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–



Marawi battle area shrinks as troops enclose 3rd bridge

MARAWI BRIDGES. The Agus River separates the safe zone and the battle zone. Screen shot of a drone video by the Provincial Crisis Management Committee

MARAWI CITY, Philippines – The Philippine military is poised to control all critical bridges in the battle area in Marawi City, as it begins to occupy buildings located past the eastern mouth of Masiu Bridge in the lakeside village Raya Madaya.

The marines have hoisted the Philippine flag on one of the buildings around the corner of Agus River and Lake Lanao, based on images that circulated on Friday, September 22.

This means troops now occupy both ends of Masiu Bridge. It was a combination of ground assault and air strikes, according to a source on the ground.

Fighting continues in the area, and the bridge remains unpassable due to enemy snipers who still have a clear view of the bridge. The local terror groups have rocket-propelled grenades that can pierce through the military's armor vehicles. It's a sign that enemy space has significantly shrunk since clashes erupted on May 23. Ground troops have contained them on land while the navy and the maritime police swarm the lake to make sure enemies don't use it as exit point.

The war marked its 4th month on Saturday, September 23. At least 887 have died including 151 soldiers, 689 enemies, and 47 civilians.

The Masiu Bridge is the last of 3 critical bridges that the fighters of the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf Group immediately occupied in the beginning of the war to allow them to control the city's commercial district, Banggolo. 

Locals often refer to the bridge "Raya Madaya Bridge" because it goes right into the lakeside village from the highway.

For months the 3 bridges on Agus River – Baloi Bridge, Bayabao Bridge, and Masiu Bridge – separated the battle area from the military-controlled "safe-zone."

Troops regained control of Baloi Bridge on July 20 and Bayabao Bridge on September 1.

Deeper in the battle area, troops are also gaining ground. Task Group deputy commander Colonel Romeo Brawner said they continue to advance in the area of Bato Mosque, where hostages were previously kept.

High-profile hostage Father Chito Soganub, a Catholic priest, was able to escape last week when troops pushed to control the mosque.

Brawner said the fighting is now in tighter areas, making it more difficult to advance. It gets harder to soften the ground with air strikes because troops are too close to the enemies.

The military said it is still dealing with about 50 fighters who are holding up to 60 hostages.

Brawner said the enemies are taking advantage of the ratholes and trenches they dug inside the battle, allowing them to escape military bombardment. –


Suspect in Horacio Castillo killing flew to Chicago – TECO

HAZING CASE. A suspect in the killing of UST law freshman Horacio Castillo III has reportedly left the country. 

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Taiwanese authorities said on Friday, September 22, that one of the 3 suspects in the killing University of Santo Tomas (UST) law student Horacio Castillo III "did not enter Taiwan," contrary to earlier reports. 

Ralph Cabales Trangia, a suspect in Castillo's death and an officer of UST's Aegis Juris fraternity, was a transit passenger, and "went to Chicago, USA via Taoyuan International Airport by BR56 on September 19, 2017," according to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in the Philippines.


In a statement Friday evening,TECO said Trangia "was only one of the millions of transit passengers who had passed through Taiwan's busy airport and departed for North America."

"At this point in time, TECO does not know Mr Trangia's current whereabouts," Taiwan said.

Philippine immigration records earlier showed that Trangia left Manila for Taipei on Tuesday, September 19, on Eva Air Flight BR262. 

Trangia left the Philippines a day before he and his father, Antonio Trangia, were named by the Manila Police District as suspects in the death Castillo, who allegedly died due to hazing by the Aegis Juris Fraternity.

On Friday, John Paul Solano, the primary suspect in Castillo's death, surrendered to Senator Panfilo Lacson.

Solano was the one who brought Castillo to the Chinese General Hospital after fraternity brothers involved in the hazing contacted him. Ralph Cabales Trangia drove the two to the hospital on a red Strada pickup. The vehicle was registered in the name of Antonio Trangia. –


CHED ‘strongly condemns’ death of Horacio Castillo III

AGAINST HAZING DEATHS. CHED chairperson faces the Senate finance committee on September 21. Screenshot from Senate Youtube account 

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) condemned the killing of University Santo Tomas (UST) freshman law student Horacio Castillo III due to alleged hazing by the Aegis Juris fraternity

CHED chairperson Patricia Licuanan made the statement when Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri asked for CHED's stand is on the controversial death during the agency's budget hearing at the Senate on Thursday, September 21. (READ: Senate to probe UST law student's death due to hazing)


Zubiri, a classmate of Castillo's father, Horacio Jr, delivered a privilege speech condemning the “brutal act” on Wednesday, September 20. (READ: Senate to probe UST law student's death due to hazing)

“First of all, let me just say that we condemn this act very strongly,” said Licuanan.

She then cited CHED Memorandum Order No 4, Series of 1995, which outlines preventive measures against violence and sanctions on fraternities and other student organizations.

Licuanan said CHED reiterates the memo’s provisions whenever a student dies due to hazing over the years. 

The memo imposes automatic expulsion on any fraternity member for:

  • starting or taking the offensive action that clearly provokes violence
  • carrying knives, sticks, pipes, guns, and other deadly weapons in schools
  • extortion 

Fraternity officers found guilty of provoking violence will be suspended for 60 days. The CHED order also imposes a one-year suspension on a fraternity found to be guilty, and a permanent ban after the next offense. 

“We have asked our regional office, the NCR (National Capital Region) regional office, to look into this very tragic event,” said Licuanan.

She added UST is yet to officially file a report to CHED, “but we should be expecting that soon.”

A good Samaritan supposedly found Castillo covered by a blanket on a pavement in Tondo, Manila, on September 17, and brought him to the hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

The good Samaritan – John Paul Solano – has been tagged as one of 3 suspects in the case. The Bureau of Immigration said one of the suspects had left the country. (READ: Facebook Messenger chat may give clues to Castillo's death–


Trillanes to Pinoys: Duterte has been fooling you and I hope you’re already aware now

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV/REUTERS FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV is hoping that Filipinos have now become enlightened that the presidential candidate they picked in last year’s polls has been fooling them since the 2016 campaign period. 

Talagang pahiyang pahiya, bistadong bistado, huling huli sa pagsisinungaling at paggawa ng kwento. Ngayon, sana maliwanangan na ang mga kababayan natin. No’ng panahon palang ng kampanya niloloko na kayo. Hanggang ngayon niloloko eh. Nasasa inyo ‘yan kung patuloy na nagpapaloko pa rin kayo,” Trillanes said on Wednesday, Sept. 20. 

[He was really shamed, he was caught lying and inventing a story. Now, I hope that our fellow Filipinos will already be enlightened. You were already being fooled even during the campaign period. Even up to now. It’s up to you if you want to be fooled continuously.] 

The senator issued the statement a day after proving that he had no secret bank accounts in Singapore. Also on Tuesday, during a television interview, Duterte admitted that he “invented” at least one bank account number that he had attributed to Trillanes.

Isolated case, unorthodox style

Meanwhile, Malacañang defended Duterte on Wednesday. 

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the President’s admission that he had invented one of the bank account numbers was an “isolated case.” 

“(H)e intentionally did that. But of course, first and foremost, he comes out in the open. He does not hide it, rightly so, in other words, he’s quite transparent about his actions,” said Abella. 

Abella reminded the public that every politician has his own style of handling issues and that Duterte’s method was unconventional. 

May kanya-kanya pong style. As we very well know, the President is quite unorthodox, and rather out of the box when he deals…Unorthodox as it may seem, on the whole, apparently, the impact of his actions tend to be economically viable,” he said.


Protest rallies call for end to tyranny

Militant activists gather at the foot of Mendiola bridge in Manila Tuesday night, September 19, 2017 as KADAMAY kicked of its camp out protest against the entirety of what they call Duterte’s War on the Poor. INQUIRER PHOTO / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE
“Remember the 21st of September,” the militant coalition Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) says as Filipinos march across the country on Thursday to mark the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and make known that they oppose the increasingly authoritarian rule of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Mr. Duterte has declared Thursday National Day of Protest to allow the people to express their frustration at the “excesses and shortcomings of the government.”
He has allowed protests to be held without permits, but ordered police to maintain order.The Armed Forces of the Philippines issued a statement late on Wednesday saying it was “duty-bound to protect” the “inherent right of the people to peaceful assembly.”
‘End Tyranny’
The “End Tyranny” rally at Rizal Park called by MAT is among several protests across the country on Thursday and the first massive movement opposing Mr. Duterte, who is unused to dissent after ruling Davao City as mayor with an iron fist for 22 years.
Mr. Duterte has placed Mindanao under martial law to break a terrorist siege of Marawi City and he has repeatedly threatened to put the entire country under military rule if opposition to his signature program, stamping out narcotics, turns violent.
Police have reported killing more than 3,800 people since Mr. Duterte launched his war on drugs after taking office in June last year, and unknown assailants have killed thousands more, sparking global concern over violation of human rights in the Philippines and warnings to Philippine officials about a possible crime against humanity.
At first, Filipinos supported Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs, but in recent weeks, teenagers have been the victims of police killings, causing widespread public anger.
Families of the campaign’s victims will be among the marchers on Thursday and police are watching two spots in Manila where the protesters and Mr. Duterte’s supporters are gathering.
In a press briefing on Tuesday, Director Oscar Albayalde, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), said up to 10,000 protesters from various groups were expected to turn up at Rizal Park in Manila for the “End Tyranny” rally.


P1.3-M drugs seized in Mandaluyong condo

PDEA chief Aaron Aquino (left) presents alleged online drug dealer Jovet Atillano in a press conference yesterday. BOY SANTOS
MANILA, Philippines — Anti-narcotics operatives seized P1.3 million worth of illegal drugs from a suspected dealer during a raid on a condominium in Mandaluyong City yesterday.

Jovet Atillano, 32, has reportedly been involved in the illegal drug trade since July 2014, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) director general Aaron Aquino said, citing their intelligence reports.

Atillano uses Facebook and Instagram as well as other websites to sell his products, Aquino said in a press conference yesterday.

Atillano is said to be a major distributor of illegal drugs in Metro Manila, Baguio City, Cebu and Boracay island.

“Most of his customers are young professionals and affluent persons,” said Aquino, adding they are not discounting the possibility that celebrities and public figures could be among Atillano’s clients.

Atillano admitted to selling illegal drugs in the past but claimed he stopped when President Duterte assumed his post last year. He denied owning the illegal drugs reported to have been found in his condominium unit.

PDEA agents, armed with a search warrant, raided Atillano’s unit at GA Towers in Barangay Malamig at around 5 a.m.

They seized 500 tablets of the party drug ecstasy, with a street value of P1 million; 50 grams of shabu, with a street value of P350,000; 83 tablets of nitrazepam, an anti-anxiety drug, with a street value of P5,810; and 12 tablets of diazepam, another anti-anxiety drug, priced at P200 each; and assorted drug paraphernalia.

To avoid detection, Atillano transfers to another condominium building every six months, Aquino said.

Alleged dealers like Atillano also use drivers of transport network companies like Grab to deliver drugs to their customers. This way, law enforcement authorities have difficulty in tracking their locations, according to Aquino.

1 dead, 11 arrested

In other parts of Metro Manila, a drug suspect was killed and 11 others were arrested.

Valerio Villaflor, 48, reported to be a high-value target, was shot dead by unidentified motorcycle-riding assailants along Manuel Quezon street in Barangay Cupang, Muntinlupa City at around 2 a.m. yesterday.

In Quezon City, three minors were caught using marijuana in Barangay Marilag, and four alleged dealers were caught in separate stings in Barangay Tatalon.

Two of the alleged dealers were identified as Janrei Gallardo, 27, and Danilo Cullera, 53.

In Pasig City, Jason Padayao, Marvin Batica, Bonifacio Luciano and Paulino Mallari were arrested in separate stings on Monday.


Father and son, Solano primary suspects in hazing death

Close friends, classmates, fellow law students, and other students of the University of Santo Tomas offer their prayers and sentiments through lighted candles at the Civil Law lobby of UST for Horacio Castillo III.

Solano was initially considered a witness after reportedly discovering Castillo’s body wrapped in a blanket in Balut, Tondo in Manila, but barangay officials disputed his claims.

“It was found out that Solano deliberately and intentionally gave false statements to the MPD in the course of this investigation,” Coronel said. “He claimed he only found the body of the victim in the early hours of Sept. 17 and brought him to the hospital when in fact, Solano knew the victim even before the death of Castillo.”

Solano, Coronel said, has been confirmed to be a law student of UST and a member of the Aegis Juris fraternity.

Coronel presented to the media a closed circuit television (CCTV) footage showing Solano with Castillo and other alleged fraternity brothers walking along Dapitan Street in UST around 11:45 a.m. on Saturday, a day before the victim was declared dead on arrival at Chinese General Hospital.

Castillo told his parents that he would attend an overnight fraternity welcome party and would be home by Sunday morning. He was however found by his family at a funeral home with hematoma and candle drips before dawn Monday.

Police also showed the media the photo of Solano when he gave his initial testimony to MPD and a photo of him wearing Aegis Juris fraternity shirt.

The red vehicle with plate number ZTV 539 which initial reports said brought Castillo to the hospital, meanwhile, has been found to be registered under one Antonio Trangia, father of Ralph, an Aegis Juris official.

Coronel however said that it was not clear who was driving the vehicle at the time of the incident.

“Solano, with the assistance and cooperation of the Trangias deliberately misled our investigation by providing us false and fraudulent statements, which we feel was a cover up for the actual killing and murder of Castillo, which is why they are now considered suspects,” Coronel said.

Coronel added that all the eight officials of the Aegis Juris fraternity enrolled this semester are also considered suspects.


Only P500,000 in bank account with daughter, says Duterte

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte
Dismissing claims that he amassed ill-gotten wealth, President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night said he had only around P500,000 in a bank account that he shared with one of his children.
The President said he had a bank account with his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara “Inday” Duterte, as his codepositor, but it contained money that was less than the P200 million that his critics claimed he was hiding.
“I have one with Inday. It’s about P500,000 something,” he told lawyers of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) during their convention in the Manila Hotel.

“I have one and my codepositor is my daughter so that, if something happens to me, my family can immediately use it. That is true,” he said.
“My salary, my codepositor is Inday because I … I trust her. I have little with my (sons) because they only know how to have a good time,” he added in jest.
AMLC challenge
Mr. Duterte said he had challenged the previous Aquino administration and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to look into accounts to find out if he had ill-gotten wealth.
“You look at the bank … during their time—the time of (former Interior Secretary) Mar (Roxas)—I said, ‘Look at it. You have control of everything and machinery,” he said.
“You AMLC who are listening right now, if I’m a money launderer, why don’t you file a case against me?” he added.
Mr. Duterte said he signed a bank waiver before but his critics “did not use it.”
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV has challenged the President to sign a new waiver to open all of his bank accounts.

“(He’s) saying I should sign again … Are you making a fool of me? Lucky you. Open everything, including the rural bank. If you see P200 million and confirm it that Duterte has it, I will step down tomorrow,” the President said.

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