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(Photo from ABS-CBN News)


ZAMBOANGA CITY (PhlTodayUSA) - The Islamist State-allied terrorist group Abu Sayyaf has come out with a "grand plan" to ignite a sectarian war in Mindanao and the twin bombings of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu was apparently a part of the plot.


Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Oscar D. Albayalde made the revelation as he appealed to all sectors to help foil "such evil plot" by the Abu Sayyaf terrorists even as the government has taken measures to prevent the Abu Sayyaf from succeeding in their “grand plan.” 


“Their (Abu Sayyaf) objective is to create chaos and terror, they want Christians to react if they bomb churches and other Christian targets. This is why these terror acts should be stopped and we need all the information we can get from the public,” the PNP chief said.


The Abu Sayyaf grand plot came to light in the wake of the terrorist group’s filming of their gunmen while desecrating a Catholic church at the start of the 5-month old Marawi City siege; an incident involving a bomb-laden truck in Lamitan, Basilan last year which killed several militiamen and civilians and lately, the bombing of the Jolo Cathedral which left 23 persons dead and 95 wounded.


The PNP has filed multiple counts of murder and frustrated murder charges against five suspected Abu Sayyaf militants linked to the twin suicide bombings of the Jolo Cathedral following their surrender on Feb. 4 to security forces.


 Albayalde identified those who surrendered and subsequently charged as  Mukammar L. Pae/Kammah L. Pae alias Kammah; Albaji K. Gadjali alias Apah Albaji/Awag; Radjan B. Gadjali alias Rajan; Kaisar B. Gadjali alias Isal; and Said Alih alias Papong.


Albayalde said 14 other suspects remained at large, including the mastermind Sawadjaan, among them were Makrim Habbisi, alias Makrim, Barak Ingug, alias Barak Abdulgani, Usman Aka Ubin, a certain Arab Puti and nine John Does.


In a related development, government forces in Central Mindanao are on alert following intelligence reports indicating that foreign jihadists have entered the region.


Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID) and military led-Joint Task Force Central (JTF Central), cited an intelligence report showing that about 30 to 40 foreign terrorists may have set foot in the provinces under the 6ID's area of jurisdiction.


Sobejana made the disclosure during the Provincial Peace and Order Council meeting in Buluan, Maguindanao, adding that the foreign terrorists could have merged with local terror groups operating in Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat. 


The 6ID covers the provinces of Maguindanao, part of Lanao del Sur, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.


Even as five suspects in the Jolo church bombing have surrendered, former Sulu governor Abdusakur Tan Sr. called on authorities not to jump to conclusions and instead dig deeper in their investigation.


Tan said the five suspects who surrendered to the police could be mere accomplices.


“Let’s wait for the complete investigation because those who surrendered can be only part or accessory of a larger group of suspects,” Tan said.


Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that the Philippine military is conducting search operations for another terrorist who shares the same name as Kammah Pae, the surrendered leader of the Ajang – Ajang group.


The Ajang – Ajang group is a faction of the Abu Sayyaf terror group and is suspected to be behind the twin bombings at the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Cathedral in Jolo on Jan. 27.


Over two dozen soldiers and terrorists have been killed and wounded in fighting the Abu Sayyaf since the deadly Jolo Cathedral bombings, it was learned. Five soldiers have been confirmed dead and nearly two dozen more were injured in clashes in Patikul, Sulu.  


 Albayalde said fighting between Christians and Muslims in Mindanao are not new since they became infamous in the 1970s when military-backed Christian “Ilagas” fought the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) guerrillas.


“It has happened before in Mindanao, the fighting between Christians and Muslims. Their battlecry during those days is if you can do this, we can also do that,” he explained.


Albayalde said the administration does not want a repeat of those heavy fighting in Southern Philippines during the Marcos presidency.


“This is the reason why we need the help of the community in fighting this threat. The local populace will always know who’s the stranger in their area. In case somebody buys something in a store, say vinegar but can’t speak your language, or speaks a language he or she only knows, please report to us immediately,” Albayalde said.


Two suspected Indonesian bombers who were believed to have carried out the suspected “suicide bombing” at the Jolo Cathedral are now being hunted by the military and police operatives, he added.


The PNP chief said they have already coordinated their investigation into the identities of the suspects with their Indonesian and Malaysian counterparts.


Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said the Indonesian government has expressed willingness to help in identifying the Indonesian suspects.


“Identification is in the process but it may take time,” Ano added.


Año said that Jolo twin blasts perpetrated by suicide bombers is one of the ways foreign terrorists are educating Filipino Muslim terrorists on how to cause chaos in the country.


"That is what they are trying to do. By showing and doing these suicide bombings, they are expecting Filipino Muslim terrorists would follow soon. They underestimate the influence of Filipino culture to our Muslim brothers," he 


Three days after the Jolo cathedral bomb blasts, a grenade-throwing incident in a mosque in Zamboanga City last January 30 killed two preachers and wounded four others.



Albaylde said Sawadjaan assumed the post vacated by ASG chieftain Isnilon Hapilon following his death in the Marawi City attack in 2016.  


This developed as the Department of Justice (DOJ) immediately completed its inquest proceedings against the suspects in the Jolo bombings.


"The prosecutor has terminated the inquest proceedings and deemed submitted for resolution the case against the five arrested suspects in the Jolo Cathedral bombing," DOJ spokesman Undersecretary Markk Perete said.


Seven other identified suspects and several John and Jane Does are still at large.


The suspects have been named respondents in the cases for 23 counts of murder, frustrated murder and damage to property filed by the Sulu Police Provincial Office. 


Security forces were still pursuing over 100 militants who broke into smaller groups in Sulu’s hinterlands as an offshoot of the bombings.


“The five surrendered due to the massive hot pursuit operations by troops from the Patikul Municipal Police Station, 52nd Special Action Company, Sulu Provincial Mobile Force Company, 14th Regional Mobile Force Battalion, CIDG9, RIU9, and 35th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army,” Albayalde said


The PNP chief said security forces also destroyed an improvised explosive and other bomb components recovered from Pae’s house in Patikul town.  


Kammah admitted to authorities that he was part of the Ajang-Ajang group, a faction of the Abu Sayyaf, but denied that he participated in planning and executing the Jolo blasts.  


Patikul is a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf Group, whose leaders have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State or IS.


Security forces were pursuing Abu Sayyaf leader Hajan Sawadjaan, believed to be the chief architect in the cathedral bombings, and over a dozen other militants.


3 Filipinos nominated in Oscars

Published in Entertainment


LOS ANGELES – Yes, Virginia. There are two Filipino Americans and one Filipino Canadian who have been nominated to this year's Academy Awards or the Oscars to be held on February 24.


And if any one of them win, they will follow the record of the lone FilAm Oscar winner, composer and songwriter Robert Lopez who created the Oscar winning original songs "Let It Go" for the movie "Frozen" in 2014 and "Remember Me" for the movie "Coco" in 2018.


Leading the FilAm nominees is Matthew Libatique who was nominated for best cinematography for his critically acclaimed work as the director of photography of the movie “A Star is Born” which stars Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga.


 Libatique, who was born and raised to Filipino-American parents in Queens, New York, got his first Oscar nomination in 2011 for his work for the movie “Black Swan” which starred Natalie Portman.


Also nominated were Bobby Pontillas and Trevor Jimenez and are competing against each other for the best animated short category.


Libatique has been in Hollywood for 20 years. He started shooting music videos for music artists like 98 Degrees, Dru Hill, Jay-Z and The Cranberries.


In 1998, he started collaborating with film director Darren Aronofsky in doing the movies. Their collaboration produced the movies "Pi," "Requiem for A Dream," "Black Swan" and "Mother."


Libatique also became the cinematographer of the movies "Iron Man 2," "Straight Outta Compton" and "Chi-Raq."


Pontillas co-directed “One Small Step” while Jimenez made “Weekends,” which was based on his own childhood experiences.


In animation feature film, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” also got the Oscar nod. The movie’s story was by Filipina Josie Trinidad and Cesar Velasquez headed its special effects team.


Competing in the same category is “Spider-verse” which features Filipina-American Hailee Steinfeld, who voiced the lead female character in the movie.


The movie’s animation team includes Filipino talents Louie del Carmen, Ryan Rubi and John Butiu.


Trevor Jimenez is a Filipino-Canadian nominated for the category Best Animated Short Film for "Weekends." It is his first Oscar nomination.


Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Jimenez was part of Pixar co-op program which develops animated short and helps animators and background painting.


A nephew of veteran entertainment writer Baby K. Jimenez, Trevor has collaborated with other Pixar artists in the animations Monsters University, Inside Out, Finding Dory, Coco and Bao.


Jimenez also collaborated in the animated films "Rio" and "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax."


Pontillas said he is originally from Bremerton, Washington and now lives in Glendale, California.


He said he worked in the animation industry for companies like Disney (‘Frozen,’ ‘Zootopia’, ‘Moana’), Blue Sky (‘Rio’), and ArenaNet. He said he was a co-director and art director for the first short film, ‘One Small Step’.”


The first American actress with Filipino descent who was nominated in acting category was Hailey Steinfeld.


She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for the 2010 film "True Grit."


In 2015, Fil-American Ronnie del Carmen was nominated for Best Original Screenplay for the animated film,” Inside Out".


For Best Live Action Short Film, Fil-American Pia Clemente was nominated in 2005 for "Our Time Is Up."

Pops Fernandez named 'The World's Best' show judge

Published in Entertainment

(Photo from Instagram | @popsfernandezofficial)


Actress and singer Pops Fernandez is back in the global stage.


Pops, who is Maria Cielito "Pops" Lukban Fernandez in real life, has been chosen as one of the 50 Wall of the World judges in the  American talent show on CBS "The World's Best" whose pilot episode will air on February 3, 2019 on CBS.


The singer-actress herself announced her participation in the show thru social media, specifically on Instagram.


And her former husband, singer Martin Nievera, said he was happy for the new development in her career.


"I'm very, very proud," Martin said at a press conference. "I want the whole country to know how proud I am and how proud we should be that in 'The World's Best' talent search, this is the first of its kind."


"It's not anymore the best in America, the best in the UK, the best in the Philippines; these are the best talents in the world," Martin added.


"Pops was chosen to represent the Philippines as one of the 50 experts from around the world," he said.


In a published report in Manila, Martin revealed that he was actually also considered to be part of the global experts of "The World's Best."


"They have a whole list of people na choices. So I went on FaceTime audition, which I've never done, and they asked me these questions and I was just being myself... I gave my schedule and it just so happened that every day of the taping for the show I have concert in different cities. So I tried to get out of my commitment but it was too late. ...So this is what happened," Martin explained.


The report added that Martin was was asked if there's anyone else he knows who could take on the role.


"I said Pops Fernandez, and he says, 'My God, she's also on the list. How do you know her?' And I said, 'How do I know her? Well we have two kids.' 


"They actually said, 'Can you both do it.' They want us both to be there as judges. I said, 'I really, really cannot.' So they spoke to Pops straight and they were able to fix her schedules so that she can be there," Martin disclosed.


 “I am so excited to announce that i will be one of the 50 #WalloftheWorld judges representing the Philippines in the biggest and the best new show... The Worlds Best!!!!" Pops wrote on Instagram. "It'll be hosted by award winning James Corden with 3 superstar judges... Drew Barrymore, RuPaul and Faith Hill."


"I also got to work with 49 of the best talents from all over the world!!! This is the best show ever! This will premiere in the US on Feb 3, right after the SuperBowl on CBS. It's sooooo exciting!!!" she added.


Showbiz columnist Ricky Lo said the CBS Network show consists of 10 episodes.


Pops, who flew to the US for the show on the pretext that she was going there for vacation, actually passed the screening for the CBS talent competition The World’s Best.


The columnist, quoting a story about the project, said The World’s Best “hails from reality TV heavyweights Mark Burnett and Mike Darnell, the forces behind two of the biggest talent competition reality series of the current unscripted wave, The Voice and American Idol. Burnett is executive producing NBC’s The Voice which is overseen by Darnell at Warner Horizon; while Darnell in his role as head of reality at Fox, Darnell developed and launched American Idol and steered the show for its first 12 seasons.”


The World’s Best is described as “a first-of-its-kind global talent competition that features acts from every genre imaginable, from every corner of the planet.” The contestants are tasked not only to impress the American judges (Drew Barrymore, RuPaul and Faith Hill) and 50 world experts (Pops among them. ­— RFL) but also to break through the “wall of the world.” One of the 25 participants from every field of entertainment will be chosen the winning act to be crowned as The World’s Best.


One of the 25 participants in the show is  TNT Boys (Mackie Empuerto, Keifer Sanchez and Francis Concepcion) who were named Push Music Performance of the Year in the recently-concluded Push Awards for their performance of the Bee Gees song Too Much Heaven in the ABS-CBN show Your Face Sounds Familiar Kids.


Since its launch in 2017, the TNT Boys (TNT stands for Tawag Ng Tanghalan), they have performed in Little Big Shots US, UK and Australia, and starred in their first successful major concert at the Araneta Coliseum in November last year. They have also performed for heads of states including Pres. DU30, Singapore Pres. Halimah Yacob and Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.


Barrymore was reported to have raved about the performance of the TNT Boys in an exclusive teaser of The World’s Best which she posted on her Instagram account to promote the airing of the show.


“You know, I have a soft spot for kids. I was a kid performer, but I have kids now. This is a whole other thing. You possess a gift, you’re just that good,” said Drew in the clip, which also showed judges Grammy-winning artist Faith Hill and drag queen superstar RuPaul beaming after the trio’s performance of Listen. The act also earned a standing ovation from the three superstar judges, as well as the show’s “wall of the world,” which features 50 of the world’s most accomplished experts from every field of entertainment.


Pacquiao’s win inspires boxers seeking title defense

Published in Sports

(Photo from Instagram | @mannypacquiao)


MANILA – The latest success of world champion Manny Pacquiao over Adrien Broner in their “Return to Vegas” title fight last Sunday provides inspiration to Filipino boxers to train longer, work harder, and fight better to achieve their dreams of bringing honor to the country.


World Boxing Council (WBC) Asia super featherweight titlist Al “The Rock” Toyogon and World Boxing Association (WBA) Asia bantamweight champion Carl Jammes “Wonder Boy” Martin said they will do their best like Pacquiao in their coming title fights against highly-rated foreign opponents.


The two young but talented Filipino fighters made the assurance during their appearance in the 7th “Usapang Sports” presented by the Tabloid Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) at the National Press Club in Intramuros on Thursday.


Basta gagawin ko po ang lahat ng aking makakaya para manalo (I will do my best to win),” said Toyogon, who is set to defend his title against Ryusei Ishii of Japan at the Elorde Sports Center in Parañaque on January 26.


Mabigat din po ang kalaban, pero tiwala lang. Laban lang dahil ayokong bibiguin ang mga kababayan natin na manonood (My opponent is tough but I have to fight because I don’t want to disappoint our countrymen),” said Martin, who will put his title on the line against Petchchorhae Kokietgym of Thailand at the Midas Hotel in Pasay City on February 16.

The two Filipino champions, who guested in the weekly sports forum also supported by the National Press Club, claimed they have prepared long and hard for their coming title fights with the help of their respective trainers.


Toyogon, the 20-year-old pride of Gingoog City, Misamis Occidental, will climb the ring as the favorite over Ishii in the mainer of a blockbuster card billed “Night of Champions XV!” put up by well-known promoter-matchmaker Bebot Elorde.


Nicknamed “The Rock”, Toyogon boasts of a ring record of 9-2-1, including six by knockouts. He made his debut with a technical knockout victory over Rex Merceno in August 2015.


He also won all his four fights last year, including one against Naotoshi Nakatani of Japan in February. His opponent, Ishii, has a 7-4-1 record, all against fellow Japanese fighters.


On the other hand, Martin, a native of Lagawe, Ifugao, will also carry a handsome record of 65 wins as an amateur and 11 wins as a pro when he tests the mettle of Kokietgym.


As a pro, the 19-year-old Martin carries an impressive 11-0 win-loss record, including 10 by knockouts.


He won the title with a fourth-round knockout of Moon Chul Suh of Korea on October 27 last year.


His opponent Kokietgym has a 17-2 mark, eight by KOs.



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