Bossi kin optimistic as general bares threat to harm priest

By Julie Alipala, Jeoffrey Maitem, Charlie Sease
Mindanao Bureau
Last updated 03:58pm (Mla time) 06/14/2007

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — A Marine general on Thursday said the fifteen-man armed group holding Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi might execute their captive if the government is not careful in its actions.


But the Bossi family in Abbiategrasso, Italy is taking the news calmly according to sources contacted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of


“It’s difficult. We can’t read their minds. They might hurt or kill their captive,” Major General Ben Dolorfino, chief of the military’s National Capital Region Command, said.


Dolorfino is involved in the operation to rescue Bossi’s as co-chairman of the government-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG).


He said the search for the Italian priest, who was kidnapped Sunday in Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay, has remained fruitless. Neither have the kidnappers made any demands thus far.


Davide Carlucci, a journalist based in Italy, said Giuseppina Bossi, a sister of the priest, is confident her brother will overcome all his trials in the Philippines.


“I am not afraid, because my brother can eat in a Christian’s house as well as in a Muslim’s house,” Carlucci quoted Giuseppina’s e-mail to him.


Gianni Battista Sandalo, Philippine superior of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions — Bossi’s order — admitted to the Inquirer that they were getting anxious about the situation.


Filipino aid worker shot in Sri Lanka

Agence France-Presse
Last updated 08:03pm (Mla time) 06/14/2007COLOMBO — A Filipino aid worker has been shot and wounded in northeastern Sri Lanka, a hospital spokeswoman said Thursday.

Antonio Villeomour, of the US charity Mercy Corps, was being treated at Colombo’s National Hospital, spokeswoman Pushpa Soysa said.

“He is conscious and not in a critical condition,” she told Agence France-Presse.

Villeomour was shot as he strolled along the beach in front of his hotel at Trincomalee, 260 kilometers (160 miles) northeast of the capital, on Wednesday night. The area is usually heavily guarded by the Sri Lankan navy.

Two local Red Cross aid workers were abducted and shot dead earlier this month and 17 Sri Lankan employees of the French charity Action Against Hunger, ACF, were killed in the district in August.

The region has seen heavy fighting between troops and Tamil Tiger rebels in recent months.

More than 5,000 people have died since the conflict escalated in December 2005.

Over 60,000 people have died since the Tamil Tigers launched a campaign for a separatist state for minority Tamils in 1972.

Beheaded Filipino’s remains can’t be sent home — DFA

By Tonette Orejas
Central Luzon Desk

Last updated 08:06pm (Mla time) 06/14/2007

GUAGUA, Pampanga, Philippines — The appeals by the wife and children of beheaded overseas Filipino worker Reynaldo Cortez to Philippine authorities to bring home his remains from Saudi Arabia was all for naught on Thursday.


Esteban Conejos, Department of Foreign Affairs undersecretary for migrant affairs, has informed Cortez’s wife Melody by phone that “in respect of laws and customs in Saudi Arabia, a convict after his execution must be immediately buried in an unmarked grave.”


“We cannot repatriate his remains. I do not think we can bring home the body,” Conejos later confirmed to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of


Asked if that was on account of Cortez being a convert to Islam, Conejos said it was more because of the laws and burial custom for convicts in that Middle East kingdom.


After the call by Conejos, Melody left the veranda, walked inside the family’s 4 x 3 meter house, slumped on a plastic chair and withdrew into silence in front of an altar where her six children had lit thin white candles beside the four photographs of their father.


It appeared to be the closest thing they could do to approximate a wake for him.


Cortez, 41, was beheaded by sword in a Riyadh jail Wednesday for the murder of a Pakistani taxi driver who reportedly tried to rape him in 2001.


Melody, 37, held back words and tears. She reclined her head on her left hand, as sadness and rage showed through her face.


Stunned by news of not being able to see their father even on his death, Cortez’s children — Girlie, 18; April, 17; the twins Allan and Allen, 14; and Ace, 8 — stared hard at their father’s photographs. Alfie, the eldest, slept his sadness away.


Girlie broke the silence by asking, “Are we not really going to be able to bury him here?”


Melody gave no answer. An hour before Conejos broke the news she said she wanted his remains sent home so his children could have time to pay their last respect to him.


In the cramped receiving room, April let out a painful truth. “We waited for him for nine years and we can’t get to even see his body?” she said.


Throughout the waiting, Cortez had stayed in touch with them occasionally by calling them through borrowed mobile phones.


He last called them on June 10 to check on April’s health. Ace, the youngest, had never seen his father in person. He was still in his mother’s womb when Cortez left in 1998 to work as a welder in a car workshop.


The stabbing incident happened on May 12, 2001 when Cortez was finished with his contract and was bound for home, Melody said. Since then, she has single-handedly raised the children by selling rice and clothes.


To April’s query, Melody said: “We will still try.”


Earlier that morning though, at around 8 a.m., she got assurances from Mayor Ricardo Rivera that the DFA, on the requests of Malacañang and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s son, Pampanga Representative Juan Miguel Arroyo, would exert efforts to repatriate the remains.
Migrante International Chair Connie Bragas-Regalado said that the call by Conejos to Melody made it clear that the family’s appeals have gone futile.


Regalado said Migrante was taking the case to the international human rights community to “seek justice” for Cortez.


Melody maintained that her husband was innocent and that he stabbed the victim to death out of self-defense.


Conejos said the DFA tried every means to save Cortez from the death row since 2005.


But Regalado said the government had not fully explored negotiations with the Saudi Arabia monarchy.


“(The DFA) got stuck on offering blood money or asking for forgiveness. It was afraid to strain diplomatic relations (with Saudi Arabia) in consideration of the opportunities in the labor market,” she said.


“Ang feeling ni Rey pinabayaan siya ng gobyerno (He felt that the government neglected him),” Melody said of her husband’s views before the execution. The date was not announced, she added.


When the death sentence was read, Cortez claimed the Philippine Embassy sent no lawyers to help him, Regalado recalled of Cortez’s text messages to her.


The death of Cortez, she said, should serve as a “wake-up call” to the government in terms of protecting distressed migrant workers. The DFA said 33 are on the death row in the Middle East countries.


Cortez’s execution came on the same month the government observed Migrants Month.


“The government passed into law the Magna Carta for Overseas Workers (Republic Act No. 8042) after Flor’s (Contemplacion) death by hanging in 1995. That is supposed to ensure their protection, if implemented,” Regalado said.

Gov’t ‘surprised’ by Filipino’s execution in Saudi — Palace

Associated Press
Last updated 08:05pm (Mla time) 06/14/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The government said Thursday it was surprised by the execution of a Filipino in Saudi Arabia, although it admitted that efforts to save his life through a settlement with the victim’s family had failed.


Reynaldo Cortez, 41, was beheaded in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. The Saudi Interior Ministry said he was convicted of fatally stabbing a Pakistani man in the capital, Riyadh, during a conflict.


“We were surprised over the situation. It was only now that we learned of the execution,” said Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, the Cabinet’s most senior member.


Cortez, a welder who left behind a wife and six children, was convicted in 2003 and sentenced to death two years later, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.


During the trial, he said he killed the Pakistani taxi driver to defend himself from rape, the department said.


Since then, the government had tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a settlement with the victim’s family that would spare Cortez’s life, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos said.


He said the government had sent negotiating teams to Pakistan to ask relatives to accept “blood money,” but they refused. The practice of accepting payments in return for the pardon of a convicted criminal is common in the Muslim world.


He said 13 other Filipinos are on death row in the kingdom, out of a total of 34 worldwide.


More than 8 million Filipinos work abroad. Last year, they sent home a record US$12.8 billion (€9.5 billion), fueling the local

35 overseas Filipinos on death row

By Cynthia Balana
Last updated 11:44pm (Mla time) 06/14/2007

MANILA, Philippines — At least 35 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in at least five countries are facing execution for various offenses, prompting the Department of Foreign Affairs to alert its missions abroad to provide legal assistance to them, Foreign Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Esteban Conejos said Thursday.


The DFA move followed the beheading Wednesday of Filipino worker Reynaldo Cortez, 41, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for the murder of a Pakistani taxi driver who tried to rape him in 2002.


Conejos said the DFA was saddened by the beheading of Cortez, which was carried out despite repeated offers of “blood money” to the family of the Pakistani victim.


Conejos said that when he assumed office in January 2006, there were only 34 potential death penalty cases involving OFWs all over the world.


He said that through constant monitoring and legal assistance provided by the embassies abroad, 11 of these cases were commuted from death to life imprisonment.


But the number has increased to 35 because of new cases, most of which are on the trial stage, on appeal and pending before the Supreme Court of the concerned countries.


“These 35 potential death penalty cases are now being monitored by the embassies to make sure that the OFWs concerned are being given correct legal advise and enough assistance,” Conejos said.


Conejos said his office had been receiving appeals for immediate assistance from the families and relatives of the 35 OFWs working in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Kuwait, China and Brunei.


He said the cases in China and Malaysia could be difficult to win because these involved illegal drugs.


“But we will exert all efforts to exonerate them or at least commute their sentence. We are strictly monitoring their cases,” Conejos assured.

Cops sue Roxas City-based recruiter for bogus jobs

By Felipe V. Celino
Last updated 01:32am (Mla time) 06/15/2007

ROXAS CITY—The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) filed illegal recruitment and estafa charges against a travel agency that allegedly duped four persons who were promised work in Macau.


Roma Travel and Tours Agency (RTTA), with an office on Magallanes Street here, was accused of facilitating the departure of the three recruits to Macau after they paid “placement” fees ranging from P50,000 to P75,000, according to the complaint filed by the CIDG at the city prosecutor’s office yesterday.


However, they later learned that not only were there no jobs waiting for them in Macau, but they had to return home empty-handed because their tickets were already about to expire. They had entered the former Portuguese colony as tourists.


Lawyer Daniel Cartageña, who represented RTTA, said in radio interviews that RTTA was a travel agency and not a recruitment agency. He said the agency did not promise jobs.


He said the applicants went to Macau as tourists and had the opportunity to look for jobs. The amounts paid by its clients were for their passports and lodging in Macau, he said.
It was the clients’ responsibility to look for jobs there, he said.


Named respondents in the complaint were Mandie Doromal, registered owner of RTTA; his branch manager Maria Cristina Mojar; and staff member Arlene Padual, according to CIDG investigator SPO4 William Limjuco.


Name change


RTTA has since been renamed Far East Discovery Travel and Tours and moved its office from Magallanes Street to Roxas Avenue, the CIDG said.


The CIDG conducted the investigation based on the complaint filed by Jay Palalimpa, 27, of Poblacion Norte; Claudette Catibayan, 27, of Barangay Cudian; and Hadassah Aizza Rivera, 20, of Poblacion Sur, all of Ivisan, Capiz; and Nerievic Vidal, 25, of Barangay Tanque, Roxas City.


Rivera said Mojar and Padual convinced her to work in Macau supposedly as a front desk officer of Mandarin Hotel and asked her to pay P75,000 in placement fee.


She paid the fee in three installments before she left for Macau on board Macau Airways on Nov. 14, 2006. With her was Catibayan, who had paid P50,000 with the promise to pay the remaining P25,000 from her salary there.


Rivera said she and Catibayan stayed at Doromal’s house in Chico Dulo, Las Piñas City while waiting for their departure.


They were met at the Macau airport by Denver Bustalino and a certain “Kuya Bivian” who were from Cebu City, Rivera said. The two were also recruited by RTTA, she said.

Benguet seeks solutions to tons of vegetable waste

By Delmar Carino
Northern Luzon Bureau
Last updated 09:42pm (Mla time) 06/14/2007

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet, Philippines — This town’s vegetable trading post hosts millions of pesos in trade transactions a month but it also churns out 30 tons (the weight of about 30 cars) of vegetable waste daily that is giving local officials a headache on garbage disposal.


The wastes are composed mainly of trimmings from leafy vegetables, like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and Chinese cabbage (wongbok).


The trimmings, called “ubbak” in the local dialect, are biodegradable, said Dominador Dongla, chief market inspector.


But he said the volume has exceeded the town’s household and business wastes of 22 tons a day.


Dongla said the town has embarked on two programs to solve the problem: require farmers to bring home their trimmings to be composted, and collect the rest to be piled at the town’s controlled dump in the village of Alno.


The first measure, however, has brought problems to nearby Atok and Buguias towns, since some farmers have the habit of throwing their trimmings along the Halsema Highway.


Mayor Concepcion Balao said the trimmings rot along or beside the road and become an ugly sight.


“The farmers should not make the highway their dumping ground,” she said.


This town is the province’s model in solid waste management with the construction of the controlled dump in Alno.


But treating the vegetable trimmings is still in the experimental stage, said Jay Sano, who is in charge of the town’s composting program.


“The Alno facility could only compost three tons of vegetable waste a day,” he said. “Right now, the rest of the trimmings are dumped in Barangay Buyagan, site of the old dump.”


Sano said, though, that once all waste facilities are in place, composting vegetable wastes would become a promising option for the town.


Dongla said the Department of Agriculture must remind the province’s farmers of an old farming practice that could reduce the volume of vegetable trimmings.


He said farmers must be encouraged to place their trimmings in between the garden plots where they would decay.


The decomposition stage produces mustard gas that activates pathogens useful against club root, a common disease among crucifers, or vegetables from mustard, he said.