoy, diretso makipagusap”Iqbal said.

But while Singson’s visit is welcomed by the MILF, they too made no commitment stressing that the only thing that could make them sit in the negotiating table again is for the proposed MOA to be signed as is, in its present form. (end)  

What about this prisoner? Will he ever get pardoned by the President?

8 October 2008
by Arlyn dela Cruz
Filed: 11:20AM

For this wife and mother of two, justice in the Philippines favors only those with connections and influence, someone like Claudio Teehankee Jr., convicted with two life sentences, but is now a free man after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo granted him executive clemency.

Macquie Ortega, 36 years old is the common law wife of Ronaldo S.Garcia, a prisoner for the last 18 years languishing at the Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm in Occidental Mindoro for a case of theft and robbery and possession of two sticks of marijuana.

Watching the evening news on Teehankee the other night on television, Macquie says, “Galit at awa ang nararamdaman ko ngayon. Galit sa sistema ng gobyerno.  Awa para sa mga kagaya naming mahihirap.”

Garcia first sought this reporter through e-mail then, in person, to show all the documents related to the case of her husband. She carried with her a bag full of papers, including one from the Bureau of Corrections that shows her husband has completed his sentence for the theft and robbery case last June 16, 2002 and for the possession of two sticks of marijuana as of November 28, 2005.

"Gusto ko sanang puntahan sa office nya si Justice Gonzales.  Kung ayaw akong papasukin, gagawa ako ng eksena, makausap ko lang sya. Dalawang reclusion perpetua ang sentensya ni Teehankee, pero 17 years lang ang binuno nya.Ang asawa ko, theft, 18 years na dun sa kulungan, bakit ganun?”

The reason why Garcia is still in prison is because of he escaped prison the first time he was jailed for theft also in Sablayan on December 31, 1992. In 1996, he was rearrested in Pasay City and was caught with two sticks of marijuana. Because of the earlier sentence for theft and robbery that he evaded, he was brought back to the Sablayan Penal Colony.

But Macquie said, when Garcia was brought back to Sablayan, he did everything to serve the colony. “Mula nung naibalik siya June 1996, he decided na ayusin na ang buhay nya sa loob ng kolonya.” Garcia became an assistant checker, assistant chief petty officer, quarter-in-charge or “mayor” of dormitory 3 for six years. Based on his prison records Garcia also became a teacher's aid teaching Grade 1 and 2 subjects to his fellow prisoners who have not undergone any formal schooling. Macquie said, her husband’s record in prison is incomparable, something that she is proud of. “Para sa isang kagaya nyang naging pugante, isang karangalan at tagumpay ang mabigyan ng ganong kataas na tungkulin sa kolonya.  First time sa history ng Sablayan ang nagkaron ng pugante na naging “mayor.”

But there is one major stumbling block for Garcia’s freedom even if he already served the full sentence of the two separate cases he was jailed for. Under the 2006 Revised Manual of the Bureau of Pardons and Parole, Section 5 states that “the Board shall not favorably recommend petitions for executive clemency of prisoners convicted of evasion of sentence.

”The BPP told Macquie that her husband has to complete the maximum sentence to be a totally free man---and that would take place, based on the board’s sentence computation by year 2015.

“Matagal na n’yang pinagsisilbihan ang Sablayan Colony. Gustong-gusto na nyang maranasan ang mamuhay dito sa malayang lipunan na kasama ang pamilya nya,” Macquie said. The two are childhood sweethearts. “Nasa preso na siya nang magka-anak ako, at lumaki sila na hindi tinitignan na isang preso ang kanilang ama, kundi isang katulong ng mga opisyal dun sa kolonya, dahil talagang napakalaki ng naitutulong niya sa loob ng kolonya.” Their children are Jaqueline, 14 years old and Mark, 8 years old, who are now studying in Pasay but visits their father with their mother once a month.

Macquie has approached several offices to help her to appeal to the president about her husband’s case. She appealed for help at the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO and the Integrated Bar of The Philippines. She even sent a letter to the Office of the Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita but in every instance---she is refereed back to the same stumbling block: that her husband escaped prison in 1992.

An officer of the IBP told her to write the president. Citing the 1987 Constitution, the IBP officer told Macquie that Article VII Section 19 provides that “Except in cases of impeachment, or as otherwise provided in this Constitution, the President may grant reprieves, commutations, and pardons, and remit fines and forfeitures, after conviction by final judgment.

This is what the IBO Officer told her according to Macquie:”Pinakamaganda mong gawin ay kausapin mo ng personal si President Arroyo".  Sabi ko, papaano?  Puwede ba akong basta na lang sumulpot sa office nya at magmakaawa?  Buti sana kung nasa mall lang sya na madaling lapitan.  Paano ako makakahanap ng tao na maipapakausap ako ke President?  Sino ang papansin sa akin? Sabi ko alam mo attorney, naiisip ko ngayon, sana mayaman ako, para makahanap ng taong pwedeng bayaran para makalapit kay President. Pero mahirap lang kami.”

Indeed, how can anyone just approach the president and appeal for mercy?(end)

Captured exclusive: CLAUDIO TEEHANKEE JR. is now  FREE MAN!

6 October 2008
by Arlyn dela Cruz
Filed: 11:50AM

Very quietly. an important and controversial prisoner of the Maximum Security Compound of the National Bilibid Prisons was released shortly before midnight last Friday, October 3.
Claudio Teehankee Jr. now 62 years old is now a free man after 14 years in prison for the 1991 murder of Maureen Hultman.
Hultman was with Jussi Olavi Leino in Campanilla Street in Dasmariñas Village in Makati when she was shot at pointblank by Teehankee. Leino was one of three witnesses who positively identified the gunman as Teehankee.
NBP Superintendent Ramon Reyes confirmed to this reporter in a phone interview that indeed Teehankee was freed based on what is refereed to in the Prisons System as Good Conduct Time Allowance of G.C.T.A.” The release of Mr. Teehankee underwent a rigorous review and it was signed by the Secretary of Justice, Raul Gonzales.”
Every prisoner is qualified to benefit from the G.C.T.A. explains Reyes.
Under the G.C.T.A.--a prisoner, based on good behavior, any prisoner may avail of a deduction of 5 days in each month for the first 2 years of imprisonment. 5 days multiplied by 12 months, that’s 60 days total. On the third to the fifth year of imprisonment, 8 days are allowed to be deducted in each month, 10 days on the 6th to the 10th year of imprisonment and 15 days per month on the 11th and succeeding years of imprisonment.
Asked why Teehankee was released before midnight of Friday , Reyes said, he has no idea why the physical release took place very late in the night but was certain with the information that Teehankee should have been released on an earlier date. “Ang alam ko, dapat nga, based on his records, sentenced served na, mas maaga pa ang dapat na release niya, sometime last September pa.” Reyes remembered the original date of recommendation for Teehankee’s actual and physical release was last September 28, 2008.
A second confirmation came from NBP Executive Director Colonel Bartolome Bustamante who said Teehankee had to call home to tell his relatives about his release.” Wala nga siyang sundo. He was allowed to call home dahil lalaya na siya, and after that call he made on the landline, ayun dumating na ang kamag-anak niya,” Bustamante told this reporter.
A third and final confirmation of Teehankee’s release came from Justice Secretary Gonzales himself who told this reporter on the phone, “Yes, Teehankee has been released. The sentence was reduced by executive clemency. In effect, he has served his sentence.”
Bustamante was there when Teehankee was released and he said, he remembered telling Teehankee, “O release ka na, lessons learned na ha.” Teehankee simply answered “Thank you Sir,” according to Bustamante.
But while Teehankee was eager to come home after 14 years of imprisonment, he too promised to come back to the NBP at once. Bustamante quoted Teehankee as saying, “I will be missing my group and I would like to be of help in the rehabilitation of the prisoners in my own little way and using my connections. I will be back to help.”
A few days before his October 3—almost midnight release, Teehankee donated high breed seeds to the office of the NBP Superintendent, for prisoners to plant in the allotted and designated lots in the NBP compound.
Teehankee even mentioned an exact date on when he will come back—not as a prisoner but as someone who would help in the rehabilitation efforts. “Babalik daw siya sa National Corrections Consciousness Week sa November 3-10 para tumulong at bisitahin ang kanyang mga dating kasama,” says Bustamante. (end) 

STRAIGHTFORWARD: The Arlyn and Onin Tandem is back in the airwaves!

6 October 2008

They went off air via NEWSBEAT of NET-25 in March of this year without saying goodbye.

They wanted to explain why, but then again---after a brief pause, it was indeed time to say goodbye to the newscast they shared as co-anchors and co-producers since 2003. If you go down to it--the tandem actually dates back as early as 2001 via NET-25 Report when Arlyn was main anchor and Onin was segment anchor for the world reports then.

No need to explain why the newscast suddenly breathed its last early this year while in the midst of a relatively high rating, the highest in homegrown shows of Net-25 in fact. It was a lost that turned out to be a gain in the process, separately for the both of them. As they some, some good things never last, right Barbara?

It was a good and fruitful tandem, one that allowed the both of them to explore many possibilities as working journalists, that when it ended, it was not a dim perspective that they saw, but one bright light that showed them the other roads to more possibilities.

Now---the two are back as co-anchors. This time on AM radio, via Net-25's DZEC, 1062 khz.

The two are not strangers to radio, to AM radio that is.

Onin stared with DZEC radio of Eagle Broadcasting Corporation in July of 1997 as an all around know, the one who prepares coffee to the big guys, the one who monitors all the other newscasts, the production assistant, the technical man sometimes, the reporter too whenever there's a breaking news---and eventually landing in a more stable standing in the station as beat reporter, writer and announcer.

Arlyn too is a certified AM radio baby, one who started her career in 1990 via the mentoring of some of the bests in the industry, the legends of their era, Tony Seva, Ding Gagelonia, Ka Paeng Yabut, Helen Vela, Henry Ragas, Manolo Favis, Manang Rose Clores, Bobby Guanzon, Lito Villarosa, and yes---even with the late and the great Ate Luds, Inday Badiday.

The tandem is back in full circle via STRAIGHTFORWARD which is actually now running for almost two months now, initially with a third co-anchor, Gen Subardiaga who will also headline starting today his own radio show called "NAKU TALAGA NAMAN" after Arlyn and Onin's radio show.

In its early programming, STRAIGHTFORWARD already managed to score some scoops, and probably the most notable so far is the first on air interview with the most wanted rebel leader in Mindanao right now, Commander Umbra Katu of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or the MILF.

In the AM Band--there are many afternoon shows in the extreme left---but if you care to move your dial in the middle part---1062 khz to be exact---you may find another and refreshing take on AM programming in the late afternoon.

Beginning today, from 4:30-5:30 pm---let's talk without going around the bush, say it so, as it is, plain and simple, no ifs and no buts---for it's time for STRAIGHTFORWARD talk show on air with journalists Arlyn dela Cruz-Collantes and Onin Miranda and under the production direction of May Rivera.(end)

Imelda's Plan for her son Bongbong Marcos

4 October 2008

Former First Lady Imelda Marcos said she's fielding her son Ferdinand "BONGBONG" Marcos Jr. to the presidency in 2010.

But the question is ---will the son follow his mother's will?

Lito Gorrospe, spokesman of Congressman Bongbong and sometimes for the Madame too said, "Don't get to excited, nothing is final yet."

Off the air and on a very short phone interview, the congressman himself said, "No, we have not talked about it."

Actually---the plan for the presidency announcement of Mrs. Marcos may just be one of her so called "Imeldific" or grand ways for the last time I spoke to her in person, which was just a few weeks ago,  she told me that the actual plan is for Bongbong to run for the senate. Now, that's a more likely plan, one that could actually push through.

In 1995, Bongbong Marcos run for senate and while his camp in the KBP believe that he actually won , the results of the elections under a Ramos presidency, produced a different result, that Bongbong lost, thus the political message then:the Marcoses have not yet been "forgiven" by millions of Filipinos---just 9 years after EDSA People Power One.

Anyone who would talk and interview Mrs. Marcos these days---she has one thing to say, that when Bongbong runs, for the presidency or for the senate, it's going to be a campaign based on NO FILIPINO POOR.

She carried the same campaign platform in 1998 when she ran for the Presidency but backed out, halfway through the campaign.

Now---with a power point presentation on hand, with Mrs. Marcos doing the presentation herself, it looks like, she has really organized something really grand for the next political arena for her son Bongbong.

"You'll see, the truth will come out. They'd been laughing and ridiculing me for years, saying I am Imeldific, but this Imeldific will make sure that her last hurrah would be the ensure that No Filipino Poor will become a reality."

Grand words from Madame, but then again---it will not be Mrs. Marcos anymore--if she says otherwise, something that is plain and simple. (end)

Experiencing Palawan's world famous underground river

3 October 2008

Darkness will greet you once the boatman takes your group inside the cave to go through the many turns of the underground river in Sabang, Puerto Prinsessa in the province of Palawan.

But what is amazing is the fact that amidst the darkness, with only a battery operated flashlight from the boat to guide you through the trip, you would be taken to what seems to be a totally different world of wonderful surprises! One could only exclaim that indeed---this place in the globe found here in the Philippines is a natural wonder, God's creation, a gift to the Palaweños, a treasure for every Filipino.

In all my 18 years as a reporter, I have visited Palawan many times but it was only last September that I finally---FINALLY---got the chance to see it in person.

I was a bit sad that I did not get to see it with my two kids whom I am very positive would ask endless question to our boatman. Of course--I would come back for a second trip, this time with my two kids and it would definitely be a family outing, the second time around.

And oh--next time, I would look for that boatman Cris, our guide during my first visit who left an impression by injecting some wit and humor in his job as a tour guide in the underground river.

Here's a sampler of Cris' way of entertaining the tourists that ride his boat to view the underground river:


Now--the trip was made extra special by the fact that I actually did it with no less than the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Reynato S. Puno who was a dotting grandfather to Alessandra for a weekend private time. Nope! We did not go there together, as in, in one group, we just met at the Daluyon Resort where boats would take you across the sea to another island---to Sabang, to experience a real wonder of nature.

It was a brief moment with the Chief Justice but one that is so engaging and one that provided enough insights on how is he as a private person minus the robe.

No doubt---this is probably the best time for the Supreme Court in many years with Chief Justice Puno at the helm.

Posted here are some pictures from that memorable weekend in Palawan. (end)

Lovely indeed!

2 October 2008

She is lovely outside. One look and you get to associate the word lovely at once. But is it possible that she too is lovely inside?

The answer, we found out is a resounding YES! LOVELY RIVERO is indeed lovely inside out.

For the Indie-Movie PUNTOD, Lovely gets to play a cameo role, that of Pilar, a character that defines the goals and aspiration of the central character Baby, played by newcomer and ADC Productions discovery, Barbie Forteza.

It was by accident that we selected her for the role. It just came like an image in our heads. One of the pre-production meetings took place when her character in ASERO appeared on the TV set in the restaurant where we held the meeting. Director Cesar Apolinarion and I exchanged a knowing look and then blurted almost at the same time---"Si Lovely Rivero, kunin natin si Lovely Rivero for the role of Pilar."

My kinakapatid and really good friend, actress and singer Shyr Valdez made the connection possible. Shyr and Lovely are good friends in the biz and it was through her that I got the phone number of Lovely. (Shyr, let me not forget to mention here, was my star in my first full length documentary as Philippine Producer for STALKING JIHAD, shown in the History Channel and produced by Wild Eyes Productions. She played the role of Gracia Burnham).

It was easy to see that this That's Entertainment pioneer got all the professional attitude needed in staying long in the complex world of showbusiness. Not only did she come on time for the set, but she also went out of her way to follow-up a 2nd day shoot for her, on her own and not through a production assistant or a representative. On the set, she was friendly and gracious to everyone and even to the residents of that part in Vitas, Tondo where we completed majority of the scenes.

Needless to mention, the professional rate for her performance was very "indie", a far cry from the normal rate that they get as actors on TV and mainstream movies. And oh, yes--it was a cameo performance that is truly admirable.

At the end of the shoot, she was the first to text the producer to thank her for the opportunity to play a very important role in an indie-film.

It was a lovely experience to have known Lovely Rivero in person for we have discovered the essence of the word "lovely" by her mere presence alone. (alone)

Sheree delivers and wows us all with her professionalism

26 September 2008

It was easy to typecast her as just one of the sexy babes in the local entertainment industry, a beautiful face with a curvaceous body. But no, you do not typecast a babe like her, for this one oozes with real talent.

Sheree knows she was not the original choice for the role of Sarah for the initial indie-film venture of ADC Productions under the direction of Cesar Apolinario but still she accepted the role with gusto and much much more, giving her heart and her commitment to the completion of the film.

Every production venture has its own share of problems--especially behind the scenes and one of the problems confronted by the production was the disturbing news that Sheree was tested positive for dengue and was rushed to the Makati Medical Center. She suspected that the dengue carrier, the mosquito that stung her was from the location of the shooting for Puntod in Vitas, Tondo.

Upon learning of this piece of bad news from Sheree herself, the executive producer called on every member of the cast to check if they too experienced fever like Sheree, as well as other symptoms related to dengue such as skin rashes and dizziness. No other member of the production team and the actors in the indie-movie was in the same predicament as Sheree. That was a relief of course.

The production also checked on the local Barangay in Vitas and with the Department of Health is there was a dengue outbreak in the area where we did our filming and we got a negative response, another reason to sigh, an air of relief.

Sheree reported for the last day of shooting, for that one final important scene, even if she was already suffering from fever. It was a quick scene, one that was executed with precision.

Other actors/actresses would have skipped that part, after all, there was a legitimate and valid reason, but she did show up, showing us all that she sees the movie as hers too. The attitude of ownership and commitment,  that's what separated Sheree from the pack.

The text/SMS message from Sheree that says, "ate okey na ako, lalabas na ako ng ospital," was a sign that indeed prayers are answered. In fact, she recovered in no time, and her platelletes level normalized that her doctor decided that there was no need for blood transfussion.

A day after she checked out of the hospital, just an overnight stay actually, Sheree was seen on television again---doing something we did not expect but truly appreciate: promoting her indie-film PUNTOD, with vigor and enthusiasm of someone who was truly married to her craft as an artist. (end)

Knowing Cesar Apolinario..the director

5 September 2008

As a director, Cesar Apolinario accomplished another first: finish a full length feature indie-film in just 6 shooting days. Bye pito-pito, hello---anim-anim!

And he did it without complaining--even if behind the scenes there were really many reasons for him to raise his voice and even walk out of the set--literally.

But professionalism and love of work prevailed for after all, he is not just the director and scriptwriter here, Cesar too is co-producer of the film so it's really his baby to the core.

This is not his first film, BANAL is, but every time he talks about the indie-film PUNTOD, he would add the words, "mas excited ako dito sa film na ito" and one would only understand why he is so passionate about this film when you see him at work behind the cameras.

A journalist who is used to covering all types of stories and under any type of weather and condition, Cesar puts his experience and training as a journalist in his filmmaking ventures.

Yung disiplina at pagkapasensiyoso sa bawat insidente, eksena at sirkumstansiya--naroon--lutang na lutang.

As a fellow journalist working with him as executive producer, co-producer and even one of his actors in the film--( yes--I also had my share of first in this movie too!)---I can't help but be drawn more to the personality of this man who is a walking visionary of modern filmmaking.

Even Mark Gil told me that he has nothing but respect to the working stye of Cesar Apolinario as director.

Cesar allowed him to also conquer emotions he has not yet displayed on cinema in any of his past movies and Mark Gil says, it was a welcome to try new approaches under the direction of someone who takes charge of the set by simply setting the example---'TRABAHO TAYO.'

Yes---I am not only a friend, a colleague---for after PUNTOD, I also became a fan of Cesar Apolinario's  directorial genuis.(end)

Once again, the Mark Gil of Philippine Cinema awed us all. Bravissimo!

30 August 2008

Sa kanyang panahon at kasibulan bilang aktor ng pelikulang Pilipino, walang duda na maagang nagmarka ang pagganap ng isang Mark Gil. Kung may pelikula ang kanyang henerasyon at kung may pelikulang tumatak sa kanya sa simula pa lamang, ito na ang BATCH '81.

Mula noon ay marami pa ang sumunod, bawat pagganap, mahaba man o maikli ang papel na ibinigay sa kanya, laging markado, laging makabuluhan, laging pinapupurihan.

But sometimes, one may think that because of the many years that he has been doing it, acting for movies and television, that he may have lost the zest and the love for it. The truth is, in his mature years as an actor, we even see more depth and more commitment from a real actor like Mark Gil.

Every aspiring actors of this generation should find a lesson or two from every performance that he delivers in front of the cameras and more so, behind the camera, dealing with everyone in the production with humility and respect.

The indie-film PUNTOD is a story of a 10-year old deft and mute girl named Baby but in defining her character and her experiences in life, we also look at the story of other characters like Mang Delfin, the one played by Mark Gil.

Grabeh---isang eksena ang sa tingin ko ay mapapatayo ang lahat sa paghanga kay Mark Gil. Isang eksena, walang salita, walang dayalogo---pero pasok sa banga sabi nga nila. Panalo. Kinilabutan kaming lahat na nanonood.

Of course---you have to see it to judge for yourself what we mean that what he delivered was totally exeptional and worthy of praise.

To Mark Gil---it's an honor to work with you again.(end)

Ready, this is a take, ACTION!

17 August 2008

It rained hard the day before the first day of shooting. Everyone in the production team was asking if shooting will push through the next day, a Saturday, 16th of August. The co-producers, Arlyn dela Cruz and Cesar Apolinario were worried of course but both were firm on the decision to go ahead with the first shooting day, "rain or shine."

Prayers answered, the following day---not a drop of rain fell not until almost 6 in the evening where the production team was almost wrapping up the scheduled outdoor shots for the first day.

Even the actors and actresses for this indie-film cooperated and showed their belief in the project by coming to the set, not only on time, but staying to see other scenes even if they are not part of that sequence in the film.

The Tondo community too where we shot most of the scenes cooperated too and even went beyond what the production's expectation when some of the tricycle drivers volunteered to turn off their engines and just pushed their tricycle cabs while passing the house where shooting is in progress to avoid unnecessary noise. 

Over-all, it was a breeze shooting the first day of the scheduled 5 days shoot for this indie-film called PUNTOD, (Baby's Tomb).

Can't wait to finish the remaining five days of shoot.


Barbara, Barbie, Barang....

Remember Julie Vega? It's been a long while since the Philippine movies had a young actress who could translate emotions with only one tool---her eyes.

We found a new one, someone who is not a Julie Vega for there is only one Julie Vega, but someone who is so promising that we believe this girl will win not just acting awards but hearts of the Filipino audience as well with her raw and heartfelt execution of each scene given to her.

This girl has no formal acting lessons and we believe this is where her edge comes from. This girl, Barbara Forteza, Barbie or Barang for short, acts from the heart---as all other great actors and actresses do.

They say actors are born--not made. While acting can indeed be learned as a technique and as a discipline, in the case of this young discovery---the we see that hers was a talent that she truly owns, one that is with her from birth.

See PUNTOD in its regular screening days and you will nod in agreement. Barbie Forteza is a born actress.


Ang mabuhay sa gitna ng mga patay...

8 August 2008

Paano nga ba ang mamuhay sa gitna ng mga patay?

Bilang bahagi ng preparasyon sa pagsasapelikula ng PUNTOD, (Baby's Tomb), nagsagawa ng isa pang ocular and production team na magtutuhog ng kuwento ng isang batang babae na makikilala sa pangalang Baby, nagpunta kami sa isang sementeryo.

Napadpad kami sa sementeryo ng Bagbag sa may bahagi ng Novaliches sa Quezon City. Public cemetery ito, siksikan, halos style apartment na lahat, tulad ng nasa larawan sa itaas bago ang artikulong ito.

Hindi lang ang mga puntod ang siksikan. Pati mga buhay, nakikipagsiksikan din sa espasyong para sana sa mga patay, sa mga nauna na, sa mga pumanaw na.

Ang mga tirahan ng mga buhay na nilalang na nasa gitna ng mga patay ay nakasingit hindi sa gilid-gilid lamang, kundi sa mismong mga puntod na, lalo na sa bahaging may mga puno, may mapagkakabitan o pagtatayuan na ng mga pinagtagpi-tagpi nilang retaso ng kahoy at yero.

Dapat sana, ang lugar ng sementeryo, lugar na tahimik,  lugar na pagtutuunan lamang ng mga alaala ng mga nasakama natin sa buhay. mga mahal sa buhay, kamag-anak, mga kaibigan. Pero iba ang tunay na buhay, iba ang tunay na kuwento kaysa sa gusto lang o dapat.

Malinaw na ang sementeryo na tulad ng nasa Bagbag ay isa na ring komunidad ng mga buhay na doon na rin kumukuha ng kanilang kabuhayan.

Sabi ng isang supulturero roon nang kami ay dumaan, "Hindi kami masaya kapag walang namamatay,"---masaklap na pahayag, pero totoo.

Sa bawat patay na inililibing sa sementeryong tulad ng sa Bagbag, katumbas naman ay kasiguruhan na may pagkaing maihahain sa hapag-kainan ng mga pamilyang naninirahan sa mismong sementeryo.

Sa mga susunod na araw, dadako ang aming pangkat-produksiyon sa Bagbag upang kunan ang ilang mahahalagang kuwento para sa independent film na PUNTOD na batay sa script ni Cesar Apolinario at dalawang iba pa.

Sa mga susunod na araw, hindi lamang eksenang pam-pelikula ang aming matutunghayan, kundi mga tunay na kuwento rin ng mga taong ang buhay at ang ikinabubuhay ay sa dako ng mga patay. (wakas)

This 'BARBIE' clinched the lead role for BABY'S TOMB

5 August 2008

Her tears did not come out instantly. It was not sudden. Her tears flowed certainly not on cue.

This is one of the many reasons why this girl clinched the role of Baby in the forthcoming indie-film "PUNTOD" (Baby's Tomb). Everyone in the production agreed that what she displayed was not methodical acting, but one that is sincere and heartfelt.

Naramdaman niya ang eksena sa madaling salita. Dahan-dahan, hinugot ang emosyon, saka malayang pinakwalan.

Director Cesar Apolinario said, "siya na, siya na si Baby."

We were not expecting to get a newcomer for the lead role but she surprised us during the audition, we were all taken aback, and we all agreed, she's going to play the role of Baby.

Meet Barbara "Barbie"Forteza, 11- years old, currently a Grade V pupil at St. Michael's College in Laguna.

Barbie is the youngest of only two children. Malaki ang agwat nila ng kanyang Ate Abby na ngayon ay nasa ikatlong taon na sa kolehiyo. In a sense, you could say that Barbie is indeed a real "baby" in the family.

Barbie is not really a new comer. She had a bit role in Shake, Rattle and Roll 9 and she appeared in several TV ads that included the following: Jollibee, Lipps Candie,Eden Cheese and Nido 3+.

But Barbie's mom said---the upcoming movie Puntod is biggest break so far.

For the role, Barbie took special lessons in sign language and swimming.

Kailangan kasi ito sa istorya, kailangan sa karakter na gagampanan niya.

Talk about dedication, this early, Barbie already knew that being an actress takes a lot of discipline and learning.

Plus factor na lang, bonus ika nga na masasabi na maganda ang batang ito pero kami ay naniniwala na siya ay magiging importanteng batang aktres sa madaling hinaharap.

Staring August 16, the cameras will roll as they say and will make way for the birth of a new young actress.

Let it be said that this team saw the potential and gave her the break. (end)

"GO-SEE" for PUNTOD, Cesar Apolinario's next film

27 July 2008
More than 50-young talents, boys and girls whose ages range from 6-14 years old auditioned for key roles in the up-coming Indie Film entitled PUNTOD to be megged by acclaimed director and journalist Cesar Apolinario who is co-producing the film in collaboration with Arlyn dela Cruz Productions/Publications.

The audition, called a "GO-SEE" was held for more than three straight hours at the I have Two Eggs Restaurant along Tomas Morato in Quezon City. There were many surprises and almost every child who auditioned presented a unique and heart-felt portrayal of the roles they were asked to play for the said audition.

What was notable in the Go-See held from 6-9:30 in the evening last July 26, Saturday, was the presence of already established child-stars who have appeared in big budgeted movies such as the very recent Sharon Cuneta starrer, CAREGIVER. Some of those who auditioned were also talents appearing on some of the most successful tele-seryes on Philippine television, both from ABS-CBN and GMA-7.

The production team intends to shoot by the second week of August. Before the month ends, the final cast members will be announced.

Below are some of the pictures taken during the ocular-location inspection in Tondo where the principal photography will be done and the go-see held in Quezon City. (end)

Before the scheduled GO-SEE, there was also an ocular inspection, a location go-see, for everyone in the production team to determine how many days we need to complete the photography. Below are some pictures from the ocular inspection headed by Film Director and Journalist Cesar Apolinario:

Filled with Thoughts, a column for the Philippine Gazette

23 July, 2008
8:20 in the morning

Hey guys, I am back to serious column writing for the newest newspaper in town, an English tabloid called The Philippine Gazette, which is sold at unbelievable price of only P5.00, yes five pesos.

Most of those in attendance commented, "It's too good to be true! An English newspaper with a nationwide circulation for only P5.00?" Doubts and skepticism were inevitable and yes---expected.

But it's already out in the market, the regular run actually begins today, the 22nd of July after it was launched yesterday night at the Manila Polo Club in Makati City. The guest of honor was former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada and Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay who was introduced as the next Vice President of the Republic. (Huh! I thought Binay's intention is to run for the presidency.)

My friend, "inaanak", colleague and co-anchor for NEWSBEAT, the former prime time news program of Net-25, Onin Miranda accompanied me to the event

I am part of the newest newspaper in town as a columnist. The publisher/editor-in-chief, veteran journalist Dr. Cecile Arillo initially invited me to be part of the editorial team as early as January of this year. But with my many commitments and projects that I want to get my hands on as a journalist, I begged off and instead accepted the second offer, which is to write a column for them, 3x a week.

When I was starting as a reporter on TV in the 1990s, Cecile Arillo was among those who helped me get access to the most important personalities then in the Defense Department. He's one veteran journalist who did not mind assisting a very young and tyro journalist then who was bent on making a niche in her field.

But before I said yes to Cecile's offer, I first asked permission from another editor-in-chief, someone I dearly love and respect, the tough lady editor Ma'am Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Since I am a regular contributor/writer for the said paper. I am a freelancer in a sense but I still sought permission because I do not want to offend someone who have continuosly supported me in all my pursuits as a journalist.

I will continue to contribute exclusive stories, straight reportage for PDI but the insights and opinions, things I cannot express as a reporter, will now be exposed in my  column for the Philippine Gazette.

It's a different challenge on my part although this is not actually my first take on column writing. I already did so some years back for the all-column newspaper called ISYU, edited and published by another veteran journalist Jarius Bondoc, now writing a column for the Philippine Star.

The title of my column is FILLED WITH THOUGHTS. I hope people who will grab a copy of the Philippine Gazette will not only enjoy reading it, but will also learn from it.

To Cecile Arillo and the President of Philippine Gazette, the very young Emmanuel Cuevas, thank you for tapping me to be among your columnists.

And oh before I forgot, it's also refreshing to be working again with Don Reyes as the news editor of the Philippine Gazette. Don is one of my mentors and all-time supporter and friend when I was just starting as a reporter for DZBB of GMA-7 from 1990-1992.

Another reporter who was present at the launching last night heard Dong call be my another name, "NYLS", my nickname and the name I used then as a reporter for DZBB. Only really dear friends call me by my nickname Nyls and Don is certainly one of them. (end)

We're shooting our first indie film this August, 2008...

22 July 2008
Tuesday, 1:30 in the afternoon

The time has indeed come to conquer another first love actually, even before I ventured into the world of journalism--the world of cinema.

Thanks to the new genre of film-making, people who are not a Mother Lily Monteverde or a Vic del Rosario can get our hands into producing films based on the realities in life that we saw and experienced first hand as a journalist. But who know, after a few indie films in our sleeves, we too could save enough to go full blast like the one and only Mother Lily of Philippine Cinema.

Eversince we finished doing Stalking Jihad, the recreation scenes for that Wild Eyes Production documentary intended for the History Channel, my heart has been reminding me constantly, pound per pound, beat per beat, that I am already being led to what I really wanted to do from the very beginning--produce films, write a script, direct, maybe even star in it, ala Tom Hanks.

It took some more time before I finally embraced it and said, "Yes Virginia, this is it!" Part of the hesitation was my natural love for my work as a journalist. My favorite editor-in-chief, my idol, LJM texted me once that I am a natural journalist, one that is full of passion and enthusiam in her job. I breath reporting. It's not just a job for me, it's who I am. But then I realized that I really don't have to make a choice and that I don't really have to leave my commitment as a journalist when I finally sashayed into the world of film-making.

Films are stories mostly inspired by real stories, real events and real lives of real people. You can't get more real than being a reporter, especially in a country like the Philippines.

But while I have decided to take my hands into indie films, a colleague of mine, award-winning director if I may add, stress for that matter, became instrumental with my decision to really plunge in. One text message from award-winning film director BANAL Cesar Apolinario threw all the initial hesitation into the wind."Ate, gawin na natin ito. Go na tayo."

Sometimes guts and determination, even combined with experience and zest are not enough to take a different road, still in the same "city" though, but a different direction, without an expressed belief and support of people who breath the same air that you breath as a journalist.

And so---for my first indie film as a producer, the endeavor will be a collaboration with none other than Cesar Apolinario himself, a reporter like me who made a smooth transition as film-maker without really giving up his commitment to continue working as a journalist.

The indie-film's working title is "PUNTOD", below is the synopsis of the film which I am envisioning to make you cry with real and heartfelt pain. Just like what Cesar told me, "Ang bigat sa dibdib, ate, totoong-totoo ang kuwento."

I believe you Cesar, that's why I am in, and my dear friend, thank you too for believing in me. Hala sige na, gawin na natin ito! Game na! (Ay sa kapamilya pala ito, Cesar, di sa Kapamilya, he-he, sorry!---nagpapatawa lang sa dulo, ang hindi makaintindi, kalbo.)

Game na! (Ay kapamilya talaga tunog eh-ha-ha!) (wakas)

Meet Guiuan's ICON: Tatang Chi Bien

It was an accidental meeting. It just happened. He walked in the compound of that small travel lounge in Guiuan, greeted everyone, and walked towards our table after recognizing my companion, the former Chief of Police of that town, Chief Inspector Rose Sabio Mambulao, and started a lively conversation with her.

The minute I was introduced to him I was  captivated. I have to talk to this man. He has a story to tell, a very inspiring one.

I was enthused to go to Eastern Samar to visit a resort and a surfing area, but it became my side trip and the unexpected meeting with this man, the heart and mind of my 3-day trips in the town of Guiuan.

His name:  "Tatang Chi Bien", 80 years old, a true blooded Chinese national but lived practically all his life in the historic town of Guiuan as a "Filipino" , a proud "Bisaya."

Tatang Chi Bien is Guiuan's icon who knows by heart the history of his small town especially the years during World War II.  A one time town's councilor of his town, Tatang Chi Bien took the council's floor  to urge everyone to stop referring to the remembrance of the arrival of some 120,000 thousand US troops in Guiuan as a "SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY". Tatang said, instead of referring to that date in history as "sentimental", it should be referred to as "a journey of VICTORY".

Tatang Chi Bien justifies this by saying that during the Second World War, only one guerilla was killed in Guiuan during one encounter with the Japanese, identifying the guerilla as one Tony Bernardo.

That's just one story about WWII. There are many more and all you have to do is sit down and listen to him.

He can tell you the story of the biggest and most devastating storm that hit his town in the 1950s with vivid details that as if the story just happened a day ago.

"Only one house was left standing after that storm," Tatang Chi Bien said.

He can still remember the years the structures and the buildings in Guiuan were built, one by one. He knew almost everyone in town, walking around in his shorts and polo shirt with not a bit of worry that someone or anyone would hurt him or bring him any harm. Guiuan is clearly, home sweet home for this man.

But while Tatang Chi Bien can offer you tons of stories about WWII, what struck me most the was the story of how he came to the Philippines.

TAN CHI BIEN KHO as a child never thought that one day, he would call himself, "Filipino" and would find love and comfort of  home in a small town in Eastern Visayas.

Born in Chuan Chiu Chinkang in Hoc Kien Province in China in 1930, the young Chi Bien grew up feeling the hardship brought about by the civil war between the Nationalist Party and the Communist Party. The economic situation was so unbearable and was compounded even more by the invasion of the Japanese troops.

"We were very poor, really poor, life was hard but I was happy with my brothers and we still find time to play in the mountains," Tatang Chi Bien recalled.

At eight years old his life would change permanently. A "Chinaman" living in the Philippines came to CHUAN CHIU and talked to his parents at a house of one of their relatives. He remembered that he wanted to listen to that meeting but he was admonished to go to the mountains and play.

When he came back, his parents were no longer there. He asked the Chinaman from the Philippines where his parents are. What he was about to hear crashed his young heart. He was told he was no longer allowed to go home and that his parents are not his parents anymore.

That very same day, the Chinaman from the Philippines that he would be his foster father and that he would be taking him along to his trip back to the Philippines.

He later learned, he was sold to an amount which he recalls now as an amount equivalent to P200 (two hundred pesos), a fortune for a family in the midst of civil war at that time.

He wanted to protest, to run back home, rush to ask his mother, why she agreed to sell him to this stranger from the Philippines. But he did not get the opportunity. They left that night and all he was able to do was to cry--in silence.

For two days---they traveled by sea without any chance to question the Chinaman from the Philippines what awaits him in their destination.

Tatang Chi Bien recalls that at one point in their sea travel, the Chinaman from the Philippines told him to stop being sad and that the Philippines and the Filipinos will be good to him. "He told me I will have a home in the Philippines and that I will have many friends there," Tatang Chi Bien said.

There was something about the Chinaman from the Philippines that gave him a sense of acceptance of what awaits him. He looked at the man and decided, he will trust the man and would honor him for the rest of his life. The man who would become his foster father was named Tan Se Chiong but he would later learned that the man is known in the Philippines as "Intsik Vicente."

And so after two days at sea, they landed in the Philippines where to his surprise, the people welcomed them with generosity and affection.

The minute he set his foot on the soil of Barangay San Juan in Tubabao Island in Guiuan Eastern Samar, the young Chi Bien then felt, this was indeed a new home for him.

The man who bought him for P200-pesos raised him like his own son and amidst the war brought about by the Japanese invasion, never abandoned him and nurtured him every single day while at the same time, teaching him to sustain interest in his studies and the family business despite of the war that has reached the soil of Guiuan.

When WWII ended, the young Chi Bien was sent to Siliman University in Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental.

As a businessman, Intsik Vicente encountered many hardships that lead to disarray and discomfort in his immediate family. But though it all, Chi Bien remained faithful to the man who took him away from his home in China to bring him to another home in the Philippines.

Raising his own family with four adopted children, Tatang Chi Bien and his wife known as "Nanang Mary" stayed in Guiuan facing all kinds of hardships but to leave the Philippines and to go back and live again in China never crossed his mind.

Now in his twilight years, Tatang Ch Bien said, he may have his roots in China  but the Philippines, Guiuan in particular is where his heart is. "This is my home. I was a young boy, a stranger from another land when I came here and I was welcomed, embraced and comforted by the people. This is my home, this is where I will be until i breath my last," Tatang Chi Bien stressed.

Who would not be moved and touched by this story?

Just in case you reached Guiuan, do not forget to ask about the man.  Everybody knows him and everyone in Guiuan loves the Chinese who embraced everything that is Filipino. (end)

Have you been to Calicoan Surf Island of Guiuan, Eastern Samar? You may want to check these pictures...


The invitation was so tempting that I gave in to it. The teasers went like this: "It's the Amanpulo of the Visayas":"It's  very exclusive and the view is simply breathtaking!"

And so after months of dilly-dallying so to speak, I decided to go and see for myself what Calicoan Island is all about.

( to be continued....)

OCNHS Batch 87--the batch that defined the true measure of friendship and unity

This is something personal. (to be continued)