Saturday, May 31, 2008

Caritas Segunda Mana "Sapatos" Television Commercial

Output from the International Institute for Film and Arts Television Commercial Workshop. Directed by Oliver Ramos, Angelo Balanon and Al Jacinto / Zoom Productions / DM9 JamesSyfu / Cris Mojica

Friday, May 30, 2008

MILF Slams Terror Tag, Denies Role In Zamboanga bombing

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 30, 2008) – Philippine Muslim rebels negotiating peace with the government strongly denied Friday police allegations they were behind a deadly bomb attacking in Zamboanga City.

Three people were killed and more than a dozen others injured in Thursday blast just outside the Philippine Air Force base. Regional police chief Jaime Caringal blamed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is fighting for independence, as behind the attack, an accusation denied by the country’s largest Muslim rebel group.

“We have nothing to do with the attack. This could be the handiwork of anti-government groups or even people in the government to paint a scenario of chaos and terror and then put the blame on the MILF.”

“Our conscience is clean. We have condemned the attack in Zamboanga and we are asking for a thorough investigation of the bombing. There could be some groups out to derail the peace talks between the MILF and the Arroyo government,” Eid Kabalu, a rebel spokesman, told the Mindanao Examiner.

The local police are still investigating the attack, but radio reports had quoted unnamed officials as saying that the Abu Sayyaf could be involved in the bombing. Police said the bomb was left outside the building that houses a military mutual fund and an office of the US Agency for International Development.

Khaled Musa, a senior MILF leader, also criticized Caringal for linking the rebel group to the bombing. “This is a serious allegation against the MILF. This is an irresponsible statement. The MILF is a partner of the government in the search for genuine peace in Mindanao,” he said.

Caringal also blamed the MILF for two bombings last month in Zamboanga City.

Peace talks were stalled since last year after Manila rejected MILF demands for ancestral lands for more than four million Muslims in the southern Philippines. The MILF said government peace negotiators reneged on a previous deal that will grant Muslims their ancestral domain which would constitute a separate homeland. (Mindanao Examiner)

MILF, Isinabit Sa Zamboanga Bombing

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / May 30, 2008) - Muling isinabit ng pulisya ang rebeldeng Moro Islamic Liberation Front sa naganap na pagsabog sa Zamboanga City na kung saan ay tatlong katao ang nasawi at halos dalawang dosena ang sugatan.

Mabilis na pinagbintangan ni Chief Supt. Jaime Caringal, hepe ng pulisya sa Western Mindanao, ang MILF sa pambobomba kamakalawa sa labas ng Philippine Air Base na kung saan ay nawasak ang harapan ng isang building.

Sabit umano ang Special Operations Group ng MILF sa atake, bagamat patuloy pa ang imbestigasyon sa pagsabog. Mariing kinondena naman ng MILF ang akusasyon at hinamon pa ng rebeldeng grupo si Caringal na magbigay ng ebidensya.

Kaliwa’t-kanan pambabatikos ang inabot ni Caringal sa mga lider ng MILF. Nuong nakaraang buwan lamang ay mabilis rin ng pinagbintangan ni Caringal ang MILF sa dalawang pambobomba sa Zamboanga City, bagamat Abu Sayyaf naman ang itinuturo ng lokal na pulisya sa atake.

Walang umako sa pinakabagong pagsabog, subali’t naganap naman ito kasabay ng labanan sa pagitan ng MILF at militar sa Basilan mula pa nuong nakaraang linggo.

Kinondena ng MILF ang pagsabog sa Zamboanga City at sinabing kagagawan ito ng kampon ng kadiliman. Malungkot naman si Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat sa trahedyang sinapit at umapela naman ito sa media na huwag ng palakihin ang insidente.

Madalas sisihin ni Lobregat ang media sa mga negatibong balita ukol sa Zamboanga, na binansagang Asia’s Latin City dahil sa lenguaheng Chabacano na may halong Espanyol. (Mindanao Examiner)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

After Bombing, Zamboanga Mayor Appeals To Public



Filipino and US bomb experts sift through debris Thursday, May 29, 2008 after a bombing outside the Philippine Air Force base that killed two people and wounded at least 18 others. No group or individual has claimed responsibility for the attack, but previous bombings in Zamboanga City had been blamed to the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group. (Mindanao Examiner Photo/Mark Navales and Arthur Abasolo)




ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - Mayor Celso Lobregat on Thursday called on local residents to stay calm and sober amidst the latest blast that rocked Zamboanga City, as he assured that the government is on top of the situation.


Two persons were killed and 21 others were injured when an improvised explosive devise went off at side of the Air Materiel Wing Savings Loan Association Inc. (AMWSLAI) building which houses the offices of the Alliance for Mindanao Off-grid Renewable Energy (AMORE) and the office of Zamboanga City Rep. Maria Isabelle Climaco.

Lobregat said residents should continue with their normal lives and not be cowed by acts of terrorism. The mayor convened the City Peace and Order Council today with the presence of Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Alexander Yano at City Hall.

“We condemn this barbaric and criminal act. All of the victims are innocent civilians including children”, the mayor said in a press conference.
He stressed that the military and police authorities in coordination with the local government unit are doing everything possible to ensure peace and security in Zamboanga City.

Secretary Teodoro said President Arroyo, who was in Tawi-tawi when the incident happened has ordered military and police authorities to submit to her a complete report about the latest incident and to exert all efforts to avoid repetition of the incident.

Gen. Yano said that the military through the Western Mindanao Command will come in to assist in whatever it can in the investigation even if the police is the lead agency in the probe. Yano and Teodoro were with the President in Tawi-tawi province and decided to go to Zamboanga on their way to Manila to meet with the Lobregat.

Mayor Lobregat yesterday morning rushed to the blast scene upon learning of the incident yesterday morning. He was in Sinunuc attending the dedication of the Church of Transfiguration together with Climaco when the incident happened.

Climaco’s office was also affected by the blast and two of members of her staff were slightly During the press con, Lobregat appealed to the media not to blow the incident out of proportion as the authorities are doing everything possible to neutralize the perpetrators. “This is an unfortunate incident. Please don’t blow this out of proportion”.

The mayor said the city government will shoulder all hospital and medical expenses of the injured victims including the burial of those killed in the incident.

After inspecting the blast site, Lobregat proceeded to the different hospitals to visit the victims.
Those killed were identified as Ayesa Busmion of San Roque village and Emedito Tality of Pasonanca village. Arnel Carbonilla is in critical condition. (Sheila Covarrubias)

2 Dead, 18 Wounded In Zamboanga City Bombing




Filipino police bomb experts sift through debris Thursday, May 29, 2008 after a bombing outside the Philippine Air Force base that killed two people and wounded at least 18 others. No group or individual has claimed responsibility for the attack, but previous bombings in Zamboanga City had been blamed to the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group. (Mindanao Examiner Photo/Arthur Abasolo)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 29, 2008) - Two people were killed and more than a dozen others wounded in a bomb attack Thursday outside a Philippine Air Force base in the southern port city of Zamboanga, police said.

The blast damaged a building in front of the military base, where US soldiers, training local troops in anti-terrorism warfare, maintain a small camp.

US Special Forces have been in Zamboanga City since 2002, but it was not immediately known whether the attack was related to the presence of the soldiers. The blast coincided with sporadic fighting between Muslim rebels and soldiers since last week in nearby Basilan island.

The damaged building also houses the Philippine military mutual fund, Air Material Wing Savings and Loans Association, and office of the US Agency for International Development, including the headquarter of Zamboanga City Rep. Maria Isabelle Climaco.

“We still do not know what type of IED was used in the attack,” said Senior Superintendent Lurimer Detran, the local police chief.

Initial reports said 10 people were wounded in the blast, but eight more had been rushed to hospitals. The explosion damaged the façade of the two-storey building. Police would not say whether the bomb was planted outside the building or left on parked vehicles nearby.

But other reports said the bomb, hidden in a bag, was apparently left outside the building where a crowd of passengers, mostly military dependents, were waiting for a C130 transport plane that would bring them to Manila.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack but the US and other western embassies have warned their citizens not to travel to Zamboanga City because of threats of terrorism and kidnappings.

On Monday, three gunmen kidnapped a trader in Zamboanga City after barging in his office in the village of Tetuan. Zamboanga City has been attacked in the past by the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group, which bombed civilian targets and in several occasions kidnapped foreigners among them a German canning executive, a Belgian agrarian expert, a Taiwanese matriarch and Chinese traders. (Mindanao Examiner)

Philippine Radio Broadcaster Still In Jail Despite Posting Bail: Reporters Sans Border

Reporters Without Borders deplored the continued detention of radio broadcaster Alex Adonis, of dxMF Bombo Radyo, despite his posting of bail after the Davao regional court said he could be freed on this condition. He was sentenced last year to four and a half years in prison for "slandering" a member of parliament.

"Adonis must be released because imprisonment for defamation is a violation of freedom of expression and an attempt to intimidate journalists," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "His continued detention after the court ruling is an insult to the rule of law in the Philippines.

The Supreme Court must order his release and defamation must be decriminalised."
Adonis' colleagues, who helped him post bail, went to Davao prison on 26 May hours after Davao regional court Judge George Omelio had ordered him released on bail of 73 euros. But prison governor Benjo Tesoro told them he would not be freed until "higher correctional authorities" had been officially informed.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) called today on justice minister Raúl Gonzáles and national prisons chief Oscar Calderón (the "higher correctional authority" mentioned by Tesoro) to "rectify the error" that had "deprived Adonis of his constitutional rights." The NUJP supported a request to the Supreme Court today by Adonis' lawyer, Harry Roque, asking it to rule on the legality of the journalist's continued imprisonment.

A complaint was filed jointly by Adonis, the NUJP and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) at the end of last month to the UN High Commission on Human Rights condemning the "criminal" nature of the country's defamation law.

Lawyer Roque also asked for Adonis' trial to be reviewed by the Davao regional court in the light of a Supreme Court memorandum on 25 January this year recommending that judges fine rather than imprison people for defamation.

Adonis was sentenced in his absence on 31 January last year for "slandering" MP Prospero Nograles, the speaker of parliament and an ally of President Gloria Arroyo, by saying he had been seen fleeing naked from a Manila hotel after being caught by his reported paramour's husband. He was due for release on bail on 11 December last year after serving the minimum part of his sentence but remained in prison because of a new complaint filed against him by the woman mentioned in his commentaries.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

RP Troops Shell MILF Camps

SULTAN KUDARAT, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 28, 2008) – Government forces shelled Wednesday suspected encampments of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels in Basilan island in the southern Philippines.

“Military forces shelled our positions in the towns of Tipo-Tipo and Ungkaya Pukan, firing at least fifty rounds of howitzer canons. We have no reports of casualties, but the MILF is more worried that civilians would be hit by these indiscriminate attacks by soldiers,” Mohagher Iqbal, chief MILF peace negotiator, told the Mindanao Examiner.

The MILF is currently engaged in peace talks with Manila, but negotiations had bogged down after the government rejected demands by rebels to grant them their ancestral lands. And the MILF said troops had been attacking rebel positions in Basilan, several nautical miles south of Zamboanga City.

Iqbal said the attacks began at dawn, hitting MILF areas in the villages of Baguindan in Tipo-Tipo town and Silangkum in Ungkaya Pukan town.

“These attacks totally disregarded the cease-fire agreement between the MILF and the Philippine government,” Iqbal said.

Marines Chief General Mohammad Dolorfino denied MILF accusations and said security forces are battling the Abu Sayyaf, a small but notorious group allied with the al-Qaeda terror network and the Indonesian militant Jemaah Islamiya.

“Yes, we fired canons, but our target is the Abu Sayyaf. Troops are pursuing the terrorists,” he said.

Dolorfino said soldiers were pursuing the group of Furuji Indama, tagged by the military as one of those behind the beheading of 14 marines in Basilan in July last year. Police said one of Indama’s brother, Tikboy and a rebel were killed in fighting last week between troops and rebels in Ungkaya Pukan.

Another brother, Redwan Indama, was also implicated in the bombing last year of the House of Representatives in Manila which killed several people, including Basilan lawmaker Wahab Akbar.

Last week’s fighting wounded 14 soldiers with both the military and MILF accused each other of breaking the truce. The MILF said troops attacked rebels in Basilan without any provocation.
The MILF has repeatedly warned security forces to stay away near rebel camps. It said government soldiers had been encroaching in those areas sparking sporadic clashes.
The MILF accused the Arroyo government of delaying the peace talks after negotiations were stalled last year over demands for Muslim ancestral domain.
Rebel leaders said the ancestral domain is the single most important issue in the peace negotiations before they can reach a political settlement.

Manila said the provisions of the peace agreement should be within the framework of the Constitution. Government negotiators, led by Rodolfo Garcia, had previously approved the ancestral domain only to renege on the deal later.

Sporadic clashes had been reported in Mindanao since last month after Malaysia, which is brokering the peace talks, pulled out its truce observers because of the slow progress of the negotiations. Malaysia has blamed the Arroyo government for the delay in the talks. (Mindanao Examiner)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Clergy, Abducted And Tortured In Philippines

QUEZON CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 27, 2008) – A Catholic clergy had been abducted by gunmen and tortured into linking a detained pastor to the underground communist movement, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said Tuesday.

It said Pastor Rodel Canja, of the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR), was forcibly taken at gunpoint earlier this month in southern Luzon and was freed after being tortured for four days.
The gunmen, believed to be soldiers or policemen, also threatened to kill Canja’s family if he reports his ordeal to anybody.

PCPR Secretary General Amie Dural said Canja was seized while was on his way to the annual conference of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.

“One man casually invited him to ride in the van and warned him not to ask any question. Inside the van, another man pointed a gun at him while the man who invited him to ride in the van placed a handkerchief in his nose that left him unconscious,” Dural told the CBCP.

Dural said when the pastor regained his consciousness, the men began torturing and interrogating him about UCCP Pastor Berlin Guerrero, now detained at a police base in Imus town in Cavite province.

Guerrero was abducted May 27 last year by gunmen who accused him of being a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines and since then has been detained without charges.

“For four days, two to of the four men alternately interrogated Pastor Canja about Pastor Berlin and two other UCCP ministers. While clicking their guns, the men repeatedly asked Pastor Canja to confirm that Pastor Berlin was a member of the “P”, a code referring to CPP,” Dural said.

Dural said one of the abductors fired his gun while interrogating the clergy. Canja’s wallet and money were also confiscated. “And when they saw the pictures of his two siblings, they threatened the pastor they will kill his siblings if he would ever talk about his experience,” Dural said, adding, Canja is now suffering from psychological trauma brought about by his ordeal.

“With the hundreds of cases of abductions and extra-judicial killings in the country, the Armed Forces of the Philippines mastered the scheme of identifying legitimate people's organizations as 'front' of the CPP. The Armed Forces of the Philippines insists on linking activist citizens to the CPP and its armed group to justify attacks on their lives and liberty,” Dural said.

Since President Gloria Arroyo took power in 2001, at least 27 church people, including Bishop Alberto Ramento, of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, had been killed. Hundreds of political activists, accused of being supporters of the CPP, were also abducted and killed by suspected government soldiers. (With reports from the CBCP)

Zamboanga Trader Kidnapped

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 27, 2008) – Three gunmen abducted a trader late Tuesday afternoon in the southern Philippine port city of Zamboanga, police and media reports said.

Police said the gunmen barged into the office of Inocente Bautista in Cabato Road near the village of Tetuan and dragged him to a car which was later found abandoned on the village of Mercedez, about 20 kilometers away.

No group claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but a local radio station dxXX reported that police mounted a massive search in an effort to rescue Bautista, whose wholesale company, Western Mindanao Corporation, sells groceries and other consumer products.

It said police commandos were searching the village for the kidnappers and their victim, but there have been no reports that they came near to finding Bautista or had any clue where he was taken.

Reports said the gunmen barged into the Bautista’s office at around 5.20 p.m. and used the man’s car in escaping.

Foreign embassies have previously warned their citizens not to travel to Zamboanga City because of threats of kidnappings and terrorism.

Zamboanga City has been attacked in the past by the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group, which bombed civilian targets and in several occasions kidnapped foreigners among them a German canning executive, a Belgian agrarian expert, a Taiwanese matriarch and Chinese traders. (Mindanao Examiner)

Philippines, Haven To Smuggled Indon Parrots




Indonesian Parrots.



The already dwindling population of Indonesian parrots due to deforestation is further threatened by poaching. About 10,000 parrots (Lories and Cockatoos) are caught from the wild in North Halmahera, Indonesia, each year to supply the domestic and the international illegal wildlife trade.


In their latest report entitled ‘PIRATED PARROTS’, the Indonesian wildlife protection NGO ProFauna Indonesia, revealed the evidence on the smuggling of wild caught parrots in Sulawesi and North Halmahera in Indonesia to Philippines during their investigation.


The investigation, which was supported by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and conducted in 2007, uncovered the parrot smuggling network from Indonesia to the Philippines. The parrots poached in North Halmahera are; white Cockatoos (Cacatua alba), chattering Lorys (Lorius garrulus), Eclectus parrots (Eclectus roratus) and the violet-necked Lorys (Eos squamata). The Eclectus parrot is a protected species which is prohibited for trade.


The catch quota of white cockatoos (Cacatua alba) for 2007, issued by the General Director of PHKA, of the Indonesian Forestry Department, is 10 pairs and only for breeding purpose. However, the investigation revealed that at least 200 white Cockatoos were caught from the wild in North Halmahera in 2007, which far exceeded the quota.


The red-and-blue Lorys (Eos histrio), endangered species, are also being smuggled. Fortunately, the red-and-blue Lory poaching and trade have decreased drastically due to active confiscation operations conducted by the forestry department rangers in 2005.


The local authority’s regulation in the villages in Karakelang Island, an island in Talaud Islands group, bordering Indonesia and Philippines, prohibits the poaching of red-and-blue Lory. Thus helps reduce the trade.


Most of the Indonesian parrots come from Halmahera Island, North of Maluku. 40% of them are smuggled to the Philippines from the port in Pelita Village, Galela District in northern Halmahera. An illegal wildlife dealer named Mei Lumombo operates from there. He smuggles the birds to Balut Island or to General Santos, in the Philippines, using a private boat.


The sea journey alone to smuggle parrots from Halmahera, Indonesia to General Santos, in the Philippines takes 9 hours. The journey from the forest to villages and to the port also takes a long time. Most boats carrying the smuggled Indonesian parrots do not dock at the General Santos port to unload.


The transactions are done offshore or in the sea, where the Philippines dealers collect the parrots from the Indonesian ships. Upon arrival at General Santos, the birds are sent to Cartimar market, in Manila, the capital of the Philippines.


The parrot’s death rate is as high as 40 % by the time they arrive at the sales points. For every 1000 parrots caught from the wild, 400 birds died in vain, during the poaching, transportation and trade, due to poor conditions and cruel handling.


The parrot smuggling to the Philippines breaks the CITES (Convention of International on Trade in Endangered Species) agreements, ratified by Indonesia in 1978. Most parrots are listed in Appendix II. Parrots in CITES Appendix II are prohibited from international commercial trade unless they are captive bred or permitted by the exporting country. In Indonesia the bird trade is controlled by the catch quota. Parrots in the trade are not captive bred.


From the interviews with some animal traders in Cartimar market in Manila, the Philippines, ProFauna uncovered that some of the birds smuggled from Indonesia were intended for export to other countries and to be labelled as captive-bred. It is therefore necessary for the Philippines authority to control and check the parrot breeding centre and the source of parrots for export.


The illegal trade of protected parrots violates the Indonesian legislation of the 1990 (a wildlife law concerning Natural Resources and the Ecosystems Conservations). Accordingly, the perpetrators are liable to a maximum five-year prison term and a maximum 100 million Rupiah fine. Unfortunately, the Indonesian governments has not enforced the law because many protected parrot are still being smuggled abroad and sold openly in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia.


At least once in every two weeks there is a freight vessel that dock at Surabaya sea port, transporting illegal parrots. There are about 30 birds of various species being smuggled to Surabaya per shipment. From the data collected by ProFauna about animal markets in Java and Bali, the domestic trade in parrots is still at a high level. The most wanted species is the black-capped Lory (Lorius lory), the second is the sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita) and the third is the Eclectus parrot (Eclectus roratus).


Tri Prayudhi, ProFauna’s Campaign Officer stated, ” The Navy of Indonesian Armed Force (TNI) and the Indonesian Marine Police must improve the patrol of marine boundaries between Indonesia and the Philippines seas and the route used for wildlife smuggling from Indonesia to Philippines”. ProFauna strongly recommends that both Indonesian and the Philippines governments implement and enforce their wildlife laws.


In addition to the necessity of law enforcement to stop the illegal parrot trade, ProFauna urges the Indonesian government to raise the status of white Cockatoo (Cacatua alba), endemic species of Northern Maluku as Indonesian protected species.


EDITOR’S NOTES:


* ProFauna launches PIRATED PARROTS report on the 22nd May 2008 in Jakarta, Indonesia. The report is complemented with a 14-minute film (VCD/DVD) about the Indonesian parrots being smuggled to the Philippines and to the Indonesian domestic trade level. For further information, please contact Butet A. Sitohang, International Communication Officer, mobile: +6281333899741 or email: international@profauna.org


* ProFauna Indonesia (http://www.profauna.org/) is a wildlife protection organization in Indonesia, established in 1994. ProFauna becomes the largest wildlife protection organization in Indonesia with 500,000 member and supporters. In 2002, ProFauna launched a report called Flying Without Wings about the illegal parrot trade in Papua and North Maluku, Indonesia.

Malaysia Furious Over Renewed RP Claims On Sabah

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 27, 2008) – A senior Malaysian politician furious over a renewed Philippine claims on Sabah have called for a stricter laws on Filipinos traveling to the oil-rich state.
Sabah Progressive Party president Datuk Yong Teck Lee said the National Security Council should closely watch developments in the southern Philippines with the collapse of the Moro peace deal and release of former rebel leader Nur Misuari, the Malaysian’s Star reported.

Lee said the withdrawal last month of the Malaysian truce observers from Mindanao was a clear indication of the failure of the peace process involving the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
“Further worries included the rumblings from freed rebel Nur Misuari over the Philippines’ claim to Sabah and the re-grouping of the Moro National Liberation Front,” the Star said.

Misuari, who was ousted as MNLF chairman by Muslimin Sema, the Front’s Secretary General, wanted the International Court of Justice to settle the Philippine claims on Sabah if Malaysia fails to resolve the issue.
Lee said the NSC and the Sabah State Security Committee should act on the problems brought about by the failure of the peace process and Misuari’s revival of the Sabah claims.

“All these warrant the immediate attention of the National Security Council in Putrajaya and the Sabah State Security Committee,” he said.

He also urged Kuala Lumpur to suspend the ferry service between Zamboanga and Sandakan. “Malaysia can also suspend the Zamboanga-Sandakan ferry service, impose bonds on incoming visitors, require ferry passengers to have return tickets and step up enforcement at all levels of government,” he said.

The Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo lays claim to Sabah. The Sultanate of Sulu was a Muslim state that ruled over much of the islands off the Sulu Sea. It stretches from a part of the island of Mindanao in the east, to North Borneo, now known as Sabah, in the west and south, and to Palawan, in the north.

The Sultanate of Sulu was founded in 1457 and is believed to exist as a sovereign nation for at least 442 years. The Sultanate of Sulu obtained Sabah from Brunei as a gift for helping put down a rebellion on the Borneo Island.

The British leased Sabah and transferred control over the territory to Malaysia after the end of Second World War. Even after Borneo became part of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur still pays an annual rent of 5,000 ringgit to the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu Ismail Kiram.

Misuari said what Malaysia pays to the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo is but a pittance.

The MNLF, under Misuari, signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996 ending more than three decades of bloody fighting in the southern Philippines, and accepted a limited autonomy over four Muslim provinces – Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Maguindanao that were later expanded into 5 provinces with Maguindanao as an addition and now has become six with the inclusion of Shariff Kabunsuan.
Misuari later became governor or the Muslim autonomous region, but later accused the government of failing to honor the peace agreement, and his forces attacked major military bases and held civilians hostage in Sulu province and Zamboanga City in November 2001.

He fled to Sabah, his former refuge, but was arrested by Malaysian authorities and sent back to Manila where he is now facing rebellion charges and currently out on bail.

Sema said the issue on Sabah has been a long irritant between the Philippines and Malaysia and he appealed to Misuari not to use this to stir restlessness among local Muslims in Mindanao.

“This has been a very old issue and we don’t want to strain our good relations with Malaysia at the expense of everybody. The Philippines has in the past approached this old issue with diplomacy and respect to maintain good bilateral relations with Malaysia and we wanted this to continue,” Sema told the Mindanao Examiner. (Mindanao Examiner)

RP Troops Secure Visiting US Navy Hospital Ship In Mindanao

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 27, 2008) – Philippine soldiers have been deployed to secure the arrival of the United States Navy hospital ship Mercy in the strife-torn island of Mindanao.

The USNS Mercy is expected to arrive on Thursday for a two-week medical mission, said Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, spokesman for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division in Maguindanao province.

“We have deployed our soldiers to secure the USNS Mercy and its crew. We don’t want anything that will disrupt the conduct of this medical mission,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

He said the medical mission, which will be joined by the Philippine military and other government agencies, is expected to draw tens of thousands of poor Filipinos, mostly from the Muslim autonomous region.

“We are looking at tens of thousands of patients here, or even a couple of hundreds of thousands. There will be on-board medical operations and humanitarians missions in the provinces under the Muslim autonomous region. This is something we look forward to do in two weeks time,” Ando said.

He said teams of US and Filipino military doctors and volunteers would conduct medical outreach programs in the provinces of Maguindanao, Shariff Kabunsuan, Lanao del Sur, Shariff Aguak, Cotabato City among other places in central Mindanao.

“This is an opportunity for us to help a lot of poor people and spread the message of peace and hope and all for the sake of humanity,” Ando said.
Ando said aside from the medical missions, the USNS Mercy will also support dental, veterinary, and construction assistance programs ashore at select locations in Mindanao.

“US and Filipino soldiers will also work together to build schools and roads as part of engineering civic action program,” he said.

Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan, of the Muslim autonomous region, said he is supporting US humanitarian efforts in Mindanao and thanked President George Bush for sending American troops to help in various civic action programs in the provinces.

It will be the first time the USNS Mercy will sail to central Mindanao, where Filipino troops are battling Abu Sayyaf militants and communist insurgents. Both groups have previously attacked US targets in the southern Philippines.

In June 2006, the 272.5-meter-long USNS Mercy also held a month-long series of medical missions in Zamboanga City, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces. The USNS Mercy was joined by volunteers from the US Public Health Service, Aloha Medical Mission, Project Hope and the Pre-Dental Society of the University of California along with a contingent of medical specialists from the U.S. and Canadian militaries.
Together, they provided medical and surgical services to patients in the ship’s on-board facilities and at hospitals and medical centers on shore with the help of the Taiwanese Tzu Chi Foundation, ACDI/VOCA, Save the Children and the Philippine Red Cross.

Shariff Ibrahim Ajibul Mohammad Pulalun, of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, has in the past thanked Washington for sending the USNS Mercy to the southern Philippines.

Pulalun, a staunch US supporter, urged the US to send more humanitarian assistance to Sulu and Tawi-Tawi islands and other Muslim areas in Mindanao to benefit the poor. He was also behind a big pro-US rally in Sulu in 2006 where more than 1,000 Muslims gathered to welcome American soldiers on the island for a series of humanitarian missions and trained Filipino troops in anti-terrorism warfare under the so-called Balikatan, an annual joint military exercise between the two countries.
The USNS Mercy was also in the Philippines in 1986 during a humanitarian mission. At least 25 percent of the ship's crew members are Filipino-Americans. (Mindanao Examiner)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

NPA Boasts Of War Victories In Mindanao

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 25, 2008) – Philippine communist rebels on Sunday boasted their war victories against Manila and vowed to launch more attacks against government targets across the country.

Rigoberto F. Sanchez, a spokesman for the outlawed New People’s Army, said rebels had killed 32 soldiers and wounded dozens more in fighting the past two months in Mindanao.

“The Armed Forces of the Philippines counter-revolutionary campaign is in a state of total quandary. The sustained and series of tactical offensives of guerrilla units of the Merardo Arce Command-New People's Army from Monkayo in the north, Digos City in the south, Cateel and Mati City in the east and Arakan Valley in the west launched in recent weeks underscore this condition. The AFP is completely unable to derail the momentum of the armed revolution,” he said.

He said the NPA also captured two soldiers and seized at least 35 assorted weapons in various raids in less than two months.

“In the political aspect, the AFP gained nothing except further isolation from peasants and Lumads due to the abusive conduct of its military operations,” Sanchez said, referring to indigenous people who accused the military of human rights violations.

He said many Lumads were detained and tortured by soldiers on mere suspicion they were supporters of the NPA.Sanchez said the NPA will continue its offensives in Mindanao just as what new Philippine military chief, General Alexander Yano, vowed. “The support of the people is with us and the military is losing the battle,” he said.

Yano, who took over this month from General Hermogenes Esperon as chief of the Armed Forces, has vowed to finish off the NPA.

The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines which broke off peace talks with Manila in 2004 after accusing President Gloria Arroyo of reneging on a deal that would lead to the release of all political detainees and respect for human rights, a stop on all extra-judicial killings of activists, among others.
(Mindanao Examiner)

Abu Sayyaf Machine Gun Recovered In Southern Philippines

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 25, 2008) – Troops recovered a machine gun allegedly owned by the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group in Sulu provinces in the southern Philippines, the military said Sunday.

It said a civilian provided information to soldiers about the weapon, a 30-caliber, kept by an Abu Sayyaf member in Talipao town.

“The successful operation is attributed to the civilian’s input of information,” said Sulu military chief, Maj. Gen. Juancho Sabban.

“The provincial government’s gun ban is being seriously implemented by authorities to curb the proliferation of loose firearms and deny these weapons from being used for unlawful activities.
Every gun seized indicates that Sulu has been rid of a serious threat --making every Suluano existence safer,” he said.

Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan has banned illegal weapons in the province and ordered authorities to dismantle private armies and arrest those violating the law. (Mindanao Examiner)

2 MILF Mujahideen Killed, 11 Troops Wounded In Basilan Clash

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 25, 2008) – At least ten government soldiers were wounded in fierce fighting Sunday with Muslim rebels in the southern Filipino island of Basilan, officials said.

Philippine Marines chief General Mohammad Dolorfino said Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels, backed by the Abu Sayyaf, attacked a military detachment in Tongbato village in Ungkaya Pukan town near Tipo-Tipo town.

“Ten soldiers were wounded in the raid,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

They also ambushed government reinforcement in the nearby village Matarling, wounding one more soldier. “A V150 armored vehicle was also damaged from a landmine explosion,” Dolorfino said.

The MILF said troops first attacked rebel forces in Tipo-Tipo. It also denied that Abu Sayyaf militants had joined the MILF in the fighting. “The soldiers attacked our positions in Tipo-Tipo town and fighting is going on and there is no Abu Sayyaf in our group,” Mohagher Iqbal, chief MILF peace negotiator, said in a separate interview.

The MILF is currently negotiating peace with Manila, but despite a cease-fire accord sporadic fighting still continue in many parts of Mindanao with rebels and soldiers accusing each other of breaking the truce.

Police also deployed forces in the area to secure the civilians. It did not say how many people had fled their homes. “We are awaiting reports from the ground,” said Senior Superintendent Salik Macapantar, the provincial police chief.

Iqbal said government troops attacked the MILF forces, triggering a fierce firefight. “The military violated again the cease-fire agreement. Our forces are just responding to military attacks and rebels are only defending themselves,” he said.

The MILF has repeatedly warned security forces to stay away near rebel camps and soldiers had been reported encroaching in those areas and sparking sporadic clashes.

Last week, soldiers fired on armed rebels working at a farm in Baguindan village, igniting hours of sporadic clashes in Tipo-Tipo town, Iqbal said.

Military officials have issued conflicting statements about the fighting and said troops clashes with the Abu Sayyaf. Other officials said the MILF attacked a group of marines securing a road project in the town.

The MILF has accused the Arroyo government of delaying the peace talks after negotiations were stalled last year over demands for Muslim ancestral domain.

Rebel leaders said the ancestral domain is the single most important issue in the peace negotiations before they can reach a political settlement and with the talks stalled; the hope of ending more than three decades of bloody hostilities remains dim.

Manila said the provisions of the peace agreement should be within the framework of the Constitution. Government negotiators, led by Rodolfo Garcia, had previously approved the ancestral domain only to renege on the deal later.

Sporadic clashes had been reported in Mindanao since last month after Malaysia, which is brokering the peace talks, pulled out its truce observers because of the slow progress of the negotiations. Malaysia has blamed the Arroyo government for the delay in the talks.

Security forces also raided the house of Mike Dalem, an MILF political officer, in Buluan town in Maguindanao province last week. Iqbal said the raid was illegal and violated the cease-fire agreement the government signed with the MILF.

The MILF previously said the Philippine military have been building up its forces in Mindanao the past weeks and it fears that renewed hostilities may break out because troops were reported massing near areas controlled by rebels in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur provinces. (Mindanao Examiner)

MILF Rebels, Troops Clash In Basilan Island

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 25, 2008) – Fighting erupted Sunday between Muslim rebels and government soldiers in Basilan island, south of the Philippines.

The clash broke out near the village of Baguindan in Tipo-Tipo town, scene of a recent fighting between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and security forces. The MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group is currently negotiating peace with the government.

“The soldiers again attacked our positions in Tipo-Tipo town and fighting is going on,” Mohagher Iqbal, chief MILF peace negotiator, told the Mindanao Examiner.
There were no immediate reports of casualties, but many civilians have already fled some villages in Tipo-Tipo for fear they would be caught in the crossfire or trapped in the fighting.

Police also deployed forces in the area to secure the civilians. It did not say how many people had fled their homes. “We are awaiting reports from the ground,” said Senior Superintendent Salik Macapantar, the provincial police chief.

Iqbal said government troops attacked the MILF forces, triggering a fierce firefight. “The military violated again the cease-fire agreement. Our forces are just responding to military attacks and rebels are only defending themselves,” he said.

The MILF has repeatedly warned security forces to stay away near rebel camps and soldiers had been reported encroaching in those areas and sparking sporadic clashes.

Last week, soldiers fired on armed rebels working at a farm in Baguindan village, igniting hours of sporadic clashes in Tipo-Tipo town, Iqbal said.

Military officials have issued conflicting statements about the fighting and said troops clashes with the Abu Sayyaf. Other officials said the MILF attacked a group of marines securing a road project in the town.

The MILF has accused the Arroyo government of delaying the peace talks after negotiations were stalled last year over demands for Muslim ancestral domain.

Rebel leaders said the ancestral domain is the single most important issue in the peace negotiations before they can reach a political settlement and with the talks stalled; the hope of ending more than three decades of bloody hostilities remains dim.

Manila said the provisions of the peace agreement should be within the framework of the Constitution. Government negotiators, led by Rodolfo Garcia, had previously approved the ancestral domain only to renege on the deal later.

Sporadic clashes had been reported in Mindanao since last month after Malaysia, which is brokering the peace talks, pulled out its truce observers because of the slow progress of the negotiations. Malaysia has blamed the Arroyo government for the delay in the talks.

Security forces also raided the house of Mike Dalem, an MILF political officer, in Buluan town in Maguindanao province last week. Iqbal said the raid was illegal and violated the cease-fire agreement the government signed with the MILF.

The MILF previously said the Philippine military have been building up its forces in Mindanao the past weeks and it fears that renewed hostilities may break out because troops were reported massing near areas controlled by rebels in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur provinces. (Mindanao Examiner)

Fire Gutted 80 Houses In Zamboanga City

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 25, 2008) –A fire razed some 80 houses at a coastal village in the southern port city of Zamboanga in the southern Philippines, police said Sunday.

Police said the fire struck in Arena Blanco on Saturday and although no one was reported killed in the blaze, many victims were hurt in the commotion. Many of the houses that burned were made from dried grass and wood and bamboo.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known, but arson investigators have interviewed several people in the village. (Mindanao Examiner)

Marines Seized Chemical Explosive In South RP

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 25, 2008) – Government troops seized weapons and chemicals used in the manufacture of explosives in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, officials said Sunday.

Officials said a marine patrol intercepted Saturday a small boat transporting more than 280 bags of ammonium nitrate at a wharf in the village of Buanza near the town of Indanan. Troops also raided a house near the wharf and seized dozens of blasting caps and a .45-caliber pistol, ammunition and transceiver radios.

Sulu military chief, Brig. Gen. Juancho Sabban said several people were arrested and criminal charges will be filed against them. “There is an ongoing operation to determine where the chemicals came from or if the militant Abu Sayyaf group was involved in the smuggling.”

“The Abu Sayyaf‘s involvement is not remote. The raid, which was conducted based on military intelligence build-up, is near the Abu Sayyaf camp overrun by the military last month. With blasting caps and the ammonium nitrate, which is the basic ingredient for fertilizer bombs, it is obviously meant for a terrorist action,” he said.

The chemicals are widely used as fertilizer and an ingredient to homemade explosive common in blast fishing.

He said civilian informants tipped off the military about the chemicals and the weapons. Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan has previously ordered police and military to dismantle all private armed groups and seized all illegal weapons in the province.

“Our soldiers’ commitment to their mandated tasks interfaced with the public support and cooperation effect this successful operation. We shall always be relentless in our security operations to thwart any eventuality that may harm our people,” Sabban said. (Mindanao Examiner)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Del Monte Salesman Is Reported Missing In Southern Philippines

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 24, 2008) – A Filipino salesman was reported missing in the southern island of Sulu after he failed to return to his budget hotel, police said on Saturday.

Police said Ricardo Cruz, a salesman of Del Monte products, was reported missing since May 21 by his two companions in Jolo town.

"And since then, he never returned. We do not know what happened to the salesman and Governor Sakur Tan has ordered us to exert all efforts to find out what really happened to the salesman and we are all worried here," said Sulu police chief, Senior Superintendent Julasirim Kasim.

Kasim said they are investigating whether Cruz, who had collected payments from traders, had returned to Zamboanga City where he is based. "Cruz left his two companions in their room to collect the payments from traders and since then had never returned," he said.

But Jolo police chief, Inspector Usman Pingay, said the duo told investigators that Cruz had told them to stay in their room while he collects the money.

"We are still investigating this case. We want to establish the motive behind the salesman's disappearance," Pingay said.

Last year, a Filipino Muslim engineer, Morced Tagitis, who was working for the Islamic Development Bank was reported missing in Sulu and feared kidnapped, but police later found that he returned to Zamboanga City without informing his companions. (Mindanao Examiner)

Military Rally Behind New Arroyo Peace Adviser

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 24, 2008) – Military commanders in Mindanao vowed to support the new government peace adviser, Hermogenes Esperon, former chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Philippine leader Gloria Arroyo last week named Esperon as the new Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, a post previously held by Jesus Dureza, now Press Secretary. Esperon, 56, retired early this month ending decades of glorious past from being a decorated combat commander in the strife-torn Mindanao to peace builder in Sulu.

“From being a military commander to peace maker, we know Secy. Hermogenes Esperon will certainly work hard to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao. He knows the problem in Mindanao very well because he had told us many times in the past that the only solution to insurgency problems is peace and development.”

“Secy. Esperon had always told us to support the government peace process because fighting is not the solution to the problems of Mindanao. The solution, he said always, is sincerity to the peace process and peace we shall achieve, he would always say. And Secy. Esperon served well during his time as military chief and we see peace finally coming,” Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division in Mindanao, told the Mindanao Examiner.

Ando said the soldiers are also behind Esperon and supportive of the government peace process.

Manila is currently negotiating peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group fighting for independence in the South. Besides the MILF, the government is trying to revive peace talks with the communist New People’s Army rebels, which is also fighting for the establishment of a Maoist state in the Philippines.

The MILF said it would want to see the resumption of the stalled peace talks and how Esperon would be able to help in finding a just and lasting solution to the Muslim insurgency problems in Mindanao.

In Zamboanga City, the Western Mindanao Command, which secures half of the southern Philippines, also threw its support to Esperon, who was previously the chief of the now defunct Southern Command.

“We knew how the General put his efforts in maintaining peace in Mindanao. He would be the last military commander who would want to see fighting in the southern Philippines and that is why troops are elated when they learned that General Esperon has been named as the new Presidential peace adviser.”

“General Esperon has that knowledge and experiences on how to maintain peace and security in Mindanao. He advocated peace in the past and it never changes, it is sill there, peace, he will always tell the soldiers, can be achieved if we work altogether to achieve it,” Maj. Eugene Batara, the spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command, said.

And the commitment to support the government peace process remains strong among soldiers in the other parts of the South.

In Davao City, home to the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command, spokesman Col. Roland Bautista said troops also wanted peace in the troubled region and not fighting with rebels.

“Our soldiers want peace. We do not want any fighting. We want peace to reign in Mindanao so we can help and work together in developing this beautiful region of Mindanao. General Esperon, being the former chief of the Philippine military, can really do a lot to achieve lasting peace and our troops are united behind him as the new government peace adviser,” Bautista said.

In Sulu, the provincial governor Sakur Tan has praised Esperon because of his efforts in bringing peace and development in the island-province, one of six that comprises the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“The man has really worked hard to achieve peace in Sulu and helped us a lot when he was the Armed Forces chief through many partnership projects such as roads and schools and other humanitarian efforts."
"Our support is solidly behind Secy. Hermogenes Esperon and we continuously support the peace and development efforts of President Gloria Arroyo and the ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan,” Tan said. (Mindanao Examiner)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Stay Away From Our Bases, MILF Tells Military

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 22, 2008) – Muslim rebels engaged in peace talks with Manila on Thursday warned that the presence of military forces near their camps could spark fighting in the southern island of Basilan.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front said more government soldiers have been spotted near rebel camps in the hinterlands of Tipo-Tipo and Al-Barka towns, scenes of previous clashes between guerrilla and security forces.

Both areas are also known strongholds of the MILF, the country's largest Muslim rebel group fighting for independence in the southern Philippines.

Some 500 marines are also on their way to Basilan from Manila and expected to arrive this week to augment thousands already deployed on the island, where rebels and soldiers clashed last week.

"The presence of government soldiers near MILF areas is a provocative act and could spark clashes if troops encroach in our places," Mohagher Iqbal, chief MILF peace negotiator, told the Mindanao Examiner.

He said the military failed to coordinate the movement of the soldiers which is a violation of the truce agreement. "We are preparing to file our protest to the joint cease-fire committees because this is causing tension in Basilan," Iqbal said.

Musawwari Aslil, leader of the MILF forces in Basilan island, said the deployment of marines near areas where the rebels are known to operate is a dangerous act. "This is outright provocation," he said. (Mindanao Examiner)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

PHILIPPINES: Systemic failure to prevent a pattern of arbitrary deprivation of dozens of lives - AHRC

ISSUES: Extrajudicial killing; police negligence; right to liberty and security; children; administration of justice.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes with deep concern regarding the continuing failure by the police and the local government to ensure protection and prevent the systematic murders in General Santos City. At least 29 persons, five of whom are minors, have already been killed from February 4 to May 16, 2008 and dozens of others that remains largely not documented. While this appeal is being written, more murders have taken place there.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

At the latter part of 2007, there have been increasing incidents of motorcycle thefts wherein their drivers are subsequently and systematically murdered before their motorcycles are forcibly taken from them in General Santos City, Southern Philippines. All these cases, however, remained unsolved by local police authorities. Though the police claimed to have identified the group responsible for these robberies, they have not been able to ensure that they are arrested and effectively prosecuted.

In the said city, private motorcycle drivers are not allowed to carry passengers for a fee because they have not been issued with any franchise, nor given authority by the government to operate as public transport. However, private motorcycles are noticeably seen collecting passengers as this is the only available means of transport during nighttime in most areas there. This, too, has in fact become a means of livelihood to a large number of locals there. It is these circumstances though that has placed them extremely vulnerable to robberies.

Though these incidents have continued unabated since February, the number of drivers who have fallen victims to motorcycle thieves and killers has been increasing by the day. Base on available documented cases so far, from February 4 to May 16, 2008, at least eight motorcycle drivers have already been murdered in separate shooting incidents. However, at the height of the robberies and murders, the local police has been trying to downplay its scale declaring them as: "isolated cases"

The local police too, particularly the head of the General Santos City Police Office (GSCPO), has instead put the blame on the victims themselves by continuously ferrying passengers which attracts robbers. Despite the robberies and murders taking place systematically, they had been unable to initiate adequate and effective measures to ensure these robberies and subsequent murders are prevented. Or, those who are vulnerable persons could avail some sort of a protection.

As these motorcycle murders continue unabated, sometime in February 2008, the local police gave an ultimatum to their local commanders to solve these cases and to subsequently arrest those responsible. It is reported, however that in the process the police has been able to draw up an alleged list of persons they suspect of involvement in these robberies and murders.

A few weeks later, not only motorcycle drivers have fallen victims to these robberies and subsequent murders; however, dozens of other persons have also been shot dead almost daily in General Santos City. Some of the victims are reportedly amongst those included in the police's list, including a 16-year-old boy (Please see Case No. 9 above).

The police, however, are denying any involvement in these murders of alleged criminals; nor the existence of hirelings there.

Instead of ensuring that the police effectively investigates and ensures those responsible for these murders and motorcycle robberies--the city mayor Pedro Acharon Jr. had openly, in absence of any sufficient proofs, endorsed the police' theory that the alleged criminals could have been also murdered by their own group members (Please see Case No. 8 above). Neither Mayor Acharon nor the local police had given any reasonable and credible proofs that those persons, whom they accused as criminals, actually had links with each other.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

In March, the AHRC raised serious concern about Mayor Acharon's statement (AHRC-STM-079-2008) and the manner by which the police handles these cases. It also warned the consequences that the perpetrators would be emboldened to commit more murders with impunity; and that it would become a convenient excuse for the police authorities there, instead of being held responsible to ensure protection of lives and protection, to exonerate themselves.

The responsibility by the Philippine National Police (PNP) is clearly stipulated in Republic Act 6975, section 24, of the police' powers and functions (read the full text). They are supposed to ensure the protection of lives and property of the people, ensure public safety, and to investigate and prevent these crimes.

Also, under Article 6 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which the Philippines is a state party, it clearly states that "Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life".

(read full text) The protection of persons from being arbitrarily deprived of their lives is an utmost State responsibility.

The General Comment No. 6 1982 by the United Nation Human Rights Committee, par. 3, also stipulates that: "the protection against arbitrary deprivation of life which is explicitly required by the third sentence of article 6 (1) is of paramount importance.

The Committee considers that State parties should take measures not only to prevent and punish deprivation of life by criminal acts, but also to prevent arbitrary killing by their own security forces (sic)". (read full text)

However, neither the local police nor the local government has been able to ensure by taking effective and adequate measures to prevent these robberies and murders from taking place; and that persons are not arbitrary deprived of their lives without due process and on pretext of their supposed involvement in criminal activities.

Below are names of the victims (of systematic murders and arbitrary deprivation of life) and brief details of their cases. These, however, is a small fraction of what is actually taking place;

MOTORCYCLE DRIVERS MURDERED:

1. DANNY RAMIREZ, 45 years old: He was murdered on April 27 in Barangay (village) Labangal. He was a lone bread winner and father of five children who tried to earn a living but he himself had become a victim. He had just come from their place when he was followed by the perpetrators who shot him on his way to ferry passengers. Danny's wife, Delia and his children are now forced to survive and carry on their lives by themselves.

2. STEWARD DEVENAGRACIA, 22 years old: He was shot dead by one of his passengers on April 21 in Barangay Labangal. He was last seen ferrying a female passenger from a wharf in Makar, of the same village, before he was found dead. Usually drivers are not suspicious of female passengers though. The attackers also stole the motorcycle he had had just loaned.

3. ROMY ARISTOTELES, 33 years old: He was killed on April 9 at 8:30pm at corner Magsaysay Avenue and Salazar streets, a usually crowded place in downtown area. A lone gunman, armed with a .45 caliber pistol, shot him from behind and calmly walked away after the shooting.

4. JUN VILLAMOR: He was shot dead on April 1 by two of passengers who allegedly tried to steal his motorcycle along San Pedro Street, Mateo Road, Barangay (village) Bula. Witnesses heard gunshots before he slammed his motorcycle underneath the back of a utility vehicle parked along a roadside. The two attackers, one of whom was seen having difficulty of walking were able to escape.

5. DANILO BACTOL, 45 years old: He was found dead on March 10 in Purok Bulaong Extension, Barangay Labangal. He was last seen ferrying two other passengers before he was murdered and his motorcycle stolen. He had fatal gunshot wounds to his belly and back.

MURDER OF ALLEGED CRIMINALS:

1. RUEL MEDRANO, 22 years old; of Purok San Roque, Barangay Labanga. On May 17, he was seen eating a snack in one of the stores when gunmen shot him dead. The gunmen, armed with a .45 caliber pistol, had approached the victim unnoticed, shooting him on the head at close range. Three slugs from a pistol were found from the crime scene. He had been involved previously on theft for stealing a phone, which has been returned to the owner.

2. BEMBO APONESTO, 31 years old; of Purok 2, Rajah Muda, Barangay Bula. On May 17, he was standing just outside the house of his friend when he was shot dead by unidentified gunmen. Two gunmen, carrying a .45 caliber pistol, were seen approaching him before they shot him. The community police, however, claimed Bembo had previously been detained in their police station for committing an offense.

3. ALFREDO SECUVA JR., 17 years old; of Zone 3, Block 0, Barangay Fatima. On May 16, he was playing basketball in a crowded place when approached by gunmen who shot him twice. Two slugs from a .45 caliber pistol had been recovered from the crime scene. There were suspicions that he had been involved in illegal drugs after having been swayed by his friends and he could have been killed by "hired killers".

4. RENE TALUNA, 24 years old: On May 14 evening, Rene had just come from the public market where he was selling charcoal when the attackers shot him soon after arriving at his place in B'laan Village, Barangay Labangal. The two suspects, riding on a motorcycle, had followed the victim before shooting him dead. He suffered gunshot wounds to his head and chest. The community police there, once again, claimed Rene had cases of theft and robbery in their office.

5. EPEDILITO VALLENTI, 18 years old: He was shot suddenly by a gunman on May 12 just outside his place. The gunmen, who had approached him as he was standing, shot him to his head and neck. The attackers, riding on a motorcycle, were seen shooting the victim soon after coming close to him.

6. ROGER BAGALANGIT, 23 years old: He was shot dead on April 20 in front of his sister, Resalie, after coming out from a village where they had come for a drink along Jhonny Ang Paradise. They were waiting for a ride on their way home, when one of the attackers, armed with a .45 caliber pistol, suddenly appeared shooting Roger to his forehead. He died on his way when taken to the hospital. The police', instead of investigating who are responsible for his murder, looked into whether the victim had a criminal records or not.

7. JONATHAN LANCISO, 30 years old: On April 18, he was with a crowd of people watching volleyball game when two gunmen, armed with .45 caliber pistol, approached shooting him to his forehead in Sitio Lanton, Barangay Apopong. None of those who had seen the shooting, however, had come forward to identify the two attackers. His wife, Agnes, had no idea to what could have been the motive in her husband's murder. Jonathan had been detained but was released after having been falsely charged for theft of firearms.

8. GABRIEL SINTOSAS, 23 and EMERSON ESTOCADO, 21: Gabriel and Emerson were killed on March 19 in Purok Malok and Purok San Roque, Labangal, respectively. The police had quickly made public pronouncement the two had been killed over suspicions that they could be involved in a series of motorcycle robberies.

9. ROLEN DAGANIO, (a.k.a dugong bunso), 16 years old: He was with two of his relatives March 18, around 9:55pm along Barangay City Heights when he was shot dead by unidentified gunmen riding on motorcycle. His uncle, Rogelio Inconcillano, and cousin, Rember Nunez, said attackers shot him as he was standing at the roadside. Rolen is said to be a recidivist offender and had been detained at police stations in several occasions. The social welfare is supposed to be taking custody of him when he was killed.

10. NASSER KAMID, 28 years old: He was along Amao Road, Barangay Bula on March 7 when the three attackers riding on a motorcycle, armed with a .45 caliber pistol, suddenly appeared and shot him dead. Though the police have yet to conclude their investigation; they however said he had been previously detained at the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol).

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

US Hands Over Infra Projects In Sulu


SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 21, 2008) – The US military has formally handed over Wednesday to Filipino government several buildings and a road project in the southern province of Sulu.

Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan led officials in the inaugurations of two Area Coordinating Centers in the towns of Parang and Patikul and also two hospital buildings and two school rooms. Tan’s wife, Nurunisah, herself a humanitarian worker, also led local women officials in the ceremonies attended by American and Filipino military leaders.

The buildings are worth several million pesos and Tan said the projects would further support peace and development in Sulu. “We are thankful to the American people and the US government for all these projects which will surely help efforts in promoting peace and development in Sulu,” Tan said.

Sulu’s military chief, Brig. Gen. Juancho Sabban said other humanitarian projects are still going on in Sulu in partnership with the provincial government and the US military.

“All these projects were identified by the people themselves. We asked them of their existing predicaments. They tell us. We immediately respond and set ourselves to work because it is our responsibility to reach out to the people in need,” he said.

Last year, the US military under the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines spend more than $ 6million in various infrastructure and development projects in Sulu.

The AFP, on the other hand, said it spent about P44 million, mostly on school buildings and other smaller projects and livelihood trainings for locals.

Sabban said the military has launched the so-called Community Organizing and People Empowerment approach in an effort to win hearts and minds of the locals. “Our gallant soldiers will continuously uphold the rule of law and respect human rights in the campaign against terrorism.”

“Respect begets respect. Soldiers will remain highly professionalized and will exhibit proper decorum, in or out of uniform. It is imperative that all peace and development stakeholders must continuously work together to keep on the peace that has been achieved so far and to advance it through sustaining the development initiatives,” he said.

Sabban praised Tan for his hard work and dedication to bring peace and development in Sulu. Just last month, Tan also inaugurated a housing project for poor communities in the town of Luuk and several more in the town of Maimbung and Indanan.

The government is rehabilitating the airport in Jolo, the capital of Sulu province, after President Gloria Arroyo has managed to source out funds for its rehabilitation, Tan said.

Engineers and other technical personnel with expertise in airport development are to begin a survey for the expansion of the airport and once finished, huge planes such as 737s and cargo aircrafts, will be able to fly and land safely.

Tan said the project, which will begin in a few months, cost about US$ 3 million to be funded by the United States of America.

Tan said Jolo airport runaway will be expanded to more than 2,000 meters so it could accommodate bigger passenger planes not only from Manila or Zamboanga, but from neighboring countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei that makes up the East Asia Growth Area (EAGA), a sub-regional economic cooperation initiative in Southeast Asia that included the Philippines.

Tan said the rehabilitation of the airport is expected to be completed next year.

He said the President has pledged more development projects for Sulu and so is Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan, of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), to which the province of Sulu is part of.

"The President has promised us more projects for the people and so is Gov. Ampatuan, who has been very supportive and working hard for the development of Sulu and of the whole autonomous region," Tan said.

Aside from Sulu, the autonomous region comprise of the provinces of Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Shariff Kabunsuan and Marawi City. (Mindanao Examiner)

Mangrove Areas Sa Sulu, Ginawang Pribadong Palaisdaan

COTABATO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Mat 21, 2008) – Pinaiimbestigahan ng mga environmentalist ang umano’y talamak na putulan ng mga mangrove trees o bakawan sa lalawigan ng Sulu.

Nabatid na maraming mga lugar sa Sulu, partikular sa Luuk, ang halos talamak ang nasabing putulan at karamihan sa mga ito ay ginagawang fish ponds ng mga tiwaling kapitalista at mangingisda.

Hindi naman agad makapagbigay ng ulat ang Department of Environment and Natural Resources sa Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao kung gaano kalawak ang pagkasira ng mga mangrove areas sa nasabing lalawigan.

Nanawagan naman ang mga “environment activists” sa pamunuan ng ARMM na ipag-utos sa DENR ang isang masusing imbestigasyon upang mapatawan ng sapat na kaparusahan ang mga nasa likod na malawakang pagputol ng mga mangrove areas upang gawin pribadong fish ponds.

Ang mangrove areas ay ang nagsisilbing habitat ng maraming mga marine animals. (Mindanao Examiner)

P90 M Bond Flotation For Nabunturan Market Opposed

COMPOSTELA VALLEY, Philippines - The move of the municipal government of Nabunturan to engage into ten-year bond flotation costing P90 million to finance for the construction of a new market building has been opposed by several sectors over its exorbitant amount including its project components.

Already, the pre-final edition of the feasibility study for the bond flotation was approved in a resolution three weeks ago by majority of the Sangguniang Bayan led by Vice Mayor Romeo Clarin and proponent Councilor Iluminada Cabuga amid vehement opposition by Councilors Raul Caballero and Alfonso Tabas Jr.

Bond flotation here would mean that the Nabunturan local government unit would issue and sell interest-bearing paper bonds with which would be paid up until ten years to individuals, government banks or private firms, the proceeds of which would be used for the construction project of the town’s public market building. If there is no bond buyer who is assumed to be the investor of the project, the bond flotation underwriter firm would underwrite the bonds in bulk and sell it to institutional buyers.

Bonds bought in this case would mean the obligations (capital, interest and other charges) incurred by the municipal government which it would pay in installments from its Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) that has been assigned as source and collateral to the sinking fund repayment to the obligations.

Ideally, proceeds or collections from the project (public market building) to where the bond flotation was intended should be enough to pay for the obligations but practically the IRA is stashed to make up for the repayments of obligations.

Two weeks ago, a public hearing on the bond flotation was made by the executive and legislative departments without the presence of third-termer Mayor Macario Humol but howls of protest were raised by vocal participants led by Tabas.

Oppositors slammed the project’s staggering cost which is P90 million and several of its components as exorbitant and feared that delivery of basic social services would be strained after Humol’s term as the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of the town will be tapped to pay for the obligations backing up the bonds.

Based on the feasibility study alone prepared by the project’s financial adviser and consultant, Preferred Ventures Corp. only some P84 million will go directly to construction of the planned public market building, which has lot area of 1,700 square meters.

Tabas charged as “too expensive” the pre-construction components that include architectural and engineering design amounting to P6,057,465 , site development with P3,682,264, general requirements, P1,200,331, while P73,059,940. is allotted for the construction of the new public market building which would stand in the area where the old market spaces were razed to the ground by a fire over two years ago.

Oppositors charged as prohibitive are the P2.7 million for the 3% consultancy fee which will go to Preferred Ventures Corp as the project financial adviser, P1,350,000.00 for underwriter fee (1.5%), P900,000 guarantee fee (.05%-1.25%), and the P450,000 trustee fee (.5%), all which would be paid during the first year repayment period.

First the year alone, the municipal government would have to pay a total of P15.3 million, of which about P9.9 million goes for interest payment, Tabas disclosed.

Councilor Caballero appealed to his colleagues in the council not to push the bond flotation saying that ultimately it is disadvantageous to the local government as what the comparative study of the local finance committee showed earlier.

The Nabunturan Local Finance Committee reportedly released its comparative study late last year revealing that if the project is financed through a loan on various terms Landbank repayment for the first year repayment showed having only P4,836,750 at the least while the Development Bank of the Philippines has only P13,303,167.

The same study noted that on the second year, repayment would reach P45,047,600 under the bond flotation, while LandBank and DBP loans would only have P25,649,250and P40,633,750, respectively.

Oppositors also said that small stall holders who were victims of the fire would be displaced as the new public building would have high rentals for the spaces which ion effect trigger high prices of basic commodities in town.

They claimed that stall holders having 18 square-meter space would have to pay a monthly rental of P11,340 after paying P68,040 for the three months advance rentals.

Tabas alleged the several councilors from the majority went for a study tour on bond flotation this year to Calatagan, Batangas where personnel from Preferred Ventures Corp. met with and accommodated them.

Meanwhile, Mayor Cesar Colina of Maragusan has reportedly commented last week that he was able finish the construction of his town’s 96-stall public market building as replacement to the one that was also gutted by fire three years ago at a cost of P3.4 million only using his government’s own resources, in obvious comment to the bond flotation plan of Nabunturan. (Cha Monforte, Rural Urban News http://ruralurbanews.blogspot.com)

Ka Beltran Passes Away!

Gabriela Women's Party mourns the passing away of veteran labor leaderand militant partylist Representative Crispin "Ka Bel" Beltran.

In his death, we have lost a most formidable ally of workers, peasantsand the urban poor.

He has lived a worthy life in defense of the rights of workers and thetoiling masses as president of the Kilusang Mayo Uno and eventually asa representative of Bayan Muna in the 12th Congress and of AnakpawisPartylist in the 13th and 14th Congress. Ka Bel is behind the proposedP125 across the board legislated wage increase and the GenuineAgrarian Reform Bill.

He has faced battles as political detainee during the Marcosadministration and later on under the Arroyo regime after PresidentArroyo declared a crackdown on her most vocal critics and issuedProclamation 1017.

We grieve with Ka Bel's family and the masses that he has courageouslyand wholeheartedly served. We shall carry on his dreams of leaving hisgrandchildren and the Filipino masses a more humane and just society.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Photo: Gawad Kalinga Foundation Signs Housing Project in Datu Saudi Ampatuan Town


Mayor Saudi Ampatuan, Jr. of Datu Saudi Ampatuan Municipality signs the memorandum of agreement with PLDT Vice President for Visayas and Mindanao Jesus Tanedo and Rene Rieta of Gawad Kalinga Foundation for the construction of 120 units of socialized housing. (Photo by Omar Mangorsi)

Extort Gang Eyed In Mindanao Blast

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 19, 2008) – The Philippine military on Tuesday tagged a criminal syndicate as behind a new bomb attack on a commuter bus in the southern city of Cotabato.

The bombing injured three people late Monday and security officials tagged the Al-Khobar gang, an affiliate of the notorious Abu Sayyaf, also blamed for past attacks in the troubled region of Mindanao.

“Initial reports suggested the bombing was perpetrated by the Al-Khobar which has been linked to previous attacks on commuter buses in Mindanao,” Major Julieto Ando, spokesman for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, told the Mindanao Examiner.

He said three people were injured the bombing that damaged a bus owned by the Weena Transit. No one claimed responsibility for the attack.

Cotabato City, rocked by past bombings, kidnappings and killings has been previously tagged by Western countries as a dangerous place for foreigners because of the presence of terrorists.

Earlier this month, a bomb attack on a bus depot also wounded at least eight people in the town of Midsayap in North Cotabato. Although no groups claimed responsibility for the blast, authorities have linked the Al-Khobar and the Abu Sayyaf in the attack.

Last month, a homemade bomb exploded in Midsayap, damaging a bus also owned by Weena Transit. The explosive, assembled from a mortar round, was left near at the parked bus. (With reports from Mark Navales)

Photo: Kyokushin Karate Club-Cotabato Chapter





Members of Kyokushin Karate Club Cotabato Chapter headed by Master Usman Baraguir practice in preparation of the 2nd Mindanao Weight Category Kyokushin Karate Tournament on May 24, 2008 at the Cotabato City State Polytechnic College gymnasium. Sosai Masutatsu Oyama founded the Kyokushinkai Karate on June 1964. Kyokushin is the largest Karate organization in the country and more than 12 millions in 140 other nations. Kyokushin is also a noted for pioneering full contact and bare knuckle tournament system. (Mindanao Examiner Photo/Mark Navales)

Make Peace Your Priority, House Speaker Tells ARMM Bets

DAVAO CITY, Philippines - Confident of a sweep by the ruling Lakas-CMD in the August 11 elections for the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), House Speaker and Lakas President Prospero Nograles said that the first order of business of reelectionist Regional Governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan is to find a lasting solution to the peace and order problem in Mindanao.

Speaking during the recent proclamation of Lakas CMD candidates, Nograles said Mindanao leaders should set aside partisan and personal misunderstandings and work together to finally stop the recurring violence that has stagnated the economic growth for most areas in Southern Philippines.

Ampatuan has been proclaimed by party stalwarts as the only official gubernatorial bet of the ruling Lakas-CMD in the coming regional polls.

Official Lakas-CMD certificates of nomination signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, party chairperson, Nograles and Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, party secretary-general, and former President Fidel Ramos, chairman emeritus, were issued to Ampatuan and ARMM Vice Governor Ansaruddin Adiong and to all the party's 27 candidates for the Regional Legislative Assembly.

Nograles said that while Mindanao is gifted with rich natural resources, vast tracks of fertile lands and a climate that is typhoon-free, it has also been the center of many armed conflicts that scares away any potential investor.

The tandem both obliged in their statements to help build and sustain peace in the Muslim Mindanao region. They also expressed gratitude to national leaders, principally to President Arroyo, Zubiri and Speaker Nograles for their support to the region.

“Gusto nating mag-develop ang Mindanao, hindi naman papasukan ng mga tao dahil takot sila. So I think tayong mga leaders sa Mindanao we should work together towards the attainment of peace,” Nograles said.

“Without peace in Mindanao, mahihirapan ho tayo. Ang madedevelop lang ay iyong mga highly urbanized cities pero ayaw natin iyon eh. Ang gusto natin countryside. It is very difficult to entice people to invest in Mindanao unless we solve the peace and order problem. We have to have peace in Mindanao.”

Nograles said that once peace achieved, Mindanao will leap-frog and immediately take its rightful place as the country's richest island in terms of economy and development.

At the same time, Nograles said that with a solid Lakas slate for the ARMM polls, Mindanao is again expected to deliver victory for the administration party in 2010.

“Yan po ang pinaka-solid na region sa buong Pilipinas when it comes to the delivery of votes for a political party. Kung sino ang kandidato ng Lakas ay iyon din ang uupo sa Palasyo on 2010. Mindanao will deliver that,” Nograles said.

He also asked the ARMM leaders to support the charter change proposal that was started by another Mindanaoan, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel as this will also hold the key in ending the armed conflict in the area.

“Walang ibang tao na sosolusyon sa ating problema sa Mindanao kundi tayong mga taga-Mindanao, That is why we have been pushing for federalism because we know that nobody knows Mindanao better than us, Mindanaoans,” he said.