Tuesday, January 31, 2006

New Sayyaf Posters!

WANTED:The US military releases new posters of wanted Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya terrorists in the southern Philippines. Washington has offered as much as $10 million dollar for the capture of JI bomb-maker Dulmatin and $5 million for the arrest of Khadaffy Janjalani, head of the local Abu Sayyaf group, both leaders are blamed for the spate of bombings in the Philippines and Indonesia. (Zamboanga Journal)

Four Seized In Southern Philippines

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 31 Jan) Suspected communist insurgents seized four people in separate attacks in the southern Philippines, officials said Tuesday.

Officials said gunmen seized Rodolfo Adang, a militiaman working for the army, in the remote Paquibato district in Davao City and three other civilians Tony Lague, Inggo Asilo, and Berino Mambuo had been abducted also in the area.

The four had been seized last week, but their relatives only reported the incident to authorities Monday.

Fresh military reports tagged the group of New People's Army (NPA) leader Parago Sandoval as behind the abduction and that troops were deployed in the hinterlands of Paquibato to track down the insurgents.

"There is an ongoing operation in the area. Troops from the 73rd Infantry Battalion are tracking down the rebels and their victims," said Maj. Gamal Hayudini, chief information officer of the military's Southern Command.

Troops also clashed with NPA forces Sunday in the village of San Roque in the outskirts of Bislig City in Surigao del Sur province, leaving one government militia wounded and a still undetermined number of rebel casualties.
The rebels attacked the militias guarding a paper mill factory sparking a 15-minute running gun battle, officials said.

Last week, communist rebels attacked a military post and killed two soldiers and wounded two others in San Agustin town in the province.

Prior to the attack, NPA gunmen also shot and killed a soldier and two militiamen inside a passenger jeep in North Cotabato province. A civilian passenger and another militia were also wounded when rebels opened fire on their targets near the village of Bagsak in the town of Magpet.

The NPA, armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF), is fighting the past three decades to topple the government and install a Maoist state in the country.

Peace negotiations between the government and communist rebels collapsed following the pullout of the National Democratic Front (NDF) from the talks due to its inclusion in the terror lists of the United States and the European Union.
Rebel leaders demanded that Manila asks the United States and the European Union to strike them off from the terror lists before they resume peace talks.

The rebels have vowed to step up attacks on government targets after Manila last year suspended safety and immunity guarantee for its negotiators following the collapse of the peace talks.

9 Slain In Clashes In Maguindanao

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 31 Jan) At least 9 people were killed in fierce fighting between government soldiers and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels in Maguindanao province in the southern Philippines.

The MILF said the fighting erupted Sunday and sporadic clashes continued the next day in the villages of Tapikan and Lepok, all in Datu Unsay town after soldiers and members of the military-backed Civilian Army Geographical Armed Forces (CAFGU) harassed rebel forces.

"One MILF fighter and eight CAFGU members were slain during the intense firefight, which the latter initiated by attacking MILF positions in said villages," a statement posted on the MILF website at
http://luwaran.com said on Tuesday.

It said the fighting stopped after security forces, which sustained heavy casualties, retreated at nightfall.

But the military's Southern Command denied Tuesday the MILF claims and said only three militiamen were wounded in the clash.
"As far as we are concerned only three militias are wounded in the fighting. The rebels attacked our security forces and soldiers retaliated only in self-defense," said Maj. Gamal Hayudini, Southern Command chief information officer.

Bon Al-Haq, the MILF cease-fire committee chairman, some politicians in the province were meddling in the fighting making it difficult to prevent hostilities from breaking out in other areas.

Al-Haq did not identify the politicians, but many of them maintain private armies and gangs in Maguindanao and are known to keep huge number of illegal weapons.

Eid Kabalu, a rebel spokesman, said the fighting was triggered by a land conflict between two Muslim families, but soldiers sided with one group and attacked MILF forces in the villages for a still unknown reason.

"The fighting could have been prevented had not government soldiers joined the conflict. Every conflict has a peaceful solution and fighting is not the solution because it only aggravates the situation. The MILF is working closely with the government cease-fire committee and the international truce observers to defuse the tension in the area and bring back peace again," Kabalu said.

The fighting broke out ahead of the resumption of the peace talks between Manila and the MILF in Kuala Lumpur, which is brokering the negotiations.

Manila opened peace talks with the MILF, the largest separatist rebel group fighting for the establishment of a strict Islamic state in the southern Philippines, in an effort to strike a political deal that would put an end to more than three decades of bloody hostilities in the strife-torn, but mineral-rich region.

But despite the peace talks, sporadic clashes still continue in the south with both sides accusing each other of violating a fragile five-year old truce. President Gloria Arroyo said 80% of the peace talks are done and that government and rebel negotiators are near into signing a peace accord.

Gunmen Ambush Preacher, Wife In Southern RP

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 31 Jan) Gunmen ambushed a Christian preacher and his wife who were on their way to a religious gathering in the southern Philippines, security officials said.

The couple -- Timothy Ariao, 46, and Delia Juebas, 39, -- was killed instantly after the gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons in the village of Patonoling in South Cotabato's Tupi town at the weekend, officials said.

"Authorities are still investigating the motive of the ambush and who were behind the killing," said Maj. Gamal Hayudini, a regional military spokesman.

He said two men attacked the couple with M16 rifle and .45-caliber pistol based on the empty shells that policeman and soldiers had recovered in the area. Ariao was a pastor for the Alliance Church, he said.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but bandits and communist insurgents are known to actively operate in the province. And it was not the first time that a religious man was killed in the southern Philippines.

In 1985, government militias in North Cotabato province killed Italian priest Father Tullio Favali and ate his brains. A Roman Catholic priest Father Benjamin Inocencio was shot dead by a suspected Abu Sayyaf militant in Jolo island in December 2000.

A Filipino priest Roel Gallardo was kidnapped and killed the same year in Basilan island. A year later, an Irish priest of the Columban order Father Rufus Halley was also killed by rebels in Lanao del Sur province on Mindanao island.

American missionary Martin Burnham was kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf group in June 2001 and killed the next year in Zamboanga del Norte province. A US missionary was also killed along with 20 others in a bomb attack in March 2003 at the Davao airport in Mindanao.

Sayyaf Militant Killed In Jolo

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 31 Jan) Government soldiers killed Tuesday a member of the militant group Abu Sayyaf, tied by the authorities to the al-Qaeda terror network, in the island of Jolo, about 950 km south of Manila, a military spokesman said.

The fighting erupted ahead of a joint antiterror training exercise between the United States and the Philippines in Jolo island.

Marine soldiers attacked an Abu Sayyaf group around 6 a.m. in the town of Patikul, a known lair of militants blamed for the series of kidnappings and bombings in the Philippines, said Air Force Major Gamal Hayudini, of the Southern Command.

"One Abu Sayyaf was killed and we have recovered his body. There are no military casualties," Hayudini said, adding, soldiers tracked down the Abu Sayyaf after civilians tipped off the military about the presence of gunmen in the town.

He said security forces were in Patikul and pursuing other Abu Sayyaf members who managed to escape.

The offensive came barely a week after suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen killed a government soldier in Mauboh village in Patikul town while he was about to meet two civilian informers.

It was unknown if the two unidentified informers helped set up or were involved in the attack, but the town is scene of previous fighting between soldiers and militants.

The military has relied heavily on intelligence provided by civilians and informants about the terrorist group. Many Abu Sayyaf leaders on the island were either arrested or killed with the help of informants in exchange for huge ransom offered by the United States and the Philippine governments.

Washington offered as much as $5 million bounty for known Abu Sayyaf leaders, including Khadaffy Janjalani. President Gloria Arroyo also put up P100 million rewards for the capture of the group's leaders and their members dead or alive.

Just recently, Philippine and US military forces in Zamboanga City distributed an updated list of wanted Abu Sayyaf posters in the south, and gave away more than 5,000 bottles of mineral water labeled with photographs and bounty information of terrorist leaders. The US included the group on its list of foreign terrorist organizations.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Gunmen Attack Packed Billiard Hall In Lanao, Kill 7

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 30 Jan) Seven people were killed when gunmen opened fire on a packed billiard hall in the southern Philippine province of Lanao del Sur, police said Monday.

Police said the gunmen who were in a van attacked a group of young men watching billiard games in Balabagan town on Saturday afternoon.

"Seven people were killed in the attack. We suspect rido as the motive behind the attack. This has something to do with family feud," said Senior Supt. Akmad Mamalinta, chief of police of the Muslim autonomous region.

He said the attack may have been triggered by the killing last month of a man in the town. "There is an ongoing operation to capture the assailants. We have identified the suspects," he told the Zamboanga Journal.

Most of those killed were Muslims, police said.

Rido or vendetta killing is common among warring clans in the southern Philippines and sometimes the hostilities could last for decades or until a peace pact is reach by the protagonists, usually, through mediation by religious leaders and the payment of bloodmoney.

More police forces were sent to the province to prevent retaliation or hostilities from spreading, Mamalinta said. "We have sent enough forces in the province to handle this brewing problem. We don't want to see more dead bodies on the street," he said.

Police said it is readying criminal charges against the gunmen.

EU Pours Aid For Mindanao


EU SUPPORT FOR MINDANAO: Austrian Ambassador to Manila Herbert Jager shows an IEC (Information Education Communication) material produced by the European Commission in support to the promotion of the Philippine-European Union relations during a recent news conference in Davao City. EU projects in Mindanao include rehabilitation programs for war refugees and agrarian support. (MEDCo)

Sultan Calls For Balikatan Support

SUPPORT BALIKATAN: A billboard maker retouches a streamer welcoming US and Filipino troops in next week's joint Balikatan training exercise in Jolo island. (Zamboanga Journal)


ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 3o Jan) The influential Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo, Sharif Ibrahim Ajibul Mohammad Pulalun, on Monday called on Muslims to support next week's joint RP-US military training exercise in Jolo island, about 950 km south of Manila.

"Let us show the world that we are peaceful citizens. I appeal to every Muslims to welcome our American visitors and support their peaceful cause," Sultan Pulalun told the Zamboanga Journal.

The training, dubbed as Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) 2006, is expected to bring humanitarian and medical aid to many poor families in Jolo, one of the poorest provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.

But Jolo is also a known stronghold of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group, blamed for the spate of kidnappings and terrorism in the troubled southern region, and any attack on US soldiers could jeopardize government efforts to bring aid and development to the island.
This year's joint training exercise is the 22nd in a series that began in 1981, and would involve infantry and marine troops from both countries.

Security would be tight during the exercises to protect the US and Filippino soldiers against possible attacks by Abu Sayyaf militants. The Abu Sayyaf previously threatened to attack US targets in the Philippines, and had killed three Americans, including a soldier, in Zamboanga City in 2002.

Officials said the exercise is consistent with the Mutual Defense Treaty and Visiting Forces Agreement and will improve combined planning of the US and Philippine military forces. It is one of many ongoing activities under the framework of RP-US military security cooperation.
The Balikatan 2006 demonstrates Washington's resolve to continue the commitment to train, advise and assist the Philippine military to build capacity to counter terrorism.

The training program, officials said, includes support for comprehensive defense reform; security assistance modules for counter-terrorism training; operations intelligence fusion; and aspects in education programs, logistics, engineering, equipment, maintenance and helicopter programs.
It will also enhance the skills and capabilities of Filipino and Amercian forces in combating terrorism and other internal and external security threats. And improve inter-operability between RP and US forces through the exchange of training skills and techniques.

About 250 US soldiers and over a thousand Filipino troops are expected to participate in the training set to start next week. The training is part of Washington security assistance to the Philippines, a key US ally in Southeast Asia in the so-called global war on terrorism.
Officials said the training would only be for about two weeks, but US and Filipino soldiers may stay longer for the conduct of medical mission and other humanitarian activities in poor areas in Jolo.

A small group of US troops are already in Jolo and active in humanitarian mission, the island's military chief Brig. Gen. Alexander Aleo said.
"Filipino and US troops are active in medical mission, and we are to start joint training and humanitarian activities in the coming weeks," he said in a separate interview.
Gen. Aleo praised the Sultan for his strong support to the Balikatan. "We really appreciate the support of Sultan Pulalun and the Muslim people because we are also for peace," he said.

"We ask for nothing in return, but I humbly appeal to the government to help our poor people and give them access to basic services, such as health and education," Sultan Pulalun, who is active in humanitarian works in the south, said.

Many poor Muslims in Jolo only benefit from free medical services when non-governmental organizations conduct humanitarian missions or after months of fierce battle between military and rebel forces.

Last year, Italian philanthropist Armando De Rossi brought tons of relief aid to Jolo to feed thousands of war refugees after month-long clashes between troops and rebels that killed dozens of people.

Attacks Kill 8 In Southern RP

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 30 Jan) Eight people were killed and five others wounded in separate attacks in the strife-torn southern Philippine region, officials said.

Gunmen ambushed a passenger jeep and killing five people in the weekend attack in Lanao del Sur province, where bandits and rebels are known to operate, officials said.

Officials said five others were wounded in the ambush in the village of Lalabuan in Balabagan town. The jeep was traveling to Maguindanao province from Marawi City when the gunmen opened fire on the vehicle.

"There is an ongoing investigation and troops were dispatched to help police track down the attackers," said Maj. Gamal Hayudini, chief information officer of the military's Southern Command.

No individual or group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Lanao del Sur, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region, is a known lair of bandits and rebels who previously attacked civilians. Clan war and vendetta killings are also rampant in the province.

In Butuan City in Agusan del Norte province, a farming couple and their son were also shot and killed after unidentified gunmen barged into their house Saturday. The assailants torched the house and burned the bodies before escaping, the Southern Command said.

New People's Army also attacked two military posts on Sunday in Davao del Sur, triggering fierce gun battle that left a still undetermined number of communist rebels. There were no reports of government casualties.

The rebels are fighting to overthrow the government the past three decades to install a Maoist state in the country.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Eerie Coincidence!

IS IT COINCIDENCE?
1) New York City has 11 letters
2) Afghanistan has 11 letters.
3) Ramsin Yuseb (The terrorist who threatened to destroy the Twin Towers in 1993) has 11 letters.
4) George W. Bush has 11 letters.
This could be a mere coincidence, but this gets more interesting!
1) New York is the 11th state.
2) The first plane crashing against the Twin Towers was Flight No. 11.
3) Flight 11 was carrying 92 passengers. 9 + 2 =11
4) Flight 77 which also hit Twin Towers, was carrying 65 passengers. 6 + 5 = 11
5) The tragedy was on September 11, or 9/11 as it is now known. 9 + 1+ 1 =11
6) The date is equal to the US emergency services telephone number 911. 9 + 1 + 1 = 11.
Sheer coincidence? Read on and make up your own mind!
1) The total number of victims inside all the hijacked planes was 254. 2 + 5 + 4 = 11.
2) September 11 is day number 254 of the calendar year. Again 2 + 5 + 4 = 11.
3) The Madrid bombing took place on 3/11/2004. 3 + 1 + 1 + 2 + 4 = 11.
4) The tragedy of Madrid happened 911 days after the Twin Towers incident.
Now this is where things get totally eerie!
The most recognised symbol for the US, after the Stars & Stripes, is the Eagle.
The following verse is taken from the Quran, the Islamic holy book: "For it is written that a son of Arabia would awaken a fearsome Eagle. The wrath of the Eagle would be felt throughout the lands of Allah and lo, while some of the people trembled in despair still more rejoiced: for the wrath of the Eagle cleansed the lands of Allah and there was peace." That verse is number 9.11 of the Quran.
Still uncovinced about all of these?
Try this and see how you feel afterwards, it made my hair stand on end: Open Microsoft Word and do the following:
1. Type in capitals Q33 NY. This is the flight number of the first plane to hit one of the Twin Towers.
2. Highlight the Q33 NY.
3. Change the font size to 48.
4. Change the actual font to the WINGDINGS, What do you think now?!!(Compiled by Jerry Dureza)

8 Injured In Jolo Drive-by Shooting


Two armored troops carriers patrol the southern Philippine town of Surabay. (Zamboanga Journal)


ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 29 Jan) At least 8 people were injured in a drive-by shooting in the southern island of Jolo, site of a joint anti-terrorism training exercise between the Philippines and the United States, police said Sunday.

Police mounted an intensified hunt for a pair of men, blamed for the Saturday night attack on a crowd gathered outside a mosque in Busbus village.

"At least eight people were wounded in the attack and we are still investigating the motive and who were behind the drive-by shooting," a police investigator told the Zamboanga Journal by phone from Jolo island on Sunday.

He said the two gunmen opened fire indiscriminately on the crowd of mostly young worshippers and then sped off disappearing in the dark street near a military camp where US and Philippine troops are to hold the training next month.

It was not immediately known if the attack was connected to the shooting of a military intelligence agent in the area last month, but the village is also a known lair of Abu Sayyaf militants and their supporters.

The Abu Sayyaf is blamed for the spate of attacks and terrorism in the Philippines and has been linked by authorities to the al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya network.
Police and military have tightened security in Jolo, about 950 km south of Manila, because of the impending anti-terror drill. Troops have put up checkpoints and roadblocks around the camp, searching weapons and explosives from vehicles that pass near the area.
The Abu Sayyaf has previously threatened to attack US targets in the Philippines.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Lawmakers Trek Mountain To Inspect Canadian Mining Firm In Southern RP


CONCERN FOR SUBANON: Siocon town Mayor Ceasar Soriano gestures as he speaks privately with Ifugao Rep. Solomon Chungalao, while Rep. Mujiv Hataman looks on, in Mount Canatuan in Zamboanga del Norte on Friday, Jan. 27, 2005. Above, Soriano talks with TVI Resource Development Phils., Inc. advisor John Ridsdel.(Zamboanga Journal)

SIOCON, ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE (Zamboanga Journal / 28 Jan) A group of lawmakers and environmentalists inspected a Canadian mining firm in the remote southern Philippine town of Siocon, where a group of indigenous Subanon people is opposing its operation.

Ifugao Rep. Solomon Chungalao headed the inspection Friday on Mount Canatuan near Zamboanga del Norte province, where the TVI Resource Development Phils. Inc. is operating.

Chungalao together with Reps. Joel Virador and Mujiv Hataman trekked to the mining site and interviewed the locals about the TVI operation.

A group of Subanon villagers accused TVI of polluting the rivers and encroaching into their ancestral land they considered as sacred. They said sustained gold mining would destroy Mount Canatuan, home to the indigenous tribe in the province.

TVI officials strongly denied the allegations and even offered the inspectors a tour of the mining site and see for themselves the firm’s pro-environment and economic initiatives.

TVI started its mining operations in 2004, nearly a decade after it obtained its Mineral Production Sharing Agreement with the government in 1996. It is currently into gold and silver mining and plans to extract copper and zinc this year.

"The area is clean and it's far from what we had expected it to be, but we are concerned about the plight of the indigenous people and how they can benefit from the operation of TVI. We need a sustainable livelihood program for the Subanon people," Chungalao told the Zamboanga Journal.

Chungalao's group also held a dialogue with Subanon representatives and officials from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the National Commission on Indigenous People, Mindanao Economic Development Council and the leaders of the local Council of Elders and Siocon town Mayor Ceasar Soriano.

Italian missionary and environmentalist Fr. Sebastiano D'Ambra, who heads the Silsilah Dialogue Movement, was also there.

Soriano also suggested a second meeting next month to unify two groups of feuding Subanon people -- one supporting the TVI and the other opposing its operation -- in the province.

Chungalao, himself a member of an indigenous community in Ifugao province, said TVI should provide more benefits to the Subanon people. "There should be a security for the Subanon people. They need education program, sustainable livelihood projects, among others. And TVI should give more to the locals, like putting up a trust fund for the Subanon people or make them stock holders of TVI," he said.

“We know and understand the concerns raised by our Subanon brothers about our operation. And we have repeatedly said that TVI operates under strict environment safety compliance. This is the reason why we strive to be an industry leader and we take the best approach to environmental management,” Eugene Mateo, TVI president, said.

He said TVI has spent over P130 million since 2004 for its environmental management initiatives, and is allocating P80 million or more for this year.

Mateo said they welcome any proposal to expand the membership of a multi-monitoring team to include the representatives of the church, farmers' and fishermen groups, as well as the Subanon.

"Our doors are open so that people will see their fears are unfounded. We hope their visit to our mine site will pave the way for a continuous and productive dialogue," Mateo said.

The Siocon Subano Association, Inc., (SSAI), the largest group of indigenous people in Zamboanga del Norte is also supporting the mining operation. Its legal counsel, Subanon lawyer Pablo Bernardo, said TVI has spent millions of pesos in community projects in Siocon that included schools, clinics and bridges, to benefit the locals.

TVI noted that it had entered into a production sharing agreement with the government even before the Subanon people obtained their Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) under the Indigenous People's Rights Act in 2003.

SSAI is recognized by the National Commission on Indigenous People as the legal representative of Canatuan CADT holders. TVI signed a memorandum of understanding with the SSAI in October 2001 to develop their ancestral domain as a gesture of good faith.

But Virador questioned TVI's operation, saying, it violated the rights of the Subanon when it encroached into their so-called ancestral domain. He said many Subanon families were displaced by the mining operation. "We have reports that many Subanon families were evicted from their homes, and we will investigate these disturbing reports," Virador said.

American Jay Nelson, TVI's mine environment manager, denied the accusation and said some Subanon villagers who sold their properties to the mining firm kept coming back and asking for more money. "We paid them a lot of money, but some of them kept coming back and were asking for more money, and we cannot just pay them over and over again," Nelson said.

Hataman also expressed concerns over the effects mining operation has on Mount Canatuan. "Development comes with a price, but if the locals say they are for TVI and development, then there is nothing we can do except to strictly monitor the mining operation and ensure that it will not pose any hazard to the people and their environment," he said in a separate interview.

The influential Silsilah Dialogue Movement also suggested that TVI should be sensitive to the local culture and take criticism as a way of improving its services to the Subanon people.

"Silsilah does not espouse a confrontational approach to the resolution of controversies or conflicts. It believes in dialogue as a philosophy and an approach and it is in this context that Silsilah has chosen to be the voice of the Subanon in this particular situation," D'Ambra said.

TVI claimed to have the support of the majority in Canatuan, which has a population of several thousands. It currently employs more than 650 mostly Subanon tribesmen, plus several hundreds more in other indirect services.

"We should be thankful to the TVI and because of them we now have schools and health clinics, and roads and bridges. They are like manna in heaven. Do not believe when some say TVI will destroy our sacred land or poison the rivers because that is a lie, just look around you and you will see that there is no truth to that," Elmi Sagado, a 39-year old Subanon villager, said.

Local villagers said TVI has provided them development projects. "Many of us now have access to television because TVI provided us electricity. We can now eat at least three times a day because many of us have jobs in the mining site," said Percival Note, a miner.

"Now, a large part of Mount Canatuan also has access to wireless Internet and cellular phone services, thanks to TVI, aren’t that amazing? The advent of technology is now here. In the past, we would have to walk for days up and down the mountain, or ride a horse just to send a letter or buy a newspaper in the town center, now we can send urgent matters through SMS on our cell phones," Note said.

Yulo Perez, TVI general manager, said this year's capital investment for the Mount Canatuan project is about P170 million and that the operating cost alone is expected to reach P600 million. "This is a lot of investment, but we don't sacrifice the safety of the people and the environment over our mining operation," he said.

Last year, Perez said they paid more than P6 million in Subano royalty tax, aside from over P16 million in other government taxes.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Peace Process!

PEACE PROCESS:Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secy. Jesus Dureza and First Admiral Mohd Som bin Ibrahim, deputy head of mission of the Malaysian international cease-fire monitoring team, discuss the progress of the peace process in Mindanao. (Melody Ibo)

Aussie Aid To Zambo Praised

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 27 Jan) Vice Mayor Maria Isabel Climaco on Friday praised Canberra for its continued support and assistance to Zamboanga City that benefited thousands of people here.

Climaco was guest at the Australian Embassy celebration Thursday of the Australia Day in Manila. She was invited by Australian Ambassador Tony Hely and spouse Wendy Jeffery and also represented Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat, who was busy with urgent matters.

Australia Day commemorates the landing of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove in 1788.

She said the Australian government through its AUSAID program has assisted the local government, other national agencies and non-government institutions based in Zamboanga City in the conduct of various projects which aim to develop and help improve the well being of Filipinos.
One of AUSAID beneficiary in Zamboanga City is the Human Development and Empowerment Services (HDES), a non-governmental organization which helps street children and child laborers.

The HDES, headed by Malou Lim, was previously selected as one of the beneficiaries in the two-year rice and educational assistance program for the children. It benefited some 200 children from 10 villages from 2001 to 2003.

Aside from the HDES, the AUSAID also funded the construction of the Social Development Center in Sta. Barbara village.

Climaco is optimistic that Canberra will continue its humanitarian assistance to Zamboanga City that would benefit mostly poor families here.
"We are so grateful with Australia for its continued support and humanitarian assistance to Zamboanga City. Our people are forever grateful," she said.

Malaysia Cease-Fire Team Leader Arrives In Zamboanga City

Malaysian cease-fire team leader Lt. Col. Ariffin is escorted by Philippine Army Brig. Gen. Francisco Callelero inside the Southern Command base in Zamboanga City on Friday Jan. 26, 2005. International truce observers from Malaysia, Libya and Brunei are monitoring the cease-fire between the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Mindanao. (Zamboanga Journal)

Japan Fears For Safety Of Citizens In Mindanao

Philippine Army Col. Domingo Tutaan, chief of staff of the Southern Command in Zamboanga City, welcomes Thursday, Jan. 26, 2005 Yoshihisa Ishikawa and Kenichi Ichinose, both First Secretaries of the Japanese Embassy in Manila. (Zamboanga Journal)


ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 26 Jan) Japan on Thursday expresses concern about the safety of its citizens in the southern Philippines, where Filipino troops are battling members of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group.

Two senior Japanese embassy officials Yoshihisa Ishikawa and Kenichi Ichinose arrived in Zamboanga City and met closed door with Filipino military commanders in Southern Command headquarters where they have been briefed on the progress of the government's anti-terror campaign in Mindanao.

"Basically, we briefed the Japanese officials about terrorism and the government's counter-terrorism campaign, criminalities and the progress of the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels, among others," said Col. Domingo Tutaan, the chief of staff of the Southern Command, the largest military installation outside Manila.

Ishikawa, First Secretary of the Japanese Embassy, later met with reporters and said he was satisfied with the security briefing, but he expressed concern about the safety of Japanese citizens and aid workers in Mindanao. But he was quick to say that Japan will continue its humanitarian projects in the southern Philippines.

Manila blamed the Abu Sayyaf for the spate of kidnappings and terrorism in the strife-torn, but mineral-rich region.

"Generally, Japan is concerned, of course, with the safety of its citizens and aid workers in Mindanao, but this won't affect our humanitarian assistance to Mindanao,” he said.

Abu Sayyaf gunmen kidnapped a Japanese man Senichi Takayama and shot dead his Filipino companion in 1997 in the southern Philippine resort town of Glan.

In 1998, suspected Abu Sayyaf members threatened to kidnapped Japanease aid workers in Zamboanga City. And in January 2003, unidentified gunmen barged into the house of a 48-year old Japanese trader Hazumitsu Hashiba in Lanuza town in Surigao del Sur province and kidnapped him.

Japan is one of the Philippines' biggest aid donors and has funded many humanitarian projects as far as Tawi-Tawi and Basilan islands, both strongholds of the Abu Sayyaf group in the southern Philippines.

Last week, Minister Eiichi Oshima, Japan's deputy ambassador to Manila, signed a grant worth more than P600, 000 to finance the construction of a potable water system in Masbate province under Tokyo's Official Development Assistance (ODA). The project, part of Japan's Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP), is expected to benefit some 600 people in the village of Ki-Buaya.

Japan in 1989 also launched in the Philippines the Grant Assistance for Grassroots Projects (GAGP) for the purpose of reducing poverty and helping various communities engaged in grassroots activities.

Since then more than 300 small-scale grassroots projects had been implemented in the country, including a social rehabilitation center built in 2003 in Basilan island worth US$90,740 as part of Tokyo's commitment to support the Philippine government’s efforts in promoting peace and development in Mindanao.

A group of Malaysian soldiers led by Lt. Col. Ariffin was also in Zamboanga City and held talks with Southern Command chief Maj. Gen. Gabriel Habacon.

Local military spokesmen said Ariffin's group is part of the international cease-fire team monitoring the truce between the government and the MILF. Officials did not disclose details of the meeting, but other sources said Ariffin was happy about the progress of the peace talks between Manila and the MILF.

Peace talks are expected to resume in the coming weeks in Malaysia, which is brokering the negotiations.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Cyber Chat To Discuss US-RP Ties

DAVAO CITY (Rolando Yambao / 25 Jan) The U.S. Embassy’s Virtual Consulate Davao is hosting a live Internet chat on Friday to discuss U.S.-Philippines relations with visitors Angela Dickey and William Comley, both from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP).
Dickey is the current director of the Office of Maritime Southeast Asia, while Comley is an EAP political desk officer.

Participants can discuss and ask questions about U.S.-Philippines relations. The program will start at 7:45 a.m. and would last 1 hour.
Those who are interested in participating should register early to join the live chat. Instructions are available on the Virtual Consulate Davao’s web site at http://www.usvirtualconsulatedavao.org.ph.

PLEASE HELP THE CHILDREN!






We are accepting donations for the poor and homeless children of Zamboanga City, especially those in Lumbangan village
(see story No Feast For The Yuletide, December archive)
where the government garbage dump is located.
Lumbangan people basically need medicines for fever and cough, anti-tuberculosis, multi-vitamins, dust masks, caps, boots and gloves.

We welcome other donations, such as old books and other reading materials, including Bible and Quoran, used clothings
and condoms for the city's slum.

We will send you photographs on CDs of the distributions of all donations and the names of the beneficiaries.

You can send your donations to
Zamboanga Journal
53-B, Alfaro St., Tetuan, Zamboanga City,
Philippines 7000
Write us at P.O. Box 36
Zamboanga City Post Office

Thank you very much for your continued support.
Zamboanga Journal

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

North Cotabato Rejects RP-US Anti-Terror Training

NORTH COTABATO (Carlos Bautista / 24 Jan) North Cotabato Gov. Manny Piñol on Tuesday led provincial officials in calling President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to immediately suspend the US-RP joint military exercise here should the United States continue to turn down the request of Philippine courts to have jurisdiction over American soldiers charged with the rape of a Filipina in Subic last year.

In a rare public declaration, Gov. Piñol and the North Cotabato Provincial Board Council led by Vice Gov. Jesus Sacdalan, said: “We cannot sit down and play host to the soldiers of a nation which insults and hurts a people who consider America a friend.”

“What if, God forbid, a similar case would happen during the conduct of the Balance Piston exercises in our province? Would the US government turn over the suspects to our local courts? With the Luzon case as a precedent, the answer is most probably No,” the provincial officials said.

“We cannot allow this to happen because in this small place we call home, we have always believe that no one is above the law,” they added.

North Cotabato is hosting the Balance Piston 06-02 joint military exercise as part of Balikatan at the Philippine Army headquarters called Camp Lucero in Carmen town.
Some 30 American and about 250 Filipino soldiers are taking part in the exercise.

Last year, despite anti-US protests, Gov. Piñol supported the holding of a similar training exercise at Camp Lucero. He dismissed accusations raised by militant groups that the exercise would result to human rights abuses and the spread of prostitution, and even welcomed the US contingent by hosting the Governor’s Night at the Provincial Capitol. This year, the governor has cancelled the activity.
“The US government should respect our sovereignty as a nation and immediately turn over the American soldiers charged with rape to the jurisdiction of Philippine courts,” Gov. Piñol said.

“If the US government continues to display arrogance in this case, then we will refuse the conduct of future Balikatan Exercises in the Province of North Cotabato,” he said.

Gov. Piñol and the provincial officials said they recognize the great help of the US government in the rehabilitation program of North Cotabato, a former conflict area, from agricultural assistance to books for public schools.

“But we cannot happily count the blessings we received from the US government and turn a deaf ear and close our eyes to the fact that the whole nation is being slapped around and insulted by a country whose ideals of democracy and justice we so dearly embrace.”

A Petition For Press Freedom

NATIONAL UNION OF JOURNALISTS OF THE PHILIPPINES
www.nujp.org


A PETITION FOR PRESS FREEDOM
January 24, 2006


Proposed amendment to Bill of Rights:
A menace to Philippine democracy

We, the undersigned media organizations, oppose the move to amend the Bill of Rights of the Philippine Constitution and condemn government efforts to curtail the democratic space.

The Malacanang-appointed Constitutional Commission has proposed amending Section 4 of the Philippine Constitution, to wit: "No law shall be passed abridging the RESPONSIBLE EXERCISE of freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the Government for redress of grievances."

The addition of the phrase "responsible exercise" undermines these basic rights and raises the specter of whimsical and capricious interpretation by administrations that seek to curb legitimate dissent.

A free press is a cornerstone of a democracy. To qualify its exercise, to put parameters around it, makes it vulnerable to abuse and misuse.

The Arroyo administration has shown a penchant for blaming journalists for its political woes. Whether faced with corruption scandals or anti-insurgency efforts that go awry, it has tried to wriggle out of trouble by using the press as scapegoat. Its often hostile stance toward the Philippine media has exacerbated the dangers faced by journalists in this country.

With 10 journalists murdered in 2005, the Philippines is second only to Iraq as the world's most dangerous country to practice the profession. To say this government does not inspire confidence in the realm of interpreting "responsible exercise" of press freedom would be an understatement.

Philippine media is not infallible. Journalists in the country have had to struggle with a dearth in opportunities for skills improvement, not to mention harsh and unjust work conditions. There have been many instances of irresponsible, unethical practice of the profession.

These, however, are not sufficient grounds to tamper with a basic democratic right. There are enough laws to ensure a system of redress for those who see themselves wronged by an irresponsible press. Journalists who use their profession to commit crimes are not exempt from the country's laws.

We believe the media situation reflects the national state of affairs. Philippine media is bedeviled by corruption, by economic injustice, and now by the growing threat of authoritarianism.

The proposed amendment to the Bill of Rights spits on the spirit of that hallowed document. It is not merely the press that is threatened. All Filipinos risk curtailment of their most basic rights by administrations desperate to hold on to power. Certainly, the Arroyo government has shown a dangerous bent to push the limits of executive power in its bid to counter political disenchantment.

The exercise of rights has never endangered Philippine democracy. On the contrary, the Filipino people's vigorous defense of the freedom of the press, of speech, of expression, and of the right to assembly has served the cause of democracy by holding leaders accountable for their actions. The real menace lies in the curbing of these rights. There lies the road to national perdition.

Please sign this petition by listing your name and/or the name of your organization below and emailing this back to nujphil@gmail.com.
You can view updated list of signators at www.nujp.org. This petition will be forwarded to Philippine lawmakers.


NATIONAL UNION OF JOURNALISTS OF THE PHILIPPINES
105-A Scout Castor Street (near Morato Avenue) Quezon City, PhilippinesTel.: (+632) 4117768 nujphil@gmail.com

Are you a journalist under threat?
Report it to NUJP's Threat Hotline: (+632) 411-7768 or email us nujphil@gmail.com

"There can be no press freedom if journalists exist in conditions of corruption, poverty or fear."

Nur Misuari Is Freed, MNLF Praises Arroyo

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 24 Jan) The Moro National Liberation Front on Tuesday praised President Gloria Arroyo for allowing former rebel leader Nur Misuari to undergo medical examination and treatment.

The 65-year old Misuari is currently in jail at a police camp in Laguna province just south of Manila facing rebellion charges after a failed uprising in the southern Philippine island of Jolo in 2001.

"We thanked President Arroyo and the government for granting MNLF chairman Nur Misuari temporary liberty for him to undergo medical examination and treatment," Jamasali Abdurahman, a close aide of Misuari, told the Zamboanga Journal.

He said the court granted Misuari 10 days medical pass together with his close associate Abuhari Usman, 68. They will be transferred to the St. Lukes Hospital in Manila on Wednesday, Abdurahman said.

Misuari has been asking the government since last year to grant him temporary freedom so he can have a complete medical examination and treatment. He had complained of occasional pain in his abdomen and chest, and erratic blood pressure. Misuari was also asking the Department of Justice to bring his trial to Mindanao, instead of holding him in Laguna.

He was almost granted temporary liberty last year, but other Misuari's aides who are also detained want to take a mass leave for medical treatment along with the former rebel chieftain.

Other senior MNLF leaders in Mindanao have asked the President to permanently free Misuari, saying, he had suffered long enough and incarcerated without due process. While some of his followers had threatened to renew hostilities in the southern region if Misuari is not freed.

Even the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country's largest separatist rebel group negotiating peace with Manila, sought Misuari's unconditional release.

Last week, Speaker Hatimil Hassan of the Muslim autonomous region has appealed to President Arroyo to free Misuari for humanitarian reason, adding, the former rebel leader can help in the government's peace process and reconcile the Muslims in Mindanao.

"It is our most sincere wish that the government will immediately release him. The release of brother Nur from jail would do well both for the government and the MNLF."

"Brother Nur can really reconcile the Bangasamoro people and help in the government's peace process. He can unify the people," Hassan said.

State prosecutors said the continued incarceration of Misuari's group is justified because hearing on their petition for bail is still pending in court, but under Philippine penal law, rebellion is considered a heinous crime.

"The case of MNLF chairman Nur Misuari is now pending before the courts and its disposition is entirely within the exclusive jurisdiction and discretion of the presiding judge," said Jesus Dureza, the Presidential peace adviser.

Dureza said he will not oppose if the court will allow Misuari to seek medical treatment.
"On a personal note and without intruding into the merits of his case, I will welcome any humanitarian gesture extended to chairman Nur Misuari if his plea for medical treatment due to his physical condition meets the favorable consideration of the court," he said.

The MNLF, under Misuari, signed a peace agreement with the government in September 1996, ending almost three decades of bloody fighting in the south.
He later became governor of the four-province Muslim autonomous region, but many MNLF members were not satisfied with the accord and accused the government of failing to provide them livelihood and improve their standard of living.

Misuari later accused the government of reneging on its promise to help develop war-torn areas in Mindanao and led a failed rebellion in Jolo island that coincided with the planned elections in the autonomous region that would eventually put him out of the race.

The fighting on the island left dozens of people dead and wounded and spread to Zamboanga City where Misuari's loyal soldiers held hostage more than 100 people, triggering three days of fierce fighting that killed many rebels and civilians. Misuari then fled to Sabah, but was arrested and deported to the Philippines and jailed.

It was Dureza who escorted Misuari back home. "As his friend, I have the highest respects for him and I wish him well," Dureza said.

Just this month, the government allowed Misuari to attend prayers during the Eid'l Adha celebration in the Blue Mosque in Taguig City after the Makati Regional Trial Court gave him permission. (With reports from Melody Ibo)

MILF Renews Hunt For Sayyaf, Jemaah In Southern RP

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 24 Jan) Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels have began a renewed operation to help authorities capture the leader of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group and the Jemaah Islamiya network in the southern Philippines, coinciding with the start of fresh anti-terror training between US and Filipino troops.

The MILF said it is helping the government track down Khadafy Janjalani, whose group is blamed for the spate of kidnappings and bombings in Mindanao island, and in Manila the past years.

"Our forces are working in coordination with the Philippine authorities under a two-year old agreement signed between the MILF and the government," Eid kabalu, a spokesman for the MILF, said Tuesday.

The MILF, the country's largest Muslim separatist rebel group, is currently negotiating peace with Manila. It forged an agreement in 2004 that paved the way for rebel forces to help government hunt down terrorists and criminal elements in areas where the MILF is actively operating.
It also shares intelligence information about the Jemaah Islamiya and the Abu Sayyaf with the military through the ad-hoc joint action group.

The MILF has previously help authorities arrest suspected terrorists and criminals in Mindanao. And even provided the government a list of dozens of names of Filipino and foreign terrorists hiding in the region.

Kabalu said latest intelligence reports suggested that Janjalani could be hiding out in western Mindanao and as far as the Sulu archipelago which covers the islands of Jolo and Tawi-Tawi.

"MILF units are constantly gathering intelligence not only about Janjalani and the Abu Sayyaf, but also information on other terrorist groups, such as the Jemaah Islamiya," Kabalu said. "We have alerted our forces to intensify the hunt for the terrorists in Basilan and the Zamboanga Peninsula, and in Jolo and Tawi-Tawi islands and in other parts of Mindanao."
But MILF rebels are under strict orders to stay away from where US and Philippine soldiers are conducting their training to avoid clashes.

US and Filipino troops are currently participating in joint trainings in Carmen town in North Cotabato province in Mindanao and a bigger exercise is underway in the southern Jolo island, where the rebels are known to actively operate.

Kabalu quoting previous intelligence report said Janjalani was last seen with the group of Jemaah Islamiya bomb-makers Umar Patek and Dulmatin, both tagged as behind the 2002 Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people.

The Jemaah Islamiyah has been blamed for a string of attacks in the Philippines and Indonesia, including a blast at Jakarta's J.W. Marriott hotel the following year that left a dozen people dead and the Australian embassy bombing also in Jakarta that killed 10 people. Manila said two groups remain the biggest threats not only in the country, but also in Southeast Asia.

The MILF said the Abu Sayyaf and the Jemaah islamiya have fragmented into smaller groups and are believed to be hiding from one place to another in Mindanao.

Last year, troops mounted a massive operation against Janjalani, Patek and Dulmatin last year in Maguindanao province, but failed to capture the trio, although eight of their followers were killed, Kabalu said.
Kabalu said the huge bounty offered both by Washington and Manila have forced many Abu Sayyaf leaders, including Janjalani, Patek and Dulmatin to hide for fear of arrest. "They are now constantly moving from one place to another, and hiding like rats, to avoid detection by the military and bounty hunters," he said.

The US has offered as much as $10 million bounty for the arrest of Dulmatin and $5 million for Janjalani's capture. It also offered $1 reward for Patek's capture. The bounty offered for Dulmatin is the second highest award offered under the Rewards for Justice Program, exceeded only by the $25 million award offered for Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Since its inception in 1984, the Rewards for Justice Program has paid more than $62 million to more than 40 persons who have provided credible information that has resulted in the apprehension of terrorists or prevented acts of international terrorism.

On October 25, 2004, the US Embassy in Manila paid a total of $1 million to three Filipino informants in Basilan island for helping locate Abu Sayyaf leader Hamsiraji Sali, who was implicated in the kidnapping and killing of two US hostages Martin Burnham and Guillermo Sobero in 2002.

International terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna said the Jemaah Islamiya is allegedly receiving funding from the al-Qaeda and unidentified financiers in the Middle East, aside from arms and munitions and explosives from their cells in the southern Philippines where it has put up active camps in the region, Gunaratna, head of terrorism research, Institute for Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore, said.
Filipino security officials on Tuesday said soldiers were also tracking down Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya in the southern Philippines.

"Our operation against the Abu Sayyaf is going on, but we cannot determine yet whether Janjalani has returned to hiding in Jolo, but we have intelligence operatives out there," Brig. Gen. Alexander Aleo, Jolo military chief, said in a separate interview on Tuesday.

Aleo said security is tight in Jolo because of the upcoming training dubbed as Balikatan 2006. He said US and Filipino soldiers would mostly be working together in humanitarian activities to help poor families on the island. "US troops will not participate in any combat operation against the Abu Sayyaf, but more on medical missions," he said.

Philippine authorities said at least 60 Jemaah Islamiya members are believed to be hiding in Mindanao and were training local recruits.

An al-Qaeda-trained Indonesian Jemaah Islamiya bomb-maker Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi operated extensively in the Philippines and organized a series of five bombings in Manila in December 2000, which killed 22 and injured over 100 until he was killed in a clash with security forces three years later in Mindanao.
Since then, dozens of foreigners with links to either the al-Qaeda or Jemaah Islamiya have been arrested in the southern Philippines with the help of the United States. But despite this, two powerful bombs were detonated by the Abu Sayyaf in Zamboanga City, wounding at least 26 people in July last year, and a ferry at Manila Bay was also bombed in August, killing more than 100 people.

The United States labeled the Abu Sayyaf group and Jemaah Islamiya as foreign terrorist organizations.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Muslims Mourn Death Of Jolo Preacher

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 23 Jan) Muslims in the southern Philippine island of Jolo were mourning the death of a popular Islamic preacher, who was a key government negotiator during the Sipadan hostage crisis six years ago.

Ustadz Ibrahim Ghadzali died from a lingering illness in Zamboanga City last week.

The island's council of elders has passed a resolution honoring Ghadzali, who was considered by many as one of the most respected mufti in the Sulu archipelago, which covers the islands of Jolo and Tawi-Tawi.

Ghadzali helped Manila negotiate for the release of many hostages in Jolo island after Abu Sayyaf militants kidnapped 21 mostly Western and Asian holiday-makers from the resort island of Sipadan in Sabah, Malaysia.

He was also active in humanitarian activities and a known propagator of peace in Jolo and Mindanao.

Granny, Cop Suffer From Heart Attack While Cheering For Pacquiao

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 23 Jan) A grandmother who is a diehard fan of Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao landed in hospital after she suffered from a heart attack and hypertension while cheering for her star in front of television in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines.
In Cebu province in central Philippines, a policeman, Nelson Butiduan, was also rushed to hospital after suffering a heart attack while watching the boxing bout on television with his wife. Butiduan, a fan of Pacquiao, was jumping in joy while watching television Sunday when he collapsed. He is in serious condition.

Ceferina Francisco, now in his late 60s, is confined at the Zamboanga hospital's intensive care unit where doctors are monitoring her serious condition, her nephew Jerry Felix said.

"She was really so excited about the rematch between Manny Pacquiao and Erik Morales that she forgot to drink her medicines. She was screaming on top of her lungs...'fight Manny fight, you can beat him,' until she collapsed -- even ahead of Morales -- in front of our television set in the house," Felix said on Monday.

Felix said the old woman was an avid fan of Pacquiao and had been waiting for the rematch since Sunday morning. "I don't know, but she really loves Manny Pacquiao so much, and we only pray that she survives her own fight," he said.

Pacquiao won Sunday afternoon over three-time Mexican champion Erik Morales after knocking him down on the 10th of the 12-round super featherweight bout in Las Vegas, Nevada.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo led the national jubilation of the Filipino people over the sensational victory of Pacquiao. She congratulated Pacquiao on his sensational win minutes after the Filipino boxing legend demolished the Mexican favorite.

"May this serve as an inspiration and constant reminder to all our countrymen that the Filipino can be the best in any endeavor when he puts his heart to it," she said, adding, Pacquiao served as an example that Filipinos can compete at the international level.

Pacquiao thanked the President for "your prayers and the prayers of all Filipinos" for his victory.

RP-US Hold Humanitarian Mission In Jolo


JOLO ISLAND (Yolly De Guzman / 23 Jan) The Philippine Armed Forces from Southern Command in Zamboanga City, the U.S. Armed Forces from Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines (JSOTF-P) and local volunteers conducted a Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP) and humanitarian assistance mission for the first time in the town of Indanan.
The MEDCAP was held recently at a local elementary school under the umbrella of Project Bayanihan, which provides the framework for ongoing humanitarian and civic assistance in Sulu, improves RP-U.S. military civic cooperation, and trains civil-military personnel to work together.

“Our goal here is to provide capacity building to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), conduct together Civil Military Operations in conflict-affected areas and provide a secure environment so that development and social progress can occur,” said Col. James Linder, JSOTF-P Commander.
“With our civilian agency and non-governmental organization partners, we want to show the people of Sulu a development alternative to the all-too-prevalent lawlessness and violence.”

Philippine Armed Forces medics and U.S. Armed Forces medics together treated 750 patients, including 150 dental surgery patients.
Free prescription drugs were delivered as well as preventive care supplies including dental care items, vitamins and education kits.
More than $10,000 of medical and humanitarian assistance supplies was distributed to Indanan citizens.

“Throughout this country, with the cooperation of the government of the Republic of the Philippines, we will continue to advise, assist and share information with our AFP counterparts and strengthen their hand in the global war on terrorism,” said Linder.
Hundreds of locals have welcomed the medical team and many officials from other towns also requested RP and US military authorities to conduct humanitarian missions in their areas.
Indanan has a population of approximately 55,000, with very limited access to rudimentary medical services.

Working For Peace In Zamboanga Sur!


WORKING FOR PEACE: Members of the Provincial Council of Elders for Peace Building (PCEPB) Councilor Abdulbasit Ambol, of Dinas town in Zamboanga del Sur, and PCEPB Chairman Ustadz Camar Dagadas, right, discuss with provincial Governor Aurora Cerilles the group's initiatives in resolving conflicts in their communities through peaceful dialogues. Also in the photo are (from left) Reyzaldy Tan and James Ali Abdul of the Government of the Philippines-United Nations ACT for Peace Programme, which seeks to strengthen efforts and sustain peace and development in southern Philippines. (Photo by Leah Bugtay)

We Are Committed To Peace, MILF tells European Union

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 23 Jan) The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Monday assured the European Union that it is committed to sign a peace deal with the Filipino government and end more than three decades of bloody fighting in Mindanao.

Muhammad Ameen, secretary of the MILF central committee, said his group is optimistic with the peace talks and hope to
seal an agreement that is just, lasting, and comprehensive to address the root cause of the conflict in Mindanao.

"We are really optimistic and we hope both the MILF and the Philippine will be able to sign a peace agreement soon," he said after a group of European Union ambassadors led by Jan De Kok inspected EU-funded projects in areas in the Muslim autonomous region last week.

The MILF has repeatedly appealed for aid from donor countries to help develop war-torn areas and provide basic health services to Muslims in Mindanao.

MILF leaders met with De Kok's group and helped facilitate their trip to areas where the rebels are actively operating.

The EU is strongly supporting the peace talks and wants to see an end to the conflict in the strife-torn region so it could provide more aid to help in the development of Mindanao. Austrian Ambassador to Manila Herbert Jager said Mindanao's full economic growth could only be achieved if lasting peace reigns in the region.

"We are looking forward to strengthen our relationship with the people in Mindanao, as we want to show collective support and enhance our partnership," Jager said.

Most of EU projects in Mindanao are aimed at helping war refugees or the internally displaced persons to strengthen their capacities and communities and promote a culture of peace. It has a total budget of 3 million Euro.

De Kok said the EU also approved a 33-million Euro (about P2.08 billion) under the Health Sector Policy Support Programme (HSPSP) in support of the Arroyo government's health sector reform programs in Mindanao.

"The MILF is sincere and we want to end the hostilities in Mindanao just as everybody else, so we can live peacefully and work together with the Philippine government to rehabilitate and develop this beautiful and promising land," said Eid Kabalu, a spokesman for the rebel group.

Kabalu also appealed for more international aid for Mindanao ahead of the resumption of peace talks in Malaysia, which is brokering the negotiations.
"We need more aid and development assistance for Mindanao and its poor people. We are working hard to attain peace, please help us realize this dream," he told the Zamboanga Journal.

Manila opened peace talks with the MILF, the country's largest Muslim separatist rebel group, in an effort to end hostilities in the region.
Many Muslim countries, including Libya, Saudi Arabia and the United States, Japan and the European Union are supporting the peace process and have pledged to help rehabilitate Mindanao once a peace agreement is signed between Manila and the MILF.

Media Watch Dog Releases Report

NATIONAL UNION OF JOURNALISTS OF THE PHILIPPINES
The Philippine has once again proved that it is the most dangerous country in Asia-Pacific for journalists, as 10 of them were killed in 2005. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), in a report released Jan. 23, 2005, pointed out that the Philippines is next only to Iraq in terms of media deaths.
"Impunity in the killing of journalists remains the intolerablescandal of our times that can no longer be ignored by the internationalcommunity," said IFJ general secretary Aidan White.
Indeed, in less than a week, two Filipino journalists have been murdered.
On Jan. 20, Rolly Canete, a freelance broadcaster in PagadianCity, was gunned down. The next day, Graciano Aquino, a columnist in Bataan and a former DZRH correspondent, was also killed.
The NUJP isinvestigating the circumstances behind these latest murders.
(We invite the news media to drop by or call the NUJP office between 12noon and 2 p.m. today, Jan. 23, for a chance to interview Emma Walters,one of IFJ's officers, to talk more about the IFJ report and thelatest killings. NUJP leaders will also be available.The NUJP office is at 109-A Scout Castor Street, Quezon City. The telephone number is 4117768. Look for Ayi, Weng or Caloy.)
The IFJ said 2005 proved to be the most dangerous year on record for journalistsworking not only in the Asia-Pacific region but also worldwide.
"2005 was a year of tragedy and the targeting of journalists in theAsia-Pacific region," said IFJ president Christopher Warren.
Of the grim total of 150 journalists and media workers killed in 2005,some 36 were from the Asia-Pacific region. The Philippines once again earned its place the most dangerous Asia-Pacific country for journalists to work in with 10 killings, second only to war-torn Iraq where 35 media workers were killed.
The killers of the Filipino journalists continue escape any form of justice. Once more, South Asia is the most dangerous region within theAsia-Pacific, with journalists being killed in Afghanistan (2), Bangladesh (3), India (3), Pakistan (6), Sri Lanka (4) and Nepal (2).
The massive earthquake that struck South Asia was responsible for thedeaths of three journalists. Worldwide, some 61 journalists and media workers were killed whendisaster struck while on assignment -- 48 of them alone in a Tehran plane crash where questions are being asked about the safety of the military aircraft in which they were travelling.
But disturbingly, the IFJ report says that around 89 journalists and media people were killed "in the line of duty" -- many assassinated by ruthless killers working for political gangs or criminals.
The report says more than 90 per cent of these cases do not result in serious investigations by authorities with only a handful of thekillers are ever brought to trial. A combination of police corruption, judicial incompetence and political indifference creates a culture of neglect when it comes to media deaths, the IFJ said.
"Impunity in the killing of journalists remains the intolerablescandal of our times that can no longer be ignored by the internationalcommunity," said IFJ general secretary Aidan White.
The IFJ has called for action by the United Nations Security Council and has pressed Secretary General Kofi Annan to mobilise governments to act against the targeting and killing of journalists.
The IFJ report this year includes information on the IFJ's solidarityand assistance program, the IFJ Safety Fund.
Some 100,000 Euro was raised during a special appeal at the beginning of 2005 in response to the Tsunami disaster in 2004 in which around 89 journalists and media staff were reported dead or missing.
In addition, the fund made payments to the families and victims of killings in more than 25 countries as well as to victims of the Pakistan earthquake disaster in which three journalists died.
The IFJ has created a special disaster relief fund in the name of former IFJ Senior Vice President and Chair of the European Federationof Journalists, Gustl Glattfelder who died last year.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Manny Pacquiao Wins By TKO Over Erik Morales!



Boxing champion Manny Pacquiao brings victory again to the Philippines after knocking down Mexican Erik Morales on the 10th of the 12-round Superfeatherweight bout in Las Vegas, Nevada on Sunday, January 22, 2006!
Mabuhay si Manny "the Pacman" Pacquiao! Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo led the national jubilation of the Filipino people over the sensational knockout victory of Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao over three-time Mexican champion Erik "El Terible" Morales in their super-featherweight rematch at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Speaking via cellular phone, the President congratulated Pacquiao on his sensational win minutes after the Filipino boxing legend demolished the Mexican favorite.
Pacquiao had just conquered Morales in the 10th of their scheduled 12 round match and was being interviewed by a reporter when First Gentleman, Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo handed Pacquiao his cellular phone, saying the President wanted to personally congratulate him on his victory.
"It’s the President," the First Gentleman informed Pacquiao.
"When Pacquiao took the phone from Atty. Arroyo, a jubilant President excitedly expressed her congratulations to the champ whose triumph she said, "exemplifies the indomitable fighting spirit of the Filipino."Pacquiao thanked the President for "your prayers and the prayers of all Filipinos" for his victory.
The President said Pacquiao served as an example that Filipinos can compete at the international level.
"May this serve as an inspiration and constant remainder to all our countrymen that the Filipino can be the best in any endeavor when he puts his heart to it," she said.
"I join Filipinos from every corner of the Philippines and the world over in congratulating Manny Pacquiao on his very convincing victory," the President said.
A sports patron and an avid supporter of the Filipino boxing hero, Atty. Arroyo described the rematch as the "greatest fight I have ever seen."

3 Killed, 8 Injured In Freak Road Accident In Zamboanga

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 22 Jan) Three people were killed, including a five-year old boy, and 8 others seriously injured in a freak road accident involving two trucks, a tractor, a mini van and a motorcycle, on a highway in Zamboanga del Sur province in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said a 14-wheeler truck rammed a parked military truck and then ran over a motorcycle and hitting a mini van before crashing on three houses in Padap highway in Labangan town on Saturday.

All three passengers of the motorcycle -- a couple and their boy -- were killed, while 5 soldiers and three civilians were wounded in the collision that also destroyed 3 automatic rifles owned by the soldiers. No one was reported hurt or killed inside the houses, officials said.

"We have directed the Judge Advocate General's Office to conduct an investigation and to file appropriate charges against," A military spokesman Maj. Gamal Hayudini told the Zamboanga Journal.

Initial police investigation said the driver of the 14-wheeler truck Roland Obillas lost control of the vehicle. Obillas' truck was transporting a tractor to the Agusan del Sur province when the accident occurred. The soldiers were on their way to camp, it said.

The military identified those who died as Edgar Saucilio, 30; his wife Genelyn, 30; and son Ellacer, 5.

And the wounded were Sgts. Narciso Cubalan and Jerry Cataculan, and Pfcs. Isidro Laurion, Munib Baid and Taib Asani, all from the Army's 10th Infantry Battalion, and Obillas and his helpers Zeric Martinez and Albert Bigyan.