Senator Guingona’s mom hurt in NPA attack

Gingoog City Mayor Ruth Guingona

Police and military troops are pursuing a group of communist New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas who wounded Gingoog City Mayor Ruth de Lara Guingona, wife of former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr., and killed two of her bodyguards in an attack in Misamis Oriental province late Saturday.

Mayor Guingona, 78, a member of President Aquino’s Liberal Party (LP), suffered bullet wounds in the arms and feet. She was also wounded by shrapnel from a grenade blast during the attack in the hinterland village of Alatagan in Barangay (village) Upper Kapitulangan.

Guingona, mother of Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, was returning with a six-member escort from a town fiesta in Alatagan when they were

“ambushed” by the rebels, Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo, spokesman for the Philippine National Police, told reporters in Manila.

Cerbo said the rebels fled after a 10-minute fire fight with police. But the mayor was safely retrieved only at dawn Sunday, hours after the attack, because the site was a remote area.

Killed were the mayor’s civilian bodyguards, brothers Nestor and Tomas Velasco.

PO3 Rolando Benimerito and Leo Cañete, another civilian bodyguard of the mayor, were wounded.

The attack came less than a month before local elections in May. NPA guerrillas often take advantage of election seasons to raise funds by demanding protection money from candidates who want to campaign in areas under their control.

Mayor Guingona is not running for any office in the elections, but her daughter Marie is running to take her place at city hall.

The NPA admitted the attack and apologized to Guingona and her family, saying it was not intentional, as the rebels’ plan was to hold the entourage, disarm the bodyguards and talk to the mayor.

“We feel sorry about the incident, but Guingona was warned last week not to bring an armed security escort with her while on the campaign trail,” Jorge Madlos, spokesman for the National Democratic Front in Mindanao, said.

“There was a makeshift roadblock, but somebody in their convoy ordered to run it down and fire at the NPA [guerrillas], who were forced to return fire,” Madlos told the Inquirer by phone on Sunday.

“It is our heartfelt request to ask for forgiveness to the family of Guingona. We did not expect this,” he said.

Madlos said the NPA would indemnify the families of those killed.

The NPA North Central Mindanao Regional Command also apologized for what spokesman Allan Juanito called “unfortunate incident.”

But Juanito said the incident was not an ambush.

“It started when Mayor Guingona’s armed escorts fired upon an NPA checkpoint in Kapitulangan,” he said in a statement e-mailed to the Inquirer. “The group was on its way home when it passed by the NPA checkpoint near the bridge in Kapitulangan.”

“The lead vehicle of Mayor Guingona’s convoy rammed the bamboo roadblock mounted by the Red fighters while her escorts opened fire at the NPA flagging down the convoy. The Red fighters immediately returned fire in self-defense,” he said.

Juanito said the NPA unit involved was carrying out orders from the regional command “to implement the revolutionary policies” prohibiting candidates from carrying firearms and bringing armed escorts when they campaign in “guerrilla zones” without “coordination with the concerned revolutionary territorial committees and commands.”

The NPA unit in the area has been manning checkpoints since April 15, he said.

“Aside from explaining our policy to her campaigners, responsible cadres in the area also personally contacted Mayor Guingona [by] phone, reminding her to avoid bringing armed escorts [to] campaign [rallies],” Juanito said.

The communist movement will take “full responsibility” for the incident, he added.

“For the civilian casualties, we will exhaust all efforts to contact their families to extend indemnification and needed medical assistance to the wounded,” he said.

Juanito said the NPA recognized former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr.’s “significant contribution” to the Filipinos’ struggle against dictatorship and his “steadfast nationalist standpoint” in various issues.

He said the NPA also respected Sen. TG Guingona’s “propeople” stand on many issues.

“Thus, we are deeply saddened by this unfortunate incident. We take full responsibility for this,” Juanito said.

The NPA, however, will continue putting up checkpoints in the area, he said.

No NPA permit

Madlos said the mayor’s group failed to ask the NPA for permission to campaign in the area controlled by the guerrillas.

Asked if that was the reason for the roadblock, he said, “It is not the issue of permit to campaign fee, but rather of adhering to policies of the revolutionary movement.”

Madlos said the incident should serve as a warning to politicians who want to campaign in NPA-controlled areas not to bring armed escorts.

“They are not allowed to bring firearms unless they ask for special permits from the local NPA that they will bring one for their own protection against bandits,” he said.

The military condemned the attack as another “proof of the NPA’s criminal nature.”

“They are no different from other partisan armed groups and criminals that consistently break the law and hamper far-flung communities’ growth and development,” Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr., spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said in a statement.

Burgos said Mayor Guingona was not campaigning but returning from a village fiesta in Upper Kapitulangan.

“This is contrary to claims of the NPA that she was campaigning in the area. Mayor Guingona is not a candidate in the coming … elections,” Burgos said.

He said the attack was a violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

The insurgents also violated Republic Act No. 9851, which penalizes violations of the International Humanitarian Law, genocide and other crimes against humanity, Burgos said.

Pursuit operations

Burgos said troops from the Army’s 58th Infantry Battalion commanded by Lt. Col. George Banson were spearheading the joint military-police operations to get the NPA guerrillas who carried out the attack on Mayor Guingona.

Burgos said the mayor was first taken to Sanitarium Hospital in Gingoog and was later flown by a military helicopter to Cagayan de Oro City, where she was taken to Capitol University Medical City (CUMC).

Dr. Jesus Jardin, CUMC medical director, said Mayor Guingona was in stable condition, “although her emotions are still high.”

Malacañang also condemned the attack on Mayor Guingona.

“We condemn this ambush,” President Aquino’s deputy spokesperson, Abigail Valte, said on state-run radio. “Whatever the reasons are, this kind of violent attack directed at any (government) official or candidate has no room in the forthcoming May elections.”

The Palace offered its condolences to the families of the slain escorts of Mayor Guingona.

‘Ambush’

Senator Guingona called the attack on his mother an “ambush.”

He issued a statement saying: “The New People’s Army has fired upon an elderly and innocent woman who is already bowing out of politics. They alleged that they fired upon my mother because [she] breached [their] policy against [bringing firearms in their territory. The people who carried firearms were] members of the Philippine National Police.”

The statement indicated that Guingona does not recognize the NPA’s power to enforce any policy anywhere in the country.

“We would like to remind everyone in this country that there is only one government of the Republic of the Philippines. There is only one President who is in charge of executing the laws of this land. That is President Noynoy Aquino. He is the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Guingona said.

Guingona said he was relieved that his mother survived the attack. But he said he mourned the deaths of her aides, whom he described as “loyal employees of long standing in our family’s home in Mindanao.”

He said his mother was wounded and was trapped inside the vehicle, which was thrown down on its side by the power of the grenade blasts.

Guingona flew to Cagayan de Oro Sunday morning. He said his mother was safe and would undergo surgery on Monday for the removal of the bullets and shrapnel that she took during the attack.

His sister Marie, who is running for mayor of Gingoog, stood silent beside him during an interview with the Inquirer outside CUMC.

Guingona said his father, the former Vice President, would arrive in Cagayan de Oro Monday morning.

Fifty attackers

Maj. Leo Bongosia, spokesman for the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, also called the incident an ambush, belying Madlos’ claim that the rebels were only forced to return fire.

Bongosia said about 50 guerrillas took part in the attack on Mayor Guingona.

Sesinio Retuya, a driver to the Guingonas, said the “ambush site” was about 10 kilometers from the highway in Kapitulangan.

Retuya, who went to the site Sunday morning, said the lead vehicle that carried Mayor Guingona was riddled with bullets.

“There are holes in the windshield and on both sides of the cars,” he said.

Retuya said Mayor Guingona survived because her bodyguards used their bodies as shields against the attackers’ bullets.

Philippine Daily Inquirer

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Published in: on April 22, 2013 at 1:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Trader runs for Davao City’s House seat, goes against Garcia dynasty

DAVAO CITY, Philippines—“It’s like fighting the Gods of Olympus,” businesswoman Joji Ilagan-Bian describes how it is to run against an established political family who dominated the city’s second district— the area stretching from Agdao, Buhangin to Bunawan —in the last 21 years.

She was referring to the Garcias, whose daughter, Mylene Garcia, is running for reelection. Mylene, who succeeded her brother Vicente Garcia, is now on her second term. Her brother, Vicente, held the post for three terms, from the 12th to the 15th Congress, succeeding their father, Manuel Garcia, who held the post for three terms since 1992.

“They wield power like it is their birth right, they threaten people who don’t openly support them,” said Bian, who expressed dismay at the sight of her torn posters or a number of barangay supporters whose work appointments and job contracts were terminated for openly supporting her.

But this was not the first time she ran for politics. The former chaiperson of the Mindanao Business Council and two-time president of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industries Inc. (DCCCII) first ran for the city’s congressional seat for the second district in 2001, where she lost to Vicente Garcia.

When Garcia’s term ended, she ran again in 2010 under the political line up of former House Speaker Prospero Nograles who was running for mayor. Bian lost to Garcia’s sister Mylene, staunch ally of Duterte, Nograles’ political rival.

Now, Bian said she decided to run again for the third time to give way, she said, to the “people’s clamor for change.”

“I am the only person willing to take up the challenge to face a formidable 21-year-old dynasty in the congressional district,” she said.

“If I don’t take the challenge now, who will take the cudgel for our people?” she asked.

“I carry with me the people’s aspirations for change,” she said.

The regal smile and elegant bearing shown on her posters, however, was a person expected to be seen inside air-conditioned convention halls of the business groups she used to lead, rather than on the streets, where the teeming masses, aspiring for better lives, were.

As chair of the Mindanao Business Council for five years, from 1998 to 2003, she had pushed for policies reducing the cost of doing business in Mindanao by 10 to 15 per cent. Among the policy changes she claimed to have advocated during her term as MBC chair included the increase in Mindanao’s budget share in agriculture in 2000 from 25 per cent to 28 per cent; and infrastructure, from 26 per cent to 27 per cent; the recognition of Mindanao’s strategic role in Philippine food security; the extension of Travel Tax Exemption in East Asean Growth Area (Eaga); the reduction of Eaga call rates; the Civil Aeronautics Boards (CAB) resolution granting Fifth Freedom Traffic Rights in the Eaga; and the Department of Agriculture’s declaration of Mindanao as foot-and-mouse disease–free.

She also served as president of the DCCCII twice in a row, and had been vice president for Mindanao and national board trustee of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries (PCCI) from 1998 to 2004.

As deputy chair of the East Asean Business Council from 1998 to 2003, she used to carry out Mindanao’s position in the Eaga, an economic growth polygon composed of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines (BIMP).

Bian was also identified closely with former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who appointed her a member of the five-member Maniwang Commission in 2003 to investigate the alleged participation of the military in the Davao bombings. Two years later, Arroyo also appointed her as a member of the 52-member Constitutional Commission to review and recommend changes in the 1987 Constitution when there were moves within the administration for Charter change; and in 2006 to 2010, Arroyo appointed her again to represent Mindanao in the Export Development Council.

Recently, however, she was seen taking part in the One Billion Rising dance protest organized by the militant women’s group Gabriela as part of the worldwide campaign against violence against women in February this year. In Agdao District, leaders identified with progressive groups have also been backing her campaign.

When reports came out in March, that barangay chairmen under the Duterte-led political party Hugpong, have switched allegiance from Garcia to sBian, an angry Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte warned “disloyal” barangay captains they would lose their privileges and would be kicked out of the party.

The Garcias have been one of Duterte’s strongest political allies, and the Duterte-led Hugpong had earlier named Mylene as its congressional bet in the second district.

The prospect of Bian’s victory in the second district could lessen the dominance of Hugpong, which has been controlling practically all political posts in the city, except for the congressional seat of the first district, which has been a bailiwick of Nograles.

Bian, who is running as an independent candidate, but who had previously allied herself with Duterte’s political “enemy,” described herself as a “small fry.”

“The people’s trust and loyalty to Duterte is so strong, that I am too small to be a threat,” said Bian.

She also said she had always been independent in all her professional dealings. She even recalled working with the former mayor, now running unopposed, when she sat at the Davao Tourism Council for five years.

“I am confident that we can work together to bring about positive changes in the city, if I will win this fight,” she said.

Germelina Lacorte
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Published in: on April 14, 2013 at 6:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Congratulations Mary Mediatrix Vallejo Villanueva: 2012 Gawad Saka Most Outstanding Agri Entrepreneur

Considered as one of Bikol Region’s most important resources, abaca put the Philippines on the world map starting in the mid-1600s when it was cultivated as raw material for ropes and woven clothes. Since then, thousands of Bikolano families made a living from abaca. Under the languid gaze and sometimes fiery, beauty of the perfectly-coned Mayon Volcano, abacaleros or abaca workers continue to grow abaca and create and design a myriad of beautiful abaca products.

One of the most successful, progressive and socially responsible abacalero families are the Villanuevas, of which the articulate and indefatigable matriarch is Mrs. Mary Mediatrix V. Villanueva, Bikol’s Gawad Saka Outstanding Agricultural Entrepreneur for 2012.

Med, as she is fondly called, is a full-blooded abacalera. Her father was the first to use braided abaca fiber to make floor mats which were introduced in the market as “Vallejo” rugs. Her mother focused on weaving abaca fiber into sinamay. The Vallejo couple was among the country’s pioneering exporters in the 1950s.

True to her abacalero family tradition, Med, then in her early twenties, married Sheldon Villanueva and the couple established Shelmed Cottage Treasures in 1973, becoming the country’s youngest abaca exporters.

Under Med’s keen business sense and Sheldon’s innovative designs, Shelmed then expanded its product lines from placemats and rugs to dinette accessories, pouches, baskets and storage bins and exporting them to about thirty counties.

The high-quality and innovative abaca products and the commitment and dedication shown by Med and her husband have not gone unnoticed. They received several business awards, notably the 1983 Golden Shell Award for outstanding performance in exports from DTI, the 2001 Gawad Saka Natatanging HVCC Entrepreneur award from DA, and the KATHA Award for product design from CITEM.

But disaster struck. In November 2006, Albay was hit hardest by Typhoon Reming, one of the deadliest and most destructive tropical cyclones to ravage the Philippines. Communities came under tons of rocks and mud that rushed down the slopes of Mayon Volcano. Many houses and schools were buried, hundreds perished and over thirty thousand hectares of abaca land were damaged in the region.

It was the worst year for Med’s town of Daraga, which was hit three other major typhoons. The company building was destroyed and needed much repair. Almost all of their raw materials and products stored in the bodega, including company papers and documents, were rendered useless. Another great loss was the materials distributed among abacaleros working in their homes which were also destroyed by the typhoon.

Though recovery was slow, difficult and costly, Med now stands at the helm of the forty-year old company, with husband Sheldon retired from the family business. Shelmed currently generates considerable employment, with 70 regular employees, 120 artisans and around 2,500 families directly dependent on abaca for a living.

The company’s core values of quality and innovativeness remain unshaken. Med continues push for product research, staff development, and design functionality. She ensures product upgrading by combining abaca with non-traditional materials such as metal, terracotta, leather, paper, glass and tin.

Upon her children’s prodding, Med is steering Shelmed towards women’s fashion and accessories. The company is producing fascinators, or headbands with fancy abaca designs, for European women and providing semi-finished products and raw materials to some London milliners who designs hats and head accessories for the ladies of Britain.

Med remains uncompromising in her demand for quality and has established a nine-step quality control system to cover all stages of production, starting from fiber grade classification down to packing of finished products.

Med is a strong advocate for abacaleros working together with government agencies to sustain the abaca industry. Shelmed has sponsored an industry forum and Med has led consultations with abacaleros, covering concerns like skills trainings, extension services, credit, abaca nurseries, pricing, transport, storage, worker’s benefits…

Shelmed works with Philippine Textile Research Institute and Fiber Industry Development Authority to increase abaca production, develop natural dyes, and promote abaca as a natural fiber for eco-friendly products. She coordinates trainings for abacaleros from the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Science and technology, department of Labor and Employment, Social Security System, PhilHealth and HMDF Pag-Ibig.

Raising social responsibility higher as one of the company’s core values, med is involved in many charitable and social causes and has been given due recognition. She was nominated in 2009 for the 3rd Gawad Haydee Yorac Annual Award for Outstanding Public Service. In 2010, she received the Gawad Geny Lopez Jr. Bayaning Pilipino Award and the most Inspiring Bicolano Entrepreneur Award.

Among the good works of Med, her family and Shelmed are the provision of funds for student scholarships and faculty incentives for Don Bosco Agro Mechanical and Technology Center. She has sought assistance from USAID, through its Action for Enterprise of AFE, to train persons with disability or PWDs in the Sagip Kapamilya Simon Village and Tambak an Biyaya Dumpsite in her town. Both FIDA and AFE support her work with indigenous people in developing an abaca plantation in their ancestral domain. Land was donated to their employees for free housing. Shelmed partnered with Li and Fung, an export buying agency, to repair an elementary school.

After the typhoon disaster, the Villanueva family, with Med as Chairperson, founded the Dios Mabalos Po Foundation, whose mission is to feed, heal and teach. Med is also active in the Assisi Development Foundation’s Hapag Asa Integrated Nutrition program and the Simon of Cyrene Children’s Rehabilitation and Development Foundation which assist PWDs. Shelmed trains them in abaca braiding and weaving and hires them later as skilled workers. Shelmed also conducts trainings on sewing, stitching and other hand skills for making placemats, rugs, bags and other abaca products for the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Legazpi. Med works with the Bicol Small Business institute where women are encouraged to be abaca entrepreneurs and processors.

With plans to put up a vocational-cum-crafts school soon, sixty-ish but energetic Med continues to manage Shelmed as a company serving the global market while remaining firm in its commitment to grow and work in service to the community. (Yolly A. Diokno, http://www.bicol.da.gov.ph)

Published in: on March 13, 2013 at 4:32 am  Leave a Comment  

Joji Ilagan Bian’s fire in the belly

The term “fire in the belly” refers to someone’s drive or motivation to achieve success, a powerful sense of determination.

Passion is also a word that means an intense desire or enthusiasm for something. Passion burns out. Fire in the belly burns on. Passion rises and falls. Fire in the belly is a continuous drive.

I don’t know how some people maintain being fired up but I know that Joji Bian has fire in the belly. Who she?

Joji was born in Davao City on July 23, 1955. Her dad Jose Ilagan from Batangas served as a prosecutor in Davao while her mom Ma. Celina Javellana from Iloilo was a housewife who found time to organize the Divine Mercy Devotion movement here in Mindanao. Jose and Celina produced five children. One of them became a lawyer like Jose and one is a doctor who performs free surgery on children with cleft palate.

Joji Ilagan studied at the Immaculate Conception College (now University of the Immaculate Conception) and became the grade school valedictorian and high school salutatorian. At 16, she became an academic scholar at the University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management. Right after graduation, she returned to Davao City and worked as a teacher at Philippine Women’s College. In not time at all, she became Dean of the PWC HRM Department.

Engr. George Bian, a hardworking businessman, married Joji when she was just 24. They lived in Barangay Buhangin since 1980. Their three children (Dyan, Michael, and Nicole) now help run their family business establishments.

From 1981 to 1988, Joji witnessed the difficult times in Davao City. The economy was in bad shape. Many people were unemployed and could not send their children to college.

Being an educator, Joji thoughtfully considered putting up a technical vocational school that could hasten employment for those who could not afford a 4-year college course. Joji and George Bian started a one-room school at Anda Street called Joji Ilagan Career Center. Today it has developed and spawned the JIB Welding Academy, the Tumble Tots Pre-school Philippines, and the world-class ICHEF culinary school.

Joji have ventured into many other businesses. Not all of them lasted but nothing deterred her from finding projects to nurture.

In 1988, Joji Bian became the first woman president of Davao Tourism Association (DATA). The group’s goal was to promote tourism and business investment. She represented the private sector while then Mayor Rody Duterte represented the government. Duterte and Bian worked hard to gain the trust of business people to promote Davao as a pleasant place and convinced them that the city was no longer “Nicaragdao” (killing fields).

Even without government funds then to promote Davao, Joji Bian went to Manila and met hotel owners to sponsor “See Davao.” The project allowed an influx of visitors who had a taste of the best foods in Davao and also enjoyed popular tourist sites in the Davao region. She replicated her efforts by going to the USA to promote “Balik-Dabaw.” Bian understood the importance of tourism’s role in developing the local economy.

From 1992 to 1994, Joji Bian became the first woman president of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce. It was another opportunity for Duterte and Bian to work together to help improve Davao. They wooed more business people to invest in Davao. Their efforts led to the generation of jobs – which enabled more youth to go to school, brought food on the table, and improved the quality of life for Davao residents. She brought in several foreign trade missions that earned the Most Outstanding Chamber in the Philippines Award for the local chamber.

From 1998 to 2004, she was chosen by Mindanao business people to represent them in the Philippine Chamber of Commerce board and in Mindanao Business Council. As a leader in the East ASEAN Business Council, Bian presented a positive image of Davao City among foreign investors.

In 1997, Joji Ilagan Bian became the youngest recipient of the Datu Bago Award. She was recognized for her contributions to local business and education. It’s the most prestigious award in the city for those in the private sector who have served Davao well. Former Philippine President Joseph Ejercito Estrada honored Joji Bian with a Kabalikat Award in 1998 for her service to the community through more than a thousand scholarship grants at Joji Ilagan Career Center.

In 2005, the University of the Immaculate Conception gave Bian the Most Outstanding Alumnus Award – in recognition of her service to the community. UP Diliman also gave her the Ang Patnubay Award for NGO in 2011.

Her success story was featured in a Go Negosyo book, 55 Inspiring Stories of Women Entrepreneurs. Local, national, and international publications had given her countless accolades.

Life has rewarded well and received more than she asked for. She has a happy family, good health, successful business, and very good friends. She could have retired easily and bask in the sunshine of good life… but only if she believed that her purpose for living is purely for selfish reasons.

The fire in her belly keeps Joji Bian motivated to continue serving the community.

Hernando Castillo
Mindanao Times

Published in: on December 4, 2012 at 2:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

2-day talent, skill shows slated

THE Joji Ilagan Career Center Foundation (JICCF) brings Christmas in the city this October.

Joji Ilagan-Bian, owner of JICCF, announced Monday that as part of the company’s corporate social responsibility, they will hold the Global Skills Showcase 2010 on October 18 to 19 at SM City Activity Center.

Bian said they will give back to the community what their students have learned from school.

“This event will give our students the opportunity to share their talents, skills, and to demonstrate what they have learned from the school as well as provide the chance to grow,” Bian said.

Jerico O. Paloma, SunStar Davao

Published in: on October 11, 2010 at 10:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

Davao villagers get free Nograles health cards

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – House Speaker Prospero Nograles has recently distributed health cards in Davao City’s 1st District as part of his program aimed at bringing basic health services to mostly poor villagers.

To live up to his task, Nograles said he initiated many humanitarian, development and infrastructure projects not only in his legislative district, but to Davao City’s 2nd Congressional District too.

(more…)

Published in: on April 9, 2010 at 8:38 pm  Comments Off on Davao villagers get free Nograles health cards  

Italian hostage Vagni freed

MANILA, Philippines – Eugenio Vagni, the Italian worker of the International Committee Red Cross (ICRC) who was held captive for six months by extremist rebels in Sulu, was freed early Sunday, authorities said.

Vagni was freed at around 1:05 a.m, said Gwen Pang, Philippine National Red Cross secretary-general.

(more…)

Published in: on July 12, 2009 at 6:28 am  Leave a Comment  

ICRC renews appeal for Vagni release

MANILA, Philippines – Italian Red Cross worker Eugenio Vagni contacted his family only twice in June, as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) renewed its appeal to release the remaining hostage, 170 days after his abduction in Sulu province.

In a statement posted on the ICRC website, Alain Aeschlimann, head of operations for East Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific, said that Vagni was able to speak to his wife last June 2 and 26, and the phone calls lasted for only a few minutes.

(more…)

Published in: on July 3, 2009 at 6:35 am  Leave a Comment  

Phone call proves Vagni’s alive

MANILA, Philippines — A phone call made to his family yesterday was all the government needed to know as proof that abducted Italian international aid worker Eugenio Vagni was still alive.

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno received word from emissaries that Vagni had called a relative yesterday, three days after government forces toned down its offensive to give way to fresh talks between his Abu Sayyaf captors and crisis managers in Sulu.

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Published in: on June 27, 2009 at 6:33 am  Leave a Comment  

Puno bares new talks with Vagni kidnappers

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—Negotiators opened new “areas of discussion” with the Abu Sayyaf for the release of Italian engineer Eugenio Vagni, a Red Cross volunteer being held captive by the bandit group, a top official said on Tuesday.

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said Vagni is “very safe and healthy,” quoting reports from emissaries that he did not identify.

(more…)

Published in: on June 24, 2009 at 6:32 am  Leave a Comment