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Edwin Angeles: The spy
who came in from the cold
An INQ7.net exclusive

Edwin Angeles with wife Yang

HALF-TAUSUG, Edwin Angeles was the perfect government agent to infiltrate a new group in Basilan island propagating Muslim fundamentalist teachings, a group that would later be known as the Abu Sayyaf.

Angeles had earlier gained access to the urban groups of the Moro National Liberation Front and the communist movement in Bataan as part of his work for a number of military intelligence agencies.

This government spy – whose Muslim name was Ibrahim Yakub – played a pivotal role in the growth of the Abu Sayyaf and their later forays into the world of kidnap-for-ransom, according to journalist and author Arlyn de la Cruz in her upcoming book on the Abu Sayyaf and its top leaders.

Angeles, the author says, "holds the key to the deep intricacies of how some government agencies manipulated the rawness of the Abu Sayyaf during its early years."

"Edwin was the first deep penetration agent of the military to the Abu Sayyaf. He was the one who actually introduced the idea of kidnapping as part of the fund-raising activities of the Abu Sayyaf," De la Cruz states in her book.

The Abu Sayyaf’s first kidnapping for ransom was in 1992; the victim was a Davao-based businesswoman. She was held hostage hostage for three months inside the house of Ustadz Abdurajack Janjalani in Tabuk, Isabela. At that time, the Brigade Headquarters of

the Philippine Marines was just a stone’s throw away from the house of the Janjalanis in Tabuk.

"Edwin planned the abduction and even initiated the plan himself," De la Cruz says. Wearing a police uniform and tying a fake bomb around the body of the victim, Angeles told the woman he would not think twice of pressing the button if she will make any "unusual" move.

The lady trader was released after her relatives paid P1-million pesos to the Abu Sayyaf.

Angeles was also reportedly involved in the daytime abduction of then five-year old kindergarten pupil Luis "Ton-Ton" Biel and his grandfather in April 1993. After two days, they released the older Biel but held on to the child.

At that time, an MNLF lost command led by Jul Jilang abducted Claretian priest Bernardo Blanco in Lantawan, Basilan. Jilang’s group later turned over the priest to the custody of the Abu Sayyaf.

These twin abductions were then television news reporter De la Cruz’s first exclusive report on the Abu Sayyaf, and the bandit group’s first taste of media exposure.

De la Cruz relates that Angeles was the Operations Officer of the Abu Sayyaf Group. He was active in the recruitment of Muslim converts to the ASG.

The ASG had to issue statement related to the abduction, and Ustadz Abdurajack Janjalani thought that it was very early for him to make a media appearance.

It was Angeles who did the talking.

Judging from his intonation, one can easily detect that Angeles was not pure Tausug. He spoke in Tagalog all throughout our interview, De la Cruz says.

She recalls that one of her questions then was the kidnapping itself – If they were fighting for the attainment of an Islamic state, where does kidnapping, which is a criminal act fit in?

"That early, his explanation was vague. Kidnapping he says is allowed as long as the rights of the hostage are protected. But once you took a man against his will – that is already a violation of his right, is it not?

Angeles had said that extra-legal measures are allowed in Islam if the people are oppressed and are fighting for the right to fully practice their way of life as dictated by their religion.

De la Cruz describes Angeles as a "good speaker, a good actor. He spoke like a Leftist leader espousing Fundamentalist principles, acted like a PMA graduate under the robe of a Muslim Ustadz."

He was the exact opposite of Ustadz Abdurajack, she notes. But when Ustadz Abdurajack starts to address his men – even the talkative Edwin got eclipsed from the scene.

As she recounts in her book: "In the early years of the ASG, there were many commanders, but it was very clear that only one has the final word, and that position belongs to Ustadz Abdurajack Janjalani," De la Cruz says.

"Ustadz Abdurajack had a bearing that it seemed that the word ‘leader’ is written all over him. His words were calculated. He chose his words carefully."

"But one thing I noticed about him during that first meeting was that he was the only one inside the camp without any firearms."

***

De la Cruz was romantically linked to the the younger brother of Abdurajack, Khaddafy Janjalani, who would later head the Abu Sayyaf group, as well as to spy-turned-bandit Edwin Angeles.

But the author denies her involvement with Angeles, particularly an intelligence report saying that the DPA was an ardent suitor.

"The truth is he [Angeles] never tried to court me. He was extra-friendly but there was never any display of aggressiveness on his part towards me. Believe it or not, Edwin Angeles was a perfect gentleman as far as his treatment to me is concerned.

"There was one ASG commander who courted me but it was not Edwin," De la Cruz says.

***

Edwin Angeles surrendered to the Philippine Marines based in Sulu on February 1995. The official press release then of the Marines was that Edwin surrendered because he no longer saw eye to eye with ASG chieftain Ustadz Abdurajack.

But Angeles would later tell De la Cruz that he was not yet supposed to surrender and was in fact surprised to learn about the decision of his military "handlers" that it is time to unmask his cover.

He then led the military in a number of operations against the Abu Sayyaf including one in Taglibi, Patikul, Sulu where the bandits from Basilan began building up their mass base.

Angeles was now exposed as a government DPA.

De la Cruz says in her book that Angeles was the masked man at the Tagbak checkpoint in Sulu who identified Khaddafy Janjalani and Jovenal Bruno as Abu Sayyaf leaders when they were spotted on board a passenger jeep to Jolo.

Later Angeles worked as a full-time civilian agent for the Intelligence Command of the Philippine National Police.

His biggest project was the eventual arrest of suspected Arab terrorists in the country. He was the civilian agent that led the police into a series of raids in Caloocan, Parañaque and other parts of Metro Manila.

The problem was that not all of those arrested were legitimate subjects of police work, Angeles claimed. There was no evidence against them, he also alleged.

Angeles released his expose via De la Cruz, who was then working as a reporter for ABS-CBN.

She tells of their meeting sometime in March of 1996 in a McDonald’s branch in Cubao:

"He showed me identification cards with pictures issued to him by the Intelligence Command of the PNP. He showed me his mission orders and the license to carry for his caliber .45 pistol. The reason Edwin showed me all these was to convince me that he’s now really connected with the PNP-IC.

"He even mentioned to me the name of his "handler (in intelligence lingo, this means the police officer that directly supervises the movement and activities of an intelligence asset)."

Angeles claimed that top government and police officials planted evidence on the arrested suspected Arab terrorists. He even said he was the one who suggested the type of firearms they must plant.

De la Cruz states that in exchange for the expose, the agent asked that the television station protect him in the same way it had protected SPO4 Eduardo delos Reyes when he spilled the beans on the Kuratong Baleleng rubout and implicated the PNP brass led by General Panfilo Lacson.

The interview with Angeles was done inside the ABS-CBN newsroom. Before that Angeles signed affidavits "stating, on top of his earlier revelations to me, the alleged plan to stage the series of raids to justify the signing into law the proposed Anti-Terrorist bill pending in Congress at that time," De la Cruz says in her book.

"Edwin too told stories to Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and myself regarding alleged involvement of the CIA in the creation of the ASG. This information was part of an affidavit executed by Angeles in the law office of Senator Pimentel at the Golden Loop Tower in Pasig," she adds.

The problem was the security arrangements that Angeles was seeking for him and his wife El Mina, whom he called Yang. De la Cruz says that "several high ranking officials made calls from the powers that be inside ABS-CBN and the only decision that has to be made at that time was for him to be transferred to another place."

She admits further: "I was not in control of my story at that time. After the story on his revelation, the interest of the station was already at stake. I cannot blame them, Edwin’s story was really very damaging and if it will continue for months just like the Kuratong Baleleng issue, it could severely affect several institutions. It could affect other business interests of the network owners."

The television station aired the story after it was thoroughly reviewed by its top officials, and then decided that instead of providing security for Angeles that they have him transferred to the National Bureau of Investigation, an agency directly under the Justice Department, for placement under the government witness protection program.

Angeles never made it to the WPP. Instead he was slapped with 54 counts of kidnapping with murder.

But that was not to be the final chapter of Angeles’ story. In this case, he got acquitted. The trial took place in the municipal court in Isabela, Basilan. The judge who heard the case said he had no choice but to acquit Angeles because he presented evidence proving that all the crimes that were attributed to him were all done as part of his job as a government DPA.

"What surprised me even more was the fact that at least two police officers from the PNP-IC and another from the Philippine Marines testified before the court attesting that indeed Edwin Angeles carried out a number of criminal acts in the performance of his duties as a DPA funded by legitimate agencies of government," De la Cruz says.

Part of the evidence Edwin Angeles’ lawyer presented before the court were the mission orders, and the identification cards from IC itself.

Before the news on Edwin’s acquittal came out, the cases filed against the suspected Arab terrorists were also dropped due to lack of evidence as per official court records.

Two months after he was acquitted, Angeles was up to his old tricks again.

This time De la Cruz was one of the unsuspecting victims. "I never got to confront Edwin regarding this story. It was Khaddafy who provided me the details of Edwin’s true motives," she says.

It seems that while he was detained in the Isabela, Basilan municipal jail, Angeles was reunited with a key figure in the Abu Sayyaf, Khaddafy Janjalani who was arrested the second time in Cebu and later transferred to the Isabela jail. However, no case was filed against him.

Inside the congested jail, the bond between Khaddafy and Edwin was cemented. They were inseparable after they were both released from jail.

Khaddafy even stood as one of the witnesses during Edwin’s wedding to Yang, who was a local radio announcer in Isabela, Basilan.

De la Cruz recounts in her book how one day Angeles just called and told her that Ustadz Abdurajack was ready to surrender and that his brother Khaddafy was working on his surrender in exchange for several economic packages.

The former Abu Sayyaf leader and government DPA was with Khaddafy when he made the call, which made him credible and believable.

The possibility of being a "facilitator" in the surrender of Ustadz Abdurajack appealed to De la Cruz. Besides, there were already intelligence reports stating that Ustadz Abdurajack was very sick and had acquired malaria.

She set up arrangements with the PNP-IC then led by Superintendent Arturo Lumibao began for the scheduled surrender.

The PNP jet was prepared and a date was set. De la Cruz, the police and government officials waited in Zamboanga. Ustadz Abdurajack was to be presented to then President Fidel V. Ramos at Camp Crame where he was guest speaker for the PNP’s anniversary.

As it turned out, the surrender was a hoax.

"Edwin simply wanted to get even with the very same unit that manipulated him and used him to meet their goals. Khaddafy later told me that he agreed to Edwin’s plan because he wanted Edwin to have the last laugh," de la Cruz says.

"He told me that Edwin was really very angry because he was used in a game where ‘pawns’ like him were sacrificed."

The PNP reportedly spent almost P300,000 in operational expenses for the hoax surrender of Ustadz Abdurajack.

"It was revenge for Edwin. Khaddafy later told me that he was merely standing by a friend," De la Cruz adds.

But now, Angeles’ world was narrower and narrower. The PNP Recom-9 Intelligence Team was after him. The Southern Command was after him. Other ASG members were also after him.

But surprisingly, Angeles again managed to find a new access inside the Southern Command. He reportedly volunteered to be the negotiator for the release of foreign-kidnap-victim Beus abducted by a faction of the MILF in Zamboanga Del Norte. The negotiation involved a payment of ransom amounting to P500,000.

Angeles served as the conduit, Southcom entrusted him the ransom money provided by relatives of the kidnap victim.

But according to intelligence reports, the ransom money never reached the group, De la Cruz asserts in her book. Edwin never showed up again at the Southern Command.

Yang’s version of the Beus abduction was they were blackmailed by another armed group. Edwin, she maintains, merely wanted to help.

There was nowhere to go for Angeles but back to the jungles.

He tried to put up an armed group on his own in Sacol island near the Zamboanga peninsula. There he stayed for 8 months.

Sacol Island is a place where all armed groups mostly wanted by law are seeking refuge. There were intelligence reports that Edwin got involved with a group engaged in the illegal drugs trade.

But De la Cruz quoted Yang as saying that her husband organized armed supporters that has parallel ideals with that of the Abu Sayyaf.

Angeles decided to leave the island when his wife’s pregnancy was placed in danger. This decision proved fatal.

De la Cruz writes about that ignominous day, January 14, 1999, from Yang’s eyewitness account. The couple had beem staying in a coastal baranggay in Zone-3 Kaum-Purnah in Isabela, Basilan.

"Edwin was on his 2nd day of fasting, a few days before Hariraya. He was at the mosque for the 12 noon prayer.

"Yang felt a sudden rush of blood. She was nervous but don’t know why. She decided to go near the mosque to wait for Edwin.

"She saw Edwin come out of the mosque together with her cousin. She decided to stop to a nearby store when she saw Edwin walking towards her direction.

"But in just one split second – she heard a gun shot, followed by two more. Then she saw Edwin down on his knees.

"She screamed like she never screamed before. She rushed to her husband’s side and was in fact able to see the faces of her husband’s assailants.

"Humihinga pa si Edwin nang yakapin ko, [He was still breathing when I held him close.] Yang narrates.

"But he never said a word, just stared at her, pressed her hand and closed his eyes. Yang knew then, her husband already left her – permanently.

"In one of his letters to her, Edwin wrote, ‘I want to die in your arms.’ That wish came true."

* * *

Up to now, says De la Cruz, she still cannot understand Angeles’ motivation for becoming a government agent. The money is not big, and the risks are very high.

As an agent, posing as a bonafide Abu Sayyaf member, Angeles lived a simple life, mostly in the mountains. When he exposed his cover and became full time in the intelligence community, he stayed in a modest apartment and received P12,000.00 a month.

"What I do know is that he was very good at it. At one point he seemed to really be bent on eliminating the Abu Sayyaf, then in another instance, he seemed like the true Mujahideen ready to gun down the enemy."

De la Cruz recalls that in one of her conversations with Angeles he spoke of his arrangement with "Jack" – Ustadz Abdurajack Janjalani.

That arrangement, he points out, is one of the reasons why he worked full time in the intelligence agency of the PNP.

"Arlyn, the truth is, my heart is with the group, I’m doing this for Jack."

De la Cruz asks in her book: "Was he an Abu Sayyaf turned government agent? Or a government agent turned Abu Sayyaf? Up to the end – Edwin was mysterious – as mysterious as his beginnings and contribution to a problem now called the Abu Sayyaf in Southern Philippines."


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