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SENATE PROBES US MARINES COMBAT PRESENCE IN RP

by AJLPP-USA Friday, Aug. 17, 2007 at 2:07 PM
magsasakapil@hotmail.com 213-241-0906 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

ough talk from the police and the military on arresting some 130 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Abu Sayyaf rebels whom they claimed massacred 14 Marines, with 10 of them beheaded in Basilan, and for which thousands of troops were sent to back up the elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in serving these arrest warrants, turned out to be nothing but bluster, in the military brass’ bid to get the troops to cool down their anger over the brutal slaying of their Marine comrades. The PNP yesterday returned to the court the warrants of arrests issued against 130 MILF and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) suspects after they failed to serve the warrant to any of the suspects.

AJLPP Update 08161

August 15, 2007

Senate eyes probe of US combat troops’ presence

Threats of MILF arrests flop, 130 warrants back in court



By Gina Peralta-Elorde

08/17/2007

Manila ---Tough talk from the police and the military on arresting some 130 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Abu Sayyaf rebels whom they claimed massacred 14 Marines, with 10 of them beheaded in Basilan, and for which thousands of troops were sent to back up the elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in serving these arrest warrants, turned out to be nothing but bluster, in the military brass’ bid to get the troops to cool down their anger over the brutal slaying of their Marine comrades.

The PNP yesterday returned to the court the warrants of arrests issued against 130 MILF and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) suspects after they failed to serve the warrant to any of the suspects.

This was confirmed by Senior Supt. Salik Macapantar, Basilan Police Provincial Office director who said the warrants of arrests were returned to Judge Leo Principe of the Basilan 9th division Regional Judicial Branch 1.

He explained this had to be done as they failed to implement the 10-day limit and as such these have already expired.

The police official said they would have to wait for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to file a petition before the local court to reissue the warrants of arrest.

New Propaganda Blitz Launched by AFP

In a similar vein, to project an image of the AFP not losing the war against the rebels and other alleged terrorist, AFP chief of staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., yesterday ordered military forces operating in Sulu to intensify pursuit operations against ASG elements after claiming that the military had succeeded in validating reports that an Indonesian terrorist group leader seeking refuge in the ASG lairs, was among those wounded during a recent firefight.

Esperon said based on accounts of operating troops in Sulu, Indonesian terrorist leader Dulmatin was wounded when his group encountered elements of the 33rd Infantry Battalion in Maimbung town Sulu last Aug. 9.

“We have a report on Dulmatin. He was hit in the encounter,” Esperon said, adding that part of the military’s validation process on the wounding of Dulmatin were statements from Army personnel who figured in a firefight with heavily armed ASG elements who were providing protection for the Indonesian terrorist leader.

“They gave a description which resembles him (Dulmatin) plus reports from the civilian population in the area,” the AFP chief said.

Esperon added that civilian community in Sulu has been helping the military by providing information on the whereabouts of the bandits.

Dulmatin, along with fellow Indonesian terrorist Omar Patek who is also believed to be with Abu Sayyaf Group in Sulu, were implicated in a terrorist attack in Bali, Indonesia in 2002 where at least 200 persons were killed and scores wounded.

The United States government has offered a million reward each for the arrest of Dulmatin and Ulman Patek.

Dulmatin is a 32-year-old Indonesian electronics expert suspected of triggering the bomb that killed over 200 people on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali in 2002.

However, Esperon could not ascertain if ASG leader Dr. Abu was among those wounded in the attack as earlier indicated in news reports.

Maj. Gen. Reuben Rafael, commanding officer of Joint Task Force Comet which has been tasked to pursue the bandits in Sulu, said the group of ASG sub-leader Radullan Sahiron was slowed down by the wounded Dulmatin.

There were earlier reports that Dulmatin and another JI senior operative, Patek, are embedded in Abu Sayyaf groups.

Rafael said both JI operatives are with Sahiron’s group. He said the two Indonesian terrorists trust only Sahiron among the ASG commanders.

The AFP has launched its offensive operations against the bandits following claimed verification that they were involved in the beheading of 10 of the 14 slain Marines in an encounter last July 10.

Senate Inquiry on US Marines in Sulu

Meanwhile, the Senate has taken a strong interest in probing the reported presence of armed American troops in Sulu, with Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago saying she will be scheduling a legislative inquiry to determine whether the presence of American troops in Indanan, Sulu constitute “unlawful combat operations.”

She filed a resolution directing the Senate foreign relations committee and the Legislative Oversight on the Visiting Forces Agreement (LOVFA), which she both heads, to conduct the investigation.

The media reported yesterday that heavily armed US troops were allegedly seen leading a military convoy last Aug. 14 in Sulu, where Filipino soldiers are currently fighting insurgents.

“Under the Terms of Reference for RP-US Exercise Balikatan 02-1, US participants are prohibited from engaging in combat operations, without prejudice to their right to self-defense,” Santiago said.

“We need to examine the extent of the participation of US troops in the activities of the AFP in Sulu to find out if there has been a violation of the law prohibiting US forces from engaging in combat operations in Philippine territory,” the senator added.

Santiago noted that the presence of US troops in Sulu may also constitute a violation of international law. “Intervention is a violation of international law, because it affects the international personality and territorial supremacy of a State,” Santiago said. “We need to find out whether the activities of the US troops in Sulu constitute unlawful intervention.”

At the same time, two congressmen issued contradicting statements on the alleged involvement of United States forces in the escalating war in Mindanao

While Davao del Sur Rep. Marc Douglas Cagas IV seeks an end to speculations that US forces have taken a lead role in the ongoing offensive against the ASG in Sulu, Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran demands that General Esperon divulge full details of how many US troops are participating in the combat operations and in which areas they are deployed.

Meanwhile, in a bid to lower heated temperatures of opposition senators who have raised a ruckus over reports of the US troops presence in combat areas, Malacañang yesterday assured the political opposition that President Arroyo will not allow the US to engage in combat in war zones with our soldiers against the ASG.

In a phone interview, Presidential legal counsel Sergio Apostol said the government is in full control over the situation in Basilan and Sulu and the reason the war against the ASG is taking longer than expected was due to the presidential orders given to the military to exercise caution and reduce collateral damage which are the civilians. With Sherwin C. Olaes, Charlie V. Manalo and AFP

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