Tag Archive: Central Visayas


Authorities rescued a 5-year-old boy in Cebu City Tuesday night, after his parents paid ransom to a church-mate who abducted him more than two weeks ago in Bacolod City, police said.

The victim, whose name is being withheld for security, was rescued at the Montesclaros Pension House and Dormitory along Pelaez Ext., around 8:45 p.m., said Senior Superintendent Roberto Fajardo, director of the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG).

Suspect Allan Quilbo, 58, a native of Gerona, Tarlac, who attends the same church as the boy’s parents, was arrested when operatives caught him “guarding the victim,” Fajardo said in a statement.

Elements of the AKG Visayas, Regional Intelligence Unit 7, and Cebu City Police carried out the rescue operation after the boy’s parents lodged a complaint.

Quilbo took the child in Bacolod City on January 4 after asking the latter’s parents for permission to bring the minor to a store to buy a coloring book, Fajardo said.

But Quilbo did not return the boy and even demanded ransom from the parents in exchange for the child’s release, he said.

A total of P16,000 was deposited to Quilbo’s bank account but he still did not release the child, so police launched a rescue operation, Fajardo said.

The rescued minor is now with his parents, after having undergone medical examination and stress debriefing.

A case of kidnapping for ransom is now being prepared against Quilbo, who is presently detained at AKG Visayas office, Fajardo said. (John Roson)

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Robert Edward "Musa" Cerantonio in detention (police photo)

Robert Edward “Musa” Cerantonio in detention (police photo)

Authorities arrested an Australian Muslim convert who allegedly preaches jihad, during an operation in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, early Friday.

Robert Edward Cerantonio was arrested around 5:30 a.m. in an apartment room he was renting along Airport Road, Brgy. Pajac, around 5:30 a.m., city police chief Senior Supt. Armando Radoc said by phone.

Elements of the Bureau of Immigration, Central Visayas regional police, and city police arrested Cerantonio for “violation of immigration laws,” Radoc said.

Cerantonio had no firearm when he was arrested, Radoc said.

Joean Navarro Montayre, of Candoni, Negros Oriental, was with Cerantonio at the time and was arrested for an estafa case, according to a report from the police’s 7th Regional Intelligence Division (RID-7).

The report labeled Cerantonio as a “person of international interest.”

Cerantonio and Montayre yielded various cellphones, SIM cards, memory cards, flash drives, broadband sticks, cameras, identification cards, passports, two Qur’ans, and other books containing Islamic teachings, according to the report.

Cerantonio was immediately brought to the Bureau of Immigration’s office in Mandaue City after the arrest while Montayre was taken to the Mandaue City Jail, according to the the report.

Cerantonio may be brought to Bureau of Immigration’s office in Manila, as the latter was set for “immediate deportation,” Radoc said.

Cerantonio, a former Catholic who now uses the name Musa, had been posting jihadist teachings and comments on his social media accounts which are followed mostly by Islamic fighters in Iraq and Syria, according to Australian media reports.

He is believed to be a supporter of the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, an off-shoot of the al Qaeda terror network.

ISIS has already captured a third of Iraq and some parts of Syria, and recently declared a caliphate in these areas. (John Roson)

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(Updated 6 p.m.) At least 31 people died while 629 others were rescued and 216 more remain missing after a passenger vessel collided with a cargo ship and sank in waters off Talisay, Cebu, Friday night, authorities said.

Cmdr. Winiel Azcuna, Coast Guard Station Cebu commander, gave the figures as Navy vessels, Coast Guard ships, and civilian seacraft continued to scour the seas for survivors Saturday.

The fatalities include four persons who divers recovered near the area where the ill-fated M/V St. Thomas Aquinas sank, Lt. Jim Alagao, Armed Forces’ Central Command (Centcom) public affairs officer, said.

“Kasama na diyan ‘yung apat na nakita sa vicinity ng lumubog na Aquinas. Nakuha ng mga divers ng NAVSOU5 (Naval Special Operations Unit-5) at a depth of 120 feet (36.58 meters),” Alagao said in a text message.

Of the survivors, 247 were brought to different hospitals in Cebu City for treatment and medical checks, he said.

Navy troops also rescued an infant, who was in critical condition and brought to a Coast Guard vessel so it can be quickly taken to a hospital, Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic said in a statement.

Some 58 infants were reportedly on board the St. Thomas Aquinas when it sank after colliding with Sulpicio Lines’ cargo ship, M/V Sulpicio Express-7, around 9 p.m. Friday near Lauis Ledge, according to the Navy.

Divers scattered

Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda, Centcom chief, said Navy and Coast Guard divers were deployed Saturday morning to the collision site and found the sunken ship at about 150 feet (45.7 meters).

Technical divers were also set to come to help authorities determine if there are still people inside the ship, he said.

The site of the collision is about 600 yards (548 meters) west of Lauis Ledge and 45 fathoms (82.3 meters) deep, Alagao said.

More Navy divers from Manila and Palawan arrived in Cebu on a C-130 military plane on Saturday to join the search for the missing persons, he said.

The missing persons, fatalities, and survivors were all occupants of the M/V St. Thomas Aquinas, Azcuna said.

Weather threatens search

Saturday’s search and rescue operations went smoothly until the afternoon, when the weather turned bad.

“Huminto sa pagpapalipad ng dalawang choppers due to bad weather,” Alagao said in a text message past 3 p.m.

Azcuna said the Cebu City Pier, where his Coast Guard Station sits, even experienced a power outage in the afternoon.

Search for the missing persons continued despite this. “Tuluy-tuloy po ‘yung operation natin, together with the Philippine Navy and other local government units,” Azcuna said.

The operations were launched after authorities received a distress call from the St. Thomas Aquinas a few minutes after 9 p.m. Friday.

The St. Thomas Aquinas, owned by 2Go Group Inc., started taking in water right after the collision and was already sinking two hours later, Deveraturda said.

“‘Yung barko ay nag-take in ng water and is starting to [sink], palubog na… pumapasok na ‘yung water sa hull niya,” Deveraturda said when reached by phone 11 p.m. Friday.

Only 841 in manifest

In a statement posted on its website, 2Go said the St. Thomas Aquinas’ manifest listed only 723 passengers and 118 crew, or a total of 841 people, as well as 104 units of 20-footer containers.

Tallying the number of fatalities, survivors, and missing persons provided by the authorities puts the number of people on the vessel at 876, or 35 more than those in the manifest as claimed by 2Go.

But 2Go said the ship has an “authorized capacity” of 1,010 passengers and crew, and 160 units of 20-footer containers.

Earlier, Deveraturda said initial reports from the ground indicated that the St. Thomas Aquinas only had 690 passengers.

Minda Morante, Office of Civil Defense-7 director, said she received “raw information” that only more than 400 passengers were listed when the St. Thomas Aquinas left Nasipit Port in Agusan del Norte for Cebu.

“Minsan merong mga nakaakyat na sa barko, doon na lang kumukuha ng ticket, hindi mo talaga ma-account yan,” Morante said.

Ill-fated meeting

According to 2Go, the St. Thomas Aquinas came from Surigao and Nasipit Port, and headed to Cebu for a 10 p.m. stopover before proceeding to Manila.

The Sulpicio Express-7, on the other hand, had just left Cebu City Pier for Davao, Morante said.

“Papasok na siya (M/V St. Thomas Aquinas) sa Cebu City port, tapos ‘yung isa namang barko from the Cebu City port, palabas naman, nagpang-abot sila, ganoon ang nangyari,” she said.

Morante said she alerted all hospitals in Talisay and nearby towns upon learning about the mishap because of an expected influx of patients.

“Nag-alerto tayo ng mga ospital na silang lahat ay to recieve and receive, kasi di ‘yun kakayanin lahat ng Talisay District Hospital,” she said.

“Immediately after the collision, the crew of the M/V St. Thomas distributed life jackets to the passengers and carried out emergency abandon-ship procedures. At the same time, the ship’s officers sent a distress signal to the nearest Philippine Coast Guard Station to alert them for immediate rescue operations,” 2Go said for its part.

An emergency operations center was also activated at port to give assistance, including meal packs and dry clothes, to survivors, it said.

“Those needing medical attention have been attended to by onsite medical personnel while others have already been brought to nearby hospitals. The rest of the passengers have been offered accommodations at a nearby hotel,” the company added. (John Roson)

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this post has been updated. see update here

Thirteen people died while 572 others were rescued after a passenger vessel collided with a cargo ship and sank in waters off Talisay, Cebu, Friday night, a Coast Guard official said.

Cmdr. Winiel Azcuna, Coast Guard Station Cebu commander, gave the figures as Coast Guard ships, Navy vessels, and other seacraft continued to scour the seas for survivors Saturday morning.

“Maximum number of assets ng Philippine Navy at Philippine Coast Guard ang ating dineploy po doon sa area and kasama din natin ‘yung mga local government units, nagpadala sila ng mga bangka para mag-rescue ng mga pasahero nung lumubog na barko,” Azcuna said in a phone interview 4 a.m.

A total of 321 people are still “missing or unaccounted for,” Lt. Jim Alagao, public affairs officer of the Armed Forces’ Central Command (Centcom), said in a text message.

Navy and Coast Guard divers were deployed Saturday morning to the collision site, which is about 600 yards (0.54 kilometers) West of Lawis Ledge and 45 fathoms (82.3 meters) deep, Alagao added.

The missing persons, fatalities, and survivors were all occupants of the M/V St. Thomas Aquinas, which sank after colliding with the M/V Sulpicio Express-7 around 9 p.m. Friday near Lawis Ledge, Azcuna said.

The St. Thomas Aquinas, owned by 2GO Group Inc., started taking in water right after the collision and was already sinking two hours later, Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda, Centcom chief, said.

“‘Yung barko ay nag-take in ng water and is starting to [sink], palubog na… pumapasok na ‘yung water sa hull niya,” Deveraturda said when reached by phone 11 p.m.

In a statement posted on its website, 2GO said the St. Thomas Aquinas’ manifest listed 723 passengers and 118 crew, or a total of 841 people, as well as 104 equivalent 20-footer container units.

Tallying the number of fatalities, survivors, and missing persons provided by authorities would show that there were 906 people on the vessel, 65 more than those in the manifest.

But 2GO said the ship has an authorized capacity of 1,010 passengers and crew, and 160 units of 20-footer containers.

Earlier, Deveraturda said initial reports from the ground indicate that the St. Thomas Aquinas only had 690 passengers.

Minda Morante, Office of Civil Defense-7 director, said she received a “raw infomation” that only more than 400 passengers were listed when the St. Thomas Aquinas left Nasipit Port in Agusan del Norte for Cebu.

“‘Yun ang isa sa mga sinusubukan namng i-confirm dito… ‘Yung ganyan, although raw information, kasi minsan merong mga nakaakyat na sa barko, doon na lang kumukuha ng ticket, hindi mo talaga ma-account yan,” Morante said.

According to 2GO, the St. Thomas Aquinas came from Surigao and Nasipit Port, and headed to Cebu for a 10 p.m. stopover before proceeding to Manila.

The Sulpicio Express-7, on the other hand, had just left Cebu Pier for Davao, Morante said.

“Papasok na siya (M/V St. Thomas Aquinas) sa Cebu City Port, tapos yung isa namang barko from the Cebu City Port, palabas naman, nagpang-abot sila, ganoon ang nangyari,” she said.

Morante said she alerted all hospitals in Talisay and nearby towns upon learning about the mishap because of an expected influx of patients.

“Nag-alerto tayo ng mga ospital na silang lahat ay to recieve and receive, kasi lahat di ‘yun kakayanin ng Talisay District Hospital,” she said.

“Immediately after the collision, the crew of the M/V St. Thomas distributed life jackets to the passengers and carried out emergency abandon-ship procedures. At the same time, the ship’s officers sent a distress signal to the nearest Philippine Coast Guard Station to alert them for immediate rescue operations,” 2GO said for its part.

An emergency operations center was also activated at port to give assistance, including meal packs and dry clothes, to survivors, it said.

“Those needing medical attention have been attended to by onsite medical personnel while others have already been brought to nearby hospitals. The rest of the passengers have been offered accommodations at a nearby hotel,” the company added. (John Roson)

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this post has been updated. see update here

Authorities are investigating the Chinese vessel found near Malapascua Island, Cebu, for possible illegal activities, including quarrying sand and pebbles, officials said Saturday.

Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo, Coast Guard spokesman, said there have been reports that the M/V Ming Yuan had been used to carry sand and pebbles from areas surrounding Malapascua.

“We are pursuing reports that the vessel is utilized in transporting white sand and pebbles from nearby islands,” Balilo said in a text message.

A team is now monitoring Malapascua and nearby areas “for possible illegal extraction or siphoning of white sand,” Dr. Eddie Llamedo, information officer of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Central Visayas, said when sought for more details.

The team comprises personnel of the DENR-Central Visayas, Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Coast Guard, police, and the local government of Daanbantayan town, which has jurisdiction of Malapascua, he said.

Llamedo said the reports of quarrying came about after a Chinese vessel was seen, allegedly “siphoning” white sand, off Malapascua earlier this month.

A Chinese vessel was inspected on June 15, but authorities did not find white sand on it, he said.

Llamedo could not say if the inspected vessel was also the M/V Ming Yuan.

Meanwhile, Balilo said immigration officials have confiscated the passports of the crew members of M/V Ming Yuan, though the crew members were allowed to remain on the vessel.

While the probe is going on, the ship was also ordered to stay away from Malapascua, which is popular among tourists for its white sand beaches.

“Since the vessel was anchored on a passenger vessel route and posing as hazard to navigation, the vessel was directed to anchor in Northern Cebu while government agencies are investigating possible illegal activities of the shipping company,” Balilo said.

Llamedo said Malapascua is not listed among the country’s “protected areas,” but should be protected just the same because it is public property.

“Because of its being a small island or islet that is less than 250 hectares, it is considered as public land, meaning it is owned by the state or government,” he said. (John Roson)

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Felimon Mendrez. (file photo from Central Visayas regional police)

Felimon Mendrez. (file photo from Central Visayas regional police)

Government troops arrested a ranking New People’s Army (NPA) leader labeled as the country’s sixth most wanted man during an operation in Manjuyod, Negros Oriental, on Tuesday morning, military officials said.

Felimon Mendrez, commander of the NPA Kilusang Rehiyon Negros’ Regional Strike Force, was arrested in Brgy. Tubod around 10 a.m., Col. Francisco Zosimo Patrimonio, commander of the Army’s 302nd Brigade, said.

Operatives of the 302nd Brigade, 33rd Military Intelligence Company, 11th Infantry Battalion, and the Negros Oriental Provincial Police carried out the arrest on warrants for robbery in band and rebellion, Patrimonio said in a text message.

Mendrez, who uses the aliases Tatay and Edon, is number 6 in the police’s most wanted list and has a P5.25-million bounty on his head, said Maj. Enrico Ileto, spokesman of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division.

Before holding his current position in the rebel movement, Mendrez served as head of the NPA Central Visayas’ Front Committee 2 and deputy head of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ Central Visayas Revolutionary Party Committee, Ileto said.

Mendrez had led some successful tactical offensives against troops in Negros Island and other areas of Central Visayas, Patrimonio said.

“The arrest will certainly give a better opportunity for us in Central Visayas to celebrate the holidays more peacefully,” Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta, commander of the 3rd ID, said.

“Law enforcement operations” shall continue even as troops observe a suspension of offensive military operations, Mabanta added. (John Roson)

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Government troops seized firearms, explosives, food, and cigarettes allegedly intended for New People’s Army (NPA) members, during an operation in Mabinay, Negros Oriental, a military spokesman said Saturday.

Among those seized were two M16 rifles, five magazines, 112 pieces of M16 ammunition, six rounds of 40-millimeter rifle grenades, two other rifle grenades, 35 meters of detonating cord, 6 pounds of TNT, and 1.5 pounds of C4 explosive, Capt. Anacito Naz, spokesman of the Army’s 302nd Brigade, said.

Also confiscated were a sack of rice, 100 cans of sardines, three boxes of noodles, three bags of crackers, four bags of “3 in 1” instant coffee, and four rims of cigarettes, Naz said.

He said the supplies, allegedly intended for members of thew NPA Sentral Komiteng Rehiyon Negros’ Sangay sa Partido sa Platoon, were found at a forested area in Brgy. Mayaposi around 3 a.m. Friday.

Members of the 79th and 12th Infantry Battalions carried out a strike operation after receiving information that supplies for the rebels were being transported to the mountains, Naz said. (John Roson)

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4 killed in Negros Occidental clash

(Updated 7:00 p.m.) Two government soldiers and two suspected New People’s Army (NPA) members were killed in a clash in Isabela, Negros Occidental, on Thursday, the military said.

Four soldiers and a still undetermined number of rebels have been injured, Capt. Anacito Naz, spokesman of the Army’s 302nd Brigade, said by phone.

The fighting started around 8 a.m., when patrolling members of the 11th Infantry Battalion’s Alpha company encountered rebels in Sitio Mapaho-paho, Brgy. San Agustin, Naz said.

Capt. Ariel Quirog, spokesman of the 11th IB, said sporadic firefight against the rebels, who were found to have camps in the area, went on until 12 noon.

Hindi lang isa o dalawang beses nabangga ng tropa ‘yung kalaban,” Quirog said, adding that about 40 rebels figured in the clash.

Troops later seized a rebel camp, where a caliber-.45 pistol, two magazines, eight backpacks, and several “subversive documents” were found, he said.

The wounded soldiers, who include an officer ranked 2nd lieutenant, have been airlifted to a hospital on a UH-1H helicopter, Quirog said.

Additional troops were sent to the area to run after the rebels and were still scouring nearby areas Thursday evening. (John Roson)

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7 killed, 42 hurt in Cebu bus mishap

Seven people were killed while 42 others were injured when the passenger bus they were riding rammed a concrete fence and turned upside down in Toledo City, Cebu, on Saturday night.

The fatalities have been identified as Jose Agrix Baraquiel, 29; Thelma Sipalay, 24; Virgilio CaƱabano, 52; Charry Nillama, 16; Melinda Limbang, 48; Ireneo Limba, 48; and a certain Delta Baratbati, said Samuel Diego Trocio, a non-uniformed personnel at the Toledo City Police.

Forty-two other bus passengers were brought to the Toledo City Hospital and Carmen Copper Hospital but some of them suffered severe injuries and had to be transferred to hospitals in Cebu City, Trocio said in a phone interview.

He said bus driver Allan Pastidio, 40, only suffered minor injuries and is presently detained at the Toledo City Police Station.

The incident occurred around 7:30 p.m., while Pastidio was driving the Jegans bus (GXD-545) along the National Highway in Sitio Das, Brgy. Don Andres Soriano, on the way to Pinamungajan town.

“The brakes suddenly malfunctioned… Nung mawalan siya ng preno, nag-turn upside down. Nag-ramp siya sa concrete perimeter fence ng isang bahay,” Trocio said, citing information from a report prepared by police investigators.

“May nangyari na noon diyan na ang involved ay isang bus ng Corominas company,” he added.

Trocio was referring to the incident in July 2010, when at least 15 passengers were killed and 48 others were wounded on the same spot. (John Roson)

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Two persons were reported killed while eight others remain missing as tropical storm “Ofel” (international name: Son-Tinh) slammed into several provinces in central Philippines and Metro Manila on Thursday, authorities said.

Ruben Tabura, 66, died after being buried in a landslide while fetching water from a river in Brgy. Jaclupan, Talisay City, around 3:30 p.m., Senior Supt. Patrocinio Comendador, Cebu Provincial Police director, said in a text message.

A certain Sophia Recto reportedly died of hypothermia in Marinduque, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Among the missing are fisherman Jonrey Acaso, 28, who set to sea from Pintuyan, Southern Leyte, on Monday and Jonny Ocson, 8, who went swimming at a beach in Odiongan, Romblon, on Wednesday.

Also missing are Muhammad Kanape Guiamad, 11, who went swimming at the Tamontaka River in Cotabato City, and Rigel Saycon, 18, of Dumanjug, Cebu, and two other persons in General Santos City, the NDRRMC said.

Still not included in the NDRRMC’s list are fishermen Christopher Maranan, 24, and Eric Presto, 15, both residents of Brgy. Cuta, Batangas City. The two were last seen 3 a.m. Thursday, according to the Batangas Provincial Police.

In its 5 p.m. report, the disaster agency said nine people, including three whose boat capsized near Tacloban City, Leyte, were still missing.

But Senior Supt. Romulo Cleve Taboso, Tacloban City police director, said the three, identified as Clemente Umban Sr., 50; Ariel Posto, 23; and Olavit Posto, 12, have been able to return home.

The three took shelter on Dio Island and were confirmed to be back at their homes in Sitio Costa Brava, Brgy. San Jose, Thursday morning, Taboso said in a text message.

Southern Luzon, Visayas bear brunt

On Thursday, strong winds and rains brought by “Ofel” hit Quezon, Batangas, Masbate, Romblon, Marindue, Mindoro Island, Pnay Island, and Cebu, after the storm passed through Mindanao and Eastern Visayas.

The town of Bantayan experienced big waves while Tudela reported a power outage and Talisay City, the landslide, Comendador said.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama ordered the suspension of classes at all levels in the city, according to the NDRRMC.

In Masbate, strong winds and waves destroyed three houses in Dimasalang and six fishing boats in Placer, Supt. Jeffrey Fernandez, deputy provincial police director, said.

Quezon experienced “continuous” rain but no storm-related incidents have been reported as of Thursday afternoon, provincial police director Senior Supt. Valeriano de Leon said.

Earlier, the NDRRMC reported that 296 families or 957 people in Maasin City and St. Bernard of Southern Leyte, as well as Palo, Burauen, and La Paz of Leyte fled their homes due to floods.

Landslides occurred in Bontoc, Southern Leyte, affecting roads and bridges, according to local police.

Floods occurred in Brgys. Lagao and Baluan of General Santos City, prompting at least seven families to evacuate, the NDRRMC said.

Metro Manila hit too

Rains also hit Metro Manila from early morning Thursday up to the evening, causing floods in several roads, according to police.

Gutter-deep floods occurred along Sipac st., Almacen, and M. Naval in Navotas City; Nascano st. of Brgy. Tugatog, Malabon City; Pasong Tamo and Pasong Tirad sts. of Makati City, but all remain passable to vehicles, the National Capital Region Police Office reported.

No other storm-related incident has been reported so far in the metropolis.

16,000 stranded in ports, 20 flights cancelled

Some 16,473 people remain stranded Thursday in ports in Cebu City, Tagbilaran City, Dumaguete City, Matnog and Pilar of Sorsogon, Cagayan de Oro City, Surigao City, Iloilo City, Bacolod City, Caticlan of Aklan, Roxas City of Capiz, Batangas, and Mannila, according to the Coast Guard.

Sea travel is still suspended to prevent maritime disasters, according to the agency.

Thousands of airline passengers are also stranded as more than 20 flights at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport have been cancelled. (John Roson)

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