OF THE PHILIPPINES
Angeles * Antipolo * Bacolod * Bago * Bais * Baguio * Batangas *
Bogo * Butuan * Cabanatuan Cadiz * Cagayan de Oro * Calbayog * Caloocan
* Canlaon * Catbalogan * Cavite * Cebu Cotabato * Dagupan * Danao
* Davao * Dapitan * Dipolog * Digos * Dumaguete * General Santos Ilagan
* Iligan * Iloilo * Iriga * Gingoog * La Carlota * Kidapawan * Koronadal
* Lapu-Lapu * Laoag Las Pinas * Legaspi * Lipa * Lucena *Makati
* Malabon * Malaybalay * Mandaluyong * Mandaue Marawi * Manila
* Marikina * Masbate * Muntinlupa * Naga * Navotas * Olongapo * Ormoc Oroquieta
* Ozamiz * Palayan * Paranque * Pagadian * Pasay * Pasig *
Passi * Puerto Princesa Quezon City * Roxas * Sagay * San Carlos(LU)
* San Carlos
(Neg) * San Jose
San Jose del Monte * San Fernando * San Pablo * Santiago * Silay
* Surigao * Tabaco * Tacloban
Tacurong * Tagaytay * Taguig * Tagbilaran * Talisay * Tuguegarao
* Tangub * Tagum * Toledo Trece Martires * Urdaneta * Valenzuela
Here is what's
news in the Philippines...
MARCH 16, 2002
|US SPECIAL FORCES GOING
US Special Forces will join next week their Filipino
counterparts in combat patrols in the Abu Sayyaf stronghold of
Basilan, Philippine military officials said yesterday.
They clarified, however, that the Americans’ participation
would be limited to "field training exercises" and
would not engage in actual fighting, although they are allowed
to fire back in self-defense.
"Their special forces and our special forces will conduct
social operations training activity," said Lt. Col. Danilo
Servando, spokesman for the Armed Forces’ Southern Command
based in Zamboanga City.
About 160 members of the US Special Forces, divided into teams
of 12 men each, are deployed with nine AFP battalions involved
in the joint RP-US military exercise in Basilan dubbed "Balikatan
The maneuvers are being held in Basilan where Abu Sayyaf
terrorists have been holding hostage an American missionary
couple and a Filipina nurse for nine months now.
Maj. Cynthia Teramae, spokeswoman for US Special Operations
Command Joint Task Force 510, said the Green Beret troops would
switch to Black Beret as ordered by Gen. Erik Shinseki, chief of
staff of the US Army.
"The beret is used outside the field condition. So
normally, you will see all our armies in the black beret here.
But it would be now the traditional headgear that symbolizes the
professionalism in the US army," Teramae said.
The AFP has tightened security pertaining to media coverage of
the war games following leakage of surveillance photos and
images of Abu Sayyaf lairs.
Meanwhile, military and police intelligence agents strengthened
their monitoring of the possible arrival in Zamboanga City of
Abu Sayyaf bandits fleeing Basilan.
Servando said undercover agents have been deployed in the
city’s harbors to apprehend Abu Sayyaf leaders and followers
seeking refuge in the city to avoid the heat in Basilan.
An Abu Sayyaf bandit identified as Munib Assa, alias Ghalib
Hassan, who had a P1-million bounty on his head, was captured on
Tuesday in a Muslim community in the city.
"They are following some leads on other members of the Abu
Sayyaf who have been monitored to have fled (Basilan),"
However, it could not be ascertained if Khadaffy Janjalani and
Abu Sabaya, Abu Sayyaf chieftain and spokesman, respectively,
have left Basilan as there were conflicting intelligence reports
on their whereabouts.
"They are still in Basilan," Servando said, brushing
aside reports that the two Abu Sayyaf leaders had fled to nearby
Tawi-Tawi or Sabah in Malaysia.
"All these information keep coming and they are immediately
being verified. But there is no confirmation and no independent
source has confirmed that they have sighted them," AFP
spokesman Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan said.
"Our hunt for them continues and the American equipment is
helping greatly and now their hiding place is getting smaller
and smaller," Adan added.
The Americans’ presence in Basilan, with support units on
standby in nearby Zamboanga City and Cebu City, is perceived as
the second largest US troop deployment against global terrorism,
next to Afghanistan.
Washington has included the Abu Sayyaf in its list of global
terrorists following the Sept. 11 attacks in the US.
In another development, members of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU)
and other militant labor groups stormed the US Embassy in Manila
to protest the continuation of the Balikatan.
"Workers now have more compelling and fortified reasons to
oppose the Balikatan. With the US military’s admission that
the Balikatan is a local version of Operation Enduring Freedom,
there’s no doubt that military operations in Mindanao would
soon escalate into a full-blown war of aggression on a
nationwide level," the KMU said.
FBI CHIEF TO MEET GMA ON TERRORISM
President Arroyo and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Director Robert Mueller III will meet at Malacañang on Monday
to discuss ways to stop global terrorism and money laundering.
Mueller, a former US Marine officer, will be coming to the
country on the heels of a recent US-sponsored conference on
anti-terrorism held in Bangkok, Thailand.
National Security Adviser Roilo Golez, who led the Philippine
delegation to the conference,said that American
counter-terrorism experts were impressed by the Philippine
support for the US-led coalition against terrorism.
"The Philippine system to fight international terrorism was
singled out by the US counter-terrorist officials as dynamic and
comprehensive during the conference-seminar," he said.
On money laundering, Golez said the Philippines can learn from
the experience of the US, which has very tough laws against
criminal schemes to cleanse illegally acquired funds.
"Because we’re just new in this field, we just recently
passed the Anti-Money-Laundering Law," he said. "We
will look into possible ways on how to apply our needs for
extensive interdiction of terrorist funds, money-laundering
activities of drug lords in Colombia or the Mafia they busted in
In Singapore, Mueller said yesterday the US and its regional
allies have yet to uncover the full extent of Osama bin
Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist network in Southeast Asia
despite the arrest of dozens of militants.
Speaking at a forum organized by the American Chamber of
Commerce, Mueller said the FBI was in the process of building
rapport and trust with Indonesia, whose government has been
criticized by some US officials and neighboring countries for
failing to wage a crackdown on extremists.
"We’re looking at a number of countries both in the
Middle East as well as in Southeast Asia," he said. "I
think we have concerns in a number of regions, (including)
Southeast Asia because as al-Qaeda loses its sanctuary in
Afghanistan, ... members ... will look elsewhere to establish
Mueller said the US does not know the extent of the support for
al- Qaeda in Southeast Asia and what should be known about Bin
Laden’s regional terrorist network.
"We do not know or we would like to know about the means of
communication," he said. "We don’t know all we would
like to know about the financial transfers, the money sources
–all of which, together with our counterparts, we need to
Mueller said over the past six months, the FBI has sent
"several hundred" agents overseas, including to
Singapore and Malaysia, in a sign of increased cooperation.
"What we try to do and what is important for us to do is
understand and be sensitive to the context in which our
counterparts have to cooperate, build a foundation of trust and
mutual support," he said.
Mueller said while the Jemaah Islamiah, a secret Islamic
organization suspected of possible links with Bin Laden’s
network, has been identified, "that is not to say there are
no other" similar organizations.
"There have been linkages between that group and others and
I think our efforts will be directed towards identifying ...
similar groups that are operating in Singapore, Malaysia,
southern Philippines and Indonesia," he said.
Law enforcement agencies in Southeast Asia "have chased
countless leads for us" and have made available to the FBI
results of interviews related to the fight against terrorism, he
Meanwhile, Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan said
yesterday the military supports the immediate passage of the
anti-terrorism bills pending in the Senate and the House of
"Any law that will make it easier for the country to
neutralize enemies of the state with less fighting is most
welcome," he said.
"It will boost our fight against insurgency and terrorism.
The congressmen looked at certain provisions to be unduly
infringing on civil rights, particularly bank secrecy ... there
are provisions that prevent possible abuse of the (proposed)
Adan said an anti-terrorism law will help authorities track down
and seize money in banks and other assets of terrorists
operating in the country.
Once their funds are frozen, the terrorists would become
immobile and inutile, he added.
SANDIGAN DEFERS ESTRADA TRIAL
The Sandiganbayan delayed yesterday the trial of ousted
President Joseph Estrada for almost a month to give his newly
appointed lawyers time to study his cases.
The presiding justice of the special anti-graft court, Minita
Chico-Nazario, ordered the arraignment to be moved back to April
12 at the request of the court-appointed lawyers who have been
on the case for only two weeks.
Estrada was to have been arraigned yesterday on perjury charges
on top of other serious graft accusations.
A huge police convoy escorted the former president from the
Veterans Memorial Medical Center, where he has been detained for
about 10 months, to the anti-graft court some three kilometers
away. Scores of riot police ringed the court building, but the
pro-Estrada protesters and pro-government forces were much fewer
The 64-year-old, 200-pound Estrada, grimaced and rubbed his left
knee as he posed for the media inside the court building. He was
accompanied by his wife Sen. Luisa "Loi" Ejercito and
one of his sons, San Juan Mayor JV Ejercito.
Estrada was making his first court appearance after firing his
team of lawyers last month and taunting the court by calling his
corruption trial a "circus" and accusing the judges of
Speaking for the first time on his behalf, Estrada reiterated in
open court his belief that the special division was especially
created to convict him and accused two of its justices of being
biased against him.
Estrada said while he has confidence in the fairness of
presiding justice Nazario, "I could not say the same of the
two other justices," referring to associate justices
Teresita de Castro and Edilberto Sandoval.
De Castro is the subject of a motion for inhibition filed by
Estrada’s former defense lawyers at the Supreme Court, while
Sandoval openly favored the transfer of Estrada to the Quezon
"My presence here is just a torture as I don’t accept the
services of the de officio lawyers," Estrada told the court
as he reiterated his demand that his waiver of appearance be
restored to him.
Nazario admonished Estrada, saying the court might be inclined
to grant his request provided he stop assaulting the integrity
of the court.
Nazario’s reply drew a sharp remark from lawyers Mario Ongkiko
and former Sandiganbayan presiding justice Manuel Pamaran, who
was recommended to the court to represent Estrada by the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines.
Ongkiko said it is the right of the accused to waive his
appearance, noting that Estrada had already been arraigned
before the special division, a position duly seconded by Pamaran.
Meanwhile, militant groups urged yesterday Ombudsman Aniano
Desierto to vigorously oppose what they said are tactics
employed by Estrada to delay his trial on charges of plunder.
Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo, PlunderWatch convenor, said
yesterday’s hearings showed just how Estrada remains capable
of delaying the trial because his "unfounded and barefaced
attacks" on the fairness of the court proceedings and the
integrity itself of the special division remain unchecked.
"We were treated to the spectacle of a court placed on the
defensive and bending over backwards to accommodate the
contemptuous statements of the accused Estrada," she said.
Araullo added that while Estrada remained remorseless and
relentless in his attacks against the court even during the
proceedings, the magistrates only asked Estrada to pledge that
he would not do it again.
"The Ombudsman could have asserted that Estrada and his
erstwhile defense lawyers could be cited for contempt but
nothing was done over this clear violation of their lawyers’
oath," she said.
PROMOTED GENERAL DROPS PLAN TO SUE WHISTLE-BLOWING PRIEST
Manifesting magnanimity in victory, newly promoted Maj. Gen.
Romeo Dominguez, commander of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division
based in Catbalogan, Samar, announced yesterday he has dropped
his plan to sue Fr. Cirilo Nacorda who has accused him of taking
bribes from Abu Sayyaf kidnappers in Basilan.
Dominguez wished, however, that Nacorda, parish priest of
Lamitan in Basilan, would be transferred elsewhere.
Testifying in a joint congressional inquiry on the hostage
crisis in Basilan, Nacorda charged that on June 2 last year,
government forces led by Dominguez had the chance to capture the
Abu Sayyaf bandits led by Abu Sabaya and Khadaffy Janjalani who
were holed out in a hospital in Lamitan.
The troops had reportedly cordoned the hospital compound,
sealing off any escape route for the terrorists who had just
arrived with their 20 hostages from the upscale resort of Dos
Palmas in Palawan on May 27.
However, the terrorists were able to escape under cover of
darkness, raising suspicions that they bribed their way to the
safety of their jungle lairs.
Dominguez said he would rather forget the controversy since he
has been virtually cleared of any misdemeanor through his
promotion. "I see this (promotion) as a vindication and
recognition of my more than 35 years of commissioned military
He viewed Nacorda’s charges as "water under the
SHOOTING THE PAGSANJAN RAPIDS:A WILD RIDE AFTER ALL By
Lawrence D. Casiraya
PAGSANJAN, Laguna -- My butt muscles were numb and taut as I
struggled not to squirm in my seat. My mind was conscious of
where to place both hands while at the same time basking at the
scenery before me, quietly playing a movie inside my head.
Shooting the rapids en route to Pagsanjan Falls promises to be a
wild ride, at least according to the guidebook handed to me no
less by the town mayor himself.
Being asked to stay perfectly still to maintain the boat's
balance evoked quite a sense of irony. Without being able to
take part in the paddling, I didn't feel like I was contributing
any to the dynamics of the ride and was acting merely as a
And speaking of spectators, it was quite a huge audience that
turned up for the spectacle that was the Bankero Festival, the
town's annual homage to its hardy bankeros or boatmen who, by
traversing the rapids of Pagsanjan River, allow tourists a peek
at the popular waterfalls.
Packing a fresh set of clothes and scoring myself plastic bags
along the way to protect my precious camera from getting wet, I
came prepared to shoot -- in two senses of the word -- the
rapids of Pagsanjan.
A banca can accommodate two passengers excluding the two
bankeros positioned at both ends. For good measure, after
realizing that both my guides may just be too busy maneuvering
the boat to attend to my queries, I invited another bankero to
come aboard -- a good-natured fellow named Conrad. Fortunately,
the guy was more than willing to answer my oftentimes inane
questions and tell me stories in between puffs of menthol
Before getting to the falls, the banca has to go through 14
rapids or what they call in the vernacular as lagaslas. These
are points along the route characterized by the presence of
large rocks (an understatement really because some are really
huge, huge boulders) which disrupt the steady, smooth stream of
Maneuvering the boat through the rapids calls for special skill
on the part of the bankeros. But imagine carrying the boat (with
passengers aboard) through sheer human strength
The rapids have varying levels of difficulty depending upon the
size and extent of rock formations in the water. During times
when the water level gets high especially when it's raining,
Conrad says boatmen are carefully advised not to pass through
the 13th rapid, at the most.
Incidentally, this 13th rapid is quite aptly the most difficult
of all to maneuver -- both upstream and downstream -- according
to my guides. Passing through it, I had to get off so they can
carry the boat across scattered rocks. To make things easier,
steel and wooden poles have been installed in between the rocks
The rapids actually serve as reference points to some
interesting sights along the route, both from the bankeros'
standpoint and as indicated in the map included in the
Prior to the first one, Conrad pointed out to me the sight where
Francis Ford Coppola shot scenes for his classic Vietnam War
film, Apocalypse Now, during the 70s. While I've yet to see the
movie, I can imagine a war scene more like a small-scale version
of the spectacular opening scene in Spielberg's Saving Private
where soldiers duke it out along the shoreline.
Along the way are pretty interesting things pointed out to me.
There is the Palakang Bato or a huge stone along the shore that
resembles a frog. A closer look at it convinced me that yes, it
does seem to look like a frog with its head perched upwards.
Another one called Punsong Bato is actually a very huge rock
that based on local belief, houses a nuno or an earth-dwelling
elf. According to traditional belief, one has to pay respects
when passing a punso so as not to disturb and incur bad luck
from its dweller.
There are other rock formations that Conrad mentioned including
one that's supposed to look like a helicopter and another a
mermaid, though with just a brief glance I couldn't quite seem
to see the resemblance. But of course, being no bankero, I don't
get to see the same rocks almost everyday. Either that or my
imagination is poorer than theirs.
As we approached the gorge entering Pagsanjan, Conrad also
pointed out a particular portion of the river, which to me
seemed no different (read: no "interesting" rock
formation) but carries quite a story. It is the spot where a
huge church bell is believed to be still buried up to now.
The legend dates back to the Spanish colonial era. The church
bell was a gift given by Mexico to the Philippines in the late
1700s and was shipped by galleon to Manila and eventually
carried to Pagsanjan, then the capital of Laguna for 170 years.
Pagsanjan derived its name from the Tagalog word Pinagsangahan,
meaning branching or juncture as it is located where the rivers
Balanac and Bumbungan merge to empty into the Laguna Bay.
Pagsanjan then was a flourishing town, a commercial and cultural
center of the province. Laguna was then populated by a lot of
Spanish ilustrados, owing to its nearness to Manila.
The bell is said to be too massive that other nearby towns can
hear its booming echoes as well, frightening a lot of pregnant
women and babies. So the bell was dismantled and thrown into the
spot in what townsfolk now call kawa-kawa (huge cauldron or
After the Japanese war, many have attempted to retrieve the bell
to no avail, according to Conrad. The bell is believed to be
made of gold, and some of the locals I talked to afterwards
attest to it that there is indeed a local lore that says so. But
the spot is apparently so deep that the bell cannot be found.
Either that or, Conrad says, the bell just would not budge from
the spot where it is buried. Knowing that it was forsaken and
taken for granted before by Pagsanjenos, the bell must now be
having the last laugh
Not all of it was a bumpy ride though. There were certain
portions of the river where the current was perfectly smooth and
steady. The stillness creates a relaxing atmosphere while
approaching a gorge where the rays of the sun slowly seep in.
At first I thought the black creatures I saw hovering above us
were bats. But I was told they were actually birds called layang.
There were also butterflies and dragonflies dotting the
landscape, some of them innocuously landing on our heads and
shoulders. Black with a tinge of aqua blue, the butterflies were
a pretty sight though I wasn't fast enough with my camera to
take a picture of them in flight. Besides, my guides kept
reminding me not to go wayward with my hands lest my fingers get
crushed to a pulp by the rough edges of the rocks
During late afternoons, Conrad said monkeys come down from the
cliff walls to drink from the river. The chance of seeing them
quite remote because the boat rides are usually in the morning
when tourists can appreciate more the scenery while passing
through the gorges as the sun shines through the trees.
The monkeys must be wise and elusive enough to time their
descent from the forest when they can't be seen, although we
could hear them chattering during the trip. Mang Efren, the
elder of the three bankeros with me, said the local government
forbids the capture of monkeys so as not to disrupt the forests'
Maneuvering our way into the narrow gorges with picturesque
cliff walls and primeval forests provide quite a cinematic
atmosphere. It reminded me of Jurassic Park although
I wasn't exactly expecting a Tyrannosaurus Rex's head to pop out
from somewhere. that final scene in The Lord of the Rings when
Frodo bade goodbye to his friends to continue his journey
And so we continue our way upstream through the rapids
commencing into the falls, all 300-feet of booming water
cascading from a cliff. Visitors can choose to get a closer view
of the falls by riding a raft for a fee. Bankeros guide the raft
by rope to and from a small cave at the bottom of the falls.
With the influx of tourists comes the assault of commercialism
even in the middle of the river. Along the route are stores that
offer souvenir items as well as stalls that sell food and
beverages, even beer. Passing through one of them, the smell of
chicken barbecue was so tempting and reminded me of lunchtime. I
would have treated myself to a chicken thigh, but thankfully, I
didn't bring any money with me so I wasn't able to give in to my
urge for an anyway exorbitant price of PhP50 a piece. What was
even more disturbing was seeing a few beer cans on the river on
our way back -- certainly not a good indication of ecotourism
The ride back was much faster and more dangerous because we were
going with the direction of the river flow. While upstream, it
was much more tedious and required the bankeros' physical
strength and special skills, downstream called for dexterity in
handling the boat's descent -- which was probably the closest
thing to the wild ride I was expecting all along.
PROVINCES OF THE PHILIPPINES
Abra * Agusan del Norte * Agusan del Sur * Aklan * Albay *
Antique * Aurora
Basilan * Bataan * Batanes * Batangas * Benguet * Biliran Sub
Province * Bohol
Bukidnon * Bulacan * Cagayan * Camarines Norte * Camarines Sur *
Capiz * Catanduanes * Cavite * Cebu * Davao del Norte * Davao
Davao Oriental * Eastern Samar * Guimaras Sub Province *
Ifugao * Ilocos Norte
Ilocos Sur * Iloilo * Isabela * Kalinga-Apayao * Laguna * Lanao
Lanao del Sur * La Union * Leyte * Maguindanao * Masbate *
Mindoro Occidental Mindoro Oriental * Misamis Occidental *
Misamis Oriental * Mountain Province
Negros Occidental * Negros Oriental * North Cotabato * Northern
Nueva Ecija * Nueva Viscaya * Palawan * Pampanga *
Quezon Province * Quirino Province * Rizal * Romblon *
Sarangani * Siquijor
Sorsogon * South Cotabato * Southern Leyte * Sultan Kudarat *
Surigao del Norte * Surigao del Sur * Tarlac * Tawi Tawi *
Western Samar * Zambales * Zamboanga del Norte * Zamboanga del Sur
* Zamboanga Sibugay
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