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By FRANCO REGALA and ALFRED GABOT

 

(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.

 

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(Photo from GMA News)

 

MANILA – To the chagrin of the opposition and critics, former First Lady and now congresswoman of Ilocos Norte Imelda Romualdez Marcos has escaped arrest and jail after the Sandiganbayan which had convicted her in seven graft cases and sentenced to several years in prison allowed her to post bail of P150,000.

 

The Sandiganbayan had sentenced the former first lady, now 89 years old, in each of her seven graft cases to six years and a month up to 11 years in prison, with perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

 

Mrs. Marcos was convicted for participating in the management of several Swiss foundations while she was a member of the Interim Batasang Pambansa and minister of the Ministry of Human Settlements from 1968 to 1986.

 

 Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo herself expressed her dismay at what she described as “mockery of the justice system” and the “measly” P150,000 bail set Mrs. Marcos’ temporary liberty.

 

 The Sandiganbayan’s fifth division granted the bail for the wife of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos after she was ordered arrested for snubbing her November 9 promulgation, during which she was convicted in seven graft cases.

 

“The P150,000 bail was too measly compared with the enormity of what was stolen. Secondly, those are just loose change to her,” Robredo said in interviews.

 

“I was a lawyer for the poor. Somehow, I can see that for a P10,000 bail, a client would even mortgage some of their properties or borrow money from others just to come up with that amount,” she added.

 

The vice president said Marcos’ alibi on the day of her conviction was “the biggest insult” to Filipinos.

 

“In fact, the biggest insult to us was when she partied on the day of her conviction. But she reasoned that she was sick. It’s a mockery of the justice system,” Robredo added, referring to the birthday party of daughter Ilocos Norte Governor Maria Imelda “Imee” Marcos, who is running for senator in the 2019 elections, in their San Juan City mansion which was attended also by Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile and others.

 

During the hearing of her “motion for leave of court to avail of post-conviction remedies,” Mrs. Marcos, who is running for governor of Ilocos Norte, claimed that had she known about the promulgation on November 9, she would have gone to the anti-graft court.

 

However, in the motion that she filed last Monday, she stated that her failure to attend was “solely because she was indisposed.” Her affidavit added that she was “suffering from multiple organ infirmities and was under strict orders to refrain from stressful conditions.”

 

All these ran contrary to her statement on November 9 that she was absent because it was her then lawyer, Robert Sison, who was “indisposed and confined at the Asian Hospital.”

 

On the very night of her conviction, she was seen in photos with other government officials in the birthday celebration of her daughter in San Juan.

 

The opposition and critics of the Marcoses were surprised that Mrs. Marcos returned to the House of Representatives and attended the sessions after posting bail, contradicting her statements that she was weak and sick. Before returning to the House, she was even photographed on a wheel chair.

 

The Sandiganbayan though has yet to decide whether Mrs. Marcos would be allowed to file a post-conviction bond for her graft charges.

 

The Sandiganbayan on Tuesday, Nov. 13, reportedly issued an arrest warrant against the former First Lady following her conviction for seven counts of graft last week.

 

But another report stated that the issuance of the arrest warrant was deferred following the filing of a motion to that effect by the Marcos lawyers, reportedly citing her age and condition.

 

The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division ordered the bail bonds to be posted by Marcos for the graft cases be forfeited due to her and her counsel’s “unjustified” absence during the promulgation of judgment on her cases.

 

“...The accused is given 30 days from today to explain why no judgment on the bonds should be issued. Let a warrant of arrest be issued against the accused,” the Sandiganbayan said in its order dated Nov. 9, 2018.

 

Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang later clarified conflicting reports stating that the 5th Division has not yet released an arrest warrant against  Marcos.

 

Cabotaje-Tang said the 5th Division decided to defer the release of the document after the camp of Mrs. Marcos filed a motion last Monday.

 

In the motion for leave of court to avail post-conviction remedies, Marcos asked for the deferment of the issuance of the warrant even though 5th Division Chairperson Rafael Lagos verbally ordered the release of the warrant last Friday when the verdict was handed down.

 

This developed as the anti-graft court is to rule next on the P200 billion civil suit filed by the Office of the Solicitor General against the Marcoses as the case was already submitted for decision at the 4th division of the Sandiganbayan.

 

 Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Mrs. Marcos, despite her age and health condition, should be arrested if a warrant is issued by the courts over her recent conviction for graft.

 

Earlier, Vice President Leni Robredo and other officials said Mrs. Marcos may still be arrested and detained as she was caught partying during her daughter Imee’s birthday with leaders like Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte and others. 

 

Marcos may still be sent to prison even at 89 years old, according to Robredo and Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III.

 

Robredo said the former first lady is still physically fit to go to jail despite old age as she can still go to a party.

                     
“Ito, kita naman natin, kita natin — iyong araw nga na lumabas iyong hatol, nasa diyaryo, nag-party pa.  Nag-party pa siya,” Robredo said in her radio program with Ely Saludar on RMN’s DZXL.

 

“Gustong sabihin, kung kaya pang mag-party, kaya pang lumagi sa kulungan,” she added.

 

Sotto said the issue on hand is simply whether if a warrant of arrest has been issued and not Marcos’ age or health.

 

“Whether it’s Mrs. Marcos or another person, whether it’s Senator (Antonio) Trillanes or whoever it is, the issue is, may warrant ba (is there a warrant)? ‘Yun ang importante doon, may warrant o wala (That is what is important here, if there’s a warrant or none),” he told reporters.

 

Kung may warrant, dapat arestuhin. Kung walang warrant, hintayin natin yung warrant. It’s as simple as that (If there’sa a warrant, she should be arrested. If none, then we have to wait for the warrant),” Sotto said.

 

Senator Francis Escudero, for his part, said Mrs. Marcos is disqualified from getting a presidential pardon since the Sandiganbayan’s decision that found her guilty of seven counts of graft is not yet final and executory.

 

Escudero, whose father was a fair-haired favorite Cabinet member of Mrs. Marcos, also said that appealing the conviction would also disqualify Marcos from pardon

 

Pimentel made the remark after PNP chief Director General Iscar Albayalde said the PNP had to consider the convict's age and health condition if a warrant for her arrest was issued.

 

"Even at an advanced age, a criminal can still be sent to prison," said Pimentel, a lawyer who topped the bar examinations in 1989.

 

"Ang exempted lang, mga bata," he added, in apparent reference to the country's juvenile justice laws.

 

Court records showed Mrs. Marcos and group have submitted their memorandum, the summary of their arguments, last July 31, 2018 while the OSG submitted its memorandum on May 8, 2018.

 

The P250 million civil case against the Marcoses was filed by the OSG in 1987 and was amended for the third time in 1990. In the amended complaint, the OSG had said the Marcoses illegally accumulated funds and other property estimated at P200 billion.

 

Aside from Mrs. Marcos, the defendants in the case filed in 1987 include  the late President Marcos; their children Maria Imelda or Imee, Irene and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.; in-laws Tomas Manotoc and Gregorio Araneta III; Nemesio Co, Yeung Chun Kam, Yeung Chun Ho, Yeung Chun Fan, Imelda Cojuangco, and the Estate of Ramon Cojuangco.

 

The OSG asked from the defendants more than P200 billion damages “to reimburse expenses for the recovery of the defendants’ ill-gotten wealth reasonably estimated at P250 million or in such amount as may be proven during the trial.”

 

PCGG is also seeking P50 billion in moral damages, P1 billion exemplary damages, attorneys’ fees, and “treble judicial costs.”

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