Items filtered by date: Monday, 25 September 2017

Presence of foreign fighters in Marawi confirmed by former hostage

FOREIGN FIGHTERS: Former hostage Lordvin Acopio said he saw at least 11 foreign fighters in the battle zone. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler 

MARAWI CITY, Philippines – A former hostage of the Maute Group in Marawi confirmed the presence of foreign fighters in the Marawi war zone. 

Lordvin Acopio, a teacher at Dansalan College, said he saw at least 11 foreign fighters while he was a hostage inside the battle area. He said the foreign fighters trained him to attend to wounded fighters, but sometimes he also served as interpreter to the foreigners. 


Acopio said he met 7 Indonesians, 3 Malaysians, and one Arab. The Indonesians and Malaysian looked like Filipinos and he didn't know they were foreigners until he personally met them. 

He said the Indonesians were mostly bombers while the Malaysians and the Arab were fighters in the frontline. 

Local terror groups Maute and Abu Sayyaf attacked Marawi on May 23 in a bid to gain territory to establish a caliphate. 

The leaders of both groups have pledged allegiance to international terrorist network Islamic State. 

The military previously said at least 8 foreign fighters were killed in the early days of the war. It said Malaysian Mahoud Ahmad was also among the leaders and financiers of the attack. –


Patricia Bautista seeks disbarment of UST law dean Nilo Divina

EMBATTLED. UST Law Dean Nilo Divina faces a disbarment complaint, the latest of his legal battles related to Patricia Bautista's exposé of the alleged unexplained wealth of Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, a close friend. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler 

MANILA, Philippines – Patricia Bautista, estranged wife of Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Andres Bautista, filed on Tuesday, September 26, a disbarment complaint against lawyer Nilo Divina before the Supreme Court (SC).

Divina is the managing partner of the Divina Law Firm, which Patricia accused of paying commissions to her husband. These commissions make up the P1-billion worth of Bautista's alleged unexplained wealth that Patricia has exposed.


Divina is also the dean of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Faculty of Civil Law, embroiled in the recent controversy of the death of freshman student Horacio Castillo III. The law student allegedly died during the hazing rites of Aegis Juris Fraternity, of which Divina is also an alumnus.



Included in Patricia's disbarment complaint are 20 other lawyers from the Divina Law Firm:

  1. Alfonso Verzosa
  2. Estrella Elamparo
  3. Alden Francis Gonzales
  4. John Michael Galauran
  5. Jessie Matibag
  6. Isaiah Asuncion III
  7. Camille Khristine Aromas
  8. Ismael Sarangaya Jr
  9. Jay-r Ipac
  10. Janna Mae Tecson
  11. Lourdes Anifel Caspe
  12. Paula Danica Landayan
  13. Ian Jerny De Leon
  14. Rchel Marie Felices
  15. Ciselie Marie Gamo-Sisayan
  16. Jemimah Grace Garcia
  17. Anna Katrina Singcol
  18. Rhegine Peralta
  19. Benito Cataran
  20. Dara Acusar

Bautista also asked the SC to consider dissolving the entire law firm. 

Divina said he is "not worried at all about any threat of disbarment." Divina added that Patricia is "probably sour that their impeachment complaint against Chairman Bautista was dismissed."

"I have always acted in accordance with law and the ethical demands of the law profession. I am not worried at all about any threat of disbarment. I have not read the complaint. We will respond accordingly," Divina said in a text message to reporters.

Referral fees

Patricia went to the SC on Tuesday with her legal spokesperson Lorna Kapunan. 

Kapunan said the disbarment complaint is based on Bautista's own admissions that he received referral fees from the Divina Law Firm. (READ: LIST: Bank accounts, properties the Comelec chief must explain)

"They involve clients whose names we’ll later mention, but already we would like to mention that one of their clients is Smartmatic," Kapunan said.

She added: "Sabi niya he received them earlier (he said he received them earlier), not when he was Comelec commissioner but we have documents to show that he received them close to the elections, and we also have cancelled checks paid by Divina Law not only to Bautista but to his sister Susan, to the mother and father."

The House justice committee junked the impeachment complaint against Bautista for being insufficient in form.

"We are doing what we said we would which is to use other venues in which these documents could come to light," Patricia said.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Office of the Ombudsman, and even the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) are conducting separate investigations into Patricia's allegations.

Divina is among Bautista's best friends and a godfather to their eldest son Xavier.

“It would, thus, appear that Andy secured the services of Divina Law, Nilo’s law firm, in order to profit from his position in the Comelec,” Patricia earlier said in her affidavit. 

Bautista had already denied that the Divina Law Firm has clients related to Comelec.

The exposé is being linked to possible fraud in the 2016 elections because Patricia also claimed there were red flags in almost daily deposits not higher than P500,000 into Bautista's bank accounts in 2016. The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) is already investigating the bank deposits–



Taiwan has never been the source of illegal drugs entering PH: TECO

Taiwan has never been the source of illegal drugs entering the Philippines, according to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in the Philippines.

Photo: (Flickr / MANILA BULLETIN)
In fact, Dr. Gary Song-Huann Lin, Taiwan’s representative to the Philippines, said Taiwan fully supports the Philippine government’s combat against transnational drug syndicates.

Dr. Lin stressed that both countries have been working together for years to fight illegal drugs and Taiwan will continue to join hands with the relevant Philippine authorities to enhance cooperation in order to eliminate transnational drug trafficking.

He noted that Taiwan and the Philippines have established cooperation mechanisms and systems for the two countries to fight drug trafficking.

In addition, the interaction and exchange of visits of relevant agencies and the law enforcement officers between Taiwan and the Philippines are frequent and cordial, Lin pointed out.

So far, tangible results have been achieved to fight transnational drug crimes, he said.

As a result of the joint efforts, Lin said Philippine authorities have been able to root out 12 important cases resulting in the confiscation of over 1,000 kilos of shabu, more than 8,000 kilos of semi-finished products and raw materials, three shabu laboratories, a distribution station and six shipments of illicit drugs via air cargo and sea container. The value of the said seizures has been estimated to be NT$2 billion (roughly P3.2 billion).


Sandiganbayan convicts former PADC official

The Sandiganbayan First Division has convicted former Philippine Aerospace Development Corporation (PADC) Department Manager Antonio Suba for graft and has sentenced him to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment.

Suba was charged with violation of Section 3(e) of R.. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act due to his unliquidated cash advances amounting to P247,000, which he used for an unauthorized trip to Beijing.

On September 15, 2006, former PADC President Roberto Navida filed a request with Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) Secretary Leandro Mendoza to attend the 4th Biennial International Aircraft Conversion and Maintenance Conference in Beijing from October 10 to 14, 2006. Suba expressed his intent to join the trip as well.

The DOTC denied the request, citing Administrative Order No. 103 which had suspended all foreign travels except for ministerial meetings and scholarship trainings that are grant-funded at no cost to the government.

Still, Suba requested for a cash advance on October 6 to cover the travel expenses for the conference. Navida approved the cash advance, and the disbursement voucher was prepared that very day.

Suba argued before the court that he only relied on Navida’s assurance that they were allowed to travel, and he only discovered that their travel request was denied after their travel was completed.

He also claimed that he was not aware of the lack of travel authority because he was not the one who prepared the voucher for his travel. Unfortunately, his arguments held no sway with the court.

“All of the justifications mentioned above could not… cure the defect (that) accused Suba together with Navida did travel to Beijing, China, without the required travel authority from the DOTC Secretary,” read the resolution signed by Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg and concurred by Associate Justices Efren De La Cruz and Edgardo Caldona.

He was sentenced to a minimum of six years and one month imprisonment to a maximum of 10 years, and he is perpetually disqualified from holding public office.


House panel set to conduct hearing to determine whether or not to impeach CJ Sereno

The House committee on justice is set to conduct a hearing next week for the determination of grounds and probable cause whether or not to impeach Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Photo: Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno (CAMILLE ANTE / MANILA BULLETIN)
Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, chairman of the panel, said they are eyeing to hold the hearing either on Monday or Wednesday next week.

“If Atty. (Larry Gadon) fails to file his reply to the verified answer of Chief Justice Sereno, we will conduct the hearing Monday or Tuesday,” he told reporters. “But, if he will file his reply, then the hearing will be set on Wednesday,” he said.

The House panel granted Gadon three days to file his reply to Sereno’s 85-page verified answer to his impeachment complaint.

Under the House rules, Gadon is allowed to file his reply within three days and same period would be accorded to the respondent to file rejoinder.

Sereno’s lawyers sought the dismissal of the impeachment complaint filed against the Chief Justice “for lack of sufficient grounds and for lack of probable cause” even as they warned that impeaching her based on false and flimsy grounds, lawmakers would only usher instability and inflict injustice to the nation.

Sereno, through his counsel, lawyer Justine Mendoza filed on Monday her 85-page verified answer to the impeachment complaint filed by Gadon before the House committee on justice.

Sereno’s lead counsel, lawyer Alexander Poblador, said Gadon’s allegations in the complaint were “baseless” and “totally false” and were based on “hearsay and newspaper clippings.”

Sereno’s camp maintained that the Chief Justice did not commit culpable violation of the Constitution, did not betray public trust, and did not commit corruption. It warned the House members against impeaching Sereno upon false and flimsy grounds, saying that it “will not only inflict injustice on her, but will also undermine the independence of the judiciary and the fundamental principle of separation of powers to the detriment of the Republic.”


Senior Aegis frat member coddling hazing suspects — MPD

A senior Aegis Juris member may be coddling the younger fraternity members involved in the killing of freshman law student Horacio “Atio” Castillo III, said Manila Police District’s (MPD) Chief Superintendent Joel Coronel.

During the first Senate hearing on the death of 22-year-old University of Santo Tomas (UST) law student Monday night, the MPD said it is looking into reports that officers and members of the Aegis Juris fraternity were being aided by some frat elders to hide and avoid being investigated on the fatal initiation rites last week.

Manila Police District (MPD) Chief Superintendent Joel Coronel (standing, right) (MANILA BULLETIN)
Manila Police District (MPD) Chief Superintendent Joel Coronel (standing, right) (MANILA BULLETIN)

“We have received reports that officers and members involved in the hazing were being coddled by a senior member,” he told the Senate public order and dangerous drugs committee conducting the hearing.

Coronel declined to name the senior Aegis frat member pending further investigation. But when asked by Senator Grace Poe, vice chair of the public order panel, if the said “senior member” was in the room, Coronel hesitated and answered there was “no direct evidence,” leading senators to believe that the supposed coddler attended the hearing.

UST Faculty of Civil Law dean Atty. Nilo Divina, a member of Aegis Juris, attended the Senate hearing. Besides him, other Aegis Juris members present in the inquiry were UST faculty Secretary Atty. Arthur Capili, faculty member Atty. Irvin Fabella, and Atty. Paterno Esmaquel, legal counsel of primary suspect John Paul Solano who had recently surrendered. The four denied any knowledge of the hazing and said they were no longer active in the fraternity.

In the hearing, Divina vowed to “do everything in (his) power” to give justice to the death of Castillo, reiterating that hazing is prohibited in UST. He also assured that those involved will be meted penalties.

Castillo, Divina said, was the first UST Civil Law student who died from hazing. He was found by his relatives bruised and already lifeless at the Archangel Funeral Homes in Sampaloc, Manila last Sunday, one day after he left his home for a supposed “welcome party” by the Aegis Juris fraternity.

They are now are hunting down at least 22 suspects allegedly involved in the killing, Coronel said.

Solano, appearing in the hearing, repeated that he was not involved in the hazing rites that led to Castillo’s death.

He told senators that “someone” from the group called him at around 6:30 a.m. Saturday and asked him to go to their fraternity library, or “fratlib” as they called it, along Laon-Laan Street in Sampaloc.

He said the caller at first refused to tell why he was needed, causing him to ignore the call. But then he got another call some 30 to 40 minutes later, wherein he was finally told that someone had “collapsed.”

Solano said the fraternity needed his help since he was a registered medical technologist and has a background on first aid.

When he arrived at the fratlib, Solano said he saw Castillo already lying on the floor and “looked unconscious.” He said he checked the slain student’s pupils and pulse, then performed cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Solano said it was him who initiated that Castillo be brought to the hospital. He, however, said the fraternity members told him “to follow them” to the Chinese General Hospital, where Castillo was declared dead on arrival.

Solano also confessed that he lied in his earlier statement to the police about stumbling upon an unconscious Castillo because the fraternity members had told him so.

Asked by senators who called him and to name the persons he followed, Solano refused to answer. He also invoked his right to self-incrimination and said the names will be contained in his affidavit.

Solano also said he “can’t categorically tell” if he was the “Popoy” named in the viral Facebook chat group.

“I was supposed to tell all. But since I was filed with multiple charges, I thought to invoke my right to remain silent,” Solano said.

The Senate decided to talk to Solano in an executive session with his lawyer Esmaquel following the hearing the same night. Senator Panfilo Lacson, public order committee chair, said they will weigh whether or not to share the information with the police and prosecutors.

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