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Regional Updates (03/24/21)

2 more Abu Sayyaf members in abduction of Indonesians killed

ANOTHER two members of the Abu Sayyaf who were involved in the kidnapping of five Indonesians in January last year were killed Tuesday afternoon in post-rescue operations, the military reported. Their leader Majan Sahidjuan was killed over the weekend in an island in Tawi-Tawi, a province in the country’s south. Several other members of the kidnap-for-ransom group were killed Thursday last week when three of the abductees were rescued. The latest two fatalities, along with the last of the Indonesian captives who has been rescued, managed to escape during the weekend encounter but were later tracked and killed in a gunfight. The four rescued Indonesians were flown to Manila and handed over on Tuesday to Indonesian Embassy officials. The first three victims told the military one of them was killed by their captors while trying to escape during an encounter between their kidnappers and government forces in Patikul, Sulu in September. They were kidnapped in January last year from a vessel in waters off Malaysia. Lt. Gen. Corleto S. Vinluan, Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command, lauded the troops and acknowledged the contribution of other sectors. “We also have to give due recognition to the support of the local government officials, our partners from the PNP (Philippine National Police), and community who directed our troops to the terrorists’ location,” he said. The Abu Sayyaf group first became notorious for hijacking and kidnapping activities, but later became involved in terrorism and linked with the extremist Islamic State. — MSJ

Supreme Court orders further reduction in onsite manpower

THE Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday ordered to “drastically reduce” the number of onsite personnel in all courts within the National Capital Region and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal from Mar. 24 to 26, following a directive to operate with a 30% to 50% skeletal workforce from Mar. 23 to 31. The order cites the “alarming increase” of coronavirus cases in these areas, which have been placed under more stringent restrictions by the national government until Apr. 4. The high court said the number of personnel who will work onsite should just be “as sufficient to attend to all urgent matters, preferably by videoconferencing.” In another circular also released Tuesday night, Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta allowed all courts and offices in Metro Manila and the four surrounding provinces to maintain less than 30% of staff until Apr. 16. All judges in the area are allowed to conduct fully-remote videoconferencing hearings as an alternative without the need for approval from the Office of the Court Administrator. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago

Phivolcs warns of increased Taal Volcano seismic activity

STATE scientists on Wednesday warned of increasing seismic activity at Taal Volcano, which heightens the possibility of a magmatic eruption. “Overall seismic energy release has markedly increased since yesterday afternoon compared to previous seismic swarms. Sulfur dioxide gas emission in the previous week has been generally high with a peak of 1,184 tons/day on 21 Mar. 2021,” the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said in an advisory released at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday. “The above parameters indicate that magma has been migrating across shallow depths beneath Taal Volcano Island, increasing the possibilities of magmatic eruption.” Phivolcs maintained the alert level at 2 out of five levels. “Alert Level 2 (Increased Unrest) is currently maintained over Taal Volcano but that unrest has been elevating and is under constant evaluation,” Phivolcs said, “sudden steam-driven or phreatic explosions, volcanic earthquakes, minor ashfall, and lethal accumulations or expulsions of volcanic gas can occur and threaten areas within and around” the island. Taal Volcano, which last erupted in January 2020, has been exhibiting “unrest” since Feb. 13 this year with 2,015 volcanic tremors recorded. — MSJ

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