Saturday, January 31, 2009
Officials said gunmen believed to be members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country's largest Muslim rebel group, had been extorting money from the firms in Zamboanga del Norte and warned of further destruction unless they are paid a monthly protection fee, the military said.
Lt. Steffani Cacho, a regional military spokeswoman, said the rebels were resorting to extortion to “project their power and sustain their daily operations.”
She said the rebels burned a truck and backhoe in the province.
“We call on the MILF hierarchy to address these issues and punish their erring commanders and subordinates,” she said.
The MILF denied the accusations, saying, criminal gangs are preying on business firms in the province.
Manila is seeking to resume peace talks with the MILF which stalled last year when the Supreme Court struck down a draft accord that would have given the rebels autonomy over their own Muslim homeland in the south.
The MILF has been fighting to set up an Islamic state in the southern Philippines for more than three decades. The group signed a ceasefire with the government in 2001 to negotiate peace. (Mindanao Examiner)
Officials said the a 16-year old villager, Mark Endido, who was shot and wounded by the gunmen managed to escape to tell authorities what happened to them. Among those missing was father, Benjamin, and three neighbors – all from the Curuan district, east of Zamboanga City.
Endido said the incident occurred on Wednesday and reported the incident the next day after seeking help from authorities in Curuan where he was treated for gunshot wound.
He told reporters they were panning for gold in the village of Lakiki in Sibuco town near the boundary of Curuan district when 15 armed men seized them. He said they were tied and herded, but he managed to flee and that gunmen opened fire and hit him on the shoulder.
He said he heard automatic gunfire and that those who were left behind were probably executed. Endido, who is now being guarded at a hospital in Zamboanga City, appealed to the authorities to recover the bodies of his father and neighbors Josel dela Cruz, Audy Valiente and Jonas Valiente.
“We have sent soldiers in the area to search for the missing villagers. We are closely coordinating with the police in the area,” said Army Col. Santiago Baluyot, commander of an anti-terror task force in Zamboanga City.
The military’s Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City said the search for the missing men began on Friday after it received reports about the incident.
The motive of the attack is still unknown, but officials said it could have been connected to gold panning activities in the area. Moro rebels are also actively operating in the province.
Early this week, Moro rebels torched a dump truck owned by Bendimil Construction in the village of Jatian in Sibuco town after the firm failed to pay extortion money.
It was the second attack this month, on January 16, rebels also torched a backhoe owned by ESR Construction in the village of Malabuhanginan in Siocon town, also in Zamboanga del Norte province. (Mindanao Examiner)
In our desire and effort to support local bands (Zamboanga , Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi) the Mindanao Examiner Productions and the Mindanao Examiner Television (Sky Cable Zamboanga) are calling all band owners to send their demo DVD to the Mindanao Examiner Productions for free airing on Channel 54 (for promotional purposes only).
Please include in the demo reel your contact details, bio or how you started as a band. Suportahan natin ang local bands, suportahan ang musikang Pinoy!
This call is also open to all talents and artists, independent filmmakers and animators!
A bulletin issued late Friday by the Task Force ICRC said Italian Eugenio Vagni is suffering from high blood pressure. Vagni, along with Swiss national Andreas Notter and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba, were kidnapped January 15 after inspecting humanitarian projects at a prison facility in Patikul town.
Police said a dismissed prison guard was among five gunmen who seized the trio and later handed them over to an Abu Sayyaf faction headed by Albader Parad and Abu Pula.
Sulu deputy governor Nur Anna Sahidulla, who heads the local Red Cross chapter, was allowed by the kidnappers to their camp on Wednesday and she spoke with the hostages.
“TF ICRC reported that Vice Governor Nur Ana Sahidulla was able to establish contact with the kidnap victims. According to the lady vice governor Andres Notter, Eugenio Vagni and Mary jean Lacaba seem to be well, although Vagni was suffering from high blood pressure.”
“She confirmed that the victims were able to receive the books, medicines and other personal effects. This development is vital for the authorities to establish proof of life on the part of the victims,” the bulletin said.
The kidnappers said they wanted no ransom, but government livelihood and development projects in exchange for the hostages.
Sulu Governor Sakur Tan on Friday reiterated Manila's strict no-ransom policy and said any payment of money for the release of three kidnapped Red Cross workers would only be used by the Abu Sayyaf to purchase more weapons.
“We will not pay ransom to the kidnappers. Any ransom paid to the kidnappers will only be used to buy new weapons and that will be a big problem for us,” said Tan, head of the Task Force ICRC.
Alain Aeschlimann, head of the ICRC's operations for East Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific, said the hostages have also been able to make telephone calls on a number of occasions since their abduction.
“Talking with them and hearing that they are doing as well as can be expected in these difficult circumstances has brought some relief for their loved ones and, of course, their colleagues. But as time passes, those who love and care for them are understandably growing more and more worried about their well-being,” he said.
Aeschlimann did not give details about Vagni’s health condition, but in several phone calls to the ICRC, the hostages said they are okay.
“I can confirm that a contact with the kidnappers has been established but I'm simply not willing to comment beyond this. I wouldn't want to say anything that could compromise their safety or our chances of getting them home safe and sound as soon as possible,” Aeschlimann said.
Filipino authorities have blamed the Abu Sayyaf for the spate of kidnappings-for-ransom and bombing attacks in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)
Friday, January 30, 2009
MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 30, 2009) – Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei Darussalam arrived in the Philippines for a three-day state visit.
President Gloria Arroyo welcomed Bolkiah and government media said the visit further deepen the friendly relations between the two countries.
In a joint press statement issued after their bilateral meeting Friday in Malacanang, the two leaders cited the potentials for stronger trade and investments relations between the Philippines and Brunei Darussalam and the role of the private sector in enhancing the economic cooperation between the two countries.
Police said the victim Ramil Solis, 22, was stabbed repeatedly until he died near the Philippine Air Force base along Governor Camins Avenue.
Solis was just sitting at a road corner when the duo arrived and without provocation suddenly attacked him. (Charlotte Yola Mira)
The Abu Sayyaf, tied to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya terror groups, is holding hostage Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba since January 15.
The three were kidnapped after inspecting a water and sanitation project at a prison facility in Patikul town. Police said a dismissed jail guard was among five gunmen who kidnapped the trio and handed them over to Abu Sayyaf leaders Albader Parad and Abu Pula.
On Wednesday, the kidnappers allowed Sulu deputy governor Nur Anna Sahidulla, who is the local Red Cross head, to see and talk to the hostages on a hinterland village in Indanan town.
The hostages said they are being treated fairly and were allowed by their captors to use their laptop and cell phones.
Photographs of the meeting were also released to the media. They were taken from a mobile phone and showed Notter, Vagni and Lacaba posing with Sahidulla.
The kidnappers said all they wanted are livelihood and development projects, but other sources said the Abu Sayyaf is also asking for government amnesty.
The U.S. offered millions of dollars in bounties for known Abu Sayyaf leaders and the Philippine government also put aside P100 million as rewards for the capture - dead or alive – any of the group’s commanders.
Since 1997, the Abu Sayyaf has been designated by the State Department as a “foreign terrorist organization.”
Both Pula and Parad, who were former members of the Moro National Liberation Front, are included in the Philippines’ most wanted terrorists.
They have been accused by authorities of involvement in bomb attacks and kidnappings for ransom, including the abduction of 21 people, mostly European tourists, from a Malaysian resort in 2000, including U.S. tourist Jeffrey Craig Schilling in Sulu.
Schilling was held hostage for more than seven months by the Abu Sayyaf and during his captivity, some of the demands made by the Abu Sayyaf were the release of international terrorist Ramsey Yousef and the blind Muslim cleric Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman from U.S. prison, the withdrawal of American forces from the Middle East and the payment of $10 million in ransom. (Mindanao Examiner)
The distribution was held at the Capisan National High School. Some 7,000 bags were distributed to students and 5,000 pieces of ID slings to teachers and students. The distribution of the books was also made possible through the efforts of Ateneo de Zamboanga University.
She said the donation was an effort to promote youth development and education. (Charlotte Yola Mira)
New People’s Army rebels detonated a roadside bomb while the military convoy was passing on a village in Paquibato District in the outskirts of Davao City on Thursday.
“Seven infantry soldiers were wounded in the landmine attack,” an army spokesman Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner told the Mindanao Examiner.
He said the soldiers also exchanged automatic gunfire with at least 5 rebels, but there were no reports of NPA casualties.
The soldiers were traveling on a convoy of eight KM450 trucks when the rebels detonated a landmine, he said. “One truck was destroyed in the blast,” he said.
Another group of NPA rebels also raided a police station in South Cotabato’s Tampakan town later in the day. At least 3 policemen were reported wounded in the raid.
The attacks coincided with demands by NPA to free three rebels arrested by government soldiers on January 26 in Compostela Valley province. Rebel leaders said the trio Ruel Cabales, 41; Nelson Carvajosa, 35; and Catherine Cacdac, 31 was abducted by soldiers.
“The January 26 incident is a blatant abduction. The 10th Infantry Division which prides itself on torturing captured NPA combatants and finishing off NPA hors de combat employs treachery and makes a mockery of the international humanitarian law and the GRP-NDFP Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.”
“We demand that the 10th Infantry Division surface Ka Rael, Ka Janggo and Ka Kulay, and to treat their captives humanely according to universally acceptable norms and to desist from subjecting the said NPA cadres to barbaric and inhuman torture,” said Rigoberto Sanchez, a rebel spokesman.
Last year, the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines have ordered the NPA to intensify attacks as part of its new offensive, whose main purpose it said, is to seize weapons and increase the number of rebel forces in the country.
The Job Fair 2009, with the theme “Oh, The Places You Will Go!,” aims to provide the university’s graduating college students with a range of job opportunities.
CGCO is inviting government agencies and private companies around the city and the region to join and hold job recruitment procedures such as filing applications, testing for employment and job interviews.
CGCO Director Estesa Xaris C. Que-Legaspi believes that over the years Job Fair has been proven to be helpful and beneficial in preparing graduating students for job searching and placement.
She also added that the event itself gives the students a chance to feel and see the complicated world of employment. (Amilbahar Mawallil and Sheri Gay Catague)
This was the gist of the comprehensive plan unveiled by a group of over 100 civil society organizations representing at least 100,000 workers, farmers, urban poor, teachers, and other basic sectors concerned about the potential fall-out from the crisis.
Convinced that the global crisis has proven the failure of the government’s prevailing pro-“free market” framework, they are instead calling for “a more decisive role of society over the market, more democratic access to resources, as well as greater public participation in economic decision-making.”
“The crisis should once and for all compel us to abandon the myth of trickle-down growth peddled by the government and by technocrats,” said Josua Mata, one of the plan’s proponents. “We either overhaul our economic governance – or we suffer from the worst that the crisis will unleash,” Sr. Arnold Ma Noel, added.
Called People over Profits, Society over the Market: The Balay Kalinaw People’s Agenda to Respond to the Financial Crisis, the plan calls for, among others:
- recovering state ownership in strategic industries and utilities
- reversing privatization of social services an unprecedented “social pump-priming program” that would allocate more funds for education, health care, housing and other social services
- repeal of the Automatic Appropriations Act and elimination of the pork barrel system
- massive employment-generating investments in renewable energy
– allowing us not only to weather the crisis but to emerge from it with a more sustainable economy,” said Jean Enriquez, one of the plan’s drafters.
Proponents of the People’s Agenda sought to contrast their plan with the government’s economic stimulus package which Chester Amparo, another proponent, describes as “wasteful at best and criminal at worst.” They warned that the package is being set up to “line the pockets of corrupt politicians, who need more money for their 2010 campaign kitty, instead of going to those who really need help.”
The People’s Agenda was the result of over three months of brainstorming and deliberation that began after the spectacular collapse of banks in the United States in September. Two conferences on the topic were held at the University of the Philippines’ Balay Kalinaw while a series of smaller meetings were also conducted.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Police said the explosion at the Star Maker factory in the town of Trece Martires in Cavite City was so powerful that shock waves shook small building and shattered glass windows up to 5 kilometers away.
At least six people were confirmed dead, but television footages showed rescuers picking up pieces of human flesh and charred remains around the site. The factory was leveled to the ground.
The death toll may rise as 20 people were reported missing and that many are still unaccounted for, although police said more than 70 others were injured in the explosion which occurred at around 10.45 a.m.
Police said a spark could have triggered a chain of explosions inside the factory where workers were conducting an inventory. (Mindanao Examiner)
Officials said Al-Barka Mayor Karam Jakilan was killed when gunmen opened fire on his vehicle and that several of his aides were also wounded. Two of his aides were also killed and four more wounded in the attack near the village of Lagayas in Tipo-Tipo town.
Jakilan was returning to Al-Barka when he was ambushed.
"We are investigating the ambush and is looking into clan war as one of the motives in the killing of the mayor," said Chief Supt. Bensali Jabarani, the regional police chief.
He said he ordered police forces to hunt down the killers of Jakilan.
Marine Brig. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, commander of military forces on the island, said troops have been deployed to track down the assailants. "We still don't know who were behind the ambush, but we have troops tracking down the killers," he said.
The attack was believed connected to the earlier shooting of a village chieftain in Tipo-Tipo by one of Karam’s bodyguard.
Al-Barka is a known lair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Abu Sayyaf militants blamed for the killing of 14 soldiers, ten of them beheaded in July 2007. (Mindanao Examiner)
Kidnappers had phoned the victim’s superior on Thursday to say they are holding the midwife, Elizar Gomera, who is working for the Lamitan City government. The 45-year old victim was reported missing on Wednesday after he went to the village of Parangbasak to help deliver a baby.
No group claimed responsibility for the latest kidnapping, but authorities suspect the Abu Sayyaf could be behind it. The group is still holding a trader Eliseo Hablo and three government teachers Freires Quizon, Janette delos Reyes and Rafael Mayorada – all kidnapped in Zamboanga City and brought by boat to Basilan island.
The gangs holding the teachers have demanded P6 million in exchange for the freedom of the hostages, but authorities said the government has a strict no-ransom policy and ruled out payments of ransom to the kidnappers.
But copycat attacks had also been carried out by criminal gangs from Basilan victimizing innocent civilians in Zamboanga City in an effort to raise money from ransom collected for the purchase of weapons and to finance future kidnappings.
Don't risk self, Moro rebels tell Filipino actor who wants to negotiate with Sayyaf to free Red Cross staff
SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 29, 2009) – Moro rebels have dissuaded a Filipino movie star from negotiating with Abu Sayyaf militants holding hostage three members of the Red Cross in the southern island of Sulu.
This after Robin Padilla, who converted to Islam, was reported to be helping in the negotiation for the safe release of Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba.
“This is an unsolicited advice, but we are offering this as a sign of our concern to you and to protect the image of Islam and the Muslims now defiled by most or all of the current leaders of the Abu Sayyaf Group,” said Muhammad Ameen, a senior leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group.
Ameen said: “The kidnappers have only one thing in mind and that is money and they don’t discriminate whether you are their co-religionists or not, as long as you have the capacity to pay ransom.”
Padilla, who was in Zamboanga City on Wednesday, previously negotiated with the Abu Sayyaf for the release of several students and teachers kidnapped in 2000 in Basilan Island.
Nur Misuari, head of the Moro National Liberation Front rebel group which signed a peace treaty with Manila in 1996, also offered to help in the negotiations to free the Abu Sayyaf.
The three aid workers were kidnapped January 15 after inspecting a humanitarian project at a prison facility in the town of Patikul. Police linked a dismissed jail guard, Raden Abu, to the kidnapping, and said he handed over the hostages to the Abu Sayyaf headed by Albader Parad and Abu Pula.
On Wednesday, kidnappers allowed Sulu deputy governor Nur Anna Sahidulla to see and talk to the hostages on a hinterland village in Indanan town. The hostages said they are being treated fairly and were allowed by their captors to use their laptop and cell phones.
The hostages have also asked for books and personal grooming items that will be delivered by a contact, according to Filipino Senator Richard Gordon, who is the head of the Philippine National Red Cross.
Photographs of the meeting were also released to the media. They were taken from a mobile phone and showed Notter, Vagni and Lacaba posing with Sahidulla.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has confirmed the meeting, but declined to make any further details available regarding the location or how the contact was made in order not to jeopardize the safety of captives.
“It's a positive sign that this face-to-face contact took place,” said Alain Aeschlimann, the head of the ICRC's operations for Asia Pacific in Geneva. “According to Vice-Governor Sahidulla, they are fine and in good health.”
He said there has been regular phone contact between the Red Cross and the abducted staff since they were snatched. The latest call with the three took place on Wednesday morning.
”They continue to sound calm and composed and say they are doing alright,” said Aeschlimann. “We are always glad to be able to hear their voices and know they are together. Their loved ones are thinking about them all the time and trying to stay strong, while continuing to hope that Eugenio, Mary-Jean and Andreas will be home soon.”
Sulu Governor Sakur Tan maintained that the government will not pay ransom in exchange for the freedom of the captives. “We are firm with that policy. The government will not pay ransom to the kidnappers in exchange for the release of the aid workers,” he said.
Tan, head of the crisis committee, said the photos released to the media are proof that the negotiations are positively developing. "It shows that the task force is doing alright and that we are doing something on our level to address the problem," Tan said in a television interview on Thursday.
The ICRC said it is aware of other information circulating in the media regarding discussions with the kidnappers and efforts to try to resolve the situation.
“At this stage, the ICRC can only confirm that direct contact was established with the kidnappers. We are not in a position to comment or disclose any further information.”
“We appreciate everyone's understanding during this difficult time that we must be very cautious in what we say to avoid any risk of jeopardizing the safety and well-being of Mary-Jean, Andreas and Eugenio, or the possibility of achieving a positive outcome,” Aeschlimann said. (With a report from Nickee Butlangan)
A CALL FOR PEACE AND HUMANITARIAN PROTECTION.
The present conflict between the Government of the Republic of Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has displaced more than 700,000 innocent people who continue to suffer in misery, hunger and unsecured lives. The conflict has left millions of people in emotional distress and uncertainty, and has caused damage to properties, structure, investments and previous efforts of communities to rebuild a broken land.
It is a cycle of war and continuous armed conflict which threatens to rip apart our families and communities that we want to STOP NOW!
Hear the VOICES of our women and men, our TRIBE, our PEOPLE, our CHILDREN. RESUME PEACE TALKS AND PROTECT HUMAN RIGHTS!
We are a community-based alliance of peace advocates represented by the Sindaw ko Kalilintad coming from different cultural identities and backgrounds in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat who yearn for PEACE in our lands;
We condemn the continuous violations of human rights experienced by our Muslim, Christian and Lumad brothers and sisters;
We condemn the massive displacement, innocent killing of people caught in the crossfire, burning of houses and the irreparable damage wrought upon victims who are crying for peace;
We are alarmed by the growing incidences of kidnapping and harassment of those who sacrifice their lives as they continue to work for humanitarian protection and we urge the authorities to immediately get to the root and act on this problem;
We do not want another “All-out-War” to happen! We seek to sustain the peaceful initiatives that we have collectively woven together!
We believe that a hundred times of peace talks are better than a day of battle. Together with other peace-loving individuals and groups, we therefore appeal for a resumption of the peace talks.
We call on the newly composed GRP-panel to build on the gains of the peace process and pursue in-depth analysis and study of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on Ancestral Domain.
We also call on the MILF to be open to a more thorough and inclusive discourse on the issues surrounding the MOA-AD which should reflect the diverse voices of the many ethnic groups whose identities seek to be recognized in the continuing pursuit of self-determination.
THIS IS OUR CALL. CEASEFIRE, LISTEN AND NEGOTIATE. PEACE IS THE ONLY WAY.
Ulama are Muslim scholars trained in Islam and Islamic law and are the interpreters of Islam's sciences, doctrines and laws.
The ulama on Wednesday elected 14 members of the board, coming from the different sectors of the Muslim communities, to the 15-member interim board of trustees. The Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID) was given the 15th seat on the Board.
Those elected to the board of NUCP included: Dr. Hamid Barra from Marawi City, Dr. Abhoulkhair Tarason from Basilan, Sulu Mufti Sharif Jul Asiri Abirin, Tawi-Tawi Mufti Abdulwahid Inju, Aleem Abdul Majid Said from Cebu, Aleem Ahmad Darping Nooh from Davao, Dr. Abdussalam Disomimba from Lanao del Norte, Prof. Moner Bajunaid from General Santos City, Shari'a Court Judge Aboali Cali from Marawi City, Aleem Jaafar Ali from Cotabato City, Aleem Abdulhadi Daguit from Manila, Bro. Hassan Garcia from the Balik Islam community, Ustadza Albaya Badrodin and Aleema Khadijah Mutilan from the Aleemat (Muslim women religious scholars). Former Senator Santanina Rasul, Chair of Magbassa Kita Foundation, Inc (MKFI) and Advisor of the PCID, was given the honor of occupying the 15th seat.
The newly elected officers of the NUCP interim board are scheduled to meet and elect from among themselves a chairperson, a vice-chairperson and a secretary general. They are expected to set into motion plans that will empower Muslim religious scholars to provide leadership to Muslim communities in terms of peace and development.
The approval of the bylaws and the election of the members of the interim board came after a series of regional consultations held in Zamboanga City, Cagayan de Oro City, Manila and Sarangani province culminating the 2nd Ulama Summit in Quezon City.
The Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID) and the Magbassa Kita Foundation, Inc (MKFI) are responsible for organizing the 2nd National Ulama Summit, with the support of the Embassies of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
"Not By Fatwa Alone"
The summit of Muslim religious leaders opened Monday night with dinner ceremonies attended by the Ulama, representatives of the diplomatic corps, government officials and other guests. Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., GRP Peace Panel Chair Ambassador Rafael Seguis, Court of Appeals Justice Hakim Abdulwahid, Defense Undersecretary Ernesto Carolina, Ambassador Robert Gerard Brinks of the Netherlands Embassy and Mr. Chris Wright of the British Embassy were among those who attended.
PCID lead convenor Amina Rasul, stated that it is important for the Ulama to come together because "In today's world, society demands a wider and more participative role of the ulama, that they get involved directly in the transformation or reformation process. Our societal problems today can no longer be solved by the formulation of a fatwa alone."
Dr. Endang Turmudi Secretary General of Nadhlatul Ulama, considered as one of the largest independent Islamic organizations in the world with estimates of their membership ranging as high as 40 million, gave the opening keynote address.
As Islam continues to spread globally, Turmudi said that it becomes incumbent upon all Muslims "to review and put in an appropriate way" their relationship with their fellow Muslims and with people of other religions as well. He also urged the Ulama to lead in the effort to inform the whole world that the "violence done by Muslims or those who acknowledge themselves as Muslims is not derived from the doctrine of Islam but from certain interpretations affected by the political situations surrounding them."
"Engage the Changing World"
The summit also featured Muslim academics from Australia and Britain. Dr Abdullah Saeed who holds the Sultan of Oman Professorial Chair of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Melbourne, argued that while the Ulama need to be versed in the classical tradition of Islam they also need to understand the contours of the changing world so they can lead their people in addressing the challenges faced by Muslims in the modern world.
Dr. Hisham Hellyer, a British Muslim who is currently a Principal Research Fellow at the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies in Malaysia, emphasized the great and noble role of the Ulama but noted that the Ulama should gain the respect and acceptance of the people noting that the loss of religious authority will negatively impact the world at large. He also urged Muslims "to critically engage in the changing world".
"Peace and Development Sessions"
In the morning of January 29, the summit will feature sessions with some members of the international donor community doing work in Mindanao. Expected to address the Ulama and discuss possible areas of collaboration with the new Ulama organization are US Ambassador Kristie Kenney, European Union Ambassador Alistair Macdonald and Australian embassy's deputy head of mission Mr. Stephen Scott.
The afternoon session will feature a workshop on electoral reforms with Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) Chair Ambassador Henrietta de Villa, former COMELEC Commissioner Mehol Sadain, and former Human Rights Commissioner Nasser Marohomsalic.
Former President Fidel Ramos is scheduled to lead the officers of the NUCP in their oath taking during the closing dinner ceremonies on January 29.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Dipolog Archbishop Jose Manguiran led the rally. President Gloria Arroyo is to step down in 2010 when her term ends, but her allies in Congress, led by House Speaker Prospero Nograles, are campaigning to amend the Constitution and at one point proposed to turn the lower house into a constituent assembly that would tackle changes in the fundamental laws on the land.
Militant groups and political activists said amending the Constitution would eventually prolong Arroyo's stay in power. Arroyo's allies said the change in the Constitution is needed to introduce reforms in the economy, among others.
Under the presidential form of government, Arroyo is allowed only one six-year term. In the charter change proposal suggested by her political allies who dominate Congress, she can be elected as prime minister should Congress dissolve the Senate and change the system of government to parliamentary and eventually prolong her into power beyond 2010.
Arroyo deposed President Joseph Estrada in a people power revolution in 2001, but corruption scandals in her government and allegations of poll fraud has made her extremely unpopular among Filipinos. (Mindanao Examiner)
The kidnappers reportedly wanted to talk to Sahidulla, but details of the meeting were not disclosed. The hostages said they are being treated well and were allowed by the kidnappers to use their cell phones and laptops.
Two of the photographs were obtained by rival television networks GMA-7 and ABS-CBN.
Former Moro rebel leader Nur Misuari has offered to held in negotiating with the Abu Sayyaf for the safe release of the hostages.
It said Misuari, former chieftain of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), is willing to help in the negotiations to free the hostages.
The three were kidnapped January 15 after inspecting water and sanitation project at a prison facility in the town of Patikul. Police linked a dismissed jail guard, Raden Abu, to the kidnapping and said he handed over the hostages to the Abu Sayyaf headed by Albader Parad and Abu Pula.
But reports said Misuari was asking for government permission to negotiate with the Abu Sayyaf after a mayor in Sulu, Isnaji Alvarez, of Indanan town, was charged last year with kidnapping when he helped negotiate the release of television reporter Ces Drilon and her two cameramen, including their guide.
Drilon was held by the Abu Sayyaf whom they sought to interview clandestinely in Sulu Island. They were freed weeks later after private negotiators reportedly paid P20 ransom.
It was unknown whether the Abu Sayyaf is willing to negotiate with the former rebel leader. But the Abu Sayyaf previously rejected Misuari, who was tapped in 2001 by Manila to negotiate for the release of 21 Asian and European holidaymakers kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf in the Malaysian resort island of Sipadan.
Filipino movie star, Robin Padilla, was also in Zamboanga City on Wednesday and had been reported also to be helping in the negotiation for the release of the hostages. Padilla previously negotiated with the Abu Sayyaf for the release of several students and teachers kidnapped in 2000 in Basilan Island. (Mindanao Examiner)
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Tuesday, January 27, 2009
SARANGANI, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 27, 2009) – The town of Maitum in the southern Philippine province of Sarangani is all set for the launching of the two-day Bangsi Festival dubbed as “Sugba Sugba sa Dalan” on Saturday.
Local officials said some 1,000 kilograms of fresh flying fish popularly called Bangsi would be offered free to residents and grill (sugba) them in front of the town hall.
A Bangsi Cooking Contest would also be held in the town. Officials said Bangsi has come a long way to become Maitum's One Town One Product (OTOP) from decades of providing livelihood to coastal households.
Maitum’s number one value-added product, the marinated and half dried flying fish, is popular among the locals and visitors.
“Marinated bangsi alone, roughly its P10-million industry, includes processors in Old Poblacion," said Engr. Nenita Barroso, the Provincial Director of Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
“Other products were introduced last year,” she said, adding, entrepreneurs have also developed other value-added products such as bola-bola, tocino, siomai, rolls, chorizo, lumpia, embutido, burger patties and nuggets which are all made of bangsi.
“Packaging has improved from ordinary plastic pack into a branded and
labeled packaging,” Barroso noted.
Barroso said the DTI distributed a vacuum packing machine for some 125 households in Old Poblacion.
“Around a thousand households depend on bangsi industry, with average annual catch of more or less 600 tons,” said Beth Ramos, Palma Gil municipal information officer. (Serafin Ramos)
Police said the accident occurred Monday in the village called Boalan. It said the two riders Rainier Saavedra and Manuel Epanto were coming from opposite directions when their motorcycle collided. Both drivers died instantly.
“Both drivers of motorcycle were pronounced dead on the spot by the responding medical team from STOP DEATH due to severe head injuries,” Police officer Arnold Espares told the Mindanao Examiner.
Police said Saavedra was traveling from north heading south when his motorcycle collided with another. Epanto was with his son, Mannix Epanto. The boy was also injured.
It said another motorcycle rider, Roberto Jammang, passing near the crash site was also injured by debris from the collision. Jammang and the boy were both rushed to hospital. (Sheri Gay P. Catague)
The trio – Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba – were seized at gunpoint on January 15 after visiting a prison facility in Patikul town in Sulu province.
“We have had contact by telephone with Mary-Jean, Eugenio and Andreas over the past 48 hours. They say that considering the circumstances, they are doing alright. Their voices sounded composed and calm and we hope that this is a positive sign. The ICRC reiterates its call for their rapid and unconditional release,” said Alain Aeschlimann, who heads the organization’s operations for Asia Pacific in Geneva.
Filipino authorities said a jail guard, Raden Abu, who was dismissed after 12 prisoners escaped early this month masterminded the kidnapping. Abu later handed over the three hostages to Abu Sayyaf militants who group has links with the Indonesian terrorist Jemaah Islamiya.
Security forces have sealed off a mountain in the town of where Abu Sayyaf militants are believed to be hiding with their captives. Local troops, aided by US military intelligence, have sealed off the area to prevent the Abu Sayyaf from escaping.
Police last week said the hostages were spotted in Talipao town, a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf.
“We genuinely appreciate all efforts to bring our colleagues safely home and the concern of so many people inside and outside the ICRC for their welfare and we are grateful for their support.”
Aeschlimann last week also appealed to the kidnappers to free all the hostages.
“I appeal to those who are holding Mary-Jean, Andreas and Eugenio to let them go as quickly as possible,” Aeschlimann said. “We want to have them back safe and sound. Their children, spouses, parents, siblings and loved ones are anxious and waiting for them to come home.”
Authorities said the hostages are being held by Abu Sayyaf leaders Albader Parad and Abu Pula, who were both former Moro National Liberation Front rebels. (Mindanao Examiner)
The two photographers – Joe Jaresh Tanodra and Ricky Alejo – were physically removed from an area near the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand where journalists were covering the festival. The incident over the weekend was witnessed by hundreds of spectators and shown on television news.
The Press Photographers of the Philippines (PPP) in Iloilo has condemned the actions by the policemen and accused them; including a former police officer Dionisio Duco, the chief security of Mayor Jerry Treñas, for their brutality.
“The Press Photographers of the Philippines Iloilo Chapter condemns in the strongest term possible the callousness and insensitivity of retired Police Chief Inspector Dionisio Duco, chief security of the Iloilo City Mayor’s Office, and several policemen in physically removing internationally acclaimed photojournalist, Joe Haresh Tanodra, also president of PPP Aklan-Boracay chapter, and Ricky Alejo, of Pinoy Paparazzi from the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand while covering the festivities,” it said in a statement.
Duco‘s group reportedly evicted the two photographers after they failed to secure the proper accreditation card.
Witnesses said Tanodra was forcibly dragged out of the area in front of hundreds of shocked spectators and photojournalists. Different media groups have denounced how policemen manhandled Tanodra and demanded an apology from local officials and the authorities over the incident.
“Even if Mr. Tanodra and Mr. Alejo had failed to secure accreditation from the festival organizers to cover events at the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand, this does not justify the harsh treatment they suffered from the hands of Duco and his men, an act that befits only criminals and those who are threats to national security.”
“The physical removal of Mr. Tanodra from Iloilo Freedom Grandstand is a blatant display of contempt and disrespect to the Fourth Estate which has been an indispensable partner of the Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation and the Iloilo City Government in promoting Dinagyang and other tourism events in this part of the Philippines,” said Chris Fernandez, president of the PPP in Iloilo City.
Fernandez said the incident sends a wrong signal that the press can be bullied by anyone in power.
“This sends a wrong signal that the press can be bullied by anyone with power and authority from top guns to the lowly chief security officer like the brute Mr. Duco, that they can be hogtied and thrown out like pigs, or worse, can be slaughtered like the scores of journalists killed in the Philippines since the restoration of democracy in 1986,” he said.
The Dinagyang is a religious and cultural festival held on the fourth Sunday of January, or right after the Sinulog Festival In Cebu province and the Ati-Atihan in Aklan. It is held both to honor the Santo Nino and to celebrate the arrival Malay settlers in Panay and the subsequent selling of the island to them by the natives.
“Dinagyang may be the best tourism event in the Philippines, but if the likes of Mr. Duco are allowed to spoil the spirit of the festivities, then festival organizers – the Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation and the Iloilo City Government – there is really nothing to be proud about it.”
“We therefore call on Mayor Jerry Treñas and Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas (the regional police chief) to mete necessary disciplinary actions on Mr. Duco and the policemen involved in this unfortunate incident, without prejudice to our right to file appropriate legal actions not only on the harm that Mr. Tanodra has suffered but also on the damages incurred on his camera,” Fernandez said.
Remy Pampolina, of the PPP in Manila, said different media groups also denounced the incident. “This is not good, we are condemning this incident,” he told the Mindanao Examiner. (Mindanao Examiner)
The Press Photographers of the Philippines (PPP) Iloilo Chapter condemns in the strongest term possible the callousness and insensitivity of retired Police Chief Inspector Dionisio Duco, chief security of the Iloilo City Mayor’s Office, and several policemen in physically removing internationally acclaimed photojournalist, Joe Haresh Tanodra, also President of PPP Aklan-Boracay chapter, and Ricky Alejo of Pinoy Parazzi from the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand while covering the festivities.
Even if Mr. Tanodra and Mr. Alejo had failed to secure accreditation from the festival organizers to cover events at the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand, this does not justify the harsh treatment they suffered from the hands of Duco and his men, an act that befits only criminals and those who are threats to national security.
The physical removal of Mr. Tanodra from Iloilo Freedom Grandstand is a blatant display of contempt and disrespect to the Fourth Estate which has been an indispensable partner of the Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation and the Iloilo City Government in promoting Dinagyang and other tourism events in this part of the Philippines.
This sends a wrong signal that the press can be bullied by anyone with power and authority from top guns to the lowly chief security officer like the brute Mr. Duco, that they can be hogtied and thrown out like pigs, or worse, can be slaughtered like the scores of journalists killed in the Philippines since the restoration of democracy in 1986.
While keeping order at the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand is a must during the holding of the Dinagyang festival, the role of security personnel is not above the role of the press in covering it. Having an orderly conduct of the Dinagyang may be a welcome sight, but such tourism spectacle can never achieve its ends without the reporters writing about it and without photojournalists capturing its colors and grandeur.
Dinagyang may be the best tourism event in the Philippines, but if the likes of Mr. Duco are allowed to spoil the spirit of the festivities, then festival organizers – the Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation and the Iloilo City Government – there is really nothing to be proud about it.
We therefore call on Mayor Jerry Treñas and Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas to mete necessary disciplinary actions on Mr. Duco and the policemen involved in this unfortunate incident, without prejudice to our right to file appropriate legal actions not only on the harm that Mr. Tanodra has suffered but also on the damages incurred on his camera.
Signed this 25th day of January 2009 in Iloilo City, Philippines.
Monday, January 26, 2009
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 26, 2009) – Philippine education officials on Monday made new appeals to suspected Abu Sayyaf militants to release three teachers kidnapped in Zamboanga City.
The trio - Quizon G. Freires, 28; Janette C. Delos Reyes, 29; and Rafael L. Mayonado, 24 – were on a motorboat returning to Zamboanga from a working break when gunmen intercepted them at sea near Zamboanga and brought them to nearby Basilan Island.
Education Secy. Jesli Lapuz expressed concern over the safety of the hostages.
“We are deeply concerned with the safety of our teachers. They preferred to be teachers here than abroad. Why do they have to go through this ordeal? In taking them, the children under their care are deprived of the education they so rightfully deserve,” Lapuz said.
The kidnappers have demanded P6 million ransoms for the safe release of the government teachers.
“Our teachers come from poor families and wish nothing more than support their parents, brothers, and sisters,” said Dolores Alcantara, local schools superintendent.
“These teachers give their time to nurture the children of Zamboanga City to be better citizens and contribute to the economic growth of Mindanao. The parents cannot raise the amount demanded and the government follows a no ransom policy. We pray that the teachers be released,” she said in a statement.
Authorities tagged Abu Sayyaf as behind the kidnappings. (Mindanao Examiner)
The subsidy was part of the government's Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.
DSWD Assistant Regional Director Priscilla Nidea-Razon said they have identified 3,400 household beneficiaries in Davao City, specifically in Talomo, City Poblacion, Panacan, Bunawan, Toril, Agdao, Calinan and Tibungco.
“In the last quarter of 2008, about 5,838 grantees from Caraga and Manay towns received their monthly subsidy through the Land Bank Branch in Mati City,” Razon said.
In Davao Region, the 4Ps is being implemented in Manay and Caraga, Davao Oriental and in the three congressional districts of Davao City, and to date over P7 million have been released to the 4Ps grantees in the three areas.
4Ps is a five-year social protection program which grants health, nutrition and education cash packages to qualified extremely poor households. Five hundred pesos will be extended per month per family for health check-ups, vaccinations and food while P300 shall be provided every month per child for school needs.
A household with three qualified children can obtain a subsidy of P15,000 annually as long as it meets some conditionality, but they must also comply with the conditions to continue receiving the cash grants.
And among the conditions are parents must ensure that their children attend school at least 85% of the time, and receive vaccinations and health care; pregnant women must receive pre- and post- natal care and be attended during childbirth by a skilled health professional; and parents must attend responsible parenthood seminars, mother’s classes, and parent effectiveness seminars.
The goal of 4Ps is to break the inter-generational cycle of poverty by fostering change in behavior among parents and encouraging them to invest in their and their children’s future with respect to health, nutrition and education.
The program uses a scientifically formulated Proxy Means Test to target the poorest of the poor in the poorest municipalities (based on Small Area Estimate) of the 26 poorest provinces and 12 cities with large pockets of poverty. Data are gathered per household in those municipalities through a saturation household survey in the poorest barangays. Every household is surveyed by competent enumerators trained and supervised by DSWD.
In 2008, some 694,214 households were surveyed in 159 municipalities in 23 provinces and 12 cities to find the poor households. Some 337,416 household beneficiaries nationwide are now receiving their cash assistance under the program. (Carmela Duron)
Officials said the militants and their hostages were said to be hiding in Indanan town and that local troops, aided by US military intelligence, have sealed off the area to prevent the Abu Sayyaf from escaping.
The hostages, Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba, were seized January 15 by five gunmen, among them a dismissed jail guard, after inspecting a water and sanitation project at a prison facility in Patikul town.
Police last week said the hostages were spotted in Talipao town, a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf.
The International Committee of the Red Cross appealed to the kidnappers to free all the hostages.
"I appeal to those who are holding Mary-Jean, Andreas and Eugenio to let them go as quickly as possible," Alain Aeschlimann, the ICRC's head of operations for East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific in Geneva, said.
The ICRC said it has no direct contacts with the kidnappers and ruled out paying ransom in exchange for the safe release of the victims.
Authorities said the hostages are being held by Abu Sayyaf leaders Albader Parad and Abu Pula, who were both former Moro National Liberation Front rebels. (Mindanao Examiner)
Sunday, January 25, 2009
“ These people who are behind these dastardly acts of terrorism are throwing away all our efforts to finally usher in an era of peace and progress in Mindanao. I'm appealing to our Islamic leaders to step up and help in securing the safe and unconditional release of the teachers and the IRC volunteers who are believed to have been kidnapped by Islamic armed groups,” Nograles said in a statement.
Nograles said that while the unrelenting cases of armed attacks and kidnapping by Islamic extremists are isolated in few areas in Mindanao, these incidents are big turn-off to investors even with the bright prospects of investments on mineral, agriculture and oil exploration in the region.
“There are bright prospects for investments in Mindanao and these are major ones which will employ thousands of Mindanaoans. However, the continuing peace and order problem in some areas are serious concerns and everyone should help to stop these acts of terrorism,” he said.
Nograles said that under the P1.415 General Approapropriations Act, many infrastructure development projects are centered on the development of Mindanao including the establishment of a Mindanao Railway System which will criss-cross Mindanao mainland.
“We are rushing this Mindanao Railway System but the peace and order situation in some areas is a continuing concern,” he said.The three teachers – Janette de los Reyes, Rafael Mayonado and Freires Quizon – were snatched by armed men off Sacol Island last Friday and are said to have been brought to Basilan.
A ransom of P6-Million is allegedly being demanded by the kidnappers for their safe release.Several weeks ago, gunmen believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf also kidnapped three volunteers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) team that included a Swiss and an Italian national in Jolo, Sulu.
Swiss national Andreas Notter, Eugenio Vagni of Italy and Filipina Jean Lacaba were on a relief and medical mission when they were kidnapped in Patikul town. A P5 Million ransom is allegedly being demanded by the kidnappers for their safe release.
“If we are really sincere in turning Mindanao into a place of peace and prosperity, we should pitch in and Mindanaoans, Muslims and Christians alike, should resist these acts of terrorism by helping our law enforcement authorities get to them. Let's stop blaming the government and make our contribution for the sake of Mindanao's future. Let's not allow these thugs to turn Mindanao into Somalia and Afghanistan,” Nograles said.
The Department of Education also appealed for the release of the teachers.
"Our teachers come from poor families and wish nothing more than support their parents, brothers, and sisters. These teachers give their time to nurture the children of Zamboanga City to be better citizens and contribute to the economic growth of Mindanao. The parents cannot raise the amount demanded and the government follows a no ransom policy. We pray that the teachers be released," said Zamboanga City Division Superintendent Dolores Alcantara.
Education Secretary Jesli Lapus earlier instructed Undersecretary for Regional Operations Ramon Bacani and the local education office to coordinate with the authorities. He also tasked them to assist the families of the victims. "We are deeply concerned with the safety of our teachers," expressed Lapus. "They preferred to be teachers here than abroad. Why do they have to go through this ordeal? In taking them, the children under their care are deprived of the education they so rightfully deserve."
It is the third largest religion in the Philippines, with an estimated 10 million followers among 85 million people.Against the backdrop of recent kidnappings, persistent poverty and uncertain peace in Mindanao, Muslim religious leaders and scholars are set to begin a three-day National Summit of the Ulama in the Philippines Monday night at the Imperial Palace Suites in Quezon City.
The summit is expected launch the historic national federation of Ulama organizations in the Philippines.The Ulama is the body of Muslim scholars trained in Islam and Islamic law who are the interpreters of Islam's sciences, doctrines and laws. Described as the learned men of Islam, they are looked up to by Muslim communities in terms of spiritual guidance and moral directions.
In the Philippines, there are thousands of Ulama who are members of local and regional organizations. A national Ulama organization can become a potent force not just in guiding the Muslim faithful but also in terms of peace and development in Mindanao as well as providing a learned and strong articulation of the Moro voice in the national discourse.
The summit is expected to gather 217 Ulama from 116 local organizations coming from 24 provinces and cities. It opens with a dinner ceremony on Monday night featuring a keynote address by Dr. Endang Turmudi, Secretary General of Nadhlatul Ulama (NU).
NU is one of the largest independent Islamic organizations in the world with estimations of their membership ranging as high as 40 million. NU, one of the most influential Muslim organizations in Southeast Asia, is at the vanguard of interfaith work on protection of human rights and pluralism in Indonesia.
Dr. Turmudi is expected to deliver a speech on "Islam and the Challenges of the Modern World".The following days of the summit will see the Ulama approve the charter for their federation and elect their first set of officers. The newly elected officials will take their oath on January 29 before former President Fidel Ramos.
The Ulama are also set to discuss various issues that affect their communities like human rights and electoral reforms, and peace process. Al-Amanah Islamic Investment Bank of the Philippines Chairman Jaime Panganiban, COMELEC Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Atty. Leila de Lima and Assistant Secy. Camilo Montesa, of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), are the principal resource persons for these crucial topics.
"With the success of Islamic models as Islamic banking worldwide, it's time the world sees Islam in a new light, as a developmental and liberating force for all to learn from," Panganiban said.
The project is supported by the British Government's Engaging the Islamic World Program and organized by the thinktank Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy. Aleem and lawyer Hamid Barra of the Ulama League of the Philippines is the project director.