Friday, October 31, 2008

Photo: Humanitarian Mission In Mindanao



Bai Ingrid Sinsuat, the newly appointed Assistant Secretary for Operations of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and Datu Piang Mayor Samer Uy lead aid workers in the distribution in the town of Datu Piang of relief assistance to civilians who are displaced by fighting between rebels and soldiers in Maguindanao province.

Photo also shows the nine-year old boy, Koling Ibrahim, with Shariff Aguak town Mayor Datu Anwar Ampatuan and Sinsuat and Vice Mayor Datu Monir Asim. The boy is scheduled for reconstructive cleft lip and palate operation in Davao City under Ampatuan’s “Operation Smile” project. Women evacuees also share their woes to social workers during a recent stress debriefing by the DSWD-ARMM in refugee shelters in Datu Piang town. (Photo by Omar Mangorsi / Bureau of Public Information-ARMM)

2 Killed, 9 Wounded In Clan War In Southern RP Isle

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 31, 2008) – At least two people were killed and 9 others wounded in a firefight between followers of two Muslim clans in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, police said Friday.

Police said the fighting erupted in the island of Tulayan in the town of Luuk late Thursday afternoon. “Two people are dead in the fighting and at least nine more were wounded in the fighting between two warring Muslim clans,” Senior Superintendent Julasirim Kasim, the Sulu police chief, told the Mindanao Examiner.

Kasim said more policemen were sent to the island to prevent the escalation of hostilities between the Omar and Buclao families, which have been fighting over ancestral lands.

He said Gov. Sakur Tan ordered police and military to disarm the protagonists and seize all illegal weapons on the island and file criminal charges against those involved in the fighting. “There is a joint police and military operation to disarm private armies in the area,” he said.

Tan previously ordered authorities to dismantle private armies and seize all illegal weapons and declared a total gun ban in the province.

Kasim said the protagonists traded mortar fire and engaged in sporadic clashes that lasted well into the night. He said the fighting subsided after police, backed by government soldiers, were deployed on the island.

Police said fighting in May between the two warring Muslim families of Arbison and Amiril in Luuk town also killed one person and wounded six others. The fighting, it said, was triggered by an old family feud.

Clan feud or rido is common in many parts of the southern Philippines. The U.S. Agency for International Development and think tank Asia Foundation have said more than 3,000 people have been killed over the past seven decades in family feuds in the southern Philippines.

Rido can involve disputes among family members or among two or more rival families, pitting neighbors or different ethnic groups against each other. The disputes center on issues of land, money, marriage or political power and involve revenge killing.

The violence increases with each act of retaliation, broadening to include those not directly involved in the dispute, including women and children, according to the Asia Foundation, adding, some feuds lasted for decades. (Mindanao Examiner)

UK Security Adviser arriving in Manila for dialogue on peace process

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 31, 2008) - Robert Hannigan, Security Adviser to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Head of UK Security, Intelligence and Resilience, is arriving in Manila on Monday on a two-day visit to meet with the Security Cluster of the Philippine Cabinet and leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in order to share the UK experience in the Northern Ireland peace process.

British Ambassador Peter Beckingham said: "I am delighted that Robert Hannigan, with his intimate experience of negotiating peace in Northern Ireland, is visiting Manila. Of course there are many differences between the peace discussions in Northern Ireland and Mindanao, but if the parties in Mindanao can gain insight from Robert Hannigan's work, then his visit will be valuable."

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr. welcomes the visit of Robert Hannigan and said, "Dr. Hannigan's visit is very timely as the Philippine Government is shifting to a new paradigm in engaging various armed groups."

"Hannigan's visit follows discussions between UK Foreign Office Minister Meg Munn and Secretaries Romulo and Dureza in Manila in May, when they agreed it would be useful for a senior official involved in the Northern Ireland peace process to visit the Philippines. The idea of a sharing of experiences was initially brought up when President Arroyo met with Tony Blair in December 2007," Beckingham added.

Hannigan is responsible for advising the Prime Minister on security policy, intelligence matters, crisis coordination and civil contingency planning. He is also responsible for the coordination and funding of the UK intelligence agencies and for the UK National Security Strategy.

Until 2007 he was the principal adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on the peace process, including negotiations with the political parties and liaison with the Irish Government and the US administration.

As Political Director General in Northern Ireland, Robert was responsible for the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) of 1998. He worked with Prime Minister Tony Blair, his Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell and successive Northern Ireland Secretaries (Peter Mandelson, John Reid, Paul Murphy, and Peter Hain) to achieve the Government's objective of establishing the power-sharing institutions envisaged in the GFA.

This involved some nine years of crises and setbacks, talks processes and summits, and elections, leading to the St Andrews' Agreement in October 2006. This in turn led to agreement between the two major Northern Ireland parties, the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein, to share power in a restored Assembly in May 2007. These parties are now negotiating the final part of the agreement, the devolution of policing and justice powers from Westminster to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The peace process involved the resolution of highly contentious issues, including the release of paramilitary prisoners, the reform of policing, the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons, new measures to safeguard human rights and equality, and dealing with the legacy of a violent past.

Robert's remit covered both political talks and negotiations with the representatives of republican and 'loyalist' (protestant) paramilitaries. He was also involved in public information campaigns and the monitoring of public opinion in Northern Ireland. (Oya Arriola)

Army ammo depot explodes in Mindanao


AFP Chief-of-Staff General Alexander Yano and Eastern Mindanao Command chief Armando Cunanan inspect burnt bullet shells on Friday, Oct. 31, 2008 after an army ammunition depot explodes inside the 6th Infantry Division headquarters in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Mark Navales)



MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 31, 2008) – A Philippine military ammunition dump exploded Friday in Mindanao, security officials said.

Officials said there were no reports of injuries or casualties from the explosion inside the headquarters of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division in Maguindanao province, where security forces are battling Moro Islamic Liberation front rebels.

“This is accidental and apparently it was caused by a leak of white phosphorous from defective munitions. There were no reports of injuries or casualties,” Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, an army spokesman, told the Mindanao Examiner.

The explosion sparked a fire that totally destroyed the ammunition building.

Ando said the ammunition dump is located between two hills which served as blast barriers and buffer zone. “The defective munitions, including unserviceable mortar rounds, had been exposed to the elements and this is could be the cause of the leak of the chemicals that triggered the explosion,” he said.

General Alexander Yano, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, also inspected the destroyed ammunition dump. The AFP ruled out sabotage or rebel attacks as the cause of the blast, but it has ordered an investigation into the incident.

White phosphorus can cause injuries and death in three ways - by burning deep into soft tissue, by being inhaled as a smoke and by being ingested. It is insoluble in water and alcohol and self-igniting in air. Extensive exposure to the chemical in any way can be fatal. (With a report from Mark Navales)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Blast Injures 4 People In South RP

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 30, 2008) – Four people were wounded, including an eight-year old girl, in an explosion late Thursday in the southern Philippine province of Sultan Kudarat, army reports said.

The explosion occurred at around 7 p.m. in Esperanza town and that two of the wounded - Mohalidin Singson, 26; and Narrez Hadjiali, 32 - were being investigated by the authorities.

Both men, who are native of Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao province, were believed carrying the explosive when it accidentally went off and also injured Dina Varona, 44, and Clarine Velasco, 8, all local residents.

It was unknown whether the two men are members of any rebel group, but the province is a known stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front which has been fighting for self-determination the past three decades.

On Tuesday, government soldiers disarmed three improvised bombs planted at a bus depot in North Cotabato’s Kabacan town.

The explosives were assembled from two 81mm and a 60mm mortar bombs and connected to blasting caps and batteries, according Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, spokesman of the 6th Army’s Infantry Division.

Ando blamed rogue MILF members as behind the foiled bombing. Security forces were pursuing rebel forces under Ameril Kato, Abdullah Macapaar and Sulayman Pangalian, who led a series of deadly attacks against civilian targets in August after the failed signing of the Muslim territorial deal with the MILF.

Manila suspended peace talks with the rebel group because of the attacks that killed and wounded dozens of people in North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte and Sarangani provinces.

Police and military authorities previously blamed the spate of bus depot bombings to the Al-Khobar gang. (Nickee Butlangan)

Suspects in Esperat killing evade arrest - NUJP

Two regional agriculture officials accused of masterminding the brutal murder of journalist Marlene Esperat have apparently evaded arrest.

Reports have quoted Cotabato City police director, Sr. Supt. Willie Dangane that Department of Agriculture Region 12 finance director Osmeña Montañer and accountant Estrella Sabay could have fled the city after learning they would be served warrants of arrest.

“They are no longer here in the City,” Dangane said.

The two have been tagged as the brains behind the murder of Esperat, columnist of a weekly paper in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat, who was gunned down by three men as she was having dinner with her family in March 2005.

Last October 21, Judge Melanio Guerrero of the Regional Trial Court in Tacurong City issued a new warrant for the arrest of Montañer and Sabay after the case was transferred there from Cebu City.

Cebu City RTC judge Simeon Dumdum approved last September 28 the petition for the withdrawal of charges filed to allow the murder case to be heard before the Tacurong City RTC. The transfer came after the Court of Appeals in Cebu issued a preliminary injunction preventing the serving of the arrest warrants issued earlier by the Cebu court on February 4, 2008.

Before she was killed, Esperat had exposed alleged corruption in the agriculture department’s Region 12 office.

The three gunmen Gerry Cabagay, Randy Grecia and Estanislao Bismanos have been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. No mastermind has ever been successfully prosecuted in any of the 96 killings of journalist since 1986.http://www.asianpress.net/2008/10/30/suspects-in-esperat-killing-evade-arrest-nujp)

ZABIDA, Nagdilaab Issue Statement Over Release Of Kidnapped Aid Worker In Basilan Island

STATEMENT OF THE ZAMBOANGA-ISABELA INTEGRATED DEVELOPMENT ALLIANCE (ZABIDA) AND THE NAGDILAAB FOUNDATION, INC. (NFI) ON THE RELEASE OF NFI PROGRAM DIRECTOR ESPERENCITA "ESPIE" HUPIDA. NAGDILAAB Foundation, Inc.

Program Director Esperancita "Espie" Hupida was released at about 2:00 A.M. today, October 29, 2008 in the hinterlands of Tipo-Tipo Municipality, Basilan Province.

Ms. Hupida was abducted on September 15, 2008 in Tipo-Tipo along with Manila-based humanitarian worker Merlie "Milet" Mendoza, who remains in the hands of their captors.

ZABIDA and NFI are immensely relieved and happy over the release of heir colleague Hupida. We are glad to note that she is in good physical and emotional health; she reported that she did not suffer inordinately while in captivity.

With her release, we are enjoined to enter into and pursue a process and period of healing for her, her family, her fellow workers in NFI and ZABIDA and the local civil society and development communities.

The tremendous challenges of bringing development, human security and peace in Basilan Province and the immediate region do not afford us the luxury of despair and discouragement.

The kidnapping of Hupida, on the contrary, strengthens our resolve and vision to carry on the humanitarian work for the poor, neglected and suffering people. We remain apprehensive over the safety and well-being of Milet Mendoza as well as the two other kidnap victims still in the hands of the kidnappers.

These past and present kidnappings of defenseless civilians pose a serious and unequivocal challenge to our government authorities, local and national as well as civilian and military and religious, to finally bring to an end to this scourge and shame particularly inflicted in Basilan by unscrupulous residents of the province itself.

For as long as this threat remains, all of Basilan itself is held hostage by these bands of criminals, and as such there can be no peace and progress for the residents and those who come to their place with nothing but the best of intentions.

Finally, we thank very sincerely all the people who helped facilitate the release of Hupida, particularly Vice-Governor Al-Rashid Sakalahul and the members of the Provincial Crisis Committee.

May God bless us all.

REV. FR. ANGEL A. CALVO, CMF
President
NFI and ZABIDA

RICARDO LIMBAGA
Program Director
ZABIDA

DEDETH SUACITO
Executive Director
NFI

DR. GRACE J. REBOLLOS
President
Reach Out to Others Foundation

SR. EMMA DELGADO, OP
Executive Secretary
Peace Advocates Zamboanga

ELSA MANABAT
Executive Director
Katilingban Para Sa Kalambuan, Inc.

Halloween...Trick or Treat?


Halloween pumpkin.


ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 30, 2008) - As All Soul’s Day and All Saint’s day are fast approaching, people normally become busy going to cemeteries, cleaning tombs and preparing flowers and candles for their departed loved ones. These are traditions of many Filipinos and the people of Zamboanga whenever October ends.
However, there is something that is shaking the city now; something new is visibly added to the end-of-October-trend in Zamboanga. As carved pumpkins, monsters’ masks, witches’ hats and robes seem to be everywhere, the Halloween fever must be in the air. Zamboanga City has always been acquainted to many different cultures and traditions over the years.
Through the efforts of its government and its people, the cultures have not been thoroughly blown away by the introduction of new ideas. But this year, the city seemed to have embraced something unpracticed before, the celebration of Halloween.
Through the years, Halloween is evident in other parts of the world and even to some parts of the Philippines. But to Zamboanga City, it is quite unusual that Halloween party materials and Halloween parties both personal and led by institutions have suddenly shown all over the place.
It is true that there have been Halloween decorations over some bazaars in the past when it’s almost November but it is not as how it is now.
Halloween has now become as much as Christmas! But the thing is, is Halloween allowed to be celebrated by the two dominant religions in the city, Christianity and Islam, to which traditions the people follow? Is it natural for Zamboanga City to follow something that is not clearly known to their beliefs?
Halloween is often associated with All Soul’s Day but history shows that it does not trace back its roots to the Christian beliefs but to a Celtic celebration, to pagan beliefs and to Devil worships. In the whole history of Christianity, none has been documented to be having any trace of Halloween.
It is only related to the All Hallow’s Eve which was later changed to All Saint’s Day and was moved to November 1 by Pope Gregory IV in 837. It was only attached to its scary meanings because November 1 was also the date of the Celtic autumn festival where the dead was said to revisit the world.
Though it may not be fully a Christian tradition, Halloween has also been attached with some Christian beliefs like the practice of Trick or Treat where kids wearing costumes of ghosts wander off at the night of October 31st, knock on people’s doors and ask for soul cakes or sweets.
This is like a portrayal of the wandering souls in purgatory, who look for some alms. Wearing of costumes may also be associated to a portrayal of non-fear to the power of Satan as Christ will triumph over evil and that his followers must not be afraid.
On the other hand, Kah Ghazzali Taupan, Muslim Retreat and Recollection Coordinator of the Campus Ministry Office of the Ateneo de Zamboanga University, expresses that the celebration by Muslims of Halloween is just similar on how they deal with Christmas and other non-Muslim activities.

“Celebrating Halloween or not, only depends on the level of obedience to the religion a Muslims follows. But in tradition, there is nothing about Halloween known to the teachings of Islam and so, it is not encouraged to be followed.” he says.

“But, it may be allowed only to the extent of partying...”he added. “Just like Christmas and New Year where some Muslims celebrate with the Christians and when Christians celebrate with the Muslims in the different feasts for the purpose of further understanding of each other’s tradition and beliefs.” Zamboanga City is a place where culture and religion vary.
Halloween may not be a Christian tradition or an Islam tradition, it may not be encouraged to be celebrated by both but, it is visibly well celebrated in the city now. The question if it is allowed to be celebrated by the two religions is subject to debate.

But if the purpose of celebrating is to just have fun or better, as Kah Ghaz says, “to understand other traditions and beliefs”, therefore, there is nothing wrong with it. As long as everyone will keep in mind not to be tricked by turning away from ones own culture and embracing other cultures but to just do it for the treats of fun and friendship, nothing will be wrong in celebrating Halloween. (Michelle Angela Araneta)

Vehicle Rams Grotto, 18 Injured In Zamboanga City

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 30, 2008) – A government vehicle rammed into a grotto injuring 18 passengers on Thursday in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines, police said.

Police said the passengers, mostly village officials, were rushed to hospitals, after suffering wounds from the crash.

The officials were on their way to pick up government rice allocation at the warehouse of the National Food Authority when the accident occurred in the village of Bunguiao at around 6 a.m.

Police said the driver lost control of the wheel and hit the grotto. (Mindanao Examiner)


Sayyafs free one of two kidnapped aid worker in Southern Philippines





Abu Sayyaf militants freed on Thursday, October 30, 2008, one of two kidnapped aid workers, Esperancita Hupida, in the southern Philippine island of Basilan after 76 days in captivity. Hupida, the program director of the Nagdilaab Foundation, was brought to the Zamboanga Doctors Hospital in Zamboanga City. Militants are still holding Millet Mendoza in Basilan island, several nautical miles south of Zamboanga City. The Abu Sayyaf earlier demanded P7 million for the release of the hostages. Also shown in photos is Zamboanga Doctors Hospital nurse Vivian Dendiego who barred photographers from getting inside the hospital. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)


ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 30, 2008) – Abu Sayyaf militants freed Thursday one of two kidnapped aid workers after 45 days in captivity in Basilan island in the Muslim autonomous region in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Esperancita Hupida, program director of the multi-awarded Nagdilaab Foundation, was released on a remote village near Tipo-Tipo town before sunrise, but militants held on to Millet Mendoza, a freelance aid worker.

Both Hupida and Mendoza were among 7 people kidnapped Sept. 15 in Tipo-Tipo’s Kabangalan village. Five other aid workers from the Christian Children's Fund had either escaped or freed by the Abu Sayyaf.

Hupida was released to private negotiators and it was not immediately known how much ransom was paid to the Abu Sayyaf in exchange for her freedom. But the militants previously demanded P2 million for Hupida’s safe release.

“We don’t know whether ransom was paid or not, but we are monitoring the situation and is working closely with the provincial crisis management committee headed by Vice Gov. Al Rasheed Sakalahul,” Chief Superintendent Bensali Jabarani, the regional police chief, told the Mindanao Examiner.

Hupida was brought to Zamboanga City on a military boat early in the morning and attended a mass inside the naval base.

She was later brought to the Zamboanga Doctors Hospital for physical and medical examinations, but a nurse, Vivian Dendiego, prevented news photographers and journalists from getting inside the hospital.

The military had halted operations to rescue the hostages to pave way for a peaceful negotiation for their release. Mendoza was a former staff worker at the Office of Presidential Adviser to the Peace Process (OPAPP).

Father Angel Calvo, of the Peace Advocates Zamboanga, is also helping in securing the safe release of the remaining hostage. He said Hupida and Mendoza are community development workers who have been serving the Muslim areas in Basilan for many years now.

Different humanitarian and solidarity groups have condemned the kidnappings. The Christian Children's Fund and the Nagdilaab Foundation are both active in various peace and humanitarian projects in Basilan.

The military tagged the Abu Sayyaf group under Puruji Indama and Nur Hassan Jamiri as behind the kidnappings.

The Nagdilaab Foundation spun off the Isabela Foundation, which was organized many years ago by the Roman Catholic prelature of Basilan to provide community and humanitarian help to poor residents in the province.

The CCF, an international child-sponsorship group based in Virginia in the United States, has worked in the Philippines since 1954 and has been assisting more than 453,000 children and their families and contributed more than $7.8 million for community programs in the country.

The Abu Sayyaf also kidnapped nine people in recent months in Basilan and sent letters to Christians living on the island threatening them with harm if they do not embrace Islam. The letters were signed by Indama and Jamiri. (Mindanao Examiner)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Police kill rebel, who shot cop; 2 others captured in Mindanao

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 29, 2008) – Police killed a New People’s Army rebel who shot dead a cop and captured two others after a firefight Wednesday in Compostela Valley province in Mindanao.

Police said the two arrested rebels - Randy Beltran at Robert Espaloga – are being interrogated in Pantukan town where they killed Hermogenes Lomooc, a member of the local police force.

Lomooc was on his way to the police station when the three gunmen attacked him at a bus depot. Policemen in the area chased the rebels and engaged them in a running gun battle until one of the assailants was killed.

The rebels were believed part of a hit squad called Sparrow unit, blamed for the spate of killings of soldiers and policemen in the southern Philippines. There was no immediate statement from the NPA. (Romy Bwaga)

Two Mindanaos Becoming One, How and When? Takes It All



Kurt Peconada reading his winning piece entitled “Two Mindanaos Becoming One, How and When?” And Peconada receives his award from Shamim Usman, of the Voice of Mindanao and the group that participated in the writing contest on Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Geonarri Solmerano)



KIDAPAWAN, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 29, 2008) - “Two Mindanaos Becoming One, How and When?” This was the winning piece of Kurt Peconada, from Kidapawan National High School, who won in Wednesday’s Peace Mindanao Feature Writing Contest held in Kidapawan City in the southern Philippines.

An excerpt from the awarding ceremony invitation reads: “There are two Mindanao in this country. One is staining at the leash eager to spring forward and live in a world of peace and prosperity. The other Mindanao is holding on to the leash. One Mindanao wants peace; the other Mindanao plaques us with violence. One Mindanao lives in the optimism of our hearts; the other Mindanao lurks in the skepticism of our minds. One Mindanao hopes and dreams; the other Mindanao destroy."

The contest was participated by various secondary schools from Kidapawan City. It was sponsored by the Zamboanga City-based MEIN College Language Center, the Department of Education, the Notre Dame Broadcasting Corporation, the Lungsod Ng Kidapawan and the Voice of Mindanao. (Geonarri Solmerano)

Troops Foil Bombings Of Bus Depot In Mindanao

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 29, 2008) – Philippine troops disarmed three homemade bombs left at a bus depot in North Cotabato province in the restive region of Mindanao, south of the country, the army said Wednesday.

The improvised explosives were assembled from two 81mm and a 60mm mortar bombs and connected to blasting caps and batteries and left at the depot in Kabacan town, said Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, spokesman of the 6th Infantry Division.

Ando said the bombs, concealed inside cardboard box, were discovered by civilians who informed authorities about it. No group claimed responsibility for the foiled attack, but Ando blamed rogue members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as behind the foiled bombing.

“We suspect lawless MILF groups as behind this foiled attack because there is an ongoing operation against them,” Ando told the Mindanao Examiner.

Ando was referring to Ameril Kato, Abdullah Macapaar and Sulayman Pangalian, who led a series of deadly attacks against civilian targets in August after the failed signing of the Muslim territorial deal with the MILF.

Manila suspended peace talks with the rebel group because of the attacks that killed and wounded dozens of people in North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte and Sarangani provinces.

Police and military authorities previously blamed the spate of bus depot bombings to the Al-Khobar gang. (Mindanao Examiner)

Zamboanga Boxer To Do Ala-Manny Pacquiao

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 29, 2008) - Zamboanga City’s upcoming boxing star and reigning World Boxing Organization (WBO) Oriental Super featherweight Champion Anthony “Rocky” Marcial, took a good break after a renowned international boxing matchmaker, who once brought Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao to the helm, took him under his wing and vowed to guide the pugilist to the top of the boxing world.

Marcial, who has an impressive ring record of 10 wins with 9 knockouts, met Monday night with veteran matchmaker Sampson Lewkowicz, who laid out his plan for the Zamboangueno fighter.

Lewkowicz was accredited for discovering Manny Pacquiao, then an unknown fighter from General Santos City, whom he led to his first international title fight against Lehlohonolo Ledwaba. Pacquiao knocked out Ledwaba to capture the WBO Super Bantamweight title.

Lewkowicz, has also guided the careers of Filipinos boxing stars Aj “Bazooka” Banal, Rey “Boom Boom” Bautista, and Z “The Dream” Gorres, who all became title contenders.

In a two-hour dinner meeting at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Manila, Lewkowicz was said to have discussed with Marcial his future fights including a legitimate world title bouts in the US in the future.

However, Lewkowics has opposed plans of bringing Marcial to the US at this early stage of his career, but instead advice his managers to make the Zamboangueno boxer establish his name in the Philippines boxing arena first.

Lewkowicz, known as the “Picasso” of boxing, said that Marcial - now currently being managed by Manila-based father-and-son tandem Angel and Joven Jimenez - will likely start his campaign internationally by next year.

Meanwhile, Sammy Gello-ani, who spotted the talents of Marcial, said that on January the boxer will likely fight Zamboangueno compatriot who is presently the WBO Oriental Featherweight Champion, Eric Canoy. (Erico Rosco)

Another Indian Man Held Up In Zamboanga

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 29, 2008) – Unidentified gunmen held up an Indian businessman in Zamboanga City in the Southern Philippines, police said Wednesday.

Police said three armed men flagged down Rashid Hussani, 34, while driving his motor bike late Tuesday near Ayala village. He said the trio took his P6, 000 cash and other valuables.

Hussani, who is into financing business the past four years in Zamboanga City, said he sought police help, but authorities failed to arrest the assailants.

Last month, an Indian trader Hammed Haridun, 37, was also held up by two gunmen in the town of Mahayag in Zamboanga del Sur province.
The Indian was driving his motorcycle when armed men stopped him on a highway and took his mobile phone and P21, 000.Police said Haridun is into buy and sell business and married to a local woman in Pagadian City. (Erico Rosco)

Photo: Local Government Projects In Kidapawan City


Workers continue local government projects in Kidapawan City in the southern Philippine province of Cotabato. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Geonarri Solmerano)

US deports controversial ex-Arroyo official in fertilizer scam allegations

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 29, 2008) – Former Philippine Agriculture deputy chief Jocelyn Bolante, who was jailed for almost two years in the United States for immigration violations, arrived in Manila and was rushed to hospital after complaining of chest pains.

Bolante, who arrived late Tuesday onboard the Northwest Airlines Flight 71, is being guarded at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City. Bolante is being accused of channeling more than P728 million in fertilizer fund to the President Gloria Arroyo’s election campaign in 2004.

He fled to the US before the Philippine Senate could begin to investigate the allegations, one of many corruption scandals that rocked the Arroyo administration. The Senate ordered his arrest in 2005.

The US immigration authorities did not report any medical conditions about Bolante before he was deported, but critics of the former government official accused him of trying to “buy time” to evade the Senate investigation.

Bolante, who previously claimed his life was under threat in the Philippines, had sought political asylum in the US, but this was rejected. Bolante denied all the charges against him.

Previous government officials involved in corruption scandals had also in the past suddenly fell sick, especially each time they face Senate investigations and would spend weeks in hospital to avoid the probe. Some ignored the Senate investigations by invoking a Presidential order banning them to speak about corruption allegations involving Arroyo.

Many Filipinos looked at Arroyo, herself accused of many corruption scandals by the opposition, as the worst president after the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Arroyo, who grabbed power in 2001 in a bloodless coup that toppled President Joseph Estrada, denied all accusations against her. (Mindanao Examiner)

WBO Title Bout Aims to Put Misamis Oriental on Boxing World Map

WBO Youth Lightweight Champion Jason Pagara (left) and WBO Asia Pacific Mini Flyweight Champion Milan Melindo hold up their belts as challenger Juma Fundi of Tanzania strikes a pose with his trainer, Emmanuel Mlundwa. Beaming from the back are ALA Promotions VP Dennis Cañete, Gov. Oscar Moreno and Leolet Stable's Kate Lazarito. (Photo by Mike Baños)



CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines - The Mandalay Bay of Mindanao. That's what Misamis Oriental Governor Oscar Moreno aims to make The Atrium of Limketkai Center in Cagayan de Oro: The Premier Boxing Destination in Mindanao.

"Even above boxing and sports, we want to show the world how the vast majority of the people in Mindanao live in peace and harmony so people can say Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental and Northern Mindanao are peaceful," Moreno told a press conference Tuesday afternoon for Thursday's scheduled World Boxing Organization Asia-Pacific Mini-Flyweight Championship between local boy Milan Melindo and Juma Fundi of Tanzania in Africa.

Melindo, whom boxing commentator Ronnie Nathanielsz calls as "probably the best boxer in the star-studded ALA Gym of respected boxing patron Tony Aldeguer" will make his second defense of his crown when he clashes with Fundi in the main event of a 60-round extravaganza of ALA Promotions in association with Misamis Oriental Governor Oscar Moreno and Leolet-Misamis Oriental.

The 20-yr. old Melindo (16-0-0, 4 KOs) of Puerto, Cagayan de Oro, is not only placing his crown on the line against the lanky African but also his clean slate. Last July 26, he defeated WBA No. 4 contender Carlos Melo of Panama for the WBA Intercontinental light flyweight title in Cebu City. He is also rated at No. 2 by the WBO, No. 16 by the WBC and No. 7 by the WBA.

Although he has only nine fights, Fundi appears to be no patsy. He has more KOs at 5 than Melindo, and has only lost one bout vs. WBO Oriental Flyweight champ Richie Mepranum in Maasim, Sarangani last June 14, 2008.

"That fight was fought at 108 lbs., the first time he fought against a flyweight and over six rounds," said Emmanuel Mlundwa, Fundi's trainer, a former East and Central African champion (1975-1978), All-African Games Silver Medalist (1978) and a former Olympian who represented Tanzania at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. "At his natural weight of 105 lbs., he needed only seconds to knock out his last opponent."

Last August 31st, Fundi knocked out compatriot Sadat Miyeyusho in the first round in Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania. He also has two other first round stoppages against Musa Shuza last February 23 and Jumanne Mtengela in September 9, 2007.

If Melindo wins, ALA would probably send him to Dubai for his first international fight, said Dennis Cañete, vice president of ALA Promotions. In a report posted in philboxing.com website, Nathanielz quoted Michael Aldeguer as saying Melindo could be matched against Omar Soto of Mexico or with former world champion Indonesian Muhammad Rachman who lost his title to the Philippines Florante Condes on July 7, 2007 in Jakarta.

In the supporting bout, 16-year old teen sensation Jason Pagara of Cagayan de Oro (15-1-0, 9 KOs) the WBO Asia-Pacific Youth champion will seek to fill the vacant Philippine lightweight title against RP No.4 contender Arnel Porras of Kidapawan, North Cotabato (9-15-3, 4 KOs), himself a former RP lightweight champion.

The other supporting bout, a "grudge match" between Eusebio Baluarte of Valencia City, Bukidnon (11-1-0, 5 KOs) and Jury Noda of Manila (5-9-1, 4 KOs) has been cancelled after Baluarte unexpectedly contracted chicken pox, Moreno said. Baluarte earlier defeated Noda with a 10th round TKO on Feb. 13, 2008 in Tagbilaran City, Bohol.

In the undercard, Weng Haya of Malitbog, Bukidnon goes up against Jaime Barcelona of Valencia City, Bukidnon (130 lbs-8 rds); Romeo Jako of Digos, Davao del Sur battles William George of Kidapawan City, Cotabato (133 lbs-8 rds) and ABS/CBN idol champion Jerson Mancio of Esperanza, Agusan del Sur goes up against Saldy Calamba of Camiguin (109 lbs-6 rds); Marlon Tapalez of Maranding, Lanao del Norte battles Roilo Golez of Bukidnon (106 lbs-6 rds); Mark Anthony Geraldo of Valencia City, Bukidnon fights Junrey Naïve of Butuan (112 lbs-4 rds) and Dondon Tumala of Valencia City battles Ronnel Suco of Butuan (124 lbs-4 rds).

Tickets have been pegged at P100 (general admission); P300 (lower box), P400 (ringside) and P600 (sponsor) and can be bought at all Dunkin' Donut outlets, Limketkai Center Customer Service, Clark Hatch, USA Sports in Gaisano Mall and the Misamis Oriental Provincial Administrator's Office with tel. nos. (08822) 710965, 720763 and 724347. (Mike Baños)

Philippine bishops slam government corruption

MANILA, Philippines - Influential Roman Catholic bishops in the Philippines slammed massive government corruption and urged the public to help overhaul President Gloria Arroyo's graft-ridden administration.

The criticism aired on Tuesday by the leaders of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines was one of their strongest yet against Arroyo's administration, but it stopped short of urging her to step down, according to a report by the Associated Press.

The bishops' group has played a key role in nonviolent "people power" revolts that previously ousted two leaders, including late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, in the last two decades. But efforts by opposition groups to stir such massive protests to oust Arroyo so far have failed to draw considerable crowds.

Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, president of the 100-strong bishops' group, said it was up to the public to decide whether to seek a new leader through nonviolent and constitutional means.

Despite several warnings from the Catholic Church about endemic government corruption, the problem has continued in alarming proportions under Arroyo's leadership, Lagdameo said, citing a series of corruption allegations against her administration.

"In the past few years up to today, we have watched how corruption has become endemic, massive, systemic and rampant in our politics," Lagdameo said in a statement read at a news conference.

"In response to the global economic crisis and the pitiful state of our country, the time to rebuild our country economically, socially, politically is now," said Lagdameo, who appeared with four other bishops.

Arroyo, who has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing and vowed to eliminate corruption, has survived three impeachment bids over allegations of corruption. She also has survived at least four coup plots in her tumultuous years in office.

Presidential spokesman Jesus Dureza said Arroyo will focus on ways to brace the country from the possible impact of the global financial turbulence rather than answer the bishops' criticisms.
"We will continue to focus on our work for the poor and address a bigger issue ... this global crisis," Dureza said.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Negros Farmers Stage Hunger Strike In Manila


Negros farmers stage hunger strike in Manila.


Manila, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 28, 2008) – Six farmers from the central Philippine province of Negros went on a hunger strike to protest the government’s failure to grant them control over the lands they till.

The farmers, Antonio Torres, Alexander Barroca, Rolando Flores, Wilfredo Beljot, Ronilo Flores and Victoriano Cordero, have been camping out the past seven weeks in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform headquarters in Manila.

They had previously not touched food, but water for 12 days and decided to go on hunger strike after DAR officials failed to heed their appeal to grant them their lands, about 61-hectares, which was formerly owned by Negros Oriental Rep. Herminio Teves.

All farmers were granted their land certificates in 1997, but DAR failed to install them as landowners since then.

“We have waited since our Certificates of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) were awarded to us in 1997 and 1999 respectively for DAR to install us and yet, we are unable to enter our properties and cultivate our land.”

“We have been deprived of our very means of survival by DAR and the Teves family for ten years, if that is not patience, then what do you call that?” Rolando Flores, 54, leader of the Caranoche-Villareal Farmers Association, said.

The farmers said their lands are located in the villages of Caranoche, Sta. Catalina and Villareal in Bayawan City, all in Negros Oriental. The properties covered by two collective CLOAs were awarded to 30 farmers, who are members of the peasant group called Task Force Mapalad (TFM), under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

The property, which is currently being controlled and managed by the politician’s family, is planted with sugarcane and rice for the past ten years.

“DAR is a big disappointment, it could not truly protect farmers’ rights to own land under CARP.
On the other hand, it had repeatedly shown us that landed families with big political names and positions could easily frighten them and prevent them from implementing CARP,” Antonio Torres, 64, the oldest farmer among the six, said.

The farmers said there are no more legal impediments to their installation after all cases filed by Teves to prevent them from owning the land had been dismissed by the courts and the DAR.

They said the DAR Adjudication Board (DARAB) upheld that CARP acquisition proceedings covering the property and awarded the CLOA to them.

Zamboanga Junk Shops Warned

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 28, 2008) – Police on Tuesday warned junk shop owners in Zamboanga City against buying stolen water meters, saying, they would violate the Presidential Decree (PD) 1612 or the Anti-Fencing Law.

Anti-fencing laws are designed to punish the people who sell stolen goods. The penalties vary from the amount of stolen goods.

The warning came after many residents in different villages complained they water meters were stolen. Police previously warned owners of junk shops to report persons who selling them water meters.

Most of the stolen waters are made from brass and bronze and junk shops pay a hefty price for the metals.

One complainant from the village of Baliwasan, Jamas Dino Antonio Carpio, told police that his water meter was stolen.

Police desk officer Cesar Castillo said stealing water meters has become a quick source of money for thieves.

“These water meters contain bronze material which they can sell to junk shops,” he said, adding, house owners should secure their water meters to protect it from thieves.

Dozens of water meters had been stolen in recent months in different villages in Zamboanga. Several persons were also arrested and charged of theft for stealing water meters. (Charlotte Yola Mira)

Senior Citicens To Get VAT Windfall

Davao City, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 28, 2008) – Some P500 million in Philippine government collections from the oil taxes are expected to benefit poor senior citizens who are not covered by any retirement benefits.

“Poor citizens who are seventy years old and above and not covered by retirement benefits from Social Security System or Government Service Insurance System and the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office are among the recipients of the one-time cash subsidy of P500 obtained from the national government’s oil value added tax collections,” said Estrella Brigole, of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, at a press conference in Davao City on Monday.

“The DSWD is coordinating with the local government units and the Office of the Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA) for the smooth implementation of the project. For Davao region alone, we are targeting some 60,000 older persons that would require P30 million funds. Authorized DSWD special disbursing officers shall go down to the LGUs on the scheduled payout dates and directly disburse the cash subsidy to the claimant,” she said.
She said if more senior citizens meet the subsidy criteria; the ratio of one beneficiary per family shall be followed. She urged eligible senior citizens to apply at their local OSCA or at the local social welfare office so they can be included in the master list of those who can avail of the program.
She said senior citizens should bring with them any valid identification cards and village certification which indicates their birth dates before they cay be included in the government’s poverty assistance.

Brigole said local governments have until November 10 to submit the master list to the DSWD regional offices. “The DSWD shall submit the master list of senior citizens including photocopy of ID and Barangay (village) Certification to Central Office for funding. Date of release of the cash subsidy will be announced by LGU officials,” she said.
“Eligible senior citizens may claim the subsidy at their local OSCA or in the absence of such, the local social welfare and development office. Claimants must present any valid ID indicating birth date, or Barangay Certification. Authorized representatives of senior citizens who are unable to claim must present a valid ID, valid ID of the senior citizen and authorization letter,” she added. (With reports from Carmela Duron and Romy Bwaga)

Army Reiterates Support To Peace Efforts In Mindanao



Colonel Benito de Leon, commander of the Philippine Army's 104th Infantry Brigade,and honorary sultan in Mindanao, speaks to participants to the 3rd Interfaith Council Meeting held on October 27, 2008 in Iligan City, the capital of Lanao del Norte province. De Leon, a decorated officer, spoke about the importance of interfaith among Filipinos in achieving peace and unity. Other resource speakers and participants also pose for photo with De Leon.
ILIGAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 28, 2008) – The Philippine Army said it will continue to support efforts of civil society groups and non-government organizations to bring about peace and unity in Mindanao.

The Army is actively campaigning to bring tranquility in the troubled region and has embarked in various peace and development programs in partnership with different government agencies, non-government and civil organizations.

Col. Benito de Leon, commander of the 104th Infantry Brigade, who was invited Monday to speak at a forum by the civil society organization called Pakigdait Inc., said the Army is supporting government efforts to sustain peace and development in Mindanao and at the same time ensure the safety of civilians from lawless groups.

“Your military will always give high priority in ensuring the protection of the Filipino citizens whether they be Christians, Muslims, Lumads, or otherwise,” De Leon told participants to the 3rd Interfaith Council Meeting held in Iligan City.

The forum was attended by traditional and religious leaders headed by Rev. Fr. Regino Quijano, the Pakigdait chairman and Musa Sanguila, who heads the Civil Society Organization of Lanao del Norte Partnership for Peace and Development.

De Leon praised both groups for helping dozens of families, displaced by in the past by rebel hostilities, to return to their homes in Lanao del Norte’s Kauswagan town.

Troops have been deployed in the province to help local police forces pursue rogue Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels and maintain peace and order.

“Even as we pursue these lawless groups, we shall strictly abide by the instructions of minimizing collateral damage and in upholding the rights of the people as guaranteed in our Constitution,” De Leon said.

De Leon also briefed participants about the security situation in Lanao del Norte and other areas nearby and lauded the support of provincial and local government officials to the military’s efforts.

He also praised Muslim and Christian religious organizations which continue to play an active role in hastening the return of peaceful conditions in Lanao del Norte.

In 2000, De Leon was conferred the honorary title of “Sultan a Romapunut,” which literally means “Leader of Peace” in Lumbayanague in Lanao del Sur province because of his various conflict prevention and peace building efforts in the past in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Mindanao Examiner: All Rights For Sale

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16 Killed In Fierce Fighting In Southern Philippines

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 27, 2008) – At least 15 Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels were killed in fierce gun battle Monday in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, a regional army spokesman, confirmed the fighting and said many rebels were killed and wounded in the skirmishes in the village of Diate in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao province.

He said one soldier was killed and four others wounded in the fighting.“Reports on the ground indicated heavy casualties on the rebel side,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

But other military sources said as many as 15 rebels were slain and dozens more wounded in the clashes.

The MILF has said that fighting was raging in Maguindanao and other provinces nearby.

Authorities captured on Monday a senior MILF commander, Macaslang Angni, who was wounded in a gun battle over the weekend in Lanao del Sur province, where fighting also erupted Sunday.

He was captured in the town of Bacolod in the neighboring province of Lanao del Norte.

Angni was rushed to hospital under police escorts because of his wounds after being shot by soldiers in the leg and shoulder, according to a statement released by the Lanao del Norte provincial government.

It was unknown how the 64-year old Angni was captured, but provincial authorities said the rebel leader is considered one of the most wanted criminals in Lanao del Norte.

The MILF is the country’s largest Muslim rebel group which is fighting for self-determination the past three decades.

Peace talks between Manila and the MILF collapsed last month after MILF forces launched a series of deadly attacks against civilian targets in Mindanao over the failed signing of territorial land deal in August. (Mindanao Examiner)

Gas, Oil Discovered In Sulu Sea

TAWI-TAWI, Philippines - Oil and gas exploration projects undertaken in the seas off Mapun Island in the Sulu archipelaggo near the southern Philippine province of Tawi Tawi have shown positive results.

According to reports, mining operations carried out by foreign and Filipino companies in the mid-sea off the Philippine island municipalities of Mapun and Taganak have discovered oil deposits estimated at 500 million barrels and some 1.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Tawi Tawi Governor, Sadikul Sahali expressed hope that this development will transform the province into a highly industrialized area that will strengthen the economy of the local constituency here.

“I received reports from various sources that ongoing exploration operations in Tawi-Tawi seas have proved the areas to be potential mining sites, but have no confirmation yet from mining concessionaires,” said Sadikul.

“I’m really hoping that the Philippines would be able to do away soon with problems of soaring price of oil that are presently a setback in the country’s economy.”

Groups Release Findings Of Humanitarian Mission In Southern Philippines

INITIAL FINDINGS OF THE NATIONAL INTERFAITH HUMANITARIAN MISSION TO NORTH COTABATO AND MAGUINDANAO.

The situation in North Cotabato and Maguindanao has deteriorated since renewed fighting between government forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) broke out in Aleosan and Midsayap, North Cotabato last Aug. 8.

The Arroyo administration would have the public believe that the renewed skirmishes in North Cotabato broke out following the Supreme Court's issuance of a temporary restraining order on the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA-AD) between the Philippine government and the MILF, which was scheduled on Aug. 5.

But based on a radio news report, there had been an encounter in Sitio Maligaya, Brgy. Malamote in Kabacan as early as June 30. This was followed by another firefight the next day in Sitio Tubak, Brgy. Pagangan in Aleosan, in which forces belonging to the MILF's 105th Brigade under Kato clashed with AFP troops.

Before these incidents, there was already massive military deployment to North Cotabato, purportedly to secure the province for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) elections on Aug. 11.

These clashes led civilians to evacuate to Brgy. Bagolibas in Aleosan and Brgys. Bualan and Nalapaan in Pikit.

Later in July, some of the houses in Brgy. Bual were burned by armed men while a number of farm animals in Brgy. Bagolibas were stolen.

More massive house burnings took place on Aug. 2, in which a total of 84 homes were razed to the ground. Fifty-one of these were in Brgy Bagolibas, 26 were in Sitio Puypuyon, Brgy. Dualing, and seven were in Sitio Taguan, Brgy. San Mateo - all in Aleosan. The government claimed these torchings were perpetrated by MILF fighters led by Kato.

Military offensives intensified following the Aug. 8 implementation of Oplan Ultimatum and military positionings in Pikit, Aleosan, and Midsayap; as well as the dissolution of the government peace panel in the negotiations with the MILF.

Aerial bombings were used with great frequency in North Cotabato. In a statement, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) said that never before have they conducted air strikes as intense as what is now being done in the province.

While the government claims that these offensives are directed against Kato and his group, civilians have not been spared from the effects of the military's attacks; in fact, civilians have been among the targets. They have suffered various human rights abuses, ranging from violations of the right to life to violations of economic, social and cultural rights.

The AFP's offensives have led to mass evacuations. In the evacuation centers, the displaced persons suffer from inadequate facilities. Most of them have set up tents in whatever public place available. With heavy rains and flooding now common at this time of year, many child evacuees are sick with cough, cold, fever, and diarrhea. A number of evacuees have died of disease. There is also the trauma experienced by the evacuees, particularly the children.
The sufferings of the evacuees are compounded by the fact that even the “evacuation centers” are not spared from attacks by the military.

The local government units (LGUs) have virtually lost control of the situation as it is now the military which lords it over the areas affected by the fighting. Barangay officials seeking to help the evacuees are being threatened by the AFP.

Meanwhile, Solicitor-General Agnes Devenadera has said in a press interview that her office cannot sue the soldiers involved in the aerial bombings.

While fighting in North Cotabato continues, the armed confrontations are also spreading toward Maguindanao, leading to more and more displacement of civilians. There is an increasing number of evacuees in Maguinanao province.

In Datu Piang, Maguindanao alone, based on data from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), there are 9,800 family heads with a total of 50,012 dependents as of Oct. 2. The continuously growing number of evacuees paints a picture of what is now a humanitarian crisis. To say that government support for the evacuees is insufficient is an understatement. LGUs are forced to rely on assistance from various non-government organizations (NGOs) and local and international aid agencies.

Many of the evacuees have been away from their homes for as long as three months, and three months is already a long time for languishing in evacuation centers. But from all indications, their sufferings are not going to end soon. Some local officials believe that if the offensives do not stop, families be in evacuation centers well into the new year.

NATIONAL INTERFAITH HUMANITARIAN MISSION

On Oct. 22-23, various groups conducted a National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission (NIHM) to Pikit, North Cotabato and Datu Piang, Maguindanao. The NIHM conducted human rights documentation, psycho-social and medical treatment, and relief operations for evacuees in these two municipalities.

The NIHM was composed of human rights groups, relief workers, church-based groups, doctors, nurses, students, business groups, human rights advocates, peace advocates and various cause-oriented groups.

1. Human Rights Documentation

The NIHM documented, through direct testimonies from victims and witnesses, cases of forced evacuation, indiscriminate bombings, strafing, torture, destruction of property and livelihood, divestment of property, harassment, illegal arrest and detention and possible extra-judicial killing of a civilian.

At around 9 a.m. on Oct. 21, while harvesting coconuts with his sons from their farm in Sitio Pamalian, Brgy. Dapiawan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao, Esmael Adam noticed several soldiers on a road leading to their sitio. He sent Walid to tell his wife to leave for the nearest evacuation center along with their other children. He also asked the other son to take the carabao to a safe place.

The soldiers started firing before the wife and the five children she took along could run to a safe distance. (Their two oldest children were already staying at the evacuation center at that time.)
They traveled across the river by holding on to the banks until they reached the Balubugan Dike in Brgy. Pagatin, Mamasapano. One of the children was almost hit by a bullet during their escape. They proceeded to the Mahad Buayan evacuation center, also in Brgy. Dapiawan. After a few hours, one of the sons arrived at the same evacuation center, pale and stuttering. When asked where his father was, he said Esmael had gone back to the house to check on them.

Two days went by without Esmael showing up at the evacuation center. On Oct. 23, the wife received information that neighbors had seen Esmael being tortured and killed by soldiers. They have been barred by soldiers from claiming his body. The relatives tried to recover Esmael's body so that they can bury him decently but the soldiers refused them access to the area.

On Oct. 15, at midnight, soldiers knocked violently on the door of a house in Brgy. Nalapaan, Pikit which had been serving as an evacuation center. They threatened to strafe the house if the occupants failed to open the door within five minutes.

The owner of the house opened the door, whereupon the soldiers, who were carrying bolos, ordered the occupants to lie on the floor face down and beat them up, even stepping on the heads of some of them. The women and children were separated from the men and locked up in a room. The soldiers asked the civilians whether there was anyone upstairs, to which they received a negative answer.

They then dragged Salasal's wife upstairs, where they found Rakman Suleik hiding in the ceiling. They ordered him to come down, dragged downstairs and kicked him as he descended, causing him to fall. His son, 17-year-old Samsudin, was beaten up. The mother of the house owner pleaded to the soldiers not to hurt the civilians, whereupon they inserted a flashlight into her mouth.

The soldiers took the Suleiks away and continued beating them up near another evacuation center, where their hands were tied with a rope. After a while, they were brought to the municipal police office in Aleosan, where Rakman learned for the first time that there was a case against him. He is still detained and there is no information on whether or not he has been slapped with any charges. His 17-year old son, Samsudin, was released on October 18.

On Sept. 8, at around 9-10 a.m., Mohalidin Mandi and his neighbors, including a number of children, were evacuating from Brgy. Tee, Datu Piang, Maguindanao as a fighter plane was indiscriminately dropping bombs in the area. They were in two boats, with one boat carrying the children. Because of the children's seating arrangement, the boat that was carrying them ran the risk of capsizing, so they stopped for a while and alighted to switch places. The plane dropped a bomb near the children, killing six of them and injuring four others.

Mandi's wife - who was five months pregnant - and father-in-law were also hit and killed, while his son Jamalubin was among the wounded. As he was carrying the bodies to the street, soldiers threatened to kill him and only pleas from civilians prevented the soldiers from doing so. After he had gathered the children's bodies, he made his way back to the river to carry the remains of his wife and father-in-law.

The soldiers gave him 30 minutes to do so, after which they would shoot him. He was only able to get his wife's body; he left behind that of his father-in-law out of fear that he would be shot. His father-in-law's body was gathered only in the afternoon of the next day.

These are just a few of the incidents of human rights violations documented by the NIHM in Pikit, North Cotabato and Datu Piang, Maguindanao. There have been deaths due to strafing and aerial bombing. Those who have been “fortunate” to survive these attacks have suffered threats and intimidation, torture, abductions, illegal searches and arrests, as well as divestment and destruction of property.

None of the victims of house-burnings who were interviewed by the human rights documentation teams pointed to the MILF as the perpetrators.

2. Psycho-social Treatment

As a result of the military's offensives, many children among the evacuees are suffering from trauma - manifested among other things in restlessness and the disruption of sleeping patterns.
The children were asked to share their experiences through drawings, sharing, and role-playing. Most of the drawings were of fighter planes dropping bombs on houses. The children 7-9 years old shared a common observation that the presence of soldiers means “there will be war,” while those 10-12 years of age expressed a common fear of guns and are afraid of going back to their communities.

The children feel fear and/or hatred toward soldiers.

The psycho-social activity served a total of 214 children, 131 of whom are in Pikit and 83 of whom are in Datu Piang. Nine of the children were identified for follow-up.

3. Medical Treatment

The NIHM notes the dire conditions in the evacuation centers the strain this puts on the health of the evacuees.

The medical teams rendered free health services to 192 patients in both areas. Of these, 118 were in Datu Piang and 74 were in Pikit.

About 2/3 of the patients are female and majority of them are in their reproductive age (18-45 years old). Also, about 1/3 of the patients are children.

Various complaints were heard by the doctors during the consultation. In both areas, about 1/3 of the patients were complaining of cough and colds, headaches and fever. Most of the children were also complaining of cough and colds, fever and skin itchiness and infections while most of the adult patients were complaining of headaches, dizziness, difficulty of sleeping, and abdominal pains. Also, in both areas, children were suffering from toothaches and diarrhea.
During the consultations, about 1/3 of the total number of patients were diagnosed to have upper respiratory tract infection (URTI). Tension headache and insomnia were also noted in both areas.

In Pikit, some adult patients were diagnosed to have hypertension and arthritis while in Datu Piang, most of them were suffering from urinary tract infection and abdominal colic. Children in both areas were also having diarrhea and skin infections.
4. Relief

The National Interafaith Humanitarian Mission conducted a relief drive and many organizations and institutions responded and helped in the actual delivery of relief during the mission. Two relief teams were sent to both areas, serving a total of 1,749 evacuees. There were two waves of relief activities in Datu Piang: the first one, conducted in Pikit, Midsayap and Aleosan on September 29-30 had 766 beneficiaries, while the second wave, conducted in Brgy. Tee, and Poblacion in Datu Piang and Batulawan in Pikit on October 22 had 983 beneficiaries.

CONCLUSIONS

The military offensives in North Cotabato and Maguindanao are carried out under the pretext of pursuit operations against Kato and his group, but these in reality fall within the context of an all-out war. The policy of “disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation” (DDR) which is now being carried out by the government shuts the door to peace and leaves all-out war as the main option.

The so-called pursuit operations and “surgical operations” being conducted in North Cotabato and Maguindanao are characterized by the excessive use of firepower mainly against the civilian populace.

No military personnel have been called to account for the atrocities against human rights. The military's tactic has invariably been to divert the blame for atrocities on other groups.
The situation in the two provinces continues to deteriorate and has reached the proportions of a humanitarian crisis. As yet, there appears to be no end in sight to the miseries of those who have borne the brunt of the fighting.

RECOMMENDATIONS

In view of these, the NIHM thus puts forward the following recommendations:
1. that the government immediately put a stop to military offensives and allow the evacuees to return home; 2. that the issues being blamed as the reason for the escalating conflict be instead addressed in the proper forum, in particular the Coordinating Committee for the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH); 3. that human rights violations be investigated and their perpetrators be made accountable; an independent probe can also be undertaken to fully take into account the wide range of human rights abuses that have so far taken place since renewed fighting broke out 4. that the victims of human rights violations be indemnified and assisted in their rehabilitation; and 5. that the peace negotiations between the government and the MILF be resumed.

The NIHM will publish a full report on its findings in North Cotabato and Maguindanao and submit these to relevant government agencies as well as international bodies.
The participating organizations were Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Bayan Muna, Gabriela Women's Party, Gabriela, Karapatan, Kawagib-Moro Human Rights, Suara Bangsamoro, Liga ng Kabataang Moro, Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao, Kalumaran, Health Action for Human Rights, Bangsamoro Medical Society, Ecumenical Mission for Peace and Development, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Southeast Mindanao Ecumenical Council, Cotabato Regional Ecumenical Council, Children's Rehabilitation Center-Southern Mindanao, Kabiba Alliance for Children's Concern, Center for Women's Resource, Alpha-Sigma Phi - CCSPC Chapter.

The Torch Publication - CCSPC, Moro Youth Religious Organization, Assumption College of Davao-Social Worker Students, Notre Dame University Peace Center, Notre Dame University College Of Nursing, Notre Dame School of Dulawan, United Youth for Peace and Development, Lay Forum Philippines, United Methodist Church - Mindanao Philippines Annual Conference, Episcopal Diocese for Southern Philippines, United Church of Christ in the Philippines - Southern Mindanao District Conference, Holy Cross of Davao College- Social Work Students, Moro-Christian People's Alliance.

Malaysia deports 200 illegal Filipinos

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 27, 2008) – Malaysia has deported more than 200 illegal Filipinos arrested across the oil-rich state of Sabah, the Philippines foreign affairs said Monday.

It said a total of 221 Filipino deportees arrived by boat over the weekend in Tawi-Tawi and Sulu provinces and Zamboanga City. Among those deported were children and women, said Conrado Cabaquit, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Zamboanga City.

He said 138 deportees have disembarked in Tawi-Tawi and 30 others in Sulu and 53 more in Zamboanga City. Cabaquit said those who are planning to return and work to Malaysia should secure their passport so they can legally enter Sabah.

Cabaquit said the DFA has established a so-called “One Stop Processing Center” where Filipinos who want to travel to Sabah can secure all necessary documents.

The Philippine News Agency also reported that more than 500 undocumented Filipinos had been deported from Sabah earlier this month. Last month, some 900 illegal Filipinos were deported from Malaysia.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development in Zamboanga City said more than 9,000 undocumented Filipinos have been deported from Sabah since January up to last month. Many of those sent back home were natives of Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Basilan provinces, all in the Muslim autonomous region and Zamboanga City and other parts of Mindanao.

And many also told tales of abuses by their Malaysian jail guards. Just early this month, a member of the Philippine Congress, Luzviminda Ilagan, accused Malaysian authorities of violating human rights of undocumented Filipinos held in various jails in Sabah, where authorities have been rounding up illegal immigrants and workers.

She said thousands of Filipinos, including women and children, are still languishing in Malaysian jails and suffering from inhumane conditions and had been deprived of their basic rights.

In July, the House of Representatives also passed a resolution calling the Committees on Overseas Workers' Affairs and the DFA to conduct an investigation into the condition of jailed Filipinos in Sabah.

Zamboanga City serves as the transit point for deportees since Malaysia began its crackdown in 2000. Hundreds of arrested Filipinos are being deported every week from Sabah and many of them had told tales of human rights abuses while in Malaysian jails.

Ilagan said the government should provide the deportees with proper housing and livelihood for them not to be tempted to leave the country again in search of a decent life.

She also urged other legislators in the lower house to take up immediate measures to protect undocumented Filipinos, most especially women and children, who face the risk of being detained and abused in Malaysian jails before they are returned to the Philippines. (With reports from Rex Montebon and Erico Rosco)

Former rebels rebuild their lives and dreams

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Above the din of the training room, a baby's cry was heard followed by the soft voice of a young mother hushing and rocking the fragile bundle in her arms.

The nursing mother was 23-year-old "Adela," one of the former New People's Army (NPA) rebels who have returned to the folds of the law.

She sneaked out from the harsh life in the boondocks to reunite with her family and her community. After seven years in the communist movement, she could not find any change for the better in her life.

In fact, she had suffered too much more than she had been promised.

Adela's life was miserable as an NPA rebel.

Then one day, she decided that enough is enough as a guerrilla fighter, as she could not anymore tolerate her miserable life.

She was itching to live a normal life away from the dangers of being an Amazon (woman fighter).

Intensely looking at her new-born child in her arms, she was full of compassion, determined to give her daughter a normal life when she grows up. The new baby in her arms has further inspired her to turn a new leaf.

Like Adela, 33-year-old "Rico" got tired of the battles he had waged for seven years as a high-ranking officer in the Communist movement.

He could no longer bear to see innocent civilians being killed in encounters and meet his wife and kids only once or twice in a year.

Being with his family also matters to 36-year-old "Jojo," who, after five years of fighting the military, decided to come down because he has been worried about his two children.

Separated from his wife, he has been left to fend for his children who are struggling to continue their studies. Jojo felt it is time that he serves them as their father.

Adela, Rico and Jojo are among the hopeful returnees who are now rebuilding their shattered lives and dreams through the government's Social Integration Program (SIP).

Assisted by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the three former NPA rebel leaders and 46 others were the first batch to undergo a three-day livelihood skills training facilitated by the Department of Agriculture (DA) Region 11 at the Southern Mindanao Integrated Agricultural Research Center in Tugbok, Davao City.

Their batch has also been granted P 2.45 million worth of livelihood support under the SIP on top of the P20,000 immediate cash grant previously handed to every one of them.

Each family has received assistance amounting to P50,000 in kind which include livestock, farm implements, seedlings or sari-sari store, depending of what they chose.

The grant is modest but valuable enough to enable the former guerrillas to start anew a life as law- abiding citizens. (PNA)

NPA owns up ambush of troops in Mindanao

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 27, 2008) – Philippine Maoist rebels on Monday claimed responsibility for the killing of eight government soldiers in Mindanao and vowed to launch more attacks in the troubled southern region.

Rigoberto Sanchez, a spokesman for the New People’s Army, said rebel forces killed the soldiers in two days of separate attacks in New Bataan and Monkayo towns in Compostela Valley province.

Philippine military officials said rebels killed soldiers who were on a humanitarian mission in the town of New Bataan, a charge strongly denied by the NPA. They said only six soldiers were killed and two others wounded in the attacks.

“While the Merardo Arce Command commends the NPA guerrillas, it also condemns the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ attempt to hide its battlefield blunder in its claim that their troops were on their so-called humanitarian and medical mission,” Sanchez said in a statement.

He said the ambushed soldiers were on a military operation and part of a bigger group deployed to track down NPA rebels in the province, a known rebel stronghold in Mindanao.

”Worse, aside from the deceptive humanitarian cover, the implacable fascist troops immediately and indiscriminately bombed the civilian-populated hinterlands in New Bataan. The fascist enemy, suffering from low morale, disregards war protocols, in blatant display of brutality and vengeance,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez said rebel forces will continue to strike on security forces in Mindanao as part of its offensive against the Arroyo government.

“Indeed, foot soldiers and officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police face real danger anywhere and every time, especially within the guerrilla territories of the revolutionary movement.”

“The cumulative effect of such guerrilla actions and the people's wrath against the hated Arroyo regime and the Armed Forces’ unwarranted and arbitrary reprisals spells doom for the US-Arroyo's costly delusions to finish off the revolutionary movement by 2010,” he said.

President Gloria Arroyo ordered the military to finish off the rebels, who are fighting for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country, before her term ends in 2010.

The NPA is the armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines, which broke off peace talk with the Arroyo government in 2004 after accusing Manila of reneging on its commitments to free all political prisoners and to put a stop to political killings, among others.

The United States and the European Union listed the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA, including its political arm, the National Democratic Front, as foreign terrorist organizations on Manila's prodding. The US is currently aiding the Philippine military in defeating communist insurgency by providing local troops with vital intelligence about the rebels. (Mindanao Examiner)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Philippine Congress To Finally Tackle Land Reform Law

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Congress is set to deliberate next month the proposed extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

The CARP is to end in December, but there are proposals to prolong its life so it can undertake more land tenure improvement. The passage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL), Republic Act 6655, in 1988 was hailed as a historic occasion.

CARL promised to redistribute agricultural lands -- in several phases -- to those who actually till them.

It undertakes land tenure improvement, development of program beneficiaries, and the delivery of agrarian justice. DAR conducts land survey in resettlement areas. It undertakes land acquisition and distribution and land management studies.
The DAR also orchestrates the delivery of support services to farmer-beneficiaries and promotes the development of viable agrarian reform communities.
Most of the government funding for CARP came from the recovered P50-billion of the so-called Marcos' ill-gotten wealth; however, only P10 billion was allocated to the DAR, the rest of the money was distributed to other agencies, including P8-million for human rights victims under then President Ferdinand Marcos.
Belgium, Spain and Japan among the countries that are supporting the CARPSome 7 million hectares of agricultural lands, from more than four millions all over the country, have already been distributed. More than four million farmers benefited from the CARP, according to the Department of Agrarian Reform.

House Speaker Prospero Nograles also confirmed that Congress will tackle the extension of the CARP on Nov. 9.

Nograles last month called for the consolidation of all the needed amendments before the CARP law expires. He requested congressmen to submit their amendments so it can be consolidated in the plenary and ensure that the agrarian reform law would truly improve the country’s food productivity.

“I am concerned because proposals are coming only in trickles. We only have three months left and we need to finalize all the substantive amendments to perfect the extension measure,” Nograles said.

“We don’t want to end up cramming and rushing again just to beat the December deadline. What I want is for us to have a CARP extension law that is acceptable to everyone before December 31,” he said.

Nograles said the Department of Agrarian Reform, which administers the CARP, needs funding for such program extension.

“DAR is asking for their budget, but if we cannot pass the extension law for the simple reason that we still cannot find a win-win solution for the impasse on CARP, then we will be providing appropriations for a program that will cease to exist on December 31. Our country needs this CARP, especially now that our thrust is food productivity,” he said. ”We will surely find time for this very important piece of legislation.”

However, Nograles said the CARP extension should not just be about distributing lands to the landless farmers, but it should also assure beneficiaries enough government support to make their lands productive.

“We cannot afford to let the country’s agrarian reform program to fail and just go to waste,” Nograles said, adding “we have to correct or redirect the programs under the present CARP law as demanded by current situations.”

The status of the proposed extension of the CARP law under House Bill No. 4077 is still open to amendments as the bill has yet to hurdle plenary interpellation. Both the antis and proponents of the measure are expected to contribute their inputs during the plenary period of amendments.

The plenary has already formed a committee that will receive and collate all amending proposals from stakeholders through their respective representatives.

“We have yet to receive the various proposals so they can be consolidated by the House Committee on Agrarian Reform chaired by Apayao Rep. Elias Bulut, Jr.,” Nograles said.

Nograles emphasized that the agrarian reform law must be compatible with the government efforts in attaining food security through the maximized use of all agricultural lands.

“The distribution of lands to tiller-farmers must not equate to loss of agricultural productivity through mismanagement,” Nograles stressed, adding that agrarian reform must be just and equitable, both to the farmer-beneficiaries and landowners. (With a report from Romy Bwaga)

Troops, Rebels Continue Fighting In Southern Philippines

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 26, 2008) – Fierce fighting between Filipino troops and Muslim rebels continue in Mindanao as hopes of resuming suspended peace talks in the troubled southern region remains dim.

“Fighting is raging in Lanao del Sur and so in the provinces of Maguindanao and other areas where Philippine troops are attacking our forces,” said Mohagher Iqbal, chief peace negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group.

Peace talks, brokered by Malaysia, were suspended by President Gloria Arroyo after rebel forces attacked civilian targets in Mindanao over the failed signing in August of a Muslim territorial deal with the MILF.

Arroyo also disbanded the government peace panel negotiating with rebels and demanded the MILF to surrender three commanders – Ameril Kato, Abdullah Macapaar and Sulayman Pangalian – who led the deadly attacks in at least 3 provinces in central Mindanao.

Manila has put up a P10 million bounties each for the capture of Macapaar, Kato and Pangalian.

Arroyo also scrapped the land deal which the government and rebel peace negotiators initially signed in July in Malaysia.

Iqbal said security forces pursuing the three rebel commanders have been attacking MILF positions, sparking sporadic, but deadly skirmishes the past weeks.

“Fighting is fierce yesterday in Lanao del Sur and there are skirmishes in Maguindanao and other nearby provinces. And we have been parrying government attacks, but civilians are suffering because they are being displaced by government offensives,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

More than half a million people have been displaced by fighting since August and many of them are in temporary refugee shelters.

Iqbal said hopes of resuming the peace talks with Arroyo are unlikely because of the continued military operation. “With this situation, there is little hope in continuing the peace talks,” he said.

The MILF earlier said it would only resume peace talks if Arroyo honors the territorial deal that would grant a separate homeland to over four million Muslims across mote than 700 villages in Mindanao.

The Supreme Court declared the land deal, which would have created the so-called Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, unconstitutional. The controversial deal also sparked massive protests from politicians and residents opposed to the ancestral domain agreement.

Peace talks were also stalled in the past with Malaysia accusing the Arroyo government of delaying the negotiations. (Mindanao Examiner)