Philippine Star - No witchhunt in probe – NBI

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) assured the public yesterday that there would be no witchhunt in its investigation of a suspected conspiracy in the Sabah incident.

NBI Director Nonnatus Rojas told The STAR that the joint NBI-Philippine National Police (PNP) fact-finding committee had started the investigation.

Among those expected to be subpoenaed this week are former national security adviser Norberto Gonzales and a certain Carbonell.

An NBI source said that aside from the two men, some members of the Kiram family and a leading politician in Mindanao would also be summoned.

The NBI team that includes its deputy directors and their counterparts from the PNP Criminal Investigation Detection Group (CIDG) met yesterday morning at the NBI headquarters in Manila.

Roxas said the team members want to work quietly.

He refused to name the personalities to be invited by the bureau for questioning in connection with the conspiracy theory.

“It’s not correct to use the word witchhunt because there’s nothing like that. This is just a job that we are tasked to do and we are asking people to shed light on the incident. This is only part of an investigation of some personalities,” Roxas said.

NBI spokesman and deputy director for regional operations Virgilio Mendez said that his task is the Mindanao aspect of the investigation.

He already visited Tawi-Tawi after Feb. 12 when the standoff of supporters of Sultan Kiram and the Malaysian security forces started in Lahad Datu, Sabah.

“We have already gathered statements from the wives of the warriors who went to Sabah, local officials and other people who in one way or another are connected with the issue, like the wife of (Agbimuddin, leader of the Sabah group) Kiram and the mayor of Simunul.”

Mendez said he did not talk to former chairman Nur Misuari of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) because “we have no reason yet to call him up.”

Possible conspiracy

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV agreed with President Aquino that a conspiracy could be behind the plan of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III to send his armed followers to Sabah, saying there was information linking former national security adviser Norberto Gonzales to the plot.

Trillanes told reporters in Quezon yesterday that he was not surprised when he heard about Gonzales, security adviser of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, being involved in the supposed conspiracy.

“It’s plausible. Based on some information on the ground, the statements of the President are being validated. He (Gonzales) has been going around. He’s everywhere. The people he has been talking to are reporting it,” Trillanes said.

Trillanes said Gonzales has been conducting various seminars for different groups and agitating the participants to oppose the administration of President Aquino.

He said that Gonzales was delivering his usual message about the government being infiltrated by communists.

“There is nothing illegal about it per se but for intelligence purposes, it has value,” Trillanes said.

“It’s a marketing line. It’s how they encourage people to join. It’s a propaganda movement against P-Noy or any sitting president. He is agitating,” he added.

Trillanes said that he would tend to believe the statements being made by the President, considering that he has access to a lot more information and reports that nobody else has.

Trillanes urged the government to continue monitoring the situation to prevent the Sabah incident from escalating into something even more serious.

“They (critics) could use this issue for whatever ulterior motive that they have,” he said.

He also expressed sympathy for the Kirams on their claim to Sabah and expressed hope that there would be a peaceful resolution of the dispute soon.

Meanwhile, Pastor Saycon, an adviser of the Kiram clan, accused yesterday the Malaysian government of initiating a military campaign to drive the Filipinos out of Sabah to perpetuate their control over the disputed territory that is now being claimed by the Sultanate of Sulu.

He said the military offensive, which is directed at the group of Agbimuddin, is now being carried out in other areas to force Filipinos to leave their homes and return to Mindanao and Sulu.

“At first it was just purging, now they are killing innocent civilians in the island,” Saycon said.

He said the Malaysian military authorities have started displaying photographs of the slain civilians who are not members of the royal sultanate army that occupied Lahad Datu.

Saycon also revealed that there was already an initial agreement for the Malaysian authorities and the Sultanate of Sulu to have a dialogue in Brunei, but before it materialized the Malaysian forces launched an all-out offensive against the sultanate’s army.

– With Marvin Sy, Perseus Echeminada