Friday, November 30, 2007

8 Killed In New MNLF Clashes In Southern Philippines

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 30, 2007) – Security forces clashed Friday with Moro National Liberation Front fighters in the southern Filipino province of Sulu, leaving eight soldiers and rebels dead, officials said.

Officials said the fighting also left six marines wounded in the town of Kalingalan Kaluang. Five soldiers and three rebels were killed in the fighting that erupted at around 5 a.m. in the village of Kambing.

Security forces were searching for a wanted MNLF leader Khabier Malik when rebels attacked them, sparking a fierce firefight.

“We have sent the rangers to reinforce the marines in the area and to hunt down those responsible in the killings,” Brig. Gen. Ruperto Pabustan, commander of the Army’s elite Special Forces in Sulu province, told the Mindanao Examiner.

Malik is facing criminal charges after his group held for 3 days a military peace mission in February and demanded that Manila free their jailed leader Nur Misuari.

Misuari signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996 ending decades of bloody war. After the peace agreement was signed, Misuari, became the governor of the Muslim autonomous region. But despite the accord, there was a widespread disillusionment with the weak autonomy they were granted.

Under the peace agreement, Manila would provide a mini-Marshal Plan to spur economic development in Muslim areas in the south and livelihood and housing assistance to tens of thousands of former rebels to uplift their poor living standards.

Fierce fighting between troops and Malik’s group in April also left at least 21 soldiers and rebels dead and more than 100 wounded.

Malik, who has declared a holy war against the military, previously warned of more attacks after accusing the government of violating the peace agreement, saying, troops, pursuing Abu Sayyaf militants, had killed MNLF members and innocent civilians in several armed encounters in the province.

But the military also accused the MNLF of coddling the Abu Sayyaf.

Many former guerrillas were disgruntled with the peace deal, saying, the Arroyo government failed to comply with some of its provisions and uplift their standards of living. They accused Manila of failing to develop the war-torn areas in the south.

And in November 2001, on the eve of the elections in the Muslim autonomous region, Misuari accused the government of reneging on the peace agreement, and launched a new rebellion in Jolo island and Zamboanga City, where more than 100 people were killed.

Misuari then escaped by boat to Malaysia, but had been arrested and deported to the Philippines. He is now under house arrest in Manila. (Mindanao Examiner)

Philippine Coup Fails-Corruption Continues! The Imprudent Observer

Philippine troops and SWAT teams stormed a five-star hotel that dissident military officers had commandeered after walking out of a coup trial. The military officers have insisted their aim is to end the blatant corruption of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s government.

They want her to resign in order to create a government that is both legitimate and honest. Their coup was supported by several political leaders including former Vice President Teofisto Guingona. Arroyo in a defiant response said the coup members would be held “accountable” and there would be swift justice.

The coup members had literally walked out of their trial accompanied by dozens of military sympathizers including General Danio Lim and went to the hotel. They claim Arroyo stole an election and has been manipulating the political process since taking office.

Unfortunately, the Philippines has been the scene of continual fights over the honesty of its government. This has led members of the military to become involved in political affairs.

The nation confronts a Muslim led insurgency in southern regions which has gone on for years. In the midst of this problem is the ongoing belief that President Arroyo is doling out money to politicians and has allowed corruption to become a hallmark of her administration. (Fred Stopsky)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rebel Soldiers End Stand-Off In Manila; Journalists, Priests And Civilians Arrested


Filipino senator Antonio Trillanes in this television grad speaks Thursday Nov. 29, 2007 during a television interview shortly after they surrendered to authorities "to save lives of civilians and journalists" inside Manila Peninsula hotel where they were holed out. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)



MAKATI CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 29, 2007) – Rebel soldiers calling for President Gloria Arroyo’s resignation have surrendered peacefully to authorities late Thursday afternoon ending hours of uprising at a posh hotel in the Philippines’ main business district of Makati.

Heavily-armed members of the Philippine National Police Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), backed by armored vehicles, fired tear gas inside the Manila Peninsula hotel in an effort to flush out rebel soldiers and civilians supporting them.

One armored vehicle broke into the hotel main entrance and fired more tear gas forcing journalists to seek cover.

Opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes and Army Brigadier General Danilo Lim led a group of soldiers and civilian supporters to a long march that ended in Manila Peninsula hotel in Makati where they called for Arroyo’s resignation.

Among those who joined Trillanes and Lim was former Philippine Vice President Teofisto Guingona and leaders of civil society groups opposed to Arroyo’s rule.

Both Trillanes and Lim were implicated in previous attempt to oust Arroyo, who they accused of corruption and fraud in the May 2004 elections.

Trillanes and Lim said they decided to end the stand-off to save the lives of civilians, including journalists inside the hotel. “This only shows how cruel this administration of Arroyo that they would sacrifice the lives of civilians and journalists,” Trillanes said.

Police also arrested at least ten journalists who were covering the stand-off inside the hotel and seized their equipment, including video cameras.

Television footages showed journalists coming out the room where Trillanes and Lim were holed out with their hands raised in the air.

Police spokesman Superintendent Samuel Pagdilao said the journalists would be held for questioning. He did not elaborate.

Philippine military chief General Hermogenes Esperon vowed Thursday to crush an uprising in Manila.

“We are trying to make plans here. I want to appeal for calmness and for the public not to allow to be hoodwinked by these people, Trillanes and Lim. We must not allow them to grab power,” Esperon said.

Esperon was in Zamboanga City visiting troops when news of the uprising broke out in a middle of meeting at the Western Mindanao Command headquarters.
Trillanes and Lim have urged the Armed Forces of the Philippines to withdraw its support from the Arroyo administration.

Government spokesmen taunted Guingona, saying, he was too frail to be jailed.

Guingona is one or Arroyo’s most vocal critic and had previously joined protest rallies in Manila. (Mindanao Examiner)

Crush Uprising! RP Military Chief Tells Troops

Philippine military chief General Hermogenes Esperon, who is visiting troops in Zamboanga City in Mindanao island, speaks on his mobile phones Thursday Nov. 30, 2007 after a group of soldiers led by Army Brigadier General Danilo Lim and opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes and hundreds of civilian supporters headed by former Vice President Teofisto Guingona marched in Manila and called on the military to withdraw its support from President Gloria Arroyo. Trillanes and Lim, who previously accused Arroyo of corruption and cheating in the May 2004 elections, are facing coup d'etat charges following a failed coup attempt in February 2006. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)



MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 29, 2007) – Philippine military chief General Hermogenes Esperon vowed Thursday to crush an uprising in Manila.


Opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes and Army Brigadier General Danilo Lim led a group of soldiers and civilian supporters to a long march that ended in the posh Manila Peninsula hotel in Makati where they called for Arroyo’s resignation.


Among those who joined Trillanes and Lim was former Philippine Vice President Teofisto Guingona and leaders of civil society groups opposed to Arroyo’s rule.


Both Trillanes and Lim were implicated in previous attempt to oust Arroyo, who they accused of corruption and fraud in the May 2004 elections.


“We are trying to make plans here. I want to appeal for calmness and for the public not to allow to be hoodwinked by these people, Trillanes and Lim. We must not allow them to grab power,” Esperon said.


Esperon was in Zamboanga City visiting troops when news of the uprising broke out in a middle of meeting at the Western Mindanao Command headquarters.


Trillanes and Lim have urged the Armed Forces of the Philippines to withdraw its support from the Arroyo administration.


Esperon said the military is control of the situation and ordered security forces to resolve the situation without bloodshed.


“There is a confrontational effort and I have given instructions to ground commanders to address the situation without bloodshed, but if situation arises we will do what is necessary. We intend to terminate this situation as soon as possible,” he said.


“Rest assured we are in full control of the situation. Just be calm about it and we should be able to resolve this situation. It is something we can address.”


Esperon said the AFP is solid behind Arroyo and would not allow the uprising to continue. He said the military has been put in red alert and warned soldiers not to support Trillanes and Lim.


“There is no need to conduct loyalty check among troops. I am in constant touch with senior commanders. I salute the solidarity of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. We are intact and ready to enforce legal actions to address the situation in Makati,” he said.


Government spokesmen also taunted Guingona, saying, he was too frail to be jailed.


Guingona is one or Arroyo’s most vocal critic and had previously joined protest rallies in Manila. (Mindanao Examiner)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Australian Embassy Minister Visits Mining Site In Southern Philippines

SOUTH COTABATO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 28, 2007) – Australian Embassy Minister and Deputy Head of Mission Stephen Scott visited the facilities of the Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) in South Cotabato’s Tampakan town.

SMI presented Scott its social and environmental management programs and projects. SMI is the main proponent of the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project.


Scott, who was welcomed by acting Mayor Pedro Cagas and acting Vice-Mayor Relly Leysa, toured the Maticura Field Trial Station where SMI personnel maintain a nursery of indigenous plant and tree species and a butterfly and insect farm.

Scott was also presented an update on the project at the SMI base camp in the village of Tablu. He was briefed on the project’s current technical and environmental activities and community engagement programs, said a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner on Wednesday.

He also inspected a drill rig and the SMI Competence Center where he was briefed on the community education and capability-building programs of the company.

While in Tampakan, Scott, accompanied by Mark Williams, SMI general manager, met with government officials and businessmen. Scott commended the socio-economic development initiatives of SMI at the pre-operating stage of the project.

“This is a good experience knowing the growing support of major stakeholders of the Tampakan project, which has a very significant potential to develop the community, the region and the country as a whole,” he said.

Williams, for his part, reiterated SMI’s commitment to invest in the sustainable development of the project’s in the area.

He said community projects being delivered by SMI to the host communities include education assistance to students at all levels, health care assistance to community members, and capability-building programs for residents.

SMI has also embarked on environmental protection initiatives, such as environmental baseline studies and reforestation and biodiversity programs, Williams said.

“We want to undertake every aspect of the project the right way, consistent with world’s best practices. Looking after the long-term welfare of our host communities and protecting the environment are fundamental to the way we do business,” he said, adding, “support to these community activities will be increasing as the project moves forward.”

Williams also reiterated SMI’s policy of giving preference to qualified local residents and companies in hiring project personnel and in sourcing supplies for operations. “No less than 90 percent of our work force is from the local communities,” he said.

Storm Surge Leaves Thousands Homeless In South RP's Zamboanga City





Big waves, spawned by Typhoon Mitag, destroyed houses in Sinunuc village in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines and the Philippines's western coast overnight. There were no immediate reports of casualties from the onslaught of waves that sporadically battered coastal villages from the country's mountainous north to the southern island of Jolo from late Tuesday to early Wednesday that left hundreds of families homeless and sending more than 5,000 people fleeing, some falsely thinking there was a tsunami, officials said (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)



ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 28, 2007) – Giant waves, spawned by Typhoon Mitag, slammed coastal villages in the southern Philippine port city of Zamboanga, destroying houses and leaving hundreds of families homeless.

Many houses sitting on silts in coastal villages were washed away and residents had fled thinking there was a tsunami.

“Our houses are destroyed. We have nothing, but these tattered clothes. We need help, but there nobody is helping us,” Idris Sangkula, a fisherman, told the Mindanao Examiner.

Seawater also flooded roads here. Some witnesses said strong winds carried the water and sands and debris from the sea.

“It was terrible. You can still see the sands on the road and pieces of broken corals and seaweeds,” Renato Sanches, a cigarette vendor, said pointing to the debris that littered the Roseller T. Lim Boulevard, a favorite stretch in Zamboanga.

Thousands of villagers left homeless by the onslaught of the typhoon sought shelters in higher grounds. But many were also spotted encamping on side of the roads, guarding their valuables and some still salvaging what was left of their houses.

There were no immediate reports of casualties, but local radio stations reported that at least 5 people were rushed to hospitals for wounds they suffered while trying to flee giant waves. A child was also reported missing in Marique village.

Heavy rains the past days also swamped many villages in Zamboanga. Ferry services were also canceled because of dangers posed by the weather. Zambonga City Mayor Celso Lobregat has put many villages under a state of calamity.

There were also reports of evacuations in coastal towns in Basilan and Sulu provinces, although there were no reports of casualties.

Philippine authorities said as many as two dozen people were killed and many injured by the typhoon since it hit the country this week. Another storm was also spotted north of the country, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).

The Philippines sits astride the typhoon belt and as many as two dozen storms enter the country every year. (Mindanao Examiner)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Philippines Military Executing Leftist Activists, UN Independent Expert Finds

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has been executing leftist activists in recent years, an independent United Nations human rights expert said in a new report which welcomes Government measures to address the problem while emphasizing the need to end impunity through prosecution and punishment.

“A significant number of the hundreds of extrajudicial executions of leftist activists in the Philippines that have taken place over the past six years are the result of deliberate targeting by the military as part of counterinsurgency operations against the communist rebels,” said Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

The report which is accessible on this URL http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=24799&Cr=philippine&Cr1= was released on Tuesday. And the Philippine military has strongly denied the allegations it was behind the killings.

During a fact-finding mission earlier this year to the South-East Asian nation, Mr. Alston – who serves in an unpaid, personal capacity – investigated the killings in depth.

He interviewed victims or witnesses to 57 incidents involving 96 extrajudicial executions. He met with Government officials of all ranks, including local military commanders as well as the President, as well as with the leaders of the communist rebels’ National Democratic Front (NDF).

In a statement, he said he was “encouraged” by various measures adopted recently by the Government and by the fact that he had met with the country’s Executive Secretary in New York, but also stressed that those responsible for killings must be prosecuted and punished to stop them.
“The Government has undertaken a range of welcome reforms, but the fact remains that not a single soldier has been convicted in any of the cases involving leftist activists,” he said.

“In some parts of the country, the armed forces have followed a deliberate strategy of systematically hunting down the leaders of leftist organization,” Mr. Alston noted. “As commander-in-chief, the President must take concrete steps to end such operations.”

Since 1968, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) – which has an armed faction, the New People’s Army (NPA), and a civil society group, the NDF – has aimed to revolutionize what it views as the country’s “semi-feudal” society.

The Rapporteur said that the military officers he interviewed “relentlessly pushed” the theory that such extrajudicial executions had in fact been committed by the rebels to simultaneously remove spies while discrediting the Government, and he reviewed all of the documentation provided to support this idea.

“The military’s argument that the leftist activists who have been killed are the victims of a ‘purge’ by the rebels is strikingly unconvincing and can only be viewed as a cynical attempt to displace responsibility,” he said.

The Rapporteur criticized the rebels themselves for participating in some extrajudicial executions of civilians who are not directly involved with the hostilities and the death threats they have made against political opponents.

“The death sentences imposed by their ‘people’s courts’ provide only a veneer of legality for what is really vigilantism or murder,” he said.

During his visit to the Philippines, Mr. Alston also investigated extrajudicial executions in western Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago, which have seen armed conflict involving several insurgent and terrorist groups, including the Moro National Liberation Front, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyaf Group.

Since witnesses in the regions live in great fear and it is difficult to ascertain who is responsible for abuses, he said that bolstered human rights monitoring is crucial to protect the civilian population.

Mr. Alston also looked into the actions of a death squad in Davao City on the island of Mindanao, interviewing victims and witnesses as well as speaking with local police, military officers and the mayor.

“The mayor’s position that he can do nothing to stop men without masks from routinely killing children for petty crimes in full view of witnesses lacks all credibility,” he said in the report. “Mayor Duterte should be stripped of his control over the local police, and the national Government should assume responsibility for dismantling the death squad and prosecuting its members.”

RP's High Tuition Fees Assailed

Members of the Anakbayan protest in Davao City in southern RP on Tuesday, Nov.27, 2007.



DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 27, 2007) – Members of the militant youth group Anakbayan led a picket rally Tuesday in Davao City in southern Philippines to protest the government’s failure to put a stop on continued tuition fee hikes in the country.

Students also joined the rally and picketed in front of the University of Mindanao (Bolton Campus) where they displayed streamers denouncing the unabated increase in tuition fees.

The protest also signaled the group’s commemoration of the Andres Bonifacio's Day celebrated on November 30. Bonifacio is one of the Philippines’ national heroes who led a revolt against Spain in 1896. “Nothing has significantly changed for the better since the 1896 Revolution led by Andres Bonifacio – the Filipinos are still poor and oppressed, the youth deprived of an affordable and quality education.”

“Statistics and surveys would show that more Filipinos are hungry, more youth dropping out of school or not ever stepping into formal education (8% of all six-year olds o 200,000 Filipino children will never ever step into school and 1 million cannot enter high school every year), more unemployed, more and more leaving the country (3,400 per day) to work abroad,” Karla Hyasmind Apat, Anakbayan regional spokesperson, said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

“In the education sector in particular, the government's policy is to push for the rationalization and soon privatization of state universities and colleges in the country, while passing on into the private sector the responsibility of providing education to its citizen,” she said.

She said education in the country has now become very expensive that forced many students to stop schooling. She also assailed private universities and schools in Davao City for taking advantage of the students.

“Private universities and schools in Davao City continue to rake in millions of pesos as profits from the students, yet they continue to increase their tuition and other fees. Education is being driven into becoming a business enterprise. Ateneo for instance, earns millions of pesos a year from its space rentals alone, yet, it continues to increase its tuition and other fees,” Apat said. (Mindanao Examiner)

Documentary Film Sulu Premieres In Manila Indie Film Fest





"SULU" - 2007 / Documentary

KONTRA-AGOS RESISTANCE FILM FESTIVAL begins on December 5-11, 2007 at Indie Sine, Robinson’s Galleria, Manila

Plot:

Born of a Muslim mother, young writer Arthur Sakaluran Abasalo decides to visit Sulu despite the perceived strife and presence of Muslim rebels and Abu Sayyaf terrorists. In Sulu, he meets a former Muslim rebel-turned policeman who tells him about his life story and how he got separated from his family for more than a decade. He returns to Sulu to start a new life after being reunited with his family.

Arthur returns to Manila after a short stay in Sulu, bringing with him memorable stories and truths about the island feared by many as a dangerous place to go.

This film, along with six other short films from Mindanao, will have its World Premiere on December 6, 7 p.m. at Indie Sine, Robinson's Galleria, Ortigas Center in Pasig City. A Mindanao Examiner Production. Directed by Al Jacinto


LIST OF OTHER FILM FEST FILMS

PUBLIC SERVICE ADVERTISEMENTSRIGHTS Volume 2

Invited Filmmakers:

JP Carpio,Karl Castro, Joy Domingo, KhavnBon Labora, Teng Mangansakan, Ron Magbuhos Papag, Seymour Sanchez, Sherad Sanchez, Keith Sicat, Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, Sine Patriyotiko

FEATURE LENGTH FILMS

1. Adjani Arumpac: WALAI (60 mins/DOCUMENTARY/2007)

WALAI is an exploration of spaces. It prods on thememories of four Muslim women who once lived in theinfamous White House in Cotabato City. The documentaryseeks narratives in “places...we tend to feel withouthistory.” It traces the past through the women'sexperience of what has happened inside the wreckedhome—nostalgia and fear, loss and love, and birth anddeath.

2. Waise Azimi: STANDING UP (155mins/DOCUMENTARY/2007)

STANDING UP follows the lives of the young Afghan mentraining to become part of the first line of defensein the War Against Terror.

The film also follows thelives of the Coalition soldiers charged with helping ready them for that crucial task. Situated at the Kabul Military Training Center 'Standing Up' provides an exclusive window into one of the most important tasks in the stabilization of Afghanistan and the wider region.

3. JP Carpio: HILO (90 mins/NARRATIVE/2007)

Originally conceptualized as a short film shot in 2004 and completed nearly three years later as a full length, the film charts the various emotional courses during a dinner between Emerson, a universityprofessor, and Jenny, a university student.

HILO isa narrative driven not by large, exaggerated silverscreen emotions but by the subtlest of movements; thehint of a smile, the way two lovers eyes meet and loseeach other, the manner in which a person serves foodto the one they care about.

In three parts, Hilo talksabout the big issues a couple faces by using the small movements that make up our everyday lives.

4. Clodualdo del Mundo, Jr: EheM!Plo (DOCUMENTARY/50min/2007)

EheM!Plo shows that indeed corruption is violence. If this is true, then stopping corruption and spreading integrity are now the new ways of working for peace.

5. Teng Mangansakan: THE JIHADIST (75mins/DOCUMENTARY/2007)

THE JIHADIST is an autobiographical documentary that posits the filmmaker as a mujahid (jihadist).

6. John Torres: VOICE, TILTED SCREENS AND EXTENDEDSCENES OF LONELINESS: FILIPINOS IN HIGH DEFINITION(100 min/NARRATIVE/2007)

VOICE, TILTED SCREENS AND EXTENDED SCENES OFLONELINESS: FILIPINOS IN HIGH DEFINITION is, at once,a meditation. It is a meta-film that unravels ajourney, a chronicle of stories through foreign regions.

It is a probing letter from outside circles,an honest account of illegitimate views from uneven terrain, and a narrative-driven exploration of the nooks and peripheries of the body, geography, and weather.

As the journey progresses, the film increasingly traverses the countries of revelation,film, and heart to where all journeys are meant to endwith.

SHORT FILMS

1. Elvert de la Cruz BaƱares: ang bayan kong payapa, 5 mins/2007/Experimental

This is the state of our nation cycle.

2. Jeck Cogama: PUTOT 2006/Narrative

PUTOT (Visayan for "small") is the heartfelt story ofa young boy growing up at a squatter colony by thesea.

Putot, aged 13, is a taciturn boy who takes careof his mentally-ill father, and ekes out a living by selling mussels. He meets Mayang, a mysterious young girl with secrets of her own. A friendship begins between the two.

3. Gabriela Krista Lluch Dalena: RED SAGA15 mins/b&w, color/2004/Experimental

Children of the Land faithfully guard the last harvestfrom thieves. This poetic film offers a glimpse intothe passion and pain of the people's protracted war in the coutrysides.

4. Sari Raissa Dalena-Sicat: DIVINE WIND (KAMIKAZE)4 mins/b&w/2001/Experimental

A Japanese soldier hides in an island, in the belief that the war has not ended.

5. Apol Dating and Michael Cardoz: MEDALAWNA2007/Documentary

The story of a young girl named “Inday Liit” who helpsher family earn a living by happily sweeping graveyards.

6. Sheron Dayoc: DREAMS2007/Narrative

Nine-year-old Satra has been mute for as long as shecould remember. But her determination to secure a good education reverberates clearly amid the strictures ofher Yakan culture.

7. Emman Dela Cruz: THE SINGH FAMILY HOME VIDEOS2007/Documentary

A documentary work in progress, "The Singh Family Home Videos" charts an intimate look at the family life of the filmmaker's neighbors, a Punjabi Indian family whohas assimilated into the Filipino culture andcommunity.

Is nationality a matter of origin? Is identity a matter of choice? Or is your "home" amatter of where you are or where you'll be?

8. Moises Charles Hollite: GEORGE'S TOWN2007/Documentary

George Sabandal is one of about 2,500 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have sought refuge in thetown of Buluan, Maguindanao as a result of the“all-out war” in 2000. Refusing to go back to the place of his origin, he has created a new life forhimself and his family in their ideal town.

9. Noriel Jarito: BINGO18 mins/2007/Documentary

Bingo reveals life’s monotony of rural existence.People embrace almost anything: dull, inspiring, tame,untamed, reputable, and even deceptive.

To play “Bingo” inside a church is never questioned and is licensed by some Catholic Church leaders. Christianity is the largest religion but many of its followers are destitute enough to consider “Bingo” inside their church as a source of momentary abundance.

10. Kodao Productions: PUSHING THE PARAMETERS:LAWYERING FOR THE PEOPLE, 27 mins/2007/Documentary/2007

2006 was the worst year for the members of the bar,with seven lawyers and judges reportedly killed within the year. A significant number of these lawyers aredirectly involved in human rights advocacy.

Under the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, 19 lawyers and 12 judges were killed. And this can be seen in the light of more than 850 victims of extra-judicial killings from 2001 to 2007.

11. Loren Hallilah I. Lao: TRANQUIL TIMES 2007/Documentary

The documentary delves on the good governance effortsof the private sector, civil society and the local government unit of Wao, Lanao del Sur working together to erase remnants of the religious and ethnic clashes of the 1970s.

It explores how peace has been achieved in this multi-ethnic town, propelling the once-turbulent municipality into its present agricultural renaissance.

12. Mona Labado: STEP FOR MY DREAM 2007/Narrative

Seven-year-old Abdul dreams of becoming a leader of his town. He has natural charisma and easily becomes friends with people even if he hasn’t known them for long. But his grandmother reminds him of their peasant roots which is no match to the traditional ruling family.

Undaunted, Abdul sees it as a challenge envisions his future.

13. Ruelo Lozendo: SIMULA 10 mins/2006/Experimental

A worm enters a man’s ear and lives inside his body. As the worm’s metamorphosis unfolds, the man experiences his own transformation.

14. RJ Mabilin: A DAY IN THE LIFE OF GLORIA ARROVO, 1 min/2005/Animation

A satire on the different political and economic issues the country faces under the Arroyo administration.

15. Ana Isabelle Matutina: UNCONVENTIONAL WARFARE 30 min/2005/Documentary

This documentary contextualizes the issue of US military presence in the country within the long and bitter history of conflict in the south.

Countering the reductionist frame set by the narrative of the“global war against terror,” it examines the historical conditions that led to the emergence of the Moro separatist movement and the subsequent rise of the Abu Sayyaf.

It dissects the government’s contradictory attempts to downplay its threat while atthe same time justifying escalating military operations in the region. Against this backdrop, the documentary then probes allegations of US military involvement in the war.

16. McRobert Nacario: BINITON 2007/Narrative

A story depicting the process of preparation and cooking of a dish called Biniton that is particular to the community of Saniag, Ampatuan.

The process of cooking, in the eyes of an old woman, brings to lifethe hardships they experienced amidst armed conflict at the same time the process of preparation, through the experience of Amel, her grandson walks us through the current situation of their community.

How amidst the hardships and diversity in culture they had all managed to bounce back and become united.

17. Nick Olanka: LUNES NG HAPIS 2006/Narrative

18. Mikhail Red: THRESHOLD 2007/Experimental

19. Sine Patriyotiko: MENDIOLA 31 mins/2006/Documentary

Through the First Quarter Storm to Mendiola Massacre to Calibrated Preemptive Response: from the very start, Mendiola houses the eye of conflict. Fact is,the road from Mendiola to the Palace is several hundred meters away.

Nevertheless, this still is agreat risk: to look directly at the center is to showthe strength to confront those in power. On the roadto mendiola, one can tread across the history of our continuous struggle for change.

20. Mariami Tanangco: BINYAG 2002/Narrative

One night, two tragedies are about to take place. In an abandoned warehouse, rookie policeman is tasked to execute a suspected drug pusher. In the quiet suburbs,a mother is worriedly waiting for her son to comehome.

A social commentary on police-instigated “salvaging” that was prevalent in the late 80s, thefilm is intended as a personal elegy on lost innocence.

21. Tudla Productions: SA NGALAN NG TUBO 2005/Documentary

A video documentary that chronicles what happened on November 16, 2004 when seven people died at the picketlines of the Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac. Mill workers and farm workers of the sugar refinery and plantation owned by the Cojuangcos, one of the wealthiest, landed families in the Philippines, went on strike.

Their demands were met with a volley of gunfire from military and police. Beginning with the history and background of the land issue, the film builds the tension gradually, leading up to the actual footage ofthe Hacienda Luisita incident, when even the filmmaker holding the camera has to run for his life.

22. Eduardo C. Vazquez, JR: ME’GUYAYA2007/Documentary

Me’guyaya is a Te’duray term for merry-making orthanksgiving. In 2003, an active and concerned groupof people in Upi, Shariff Kabunsuan initiated afestival that would unite all residents in thankingGod for the abundant harvest.

Since then, it has become a big town event that celebrates the richness and diversity of the Muslim, Christian and Lumad peoples of Upi.

The documentary delves on how theMe’guyaya serves as a catalyst for cultural unity as everyone gets involved in the festivities.

OTHER KONTRA-AGOS EVENTS:

8 December, 5-7 PMPANEL DISCUSSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND ARTISTIC FREEDOMIN PHILIPPINE CINEMA

6-9 DecemberPHOTO EXHIBIT AT THE LOBBY courtesy of the FREE JONASBURGOS MOVEMENT

*KONTRA-AGOS RESISTANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2007 is an Initiative of ST Exposure and Digital Cheese in cooperation with UP Sining at Lipunan, Sine Tres Marias and the Independent Filmmakers Cooperative.

Visit
www.kontra-agos.blogspot.com for updates.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Philippines Searches For Missing Military Jet Over Spratlys

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 26, 2007) – The Philippines mounted a massive search for one of its Italian S211A military trainer jet which went missing near the Spratly Archipelago.

The jet took off Monday morning and was one of two aircrafts heading towards Kalayaan group of islands where a Filipino fishing boat capsized last week, leaving 25 people missing.

Philippine Air Force officials said the search began later in the day after the aircraft failed to return to Palawan province where it took off. The other aircraft returned safely.

At least 30 sailors were rescued near the Zhongye Reef in the Spratly islands by Chinese trawlers. The Philippine boat sank after huge waves and strong winds battered the vessel.

The Spratly islands are being claimed in whole or part by China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan. The Chinese call it Nansha islands, believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits.

The S211 supplied by Aermacchi is a military jet pilot trainer in operation with the air forces of Haiti, the Philippines and Singapore. S211A, the latest high-performance version of the aircraft, has full acrobatic capability and can be armed with a range of weapon systems. (Mindanao Examiner)

Churches Sound Alarm on Secret Killings: Christian Post

Church leaders across denominational lines and from around the world gathered in the Philippines this past week to respond to the hundreds of extrajudicial killings and “disappearances” of mostly human rights activists in the archipelagic nation.

To date, more than 800 people have been killed and hundreds missing since President Gloria Arroyo took office in 2001, according to the United Methodist News Service. Among the victims are dozens of lawyers, judges, and church leaders.

“There has been an unprecedented increase in violations of human rights, and the brazenness, brutality and impunity by which they are being perpetrated by the military, police, paramilitary groups and death squads under the command, control, inducement or tolerance of the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo have reached alarming proportions,” the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers stated, according to UMNS.

In response, the general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, who spoke last Wednesday at a press conference in Manila, called for stronger ecumenical advocacy efforts to bring the Philippines under international scrutiny.

Kobia reaffirmed the WCC’s “unequivocal condemnation” of the extrajudicial killings and its “grave concern” regarding the increased militarization of the Philippines, according to WCC.

The leaders of the ecumenical body said the WCC will bring victims of human rights abuses in the Philippines to the upcoming session of the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council, which the country is a member of.

“We condemn the ongoing practice of the Philippine government and the military of labeling and persecuting the churches, pastors and church workers who work for justice, peace and protection of human rights as subversives or communists,” Kobia said.

Attention was brought to the killings of several church workers and pastors in recent months, including the “brutal stabbing” of Philippines Independent Church Bishop Alberto Ramento in October last year, Kobia told journalists.

In August, Philippine Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno, a United Methodist, called a summit in Manila to expose the crisis. In the following months, the number of killings decreased, but the number of disappearances rose, according to Edre Olalia, international officer for the Counsel for the Defense of Liberties.

“There’s a perceptible shift after the worldwide condemnation and concern and especially after the summit,” Olalia said.

WCC’s Kobia called for the Philippines government to “take necessary action to stop the enforced disappearances” and “put an end to extrajudicial killings.” He also called for “an immediate and impartial investigation of all recent extrajudicial executions.” (Ethan Cole)

RP Troops Capture Sayyaf Man Linked To Dos Palmas Raid

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 27, 2007) – Philippine soldiers captured a suspected Abu Sayyaf militant, linked to the kidnapping of three US citizens, on a town in the southern Tawi-Tawi province, the military said.

Teteng Mandangan was captured in Bonggao town last week, but his arrest was only announced by the military on Monday after a week-long interrogation.

Mandangan has been implicated in the 2001 kidnapping of California man Guillermo Sobero and Kansas missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham along with 17 other Filipino holiday-makers at the posh Dos Palmas resort in the central Philippine province of Palawan.

The Abu Sayyaf beheaded Sobero in Basilan island a month after the kidnapping while Martin Burnham was shot and killed the next year in a US-led military rescue operation in nearby Zamboanga del Norte province.

Gracia Burnham was rescued by Filipino troops, but she was also wounded. Some of the Filipino hostages were also killed and wounded by the Abu Sayyaf during their captivity.

The Burnham couple was celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary party on May 27, 2001 at Dos Palmas when the Abu Sayyaf attacked the resort.

Since her rescue, Gracia Burnham has written two books, 'In the Presence of My Enemies' and 'To Fly Again' and now works a popular church speaker. (Mindanao Examiner)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

PAKISTAN: Media Under Siege: IPS

Faisal Aziz (Association of TV Journalists) and Shamimur Rehman (Karachi Union of Journalists) at a sit-in protest. (Beena Sarwar/IPS)

KARACHI - From being the liberal President under whom Pakistan’s independent electronic media was born and flourished, Pervez Musharraf is now seen as the military general who imposed emergency rule on Nov 3 and suspended the Constitution and the independent judiciary.

Musharraf also blocked all independent television channels on the cable network. There were police raids on media organisations, printing presses and bureau offices and detentions of journalists.

For many, Musharraf’s ham-handed dealing with the media over the past year, and particularly the last couple of weeks, evokes bitter memories of the late Gen. Ziaul Haq’s martial law with its strict media censorship and ‘press advice’.
Newspapers in protest published blank spaces where material had been censored. Dissenting journalists were arrested and some were even flogged.

Musharraf has been comparatively benign.But this is a very different era, where independent news and views and a continuous flow of information had become the norm. In Zia’s time, there were only a handful of independent newspapers, hardly a threat, given the abysmally low 30 per cent literacy rate. Musharraf has had to contend with the independent electronic media with a huge outreach.
Until now, his claim that he gave the media more freedom than ever before was true to an extent, say journalists, but it is a freedom they have fought for, and it has come with a price.

"An explosion in the number of independent TV channels boosted pluralism and the quality of news," noted the media watchdog Reporters Without Borders in its annual report of 2007.
Simultaneously, since Pakistan’s involvement as a frontline state against the ‘war on terror, "the security forces radicalised their methods of repression: a score of journalists were kidnapped and tortured by the military." Almost two dozen have been killed in different incidents since.

On Nov 3, PEMRA (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) officials invaded the independent FM radio station Mast 103.6’s Karachi office with a heavy police contingent.
They forced it to close transmission and confiscated its broadcast equipment, citing the station’s broadcast of its hourly news bulletins and current affairs programmes from BBC as the reason. In 2004 too, PEMRA had sealed the popular radio network’s Lahore and Karachi stations.

The outspoken Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (www.pfuj.info) which has a long history of struggle for media freedom, termed the present situation "one of the worst kind of repression against the media since 1978". The union has called for an ongoing series of protests, meetings and demonstrations until the media restrictions were lifted and all the channels restored.

"In the Zia days, we would protest in groups of four and chant slogans against the martial law and media restrictions. We would court arrest peacefully, and the police would pick us up," recalled Nasir Zaidi who works for the ‘The News’ in Islamabad. Section 144, the law the government routinely invokes to prohibit public gatherings of more than four persons, was then in force around the country -- as it is once again.

In 1978, Zaidi, then a frail young reporter with the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP), was arrested and flogged for protesting against the closure of the daily Musawat (a paper sympathetic to the Pakistan People’s Party of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the elected prime minister whom Gen. Zia had overthrown).

"We were isolated then. The biggest difference now is the number of people supporting the journalists. It’s a mass movement, there’s a lot of commitment and participation, particularly of the younger people," he told IPS.

Over a hundred journalists offered themselves for mass arrest in Karachi on Nov 20 after the police attacked them with batons, refused to let them march to the Governor House to present a memorandum, and arrested their leaders.
Police have attacked and arrested journalists demonstrating all over the country over the last couple of days, from Gotki and Hyderabad in Sindh province, to Faisalabad in the Punjab, and Quetta in the western province of Balochistan.

Zaidi attributes the new energy largely to the TV channels. "They tend to employ younger people, most of whom are very progressive. They see these Black Laws (the new PEMRA ordinances) as a direct attack on press freedom."

The Pakistan Association of Television Journalists has 621 members around the country, 307 in the business capital Karachi alone.
"Most are less than 35 or 40 years old," estimated Faisal Aziz Khan, the 33-year old secretary general of the association, talking to IPS at the old sandstone Karachi Press Club building where he participated in a hunger-strike as part of PFUJ’s ongoing series of protests.

Geo News, Pakistan’s first and largest 24-hour news channel, for which the young reporter and television host has worked since its launch in 2002, is part of the country’s largest media company, the Jang Group which owns several newspapers and magazines. Its television network broadcasts from Media City, a free-zone in Dubai from where it beams to a satellite network.

After Nov. 3 when PEMRA got cable operators in Pakistan to block the independent channels, the independent channels continued to reach viewers via streaming through the Internet and satellite transmission throughout the shutdown despite huge revenue losses due to loss of local advertising.

By Nov 16, most had capitulated and were back on air, having agreed to conditions like the government’s new "code of conduct" drawn up in June by the Pakistan Broadcasters Association. Some agreed to drop certain popular talk show hosts or anchors. Geo and ARY refused.

"Everyone wants Geo back on air," said Abdul Jabbar, who lives in Korangi, a semi-slum in Karachi. "We don’t know what’s going on.
PTV (the state-owned Pakistan Television) only gives one side of the story. Geo was reporting very openly, giving all sides. What is the government trying to hide?"

The Musharraf regime in a dramatic development got the Dubai government, on Nov. 17, to order these channels to stop broadcast from Media City. The ban has hit Geo the hardest. The network alleges that it is being targeted specifically in order to cripple it financially, with estimated daily financial losses at half a million to a million dollars.

"They asked us to get rid of three or four specific people, and also some people on the print side," said Mir Ibrahim Rehman, the young CEO of Geo. His family owns Pakistan’s largest-selling newspaper, the daily Urdu-language Jang, besides the English daily ‘The News’ and several other publications.
Rehman estimates that the print side has suffered a 30-40 percent decline in revenues after the government pulled all its advertisements and pressurized private advertisers to do the same.

"This is financial murder," he added. The Geo management has gone to court to get at least the non-news channels back on air. The case is pending before the Sindh High Court.

The blocking of these channels generated widespread outrage.
Pakistani expatriates and advocates of free expression around the world have offered to get the news out, through cell phone messages, helping them to hook up with satellite dish networks from New Jersey, USA, to Bangkok, Thailand, putting up video feeds and streaming on various websites, ranging from Human Rights Watch to blogs like www.supportpakistan.org.

"We are going to continue demanding that the government take back the new ordinances and restore all the channels, radio and TV," said Huma Ali, president of the PFUJ and editor of the daily Urdu language ‘Din’ newspaper.
Talking to IPS from Islamabad, he added, "This is not a fight of journalists alone, but of all of civil society, all those who want democracy."

"Unless freedom of expression is ensured, there can be no democracy," said Shamimur Rehman, a senior reporter for daily ‘Dawn’ and president of the Karachi Union of Journalists sitting at the Karachi Press Club hunger-strike camp on Nov 11 under the watchful eye of armed police and rangers who have virtually laid siege to the club since Nov 3. Rehman was among the first journalists to be arrested on Nov. 20.

"It is about the right to live in a civilized society. The real fight is against the extremists," commented Owais Tohid, who heads a new English language channel launched by Geo. Tohid led the twenty one journalists from Geo English who courted arrest on Nov 20 in Karachi in solidarity with detained colleagues like Shamimur Rehman.

The crisis for the first time in almost two decades is bringing together the stakeholders. Media owners, broadcast as well as print, are setting aside their rivalries, and patching up differences with working journalists.

"The most positive thing I can see is the cooperation developing between the publishers, broadcasters and the working journalists," said Kanak Mani Dixit, editor of the Nepali Himal Southasian, who was in Pakistan recently on behalf of the International Federation of Journalists. "This unity is important to keep media freedom alive." (Beena Sarwar/IPS)

Labor Group Predicts $1 to P40 By Year End

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 25, 2007) - The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) on Sunday stuck to its $1:P40 year-end exchange rate outlook, and repeated its advice for migrant Filipino workers and their families here to shun the US dollar and keep whatever savings they have in peso-denominated instruments.

TUCP spokesperson Alex Aguilar warned of yet another fresh peso upsurge against the dollar in two weeks, once the US Federal Reserve -- the American central bank -- slashes its key rate some more.

"We are sticking to our outlook. The Federal Reserve is widely expected to cut its key rate by at least one-fourth of a percentage point on Dec. 11. There is even a good chance that the Fed might play Santa Claus, and surprise the financial markets with a bigger cut of one-half of a percentage point," Aguilar said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

"A big cut in the key rate will surely the drive the US dollar down to new lows against most other currencies, including the peso," Aguilar said.The peso closed Friday at 42.85 to a dollar.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) will meet Dec. 11. The FOMC cut its benchmark rate a total of three-fourths a percentage point in its last two meetings on Sept. 18 and Oct. 31, bringing the rate down from 5.25 percent to 4.50 percent.

The rate cuts were meant to boost liquidity amid a worsening credit crunch that threatens to plunge the US economy into a recession.

Lower US interest rates would trigger an even bigger capital flight out of the US dollar.

Meanwhile, Aguilar said Filipino workers in Europe as well as their families here are largely unaffected by the strengthening peso and the falling US dollar."Like the peso, the euro has been advancing against the dollar. Thus, Filipino workers who are getting paid in euros are actually getting more value for their money in dollar terms," Aguilar pointed out.

"This is also true for Filipino workers in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other countries whose currencies are likewise advancing versus the dollar," Aguilar said.

"Offhand, we reckon that the net effect of a rising euro on migrant workers and their families here is at worst basically neutral, since the peso is also appreciating against the dollar. At the best, they may be gaining a bit," he added.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) statistics show that Filipino workers in Europe sent home via bank channels a total of $1.79 billion in the nine months to September this year, up more than 23 percent or $340 million compared to the $1.45 billion they remitted in the same period in 2006.

In the whole of 2006, Filipino workers in Europe sent home via bank channels a total of $2.07 billion. This accounted for more than 16 percent of the $12.8 billion in total remittances received by the country that year.

League Thumbs Down Splitting Of Sulu In South RP

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 25, 2007) - The League of Municipalities in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has flatly rejected a proposal to divide Sulu into two provinces.
Sulu’s Second District Representative Munir Arbison, who is on his third and last term, wanted the province divided.

Arbison made the proposal shortly after his reelection in May and he is said to be aspiring to run as governor of the new province in the 2010 national elections.

But majority of Sulu’s 18 municipal mayors were opposed to the division of the province, saying, “the proposal would only cause dissension and disunity among the locals and will only be a stumbling block to peace, progress and prosperity.”
Arbison previously said that he has the support of the mayors.

But the League of Municipalities in Sulu, one of five provinces under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, passed a resolution signed by 15 mayors withdrawing their support to the proposed division of the province.

The resolution said the mayors were misled into believing that splitting Sulu into two provinces will bring additional funding support and progress.

“The division of the province of Sulu would adversely affect the territory of the province of Sulu and will reduce the capacity of the province to survive as a political unit,” noted the resolution.

“The present administration of the province of Sulu under the able and competent leadership of the Honorable Gov. Abdusakur Tan is creating along an effective governance of the province and have induced at this early a positive change towards the development of the province.”

The League of Municipalities in Sulu, headed by Mayor Isnaji Alvarez of the town of Indanan, also sent copies of the resolution to the Sulu Provincial Board, ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and the ARMM Legislative Assembly.
A copy would also be sent to President Gloria Arroyo and House Speaker Jose de Venecia III and Senate President Manny Villar.

The others who signed the resolution were Mayor Munib Estino, of Panglima Estino and also the Secretary-General, of the local League of Municipalities; Mayor Kabir Hayudini of Patikul; Mayor Nedra Burahan of Panglima Tahil; Mayor Sitti Raya Tulawie of Talipao; and Mayor Najib Maldisa of Maimbung.

Mayor Hussin Amin of Jolo; Mayor Gafur Ab­durajak of Panamao; Mayor Arthur Muksan, of Siasi; Mayor Nurmina Burahan of Pata; Mayor Abdusali Asmadun of Lugus; Mayor Ahmad Nano of Pangu­taran; Mayor Rizal Ting­kahan of Parang; Mayor Wahid Sahidulla of Ban­guingui; and Mayor Hatta Berto of Pandami also signed the resolution.

The three remaining mayors who did not sign the resolution were Nasser Daud of Tapul; Mayor Alrazmie Halun of Kalingalang Caluang and Mayor Ahmad Omar of Luuk, known supporters of Arbison.

Sulu has an area of 1,600 square kilometers and is the 15th largest island in the Philippine Archipelago, in terms of area. Sulu is classified as a first-class province in terms of income.(Mindanao Examiner)

MASOUD: Memoirs of an Iranian Rebel: Aryamehr



MASOUD: Memoirs of an Iranian RebelBy: Masoud Banisadr473 PagesSaqi Publications, London, 2004.


Let's say it right from the start: this book is a masterpiece and a must-read for anyone interested in such subjects as sects, thought control, terrorism, and totalitarianism.

This book is a masterpiece not because it is well-written. In fact, it is not. Banisadr's style, a mixture of business reports and women's magazines' confessions, at times exasperating.

Nevertheless, it is a masterpiece, perhaps, because it tells a moving story, what am I saying, a shattering story, honestly and unencumbered by the artefacts of literary style.

Masoud: Memoirs of An Iranian Rebel could remind some readers of Arthur Koestler's classic "Darkness at Noon", an account of how Communism can turn perfectly sane and well-educated men and women into delusional maniacs.

To tell the truth, however, I find " Masoud" even more moving, if only because the ideology that destroyed Masoud's life was more bizarre than Marxism-Leninism.

Masoud Banisadr, the writer of these memoirs, is a 51-year old Iranian-born science graduate who joined the Mujahedin Khalq (People's Combatants), one of a dozen or so guerrilla groups fighting the Shah in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Mujahedin had a special appeal because they mixed Islamic themes, which had become popular in Iran in the 1960s, with leftist slogans that had attracted some Iranian intellectuals between the 1940s and1960s. The Shah called them "Islamic-Marxists", a label which, though not accurate, was not off the mark either.

By 1978 when the Islamic revolution was bursting on the Iranian scene like a tsunami in a lagoon, the Mujahedin were regarded as selfless, and ruthless, fighters for the cause, whatever it was.

They had murdered dozens of people, including bank officials, ordinary policemen, provincial clerks, and, more spectacularly, several American military technician hired by the Shah.

During the revolution, the Mujahedin acted as the vanguard of the movement. They attacked and burned banks, restaurants, bookshops, cinemas, and other "places of sin". They also assassinated army officers, policemen and gendarmes.

Throughout the revolution, which took less than a year to triumph, the Mujahedin praised Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomeini as a political idol. They invented the slogan " God is Unique, Khomeini is the Leader!" (Allah Wahed! Khomeini Qa'ed!) All along, however, the Mujahedin leaders believed that Khomeini, an old and apparently frail cleric, would seek no political role after the Shah.

When the revolution triumphed, it was only natural for the Mujahedin to expect a seat at the high table. By the spring of 1979, however, it had become clear that the new revolutionary regime would not only refuse the Mujahedin even a side-chair but also regarded them as something of a nuisance.

Struck by hubris, the Mujahedin leaders persuaded themselves that Khomeini had "stolen" their revolution. They could not admit that it was Khomeini's leadership and charisma, and not Mujahedin acts of terror, that had mobilised the masses and ensured the victory of the revolution.

Emboldened by a few allies in the new revolutionary establishment, notably a prominent mullah called Mahmoud Taleqani, the Mujahedin embarked on a policy of provocation against the new revolutionary regime which, in time, persuaded Khomeini that the only way to deal with them was to destroy their organisation.

While all that was happening, Masoud, our memoirist, was a student in England working on a Ph. D in a scientific subject. He had been attracted to the Mujahedin in 1977 and militated on their behalf in one of their many front organisations known as the Muslim Students Society in Northern England.

Masoud was the ideal catch for the Mujahedin.

He had had a turbulent childhood marked by his parents' divorce and remarriage. Both his father and his step-father had been army officers who neither wanted to nor did manifest any hostility towards the Shah.

Masoud, however, grew up in an atmosphere created by two decades of intense anti-Shah propaganda by the regime's many enemies: from the Tudeh (Masses) Communists to disgruntled mullahs and passing by the leftist guerrilla groups already mentioned.

Together they had created an anti-Shah culture based on a number of lies, misrepresentations, and hallucinations. They dreamed of revolution not only as a means of getting rid of the Shah but also, perhaps especially, to sort out their inner contradictions.

During the revolution the Mujahedin had told Masoud to love Khomeini and hate the Shah. He had done so with exceptional devotion. He recalls how he had not been able to go to sleep without cursing the Shah and praying for Khomeini.

But when the Mujahedin broke with Khomeini, the ayatollah became their chief object of hate. Masoud was told to hate Khomeini and start loving the Mujahedin leader Masoud Rajavi. He did so without any qualms. Suddenly, it was Khomeini that he cursed and Rajavi that he prayed for every night.

Masoud Banisadr had missed the revolution in Iran and felt almost cheated. This was why the idea of a second revolution, this time against Khomeini, a revolution that would give him a chancre to prove how selfless a fighter he is, appealed to him.

To sum up Masoud Banisadr needed four things to give his life meaning:A set of lies that he could believe as absolute truth. These had been provided by the Shah's enemies for years.

A new version of them was now manufactured by Khomeini's enemies. The Shah had been presented as an "American agent". It was now Khomeini's turn to be accused of being in cahoots with the Americans and the British.

Someone to worship and someone to hate. Until 1979 the Shah had provided the hate figure while Khomeini had represented the love idol. After that Khomeini became the symbol of hate and Rajavi of love.

The illusion that there was an historic or even a divine mission that one had to undertake on behalf of one's nation, if not mankind as a whole.

A cocoon in which to escape from the real world and build an alternative universe. The Mujahedin offered precisely such a cocoon.

From 1977 until he broke with the Mujahedin nearly 20 years later, Masoud Banisadr was a prisoner in a parallel world created by one of the most ruthless sects seen in the last century.

As a member of Mujahedin he was ordered to burn all his books, notes and documents, which he promptly did.

The typical Mujahed was ordered not to read anything not authorised or published by the Mujahedin. He could not even read the Koran unless asked to do so by the organisation with its own commentaries.

The Mujahed could not go to cinema, unless on an organisational mission; could not watch television or listen to radio except those controlled by the organisation, and had to refrain from forging any relationship with "outsiders." The Mujahed's children had to attend special schools controlled by the orgasiation.

The idea was to totally isolate the Mujahed from the outside world and gradually kill his critical faculties. He was to be left with a single view of the existence: the fiction created by the " Supreme Leader" Masoud Rajavi and his aides.

At a later stage the Mujahedin were ordered to stop loving their wives or husbands and children because that would reduce from their love for Rajavi. But then Rajavi decided that that, too, was not enough. He ordered all Mujahedin to divorce their wives or husbands.

Once they had complied, the "Supreme Leader" ordered the Mujahedin to eliminate their natural sexual desires. Special agents would check the Mujahedin's urine sample to see if it contained " traces of sexual excitement", whatever that means.

At a still later stage the male Mujahedin were ordered to transfer all the top jobs to their female colleagues and accept the superiority of women over men.

In the meantime, Masoud Rajavi had divorced his second wife, a daughter of Abol-Hassan Banisadr who had briefly served as President of the Islamic Republic under Khomeini.

But Rajavi was not bound by the rules he fixed for others. He asked his number-two Mahdi Abrishmachi to divorce his wife, Maryam Azodanlu-Qajar; and the latter promptly complied.

A few days later Rajavi announced that he had married Maryam, Abrishamchi's divorced wife. The Mujahedin were ordered to celebrate the event as a great revolutionary and historic event, which they did without zeal.

The idea was to show that Rajavi was the only person who was above all laws, man-made or ordained by God.

The Mujahedin not only accepted whatever Rajavi did but also went out of their way to present his deeds as sacrifices on his part. He had fled from Tehran to Paris, hidden in women's clothes aboard a hijacked aircraft, and presented his escape as " the most courageous act of heroism", and the Mujahedin had believed him.

And when Rajavi signed a "treaty" with Tareq Aziz, then one of Saddam Hussein's top aides, to help Iraq in the war against Iran, the Mujahedin hailed the move as "a great patriotic act."

Needless to say the Mujahedin had no qualms to take up arms, enter Iran under the wing of the invading Iraqi armies, to kill Iranians and burn their villages in the name of their revolution.

Rajavi had told them to hate America for years. But, after 1983, he urged the Mujahedin to do all they could to win Washington's support, including collecting information for the CIA. In the lexicon created by Rajavi, treason meant patriotism, and freedom was nothing but blind obedience of the chief.

The reader might assume that Banisadr wrote his memoirs to unmask and discredit Rajavi. Paradoxically, however, Masoud Rajavi emerges from this book with a less ugly image than that of his followers, including our talented memoirist.

After all, Rajavi did what he knew best: building his personality cult.When he was propelled into the leadership of the Mujahedin in 1979, Rajavi was a 30-year old ex-student who had spent six years in prison.

He had virtually no higher education and his political experience was limited to a few armed attacks on isolated gendarmerie posts and a failed attempt to kidnap the American ambassador in Tehran.

Nevertheless, he was hailed by tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of young Iranians, most of them students or graduates, not only as a political leader but also as a saviour.

In other words, it was those young enthusiasts who had a problem not Rajavi. All that Rajavi did was to comply with an old Iranian dictum: if the people act as a donkey, just ride them!

Masoud Banisadr, our memoirist, was roughly the same age as Masoud Rajavi. He was better educated than Rajavi because he had completed his university course, obtained a PH.D, and learned English.

He had also more practical political experience because he had organised a student union , managed fund-raising events, and lobbied British parliamentarians, journalists and trade union leaders. And yet, Masoud Banisadr regarded Masoud Rajavi as almost a god. He was ready to lie, cheat, betray and even kill for Rajavi.

Almost all the Mujahedin cadres were better educated and more experienced than Rajavi. But Rajavi was able to play with them like toys. He would order them to divorce their wives and they would do so without protest.

He would tell them to hate each other and use abusive language against their closest comrades, and they would do so with zeal. He would ask them to laugh or to cry, and even, quite literally, to dance for him and they would do so like circus bears.
So: who was it who had a problem?

Rajavi or those who helped build his personality cult?
Lacking education and experience, Rajavi acted on animal instinct. He realised that the revolution, which many had dreamed of but few had really wanted, had produced large numbers of rootless people looking for a measure of certainty.

Rajavi was clever enough to know that only well-educated individuals could be deceived in a big way. Ordinary people, the illiterate peasants and semi-literate workers, could be deceived in small maters, but never on big ones, if only because they lacked the imagination needed to believe big lies.

For example, no Iranian peasant shed a tear when Stalin died in 1953 while many Iranian poets wrote qasidas to mourn the Soviet dictator. No Iranian peasant or worker joined the Khomeinist movement until after the Shah had shown that he was no longer able to play the role of the "father."

At one point in 1988 Rajavi boasted that the Mujahedin were the only organisation in which people with university degrees were a majority. He was more right than he had imagined.

His sect included famous poets, writers, entertainers, footballers, and scientists.

Among his worshippers were a grandson of the late Dr. Muhammad Mussadeq, the idol of anti-Shah bourgeoisie, several of Khomeini's closest former advisers, and numerous defectors from various Communist outfits.

Now put yourself in Rajavi's place.You see that so many people, all of them your superiors by education and experience, come every day to worship you as an idol. They tell you are the greatest, the cleverest, the bravest, the best-looking, the most blessed of the human species EVER created.

What would you think? If you have a sense of humour you might think that they are pulling your leg. But if you suffer from egomania, as Rajavi did, you would believe that you are doing them a favour by letting them worship you.

During the last 20 years of their activity, the Mujahedin caused the death of at least a quarter of a million Iranians. Their hit-squads and suicide-bombers killed hundreds of officials, religious leaders, and personalities of the Khomeinist regime. In their border attacks on Iran, from bases in Iraq, the Mujahedin killed large numbers of innocent Iranians. In turn, the regime executed thousands of Mujahedin members and sympathisers.

Masoud Banisadr's memoirs are particularly chilling because he makes it clear that there is no complete cure for political self-deception.

Masoud Banisadr managed to get out of the Mujahedin after almost 20 years. But he has not managed to get the Mujahedin out of himself. He still defends their criminal project and has difficulty hiding his hateful admiration for the sect.

The reader would be astonished that Masoud Banisadr still considers himself to be " in love", not physically of course, with Maryam, Rajavi's third wife who was appointed by the latter as " President of Iran."

Is it because Maryam symbolises the mother-figure that Masoud Banisadr had always craved for?

More importantly, Masoud Banisadr has not cured his initial ailment, the need for someone to hate irrationally and someone to love beyond reason. Today, his object of hate is Masoud Rajavi.

And, if my reading is correct, his new object of love is Dr. Mussadeq.

Fortunately for Banisadr, Mussadeq is dead and would not be able to ride him as Rajavi had done.

The final chapters of this book read like a thriller. We see Masoud Banisadr trying to escape from the clutches of the sect. At one point he narrowly escapes being kidnapped by Mujahedin goons at Baker Street in London, and shipped to Baghdad.

Masoud: Memoirs of An Iranian Rebel is a book not to miss.Please, please , someone translate it into Arabic, Persian and , in fact, all other languages of Islam. And quickly!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Sayyaf Man Linked To Congress Bombing Nabbed In Basilan Island

LAMITAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 23, 2007) – Police arrested a man in the southern province of Basilan implicated in the bombing of the Philippine House of Representative.

The man, surnamed Indama, was believed to be a member of the Abu Sayyaf, the group tagged as behind the Nov. 13 bombing that killed Basilan Representative Wahab Akbar and three other congressional aides. More than a dozen people were also injured in the attack, including two lawmakers.

Officials did not give details of the arrest, but it coincided in heightened security in Basilan after intelligence reports said that one of Akbar’s wives, Cherry Lyn Akbar, the mayor of Isabela City, is the target of an assassination.

Akbar’s other wife, Jum Akbar, the governor of Basilan, has also been provided added security.

“The mayor has a threat to her life and security has been stepped up to protect her from harm and so is the other members of the Akbar families,” Chris Puno, the provincial spokesman, told the Mindanao Examiner.

It was unknown if the arrested man had anything to do with the threats in the life of Akbar. But local television reports said the man was plotting to kill the mayor.

Security forces killed three men implicated in the bombing in a firefight Nov. 15 in Payatas village in Quezon City.

Three other accomplices, one of them, Ikram Indama had an identification card of the House of Representatives and former driver of ex-Basilan Representative Abdulgani Salapuddin, were also arrested.

Salapuddin is a political opponent of Akbar. Soldiers and policemen recovered documents linked to a motorcycle used in the bombing. Police said the bombing targeted Akbar.

Police also charged a fourth suspect, Benjamin Hataman, a cousin of Basilan party-list Representative Mujiv Hataman, also a political foe of Akbar. Both Salapuddin and Hataman denied any participation in the killing of bombing. (Mindanao Examiner)

2 Bombing Suspects Arrested In Southern Philippines

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 23, 2007) – Police arrested two men implicated in a bombing in the southern Filipino province of North Cotabato.

Police said the two men, aged 19 and 20, were tagged by witnesses in Thursday bombing of the KMCC Mall in Kidapawan City.

Troops on Friday also tightened security in the province because of the attack blamed on the shadowy group called Al-Khobar. The group was previously linked to extortion activities and bombings in the region, said Army Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, a spokesman of the 6th Infantry Division.

“The bombing was believed carried out by the Al-Khobar. Intelligence reports suggest the attack was connected to a failed extortion,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

At least seven people were wounded in the attack after a bomb, left at the mall’s baggage counter, exploded.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the attack, but police and military authorities blamed past bombings in the province to the Indonesian terror group Jemaah Islamiya and their local affiliate, the Abu Sayyaf.

Ando said the military has been working closely with the local police force to hunt down members of the Al-Khobar group. “We are also in constant dialogue with the business sector and we assure our traders that we are doing our best to neutralize lawless elements,” he said.

Two powerful bombs also exploded in October at the busy business district of Kidapawan City that killed three people and wounded 32 others.

Soldiers in October also disarmed a homemade bomb planted at a market in North Cotabato’s Pikit town in October, but two other explosions inside two commuter buses in Marbel town injured several people.

The region is also where Filipino troops are pursuing Zulkifli bin Hir and two other Jemaah Islamiya bomb-makers, Dulmatin and Umar Patek, both tagged by Jakarta as behind the 2002 Bali bombings.

Manila said about three dozen other Jemaah Islamiya accomplices are believed hiding in Mindanao. The United States and Australia are helping the Philippines on its so-called war on terror by providing aid and training to local troops. (Mindanao Examiner)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

1 Killed in Southern Philippines Bombing

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 22, 2007) – One person was killed in a powerful explosion Thursday that ripped through a shopping mall in the troubled southern Philippine region of Mindanao, officials said.

Officials said the blast also injured a still undetermined number of shoppers in Kidapawan City in North Cotabato province. The explosion was believed from a bomb that was left at the baggage counter of KNCC Mall.

"We are awaiting reports from the field," Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, a spokesman for the Army's 6th Infantry Division, told the Mindanao Examiner.

Other reports said as many as six people were wounded in the blast that shattered glass panes and windows at the mall.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the attack, but previous bombings in the area had been blamed by Filipino authorities to the Indonesian terror group Jemaah Islamiya and their local counterpart, the Abu Sayyaf.

Two powerful bombs also exploded in October at the busy business district of Kidapawan City that killed three people and wounded 32 others.

Soldiers in October also disarmed a homemade bomb planted at a market in Pikit town in North Cotabato in October.

Prior to that, two homemade bombs exploded inside two commuter buses in Marbel town and in Cotabato City.

The region is also where Filipino troops are pursuing Zulkifli bin Hir and two other Jemaah Islamiya bomb-makers, Dulmatin and Umar Patek, both tagged by Jakarta as behind the 2002 Bali bombings.

Manila said about three dozen other Jemaah Islamiya accomplices are believed hiding in Mindanao. The United States and Australia are helping the Philippines on its so-called war on terror by providing aid and training to local troops. (Mindanao Examiner)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Where Are The US’ Secret Bases In Philippines?

US gov’t lists RP as hosting “cooperative security locations” -- a category of US bases -- but gov’t has neither announced their existence nor disclosed their locations.

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 21, 2007) - Revealing that the Philippines hosts US “cooperative security locations” (CSLs) -- a new category of US military bases, a new report launched by an international research institute raised the question: Where are these bases in the Philippines?

In a little-reported event, the US’ Overseas Basing Commission, a body created by the US Congress to review the ongoing realignment of US military presence around the world, has listed the Philippines as among the countries where the US has been developing CSLs.

The Philippine government, the report noted, has neither announced its decision to allow the opening of these CSLs nor has it revealed where these bases are located.

Entitled ‘At the Door of All the East’: The Philippines in US Military Strategy, the report is published by Focus on the Global South, an international policy research organization based at the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, with country offices in Manila and Mumbai.

According to the Pentagon, CSLs are categorized as US military installations that are nominally owned by host governments, but are to be provided for the US’ use when needed.

They would most likely be ran and maintained by host-nation personnel or even private contractors. They are useful for pre-positioning logistics support or as venues for joint operations with host militaries.

CSLs are also called “lily pads” intended to allow the US to hop on from their larger bases to their destinations rapidly when necessary. With their low profile, they are envisioned not to attract the level of attention that has fueled domestic opposition to US military presence in many places around the world.

Though the Philippine government has neither acknowledged nor identified the locations of these bases in the Philippines, the report quotes a prominent American journalist and author who has visited such facilities as suggesting that one such CSL is in Mactan island in Cebu province, once a base for P3 Orion reconnaissance planes operating in Mindanao.

Other possible leads offered for those with the capacity to probe further include the Subic Bay port, the Clark Airfield, and the General Santos City airport.

Comparing the amounts of US military assistance countries in East Asia get with their own military expenditures, the Philippines stands out for having the largest percentage of US military assistance relative to its military budget, according to a report by the Focus on Global South.

This is an indication that the Philippines is the most dependent among all recipients of US military aid in East Asia, its report said.

The report shows that, since 9/11, the Philippines has been by far the largest recipient of US military assistance in all of East Asia. In fact, between 2002-2005, the country obtained approximately 85% of the total allocated to Southeast Asia.

Its $54 million annual average is over ten times more than the next biggest recipient, Thailand, another close US ally, which got an average of $4 million annually during that period, it said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

At the same time, the Philippines has one of the lowest military budgets in the region. In absolute terms, the Philippines tops only Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos in average annual military spending from 1988 to 2005.

At $814 million a year (in constant 2005 prices and exchange rates), the Philippines’ is just a little over one-fifth of top spender Singapore and one-third of Indonesia and Thailand. As a percentage of annual economic output, the Philippines’ average annual military spending is the lowest in the region.

Taking into account the share of US military aid as a proportion of the total military budget, the Philippines is relatively the most dependent on US military assistance among countries in the region, if such can be gauged by comparing how much a country gets from the US and how much it is spending.

By this measure, from 1988 to 2005, US military assistance was equivalent to over 8% of the Philippines’ average annual military expenditure. This is far larger than any other country in the region, much more than that of another close US ally, Thailand, for which US military is only 0.4% of its annual military expenditure.(Herbert Docena)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Editorial: Who Needs A Lunch With Kenney?

Who needs a lunch with Kenney? I was invited by the US Embassy for Thanksgiving Lunch. They faxed the invitation last week, but since I was so busy then, never had the chance to browse the invitation.

Benny…whoever, from the Embassy phoned me the other day and asked for a confirmation of my attendance and since I am busy with work, told the good guy if our publisher, Maritess Fernandez could take my place and he said okay, just send over the fax reply and we did.

An hour later, the Embassy phoned our publisher and asked a confirmation. Then a day passed, somebody from the US Embassy called her up again and told her that she cannot attend the lunch because the invitation was for me…gee!

Sad thing here is that our publisher approves stories the articles and photos that go out of the newspaper and our website…too bad she cannot attend the lunch with Ambassador Kristie Kenney even is she is our publisher!

Well, there goes the Embassy. Who needs a lunch with Kenney anyway?
You know covering the Americans in Mindanao is really difficult as a Filipino journalist. They usually discriminate and favor foreign press more than the locals, yet the Filipino journalists – video and photographers and writers – get to do all the dirty jobs.

Americans, military and embassy people, who usually invite local journalists to cover their events whether in Basilan island or far-flung Jolo island, never really feed the boys. Hell with the boys whether they go hungry or nuts, except if you are with the BBC or CNN or Fox News…they get front seats on the dining table with matching service vehicles.

Ask a Filipino journalist in Zamboanga City or Jolo if they had the same experience as their foreign counterparts and they will tell you shit! Local journalists are herded on trucks.

US guys think local journalists can just be taken for granted…many of the local boys write for international news agencies, international newspapers, and Manila broadsheets and tabloids.

What’s good about the local journalists is that they have their strong determination to write the truth just like this piece of mine or piece of shit to others. Funny, US guys and Filipinos working for them, although not all (to be fair), try hard to put their propaganda ahead of us. You write something they don’t like, they curse you like a witch doctor.

In Jolo island, US troops will tell you not to take photos or videos of them, holy cow! The soldiers are in public places and seen by people and they don’t want any pictures…dude, cover your face like a Ku Klux Klan and don’t get out of your shells.

How many local journalists were pursued by US troops while doing their jobs? How many were harassed by US soldiers? How many were threatened with bodily harm by these soldiers right in their own country? How many had their faces in front of a barrel of US soldiers just because journalists were only doing their job?