Total Gun Ban Starts in Abra

Posted April 21, 2007 05:07:00(Mla Time)

Nikko Dizon
BANGUED, ABRA—A total gun ban is now in force in Abra province after Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Benjamin Abalos, Sr. revoked all the exemption given by the poll body to civilian gun owners here.

“I am revoking the permits issued to every civilian in Abra,” Abalos said during his speech at the signing of a peace covenant of all local candidates of the province last Thursday at Camp Juan Villamor.

Abalos said that candidates can request for police and military escorts if necessary so that they would no longer rely on their “private security.”

Abalos, the commissioner in charge for the province, said that the total gun ban was a “remedy” to the proliferation of private armed groups allegedly being maintained by politicians, as well as a way to “prevent” the eruption of violence in the province.

13 private armies

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has reported to then Abra CIC, Comelec Commissioner Romeo Brawner, that 13 private armies are supposedly operating in the province.

Brawner had urged authorities to take steps in identifying and disbanding these private armies.

Abra Gov. Vicente Valera told reporters on Thursday that disbanding the so-called private armies “is one means of ensuring peace in the elections.”

Valera said he does not have a private army.

And if there were allegations that he has one, Valera challenged the police and the military to identify members of his alleged private army and have them say that he was the one behind it.

Former Task Force Abra chief, Chief Supt. Eugene Martin, said that the PNP has identified the politicians maintaining private armies.

However, Martin stopped short of identifying them, saying members of private armies they had arrested had so far refused to say who they were working for. This had made it difficult to file appropriate charges against these politicians.

Most sensitive

Martin has recently been promoted and will take a new post as deputy regional director for administration. He was replaced by Senior Supt. Villamor Bumanglag as Task Force Abra chief.

Top police and military officials have taken note of the relative peace in Abra in the run-up to the May 14 mid-term elections.

But PNP Director General Oscar Calderon said the PNP was aware that the counting of ballots “is the most sensitive part” of the elections which is why the police will work “to secure the area” during the counting.

“We are committed to our aspiration to have peaceful elections without intimidation and threat. (The police) are aware of the dynamics of the politics and the political rivalries here. Our solution is to have a dialogue like this,” Calderon said at the peace covenant signing.

Calderon also urged politicians and the public to file appropriate charges against police officers who are allegedly engaged in partisan politics in Abra.

“It is unfair to the organization to make sweeping accusations and the police officers should also be given a chance to defend themselves,” Calderon said.

On stand by

Most of those who attended the peace covenant signing agreed that military troops are needed to augment the police security force.

But Armed Forces Chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said that the 41st Army Infantry Battalion stationed in Abra and the Army 5th division “on stand by” in Narvacan, La Union would currently be enough.

A military augmentation force would only be deployed if requested by the Comelec provincial officer, he said.


Pichay Brings Mascot

Posted April 21, 2007 05:12:00(Mla Time)

Leoncio Balbin Jr.
MAGSINGAL, ILOCOS SUR—With his mascot, “Super Pichay,” at his side, Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. on Friday launched a campaign caravan in his late father’s hometown in an effort to get a chunk of the Ilocano vote and boost his senatorial candidacy.

Pichay, who attended Mass and met his father’s relatives here before the caravan started, said he was hoping that his Ilocano roots would help him win in the so-called “Solid North.”

Pichay, who is running under the administration Team Unity, also inaugurated the Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. Hall at the back of the Magsingal town hall and met briefly with local officials. The single-story building will house the offices of the local police and the court.

The caravan will cover Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte and the Cagayan Valley provinces. He said he wanted to introduce himself to the Ilocano-speaking provinces.

“It is impossible to meet all the 45 million voters all over the country in the given campaign period so we need to do some innovations,” Pichay said.

He said one of the innovations was the mascot that he said has been helping him gain “maximum awareness” among voters.

Pichay joined the “Super Pichay” mascot caravan that passed through the capital Vigan City. The caravan then split into the east and west contingents to cover the rest of Northern Luzon.

Kalinga replacement

CAMP DANGWA, Benguet—The wife of slain Kalinga Vice Gov. Rommel Diasen has asked the Commission on Elections to consider her as a candidate in the gubernatorial race in that province to replace her husband.

But Thomas Uyam, Commission on Elections officer in Kalinga, said the law forbids the replacement, voiding the candidacy of Floydelia Diasen.

“But stopping her might create more chaos in the situation. I was not around when my personnel accommodated her request,” Uyam said.

He said Diasen, who was gunned down on April 7 while speaking in Barangay Magnao in Tabuk, Kalinga, ran as an independent after he failed to submit the official nomination document of Lakas-CMD when he filed his certificate of candidacy.

He was running against Kalinga Rep. Laurence Wacnang and lawyer Warren Luyaben.

Uyam said Floydelia’s candidacy could not be accepted as the deadline for the filing of COCs had lapsed on March 29.

He said Comelec rules also specify that substitution would not be allowed when a candidate is running as an independent.

Floydelia said her lawyer has asked the Comelec national office to reconsider her petition to replace her husband in the race.

She said her husband was a Lakas-CMD member although the party’s nomination paper did not reach the Comelec provincial office on March 29, the deadline for filing of candidacies for candidates in the local races. Frank Cimatu and Villamor Visaya Jr., Inquirer Northern Luzon

Disqualification bid

ILOILO CITY—A political rival is seeking the disqualification of Iloilo 2nd district Rep. Judy Syjuco for registering her husband’s nickname as her own in her certificate of candidacy.

In a three-page petition filed before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) provincial office on Thursday, Iloilo provincial board member Cecilia Capadosa asked the poll body to cancel Syjuco’s candidacy for committing “substantial misrepresentation in her COC.”

Capadosa is running under the Liberal Party against Syjuco, who is the candidate of the Lakas-CMD and the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi).

In her petition, Capadosa pointed out that, in her COC, Syjuco wrote as her nickname “Boboy Syjuco,” which is her husband’s nickname, former congressman and now Technical Education and Skills Development Authority director general Augusto Syjuco.

Election rules allow candidates to register one nickname or stage name by which he or she is generally or popularly known in the locality where the candidate is running for a position.

Capadosa said that Representative Syjuco “had never presented herself as ‘Boboy Syjuco’ nor is she in any way popularly or generally known, or called by the people especially in the 2nd District as Boboy Syjuco.”

“I don’t want to talk about it. I leave it to the people to decide,” she said before cutting off the call. Nestor Burgos, Inquirer Visayas

More soldiers needed

MATI, Davao Oriental—Police recommended the deployment of Army soldiers to at least 94 villages in the province in a bid to ensure the orderly conduct of the elections.

In a memorandum dated April 16, Senior Supt. Candido Casimiro Jr., Davao Oriental police chief, cited the presence of rebel groups as a threat to the peaceful conduct of the balloting in the villages.

On Friday last week, provincial election supervisor Sergio Manligoy said aside from rebel groups, armed followers of some politicians also threaten the conduct of the elections.

But he declined to identify the politicians, who have armed followers.

“Of course, I will not name them. They will deny it anyway,” he said.

Chief Insp. Benedicto Faco, Mati police chief, said in this capital town alone, at least 16 barangays have been identified as “areas of concern.”

These were barangays Tagabakid, Don Salvador Lopez, Mayo, Sanghay, Libudon, Danao, Culian, Langka, Taguibo, Sainz, Macambol, Dawan, Mamali, Luban, Cabuaya and Tagbinunga. Ferdinand O.

Transfer of Abra Chief of Police Surprises Local Folks and Church Leaders

Posted April 21, 2007 05:10:00(Mla Time)

Hanna Lacsamana
BANGUED, ABRA—Director General Oscar Calderon, Philippine National Police chief, transferred the head of the Task Force Abra to the Cordillera regional police office amid an appeal from residents and groups here to extend the official’s assignment in the province.

Calderon on Thursday said Chief Supt. Eugene Martin, the task force’s chief, would now head the Cordillera police’s operations division.

Senior Supt. Villamor Bumanglag, deputy director for operations of the Cordillera police, would replace Martin as commander of the task force in charge of ensuring peace and order in the province wracked by political violence.

Calderon said Martin’s new task would include overseeing the police operations in the region and help the Cordillera police command ensure peaceful and orderly elections on May 14.

Residents and relatives of slain Abra Rep. Luis Bersamin Jr., however, asked Calderon to hold Martin’s transfer, saying he was able to “stabilize” the tension arising from political rivalries in the province.

Eustaquio Bersamin, brother of the slain Abra representative, described Martin’s transfer as “drastic” and said Abra residents should have been consulted before he was removed.

Eustaquio is running for governor against Ma. Zita Valera, the incumbent mayor of the capital town of Bangued and wife of Gov. Vicente Valera.

Governor Valera, who is running for representative of the lone congressional district in the province, was implicated as the alleged mastermind in Representative Bersamin’s Dec. 16, 2006, murder outside a church in Quezon City. Valera has denied involvement in the crime.

Abra was placed under Comelec control for this year’s elections due to its history of election-related violence and intense political rivalries.

Governor Valera earlier asked the Comelec to replace Martin, citing the police official’s alleged partisan stance and the task force’s alleged failure to arrest politicians maintaining private armed groups.

But Eustaquio said the Task Force Abra, under Martin’s leadership, has “stabilized” peace and order in the province.

“We were surprised. We didn’t expect he would be removed. There will be no peace in Abra if Martin is transferred,” he said.

On Thursday, the Valeras, Eustaquio Bersamin and local candidates signed a peace covenant to ensure peaceful elections in Abra. The covenant signing was witnessed by Commission on Elections Chair Benjamin Abalos Sr., Calderon and Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr.

“It will only be a few weeks before the elections. Why don’t they just let [Martin] stay until then? Abra was in disarray before. Now that we are somewhat stabilized, bigla na lang siyang aalisin (they would suddenly transfer him),” said a representative of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting and the National Movement for Free Elections.

Group hits delay of OAV in Rome, Italy, Geneva

A network of Filipino groups in Europe hits “irregularities” in the distribution of ballots for overseas absentee voting (OAV) , saying it would undermine votes of Filipino migrant workers.

Grace Punongbayan, coordinator of Migrante-Europe, a network of Filipino organizations across Europe, said that the ballots for absentee voters in Rome, Italy, and Geneva have not arrived yet.

Punongbayan said her office in Amsterdam has received complaints from Rome and Geneva about the delay—thus voting has not started yet in said countries.

As of April 17, Filipinos in Rome have not received the ballots from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and from the Philippine Embassy, she said.

The Philippine embassy in Rome is reportedly getting the names of and addresses of leaders of the Filipino communities to ask them to do the distribution of the ballots.

Aside from delayed arrival of ballots, Filipinos in said countries have also complained about the lack information on the senatorial candidates and party-list groups, she added.

Weng Flores, anchorperson of the Rome-based Filipino radio program Ugnayan sa Himpapawid, has accused the embassy and the local Comelec of passing on their responsibility to community leaders.

This “irregular” distribution process would further delay OAV, Punongbayna said.

In Geneva, Switzerland, Filipinos have reported that the Philippine Mission there still wants a discussion of the conduct of the OAV, but could not ascertain when the ballots would arrive.

In a statement, Connie Regalado, chair of the global migrant alliance Migrante International, expressed fears that “the unacceptable failure of OAV to start in Italy could be an indication of attempts at electoral fraud.

She noted that opposition candidates dominate in global mock elections Migrante had conducted.

Punongbayan said they are planning to file a complaint with the Comelec regarding the irregularities, adding that “Another day of delay in the implementation of the OAV, is a mockery of the migrants’ right to vote.”

Based on Comelec records, there 504,110 registered Filipino overseas absentee voters for the 2007 elections. The poll body has set a month-long period for overseas Filipino voters to cast their votes, which is from April 14 to May 14. –GMANews.TV

TU cries foul over new ‘seditious’ GO ad

Team Unity leaders Friday lashed out at the new campaign ad of the Genuine Opposition, saying this clearly shows the only agenda of the opposition is to overthrow President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

In their latest television advertisement, GO used the acronym “Plan Co Revolt” to represent their senatorial ticket and improve voter recall of their names. The acronym presents a marked change from the benign sounding “Plant A Lover” that the opposition first used.

Reacting to the latest GO ad, TU deputy spokesman Tonypet Albano said this could not mean anything except to incite destabilization and trigger a revolt.

“The Opposition has a genuine knack for black propaganda and destabilization. Clearly now, they’re up to something genuinely destructive and seditious,” Albano said in a statement.

“They really want a revolution. Unconstitutionally again, they’re trying to unseat the president if they will not have the numbers in the House of Representatives or in the Senate, which they don’t,” Albano said.

At the Lakas Christian-Muslim Democrat national convention early this month, TU candidate Sen. Joker Arroyo said GO has no agenda except to seek the ouster of Mrs Arroyo.

“Have you ever heard the opposition say what their program is? None…the idea is to propel the people to grab the power short of elections,” Sen. Arroyo had said.

“They want to get the Senate because they want to paralyze the government. They’ve done that already in the 11th Congress. They tried to impeach the President twice, they failed. They tried to overthrow the government in Feb. 2006, they failed.”

Sen. Arroyo warned that had the attempts of the opposition succeeded, there would be no elections because a military junta would likely wrest the reins of government power from civilian leaders.

Eastern Samar Gov. Ben Evardone and TU media director said GO’s new acronym for their candidates is “incendiary, revisionist and theatrical, and a disgrace to the national effort to elevate politics into a civil and enlightened discussion of national issues.”

“It is a fact that former President Estrada does everything in extreme but the ad exceeds even the worst expectations of what divisive and bitter politics is all about,” Evardone said.

He said that Estrada, who is in jail on plunder charges, is writing his own version of history in the ad, by accusing the present administration of corruption but not his own. Estrada is facing charges for plunder.

Evardone said that instead of closing the ad with the call “Revolt against corruption and poverty,” the former president who is under house arrest on plunder charges in his Tanay vacation mansion, should have said “Huwag ninyo akong tularan (Don’t do what I did).– GMANews.TV

Ex-Sen. Honasan leaves Sta. Rosa detention

(Update) Former senator Gregorio Honasan was released early Friday night from his detention in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, GMA News 24 Oras reported.

Honasan gained temporary freedom after posting a P210,000 bail bond, which was earlier approved by a Makati court.

About 7:30 pm, Honasan’s convoy left Fort Sto. Domingo, where he was detained for four months after his arrest in November last year over coup d’etat charges filed in connection with the failed July 27, 2003 Oakwood mutiny.

“The schedule is being worked out but I just want to have a little private time with my family,” Honasan told reporters.

“I would like to thank Filipino people those who prayed and worked hard,” he added.

Before leaving the compound, Honasan embraced his security officers.

When asked if he now believes in the country’s justice system after the court granted his temporary liberty, Honasan answered: “I just pray and hope that the majority of our people will be beneficiaries to an efficient, responsive justice.” – GMANews.TV

Gringo joins league of ‘I’m sorry’ politicians


04/21/2007 | 02:17 PM

Newly freed, independent senatorial candidate Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan has joined the league of “I’m sorry” politicians who have asked forgiveness from the public for the “mistakes” they did in the past.

QTV 11’s Balitanghali reported on Saturday that the ex-military man asked apology for participating in overthrowing governments through coup d’etat.

Honasan was temporarily freed on Friday from his detention in Sta. Rosa, Laguna after posting a P210,000 bail bond.

“I am not ashamed or afraid to admit that I made mistakes because our methodology might have inspired or even encouraged inadvertently extraconstitutional means,” said Honasan in an interview with GMA News.

He added: “And for this I deeply apologize but one thing is certain the fight goes on.”

He said he realized during his previous senatorial term that he can open the eyes of the public through democratic means.

“I was a military man and I was one among thousands of military men who felt that we needed change, something was not right. So we did what military men would do, we tried to effect change through military means,” he explained.

In 2004, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo apologized for talking with an elections commissioner during the canvassing of votes, which was revealed when a tape recording of their conversation surfaced.

She did not name the commissioner but many believed that it was then Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.

In her latest campaign advertisement, administration senatorial candidate Tessie Aquino-Oreta apologized for his actuations during the impeachment proceedings of former President Joseph Estrada.

Oreta who was called the “dancing queen”, succeeded in opposing the opening of an envelope containing evidence which they believed would indict Estrada.

During a campaign sortie for the May 14 polls, opposition senatorial candidate Loren Legarda also apologized for her participation in the EDSA 2 uprising. – GMANews.TV