Sunday, May 31, 2009

Tawi-Tawi eyes tourism, infra-projects to boost economy



The Tawi-Tawi Provincial Capitol in Bongao town and the captivating Bongao Peak, a favorite destination of hikers and the dxGD, the province's oldest radio station.
(Mindanao Examiner Photo Service / Amilbahar Mawallil)


TAWI-TAWI, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 31, 2009) – The province of Tawi-Tawi, known as the “Seaweeds Capital of the Philippines” is fast becoming a tourist destination. Its beautiful and pristine beaches, virgin forest and friendly people are among its attraction.

Tawi-Tawi in the southern most part of the country also boasts of the sleek and rare "labuyo" or wild rooster and different variety of exotic and wild birds.

Seagulls, known to the natives as “tallah-tallah,” have settled by the thousands at Gusong Reef in Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi to lay their eggs there. Gusong Reef is a top producer of the delicious turtle eggs, ranking second to the Turtle Islands.
The province is also famous for its captivating Bongao Peak, a veritable monkey sanctuary, which also provides a view of the expanse of sea and the necklace of islands for miles around.

Tawi-Tawi can easily transport one to a whole other world. Eye-catching Sitangkai Island is considered the “Venice of Tawi-Tawi.” The Royal "Kupunga" rises straight out of an Arabian setting. The Malay influences as well as tribal arts and crafts are very much visible in the province. Here, it is not uncommon to see folks dressed in colorful malongs, the women adorned in beads and brass and gold trinkets, according to the Department of Tourism.

The province is the southernmost of the country sharing sea borders with North Borneo and the Indonesian Kalimantan province. It covers several beautiful islands in the Sulu Sea to the northwest, the Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi Island and the Turtle Islands, just 20 kilometers away North Borneo. It can be reached either by boat or plane from Zamboanga City or Sulu province and North Borneo.

Agriculture, fishing, and agar-agar farming are the leading source of livelihood of the people of Tawi-Tawi, with quite a number engaged in the barter trade business. Copra is the top agricultural produce, followed by root crops, fruits, and vegetables.

Tawi-Tawi is also one of the safest and peaceful provinces in the southern Philippines and has recently embarked in a tourism campaign aimed at attracting visitors and traders to the province.

Governor Sadikul Sahali has been largely credited for the development of Tawi-Tawi.

Good governance and the dedication of provincial and local government officials are also a major factor in the transformation of Tawi-Tawi from one of the poorest province in the country in past to what it is now.

Last year, President Gloria Arroyo led the launching of the Tawi-Tawi Modified Mariculture Development Project (TTMMDP). It was a national government intervention for livelihood enhancement that would benefit the locals in coastal areas.
The project covers the following - Phase 1A - 50 square-kilometer of North Lagoon of Sitangkai (Omapoy, Sipangkot and Tumindao) and Phase 1B - 25 square-kilometer of sea in the eastern side of Sibutu (Tongsibalu to Tandu Owak and Sikulan Island).

It provides the basic infrastructure support such as communal storm-resistant mooring system and boundary markers in a carefully selected area of the seas where farming activities are systematically undertaken.
The TTMMDP aims to ensure the long-term and sustainable development of the project. As such, all mariculture activities that include hatchery and seed production, gow-out, post-harvest and marketing will be hinged on strong research.

This year, another multi-billion Euro project adds to the list. The project which is called the Simunul Industrial and Oil Tank Park will help the Municipality of Simunul and nearby islands in creating loads of job opportunities; Improvisation of education and health services; strengthening of spiritual and cultural identities; protection and development of natural resources; conservation and preservation of a balance eco-system and tourism development.

Mayor Benzar Nur Tambut, of Simunul town, said that the project will cover the total development of the Municipality of Simunul, its main island and the island of Manok Mankaw, with its virgin peach beaches.

The project is expected to create more jobs and improve the quality of education and health services and will strengthen Tawi-Tawi’s spiritual and cultural identities. It would protect and develop natural resources, including the conservation and preservation of a balance eco-system and tourism development.
The proposed project is so huge, covering the 200-tank farm, township, power plant, domestic airport, hotel and resort, land transportation system, potable water source, reforestation and landscaping, information technology and telecommunications, road and bridges development, solid waste management facility, golf course, industrial storage and processing facility, power transmission facility, hospital facility, schools, commercial district and jetty and ports.

Simunul Island, one of the smallest inhabited islands in the country, is set to be the next "Dubai" in Southeast Asia, officials said. Though slight in land mass, the people are well-off in natural resources and the island was the cradle of Islam in the Philippines.

The most significant piece of architecture in the island is the Sheik Makdum Mosque built in 1380. The mosque in Simunul is the oldest found in the Philippines and host of pilgrims from neighboring Muslim countries like Malaysia and Indonesia and even from neighboring localities in Mindanao.

Although it has been worn by the ravages of time, its pillars still stand to this day. Simunul is a zero crime rate municipality. (Amilbahar Mawallil and Dayang Babylyn Kano-Omar)

NPA admits killing rebel leader's sister who doubled as military spy in southern Philippines

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 31, 2009) – Philippine communist rebels executed a sister of a top guerilla commander after they discovered she was working as a spy for the military in Mindanao.

The New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), said Evelyn Pitao was killed after she was found guilty by its own court.
The woman was the sister of NPA leader Leoncio Pitao, a rebel spokesman said.

She and her husband, Roberto Dadula, were killed last week inside their house in Santo Tomas town in Davao del Norte province.

Rigoberto Sanchez, of the NPA’s Merardo Arce Command, said the woman was punished for being an intelligence agent of the military.

He said Pitao’s sister was behind the Killing of her brother Danilo Pitao in Tagum City on June 2008 and the arrest of her own husband, Ka Emong, an NPA rebel, in Panabo City on January this year.

She was also implicated in the arrest of Leoncio Pitao, alias Kumander Parago, on November 1999.

“Evelyn Pitao's involvement in military intelligence operations started in 1998 when the Armed Forces of the Philippines hatched a national plan to capture her brother, Ka Parago. Evelyn Pitao and her live-in partner at that time relayed accurate information on the exact whereabouts of her brother. This resulted in the capture of Ka Parago. Her then live-in partner, a former NPA guerrilla turned military intelligence spy was killed in 2001 for various crimes,” Sanchez said.

Leoncio Pitao was eventually released from jail and returned to fight the government, but the NPA said her daughter had been abducted and killed March 4 by government troops.

Her naked body was found the next day floating in a shallow creek in the village of San Isidro in Davao del Norte’s Carmen town. Her family said the woman’s body bore torture marks and was believed raped.

“We take this occasion to expose that as a matter of fact, the AFP has long utilized all possible foul means in its military intelligence operations versus the revolutionary forces. One such dirty tactic is directed against family members and close relatives of revolutionaries who are targeted by the AFP.”

“Under pain of sustained harassment and increasing threats as well as of arbitrary arrests, forcible abductions, involuntary disappearances and killings, family members and close relatives of revolutionaries are being pressured to work as intelligence assets and agents of the AFP. Many have fallen victims while out of the few who have succumb, some later willfully performed intelligence duties with the enemy. Evelyn Pitao was one such case,” Sanchez said.

The NPA also apologized for the killing of Dadula.

“It was a tactical operational error with serious, albeit, unintentional consequence was committed in the course of implementing the penalty on Evelyn Pitao. The fatal shooting of her live-in partner Roberto Dadula should have not been resorted to since he was not a target nor did his resistance take place in an armed manner and thus, posed no threat to the NPA team,” he said.

“Appropriate measures are being undertaken to continuously address this distressing concern and implement the NPA rules on the matter in accordance with the international humanitarian law.”

The CPP earlier issued a statement condemning the killing of Pitao’s sister and husband and blamed the military for the murder. (Mindanao Examiner)

7 Moro rebels killed in South RP clash

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 31, 2009) – At least 7 Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels were killed in fierce clashes after they attacked a military post in the restive Muslim autonomous region in the southern Philippines, official said Sunday.

Officials said the rebels attacked late Saturday the headquarters of the 54th Infantry Battalion in Buayan village in Maguindanao’s Datu Piang town, sparking a firefight that left 7 gunmen dead.

“Seven rebels were killed in the fighting, but there could be more as the MILF forces retreated with their wounded,” said Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Ponce, a spokesman for the 6th Infantry Division.

He said the rebels were targeting the army’s 105mm cannons in the base and the ammunition storage. “There were no military casualties,” Ponce said. “All is well and the operations against the attackers are going on.”

Last week, the MILF said it bombed a bridge in Datu Piang and ambushed government troops in another town Datu Saudi Ampatuan, also in Maguindanao and three other areas in North Cotabato province as part of its counter-offensive operations.

It said the attacks were in retaliation to the series of military offensives that targeted the MILF, but Ponce said the attacks were aimed at capturing Kato’s group.

Security forces were also tracking down two other MILF leaders, Abdurahman Macapaar and Sulayman Panglian, who were blamed by the military and police for the string of attacks in Mindanao since last year after the seven-year old peace talks between the rebels and the government collapsed.

In April, a market bombing in Sultan Kudarat’s Lebak town wounded two civilians and the military blamed the attack to the rebels, including the bombing of another bridge in Iligan City.

President Gloria Arroyo opened up peace talks with the MILF in 2001, but the negotiations collapsed in August last year after government negotiators reneged on a deal that would grant some four million Muslims a separate homeland across more than 700 villages in Mindanao. The Supreme Court said the deal was unconstitutional. (Mindanao Examiner)

Kidnapped Chinese woman freed in Mindanao

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 31, 2009) – Kidnappers freed Sunday a Chinese woman they seized in the southern Philippines after four days in captivity, officials said.

Officials said Mafin Wo, who was kidnapped May 27 in Kabacan town in North Cotabato, was released to government negotiators in the town of Pikit. It was unknown if ransom was paid, but other reports said some P13 million was allegedly paid to the kidnappers.

The military linked the Pentagon Gang in the kidnapping.

The gang was blamed for the spate of kidnappings-for-ransom in Mindanao. Other reports identified the 24-year old woman, from Fujian province, as Afen Ma.

Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Ponce, a spokesman for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the woman, whose brother-in-law runs several businesses in Kabacan, was freed at around 8.30 a.m. in the village called Bagoinged.

He also linked a senior Moro Islamic Liberation Front commander, Mayangkang Saguile, in the latest kidnapping. The woman, he said, was reunited with her anxious family and relatives waiting in Davao City.

“It was confirmed that Mayangkang Saguile, a field commander of the 105th Base Command of the MILF, is behind the abduction,” Ponce told the Mindanao Examiner, adding, Saguile is also one of the leaders of the Pentagon Gang.

The military earlier reported that Ma was kidnapped along with her Filipino companion Rochelle Amante, but the woman had escaped and reported the incident to the police.

The MILF is the country’s largest Muslim rebel group fighting for independence in troubled region. (Mindanao Examiner)

Philippine Army blames MILF rebels for spate of bomb attacks in Mindanao

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 31, 2009) – The Philippine Army on Sunday has blamed the country’s largest Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front as behind the spate of terrorism in the restive region of Mindanao.

Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Ponce, a spokesman for the 6th Infantry Division, said the MILF, whose peace talks with Manila collapsed last year, have been targeting civilians in central Mindanao.

Ponce said the rebels detonated an improvised explosive assembled from a 60mm mortar bomb late Saturday in front of cockpit arena in the village of Salman in Lebak town in Sultank Kudarat province.

He said although there were no reports of casualties, the attack proved the MILF is targeting civilians to sow terror.

“The signature of the improvised explosive device and how it was made is patterned to the handiwork of the special operations groups of the MILF. These groups are desperate that even civilian are not spared,” Ponce told the Mindanao Examiner.
The MILF has denied it was behind the attack.

On Friday, a bomb also destroyed a parked truck in Cotabato City, but there were no casualties. It was unknown if the MILF was behind the blast.

Peace negotiations collapsed in August after Manila reneged on a deal that would grant a separate homeland to some four million Muslims in Mindanao. The Supreme Court said the deal was unconstitutional. (Mindanao Examiner)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Glan town hosts Sarangani Bay Bodies




Participants of the Sarangani Bay Bodies pose during the competition night Friday, May 29, 2009 at the Coco Beach Resort in Glan town in Sarangani province. Gaydra Rama, with her Caribbean attire, wins the beauty contest. (Photo by Cocoy Sexcion)

Fishermen fill up jugs with dirty seawater in Zamboanga


A man fills his rubber jugs Saturday, May 30, 2009 with dirty sea water from Cawa-Cawa beach in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines to soak fishes they will sell at the market. The beach is also a favorite destination of picnickers, but the seawater poses hazards to health because of the high level of E-coli (Escherichia coli) bacteria and germs. There are no signs posted along the stretch of the Cawa-Cawa beach which is near the Brent hospital and the Port of Zamboanga to warn the public of the polluted water.

Human rights activists hold rally in Zamboanga; denounce forced evictions, demand dignity




A Filipino boy joins human rights activists, who are members of the Amnesty International, in a rally Saturday, May 30, 2009 in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines as part of an internationally simulated public action demanding dignity. The activists denounced forced evictions in Zamboanga City and others parts of the country and the world.
Amnesty International strives to promote human rights around the world. It has nearly 2 million members, chapters in more than 60 countries, and supporters and donors from more than 100 countries. Having won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977, the organization continues to campaign against such things as torture, the death penalty, and other human rights violations. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service / Jung Francisco)




ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 30, 2009 - Filipino human rights activists held a rally Saturday in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines as part of an internationally simulated public action demanding dignity.

The activists, who are members of the Amnesty International, also held a motorcade around downtown Zamboanga.

Asia Pacific Youth Network groups Amnesty International and Gusty Motoring Group in Zamboanga City joined the internationally simulated public action. Similar actions were also held in Cagayan de Oro, Cebu and Manila, according to Francis Marcial, of the local Amnesty International. (With reports from Jung Francisco and Jonathan Deles)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Disappearances, abuse rise in Central Mindanao

DATU PIANG, Philippines - Sahid Makmud was waiting for a Red Cross truck, which delivered food for hundreds of displaced families in the southern Philippines, when armed men in military uniform took him and two others away.

For almost a week, his pregnant wife and younger brother searched for him without success at army bases in Maguindanao province on the southern island of Mindanao. The army denied any knowledge about Makmud's disappearance.

Makmud's body was eventually found on the edge of marshlands not far from his home.
Residents said his killing, and the likely death of the other two men, are part of a growing pattern of human rights abuses in the region. They blame the army for the wrongdoings.
"There were signs that he (Makmud) was tortured to death," said his brother, Saudi.

The Philippine military has been regularly accused of human rights abuses and disappearances, including in a report by the U.N. special rapporteur on political killings.

The country's independent human rights body has said the situation improved this year, but residents in the south say not in central Mindanao, the battleground between rogue Muslim rebels and the largely Christian-dominated military.

Immediately after Makmud's body was found, dozens of families from his village in Maguindanao province fled to shelters. Tales of similar disappearances, murders and other human rights abuses across the oil and gas-rich wetlands in the region have triggered similar waves of displacement.

More than 1,500 families are camped out at a coconut plantation in Datu Odin Sinsuat town, making it the largest shelter for internal refugees in the province, said Nurhassim Abas, head of a local disaster agency.

"They feel much safer here because our community was further away from the conflict zone," Abas told Reuters. "Soldiers seldom patrol this area and it is more accessible to humanitarian and aid agencies delivery food, medicines and other relief goods."

Rebel factions seeking peace talks with the government say the military was forcing people to flee to a controlled area to deny Muslim guerrillas access to their support bases.

"That's hamletting," Mohaqher Iqbal, a senior leader in the largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), told Reuters. He was referring to a military term that means the forced grouping of villagers in an effort to deny the enemy access to food, cash and other support.

"That's clearly a human rights violation."

Rogue MILF

Muslim rights groups have noted that some army units now based in the south were transferred from provinces where communist rebels are active. Many of the abuse cases documented in previous years have related to the crackdown on leftists.

Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Ponce, spokesman of the army division operating in Maguindanao, dismissed reports of rising cases of rights violations as propaganda by the MILF.

"Our soldiers strictly respect human rights and observe the laws of armed conflict," he said. "We are not trying to force the people to flee from their homes. In fact, we have been helping rebuild communities in areas where we restored peace and order."

Ponce said the latest wave of displacement in Maguindanao was caused by rogue MILF rebels who have started to attack villages in search for food and other supplies. (Manny Mogato / Reuters)

President Arroyo inspects Zamboanga reclamation project





President Gloria Arroyo in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines. (Photo by Jerry Carual)


ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 29, 2009) – Filipino leader Gloria Arroyo inspected a government project in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines.

Arroyo inspected a 1.8-ha. reclamation project at the port of Zamboanga. The project is worth more than P700 million. If completed, the port would be able to receive more ships plying Mindanao. Arroyo later spoke with reporters. She also met with three kidnapped local teachers recently freed in Basilan province.

Presidential Assistant for Mindanao Affairs Crisanto dela Cruz and Zamboanga City Rep. Maria Isabelle Salazar were among those who welcomed Arroyo at the Philippine Air Force base.

While in Zamboanga, Arroyo spoke about her childhood memory of the city and saw how it transformed to what it is now – a highly urbanized city.

She pledged to provide more development projects. Security was tight during Arroyo’s brief visit.

Arroyo is to step down next year 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’s political party Kampi on Thursday merged with the country’s two major parties - Lakas and CMD – and declared that the merger is a strong assurance of to administration's resolve and determination to push through with the national and local elections in 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)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chinese national kidnapped in Southern Philippines

KABACAN, Philippines (Xinhua / May 28, 2009) - A 24-year-old Chinese national, not a Korean as reported before, was kidnapped in the southern Philippine province of North Cotabato Wednesday afternoon, officials and witnesses said on Thursday.

With the surname of Ma (not Maxine Wo as earlier reported), a woman from the Chinese mainland, was about to buy some vegetables when two gunmen abducted her, forced her into a car and ran away around 4:45 p.m. local time (0845 GMT), only a few meters away from her residence in the township of Kabacan, North Cotabato province, witness said.

A Chinese diplomat based in the central city of Cebu, whose office's jurisdiction also covers the Mindanao region, confirmed that the kidnapped victim is a Chinese from the southeastern Fujian province, hometown of the majority of the Chinese immigrants in the Philippines.

"We are coordinating with the local police to ensure the safe release of the victim," Yang Fengwu, consul with the Chinese General Consulate in Cebu, told Xinhua by phone.

Ma is a sister-in-law of a Chinese businessman who owns an ATCHAN Enterprises in Kabacan.

Pai Dumama, a worker of the ATCHAN Enterprises, told Xinhua that the victim arrived in the Southeast Asian country five months ago along with her husband as tourists.

"They have not received any threats of kidnapping before. It only happened yesterday," Dumama said.

"Until now, the kidnappers have not phoned the family," he added.

Meanwhile, a military ground official said that the kidnappers have "opened a line" for negotiation for the release of the victim.

Colonel Domingo Gobway, commander of the Philippine Army's 7th Infantry Battalion engaged in the operation against the kidnappers, said that the wife of Kabacan town Mayor George Tan, Luz, is currently negotiating with the kidnappers for the release of the Chinese national.

Local officials said the kidnappers are members of a notorious kidnap-for-ransom gang called "Pentagon".

"Ms. Tan left for nearby township of Mlang in North Cotabato to work for the release of the victim. But there's no ransom demand yet from the captors," Gobway said.

The Pentagon, blamed for at least 50 kidnapping cases in Mindanao, first gained notoriety on October 17, 2001, when it abducted Italian priest Guissepe Pierrantoni while he was officiating a Mass in Dimatali town, Zamboanga del Sur.

Pierrantoni was released on April 8, 2002, after six months in captivity.

The group also kidnapped five Chinese engineers and a Filipino guide in May 2001. Four of the Chinese engineers were killed in the crossfire during a military rescue operation sometime in June 2001. (Xinhua)

Long Philippine Flag Displayed In Zamboanga

An automotive spare parts store in Zamboanga City in Mindanao displays an unusual replica of the Philippine flag. May 28, 1898 was the day the Philippine flag was first unfurled near the port of Cavite Nuevo after the victory at the Battle of Alapan, where the Philippine Revolutionary Army lead by General Emilio Aguinaldo defeated the Spanish Army. This day is recognized today as National Flag Day. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

Security forces track down kidnapped foreigner, Filipino companion in Mindanao

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 28, 2009) – The Philippine military launched fresh operation on Thursday to track down a foreigner and her Filipino companion kidnapped in Mindanao.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Ponce, a spokesman for the 6th Infantry Division, said security forces were tracking down the victims, Mafin Wo and Rochelle Amante, who were seized late Wednesday afternoon in Kabacan town in North Cotabato.

Ponce earlier reported that only Amante was taken by gunmen, but said Wo had also been kidnapped. Wo’s family owns the Atchan Enterprises in Kabacan town.

“We have verified today that both women were kidnapped by gunmen on Wednesday and there is an operation to trace their whereabouts,” he told reporters.

He said the gang’s get-away car had been recovered, but the fate of the women were unknown.

Ponce blamed the Pentagon gang for the latest kidnappings. He said the group was involved in many kidnappings in the past and ransom could be the motive behind this latest abduction.

He said the military is verifying the nationality of Wo after receiving intelligence reports that she could either be a South Korean or a Chinese citizen. “We still don’t know and there are reports saying Wo is a Korean or Chinese,” Ponce said.

Last week, suspected Pentagon Gang members freed a kidnapped Filipino-Chinese trader Christopher Yap after her family negotiated with his captors. Yap was snatched May 7 in Maguindanao province.

In February, a Filipino-Chinese hotelier Wilson Tan and his daughter Jennifer were kidnapped and freed after four days in captivity in Maguindanao. They were kidnapped in their house in Cotabato City.

Police blamed the Pentagon Gang for the kidnapping of Tan and his daughter. The kidnappers originally demanded P10 million ransoms for the safe release of the captives. The victims’ family did not say if they paid ransoms or not.

Kidnapping-for-ransom has virtually become a lucrative business and livelihood for rebels and criminal gangs in the southern Philippines because most of their victims opted to paying ransom or risk getting killed in captivity.

On Tuesday, three school teachers kidnapped in Zamboanga City were released in Basilan province after private negotiators allegedly paid huge ransom to Moro rebels.

The trio - Quizon Freires, 28; Janette Delos Reyes, 29; and Rafael Mayonado, 24 – were kidnapped at sea on January 23 while returning by boat from a break on Sacol Island in Zamboanga City. They were brought to Basilan province where the kidnappers originally demanded P6 million ransoms and eventually lowered this to P2.5 million for their safe release. (Mindanao Examiner)

Kahirapan, talamak sa Zamboanga City

Mga kaawa-awang bata na namamalimos sa gitna ng kalsada sa Zamboanga City sa Mindanao at tila hindi alintana ang disgrasya at kapahamakan makalikom lamang ng limos para pamatid-gutom. Ang kahirapan ang isa sa mga pangunahing suliranin ng Zamboanga City.
(Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

Kidnappers strike anew, take woman in Mindanao

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 27, 2009) – Gunmen abducted Wednesday a woman in the southern Philippine province of North Cotabato, officials said.

Officials said Rochelle Amante, 22, was seized in Kabacan town by two armed, believed to be members of the Pentagon gang, blamed for previous kidnappings-for-ransom in Mindanao.

Amante, whose relatives are wealthy traders, was walking in downtown Kabacan when the armed seized her. They fled on a white car, the military said.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Ponce, a regional army spokesman, said ransom was probably the motive of the abduction. “The Pentagon Gang was involved in many kidnappings in the past and ransom could be the motive behind this latest abduction,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

Last week, suspected Pentagon Gang members freed a kidnapped Filipino-Chinese trader Christopher Yap after her family negotiated with his captors. Yap was snatched May 7 in Maguindanao province.

In February, a Filipino-Chinese hotelier Wilson Tan and his daughter Jennifer were kidnapped and freed after four days in captivity in Maguindanao. They were kidnapped in their house in Cotabato City.

Police blamed the Pentagon Gang for the kidnapping of Tan and his daughter.

The kidnappers originally demanded P10 million ransoms for the safe release of the captives. The victims’ family did not say if they paid ransoms or not.

Kidnapping-for-ransom has virtually become a lucrative business and livelihood for rebels and criminal gangs in the southern Philippines because most of their victims opted to paying ransom or risk getting killed in captivity.

On Tuesday, three school teachers kidnapped in Zamboanga City were released in Basilan province after private negotiators allegedly paid huge ransom to Moro rebels.

The trio - Quizon Freires, 28; Janette Delos Reyes, 29; and Rafael Mayonado, 24 – were kidnapped at sea on January 23 while returning by boat from a break on Sacol Island in Zamboanga City.

They were brought to Basilan province where the kidnappers originally demanded P6 million ransoms and eventually lowered this to P2.5 million for their safe release. (Mindanao Examiner)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

US, Philippine troops frequent Davao Gulf


Speedboats carrying Philippine and Americans soldiers are spotted frequently in Davao Gulf off island of Samal and Davao City. Hundreds of US troops are deployed across Mindanao and Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces and helping the local military defeat terrorism. (Photo by Jonald Mahinay)

Two JI bombers captured in Sulu province




Sulu provincial police chief, Superintendent Muhibuddin Amil Ismail, points to suspected terrorists Sulayman Muin and Juhan Alimuddin, who were captured in the town of Patikul on Wednesday, May 27, 2009. The two were tagged as among those who bombed the convoy of Sulu Governor Sakur Tan on May 13 that left 10 people wounded. Tan escaped the assassination attempt. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

Sulu Governor Dr Sakur Tan, Al Haj. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)



SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 27, 2009) – Police have captured two suspected terrorists implicated in the failed assassination of a Philippine governor, officials said on Wednesday.

Officials said the two men, Juhan Alimuddin and Sulayman Muin, were captured after a weeklong surveillance in Badjao village in the town of Patikul late Tuesday. Two other suspects managed to escape.

Alimuddin and Muin were tagged as among those who bombed May 13 the convoy of Sulu Governor Sakur Tan in Patikul town. Tan survived the assassination attempt, but a town mayor, Hatta Berto, of Pandami, and nine others were injured in the road bombing.

Tan just came from his office and on his way home when a motorcycle bomb exploded near his vehicle. The attack was condemned by many civil groups in Sulu.

Superintendent Muhibuddin Amil Ismail, the Sulu police chief, said a hand grenade, .45-caliber pistol and a .38-revolver were recovered from the Alimuddin and Muin, who are believed to be local members of the Indonesian terror group Jemaah Islamiya.

“We have been operating the past days and it finally paid off with the capture of the two terror suspects. We are still tracking down the others involved in the attack against Governor Sakur Tan,” said Ismail, who led the operation in Patikul.

He said civilian informants provided intelligence and helped in the capture of the suspects. “Citizens are themselves providing us information about the terrorists and the operation in going on to get the other suspects,” Ismail told the Mindanao Examiner.

He said the two suspects would be handed over to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Manila.

The capture of the men came after PNP Director General Jesus Verzosa organized the Task Group Elected Government Officials.

Verzosa last week offered P500,000 bounty for the capture of those behind Tan’s failed assassination. It was unknown who ordered or masterminded the attack against Tan. (With a report from Nickee Butlangan)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Army troops manning check point in Mindanao take a break


Government troops from the Army's 64th Infantry Brigade manning a check point in the town of Datu Piang in Maguindanao province in the Muslim autonomous region take a break and read the Mindanao Examiner newspaper on Tuesday, May 26, 2009. Troops are battling the Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels in the province the past months. The Army says MILF
rebels on Tuesday bombed the Lintokan Bridge and raided a village in Datu Piang.

Mindanao Examiner TVC - Vote Wisely!

Bantayan ang ating boto! Bantayan ang kinabukasan.

Lack of food, medicines hound Mindanao refugees

Evacuees in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Mark Navales)




MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 26, 2009) - Imagine if you used to eating canned sardines the whole week, perhaps the entire month without feeling satiated or if you have nothing else for dinner, but rice and salt. And imagine a food ration card used as collateral to pay for hospital bills.

This is now the dilemma of refugees now housed in temporary shelters in Datu Piang town in Maguindanao, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region and they are left with no choice, but depend on food rations by the World Food Program and International Committee of the Red Cross.

Worse, many have resorted to selling their food rations. They sold everything - cooking oil, sardines, noodles and even coffee for half of its original price - to buy a descent food for the family and children.

“Every day and every meal are the same – sardines, noodles, etc. That’s the reason why we sell our ration so we can buy fresh eggs or fish at the market for the children. What are we going to do with cooking oil if we can’t even buy an egg or fish,” one refugee told the Mindanao Examiner.
The situation in refugee shelters is getting worse, they said. “With no support from local governments or no medicines for the children, how can we survive here and we cannot go back to our village because of the fighting between rebels and soldiers,” another refugee said.

Many traders, some from as far as Sultan Kudarat province, have taken advantage of the situation, buying food rations distributed to refugees at bargain prices. And these rations find its way to small stores; their labels peeled off or painted to hide markings that they are not for sale and they sell at grocery prices.

One refugee rushed their malnourished child to hospital and was forced to use their food ration card as collateral for the medical bills. Tens of thousands of refugees are still in different evacuation shelters in Datu Piang.

The MILF said some 600,000 people were displaced by the war in Mindanao. (Ferdinandh Cabrera)

Philippines says Observer bid in OIC supported by member states

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 26, 2009) - Citing Manila’s cooperation with the Organization of the Islamic Conference which led to the signing of the 1996 peace pact with Moro National Liberation Front rebels in Mindanao, Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Nur Hassan Wirajuda proposed that the Philippines be granted Observer status.

Wirajuda said during the OIC 36th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) held in Damascus, Syria that the expected decision has been long overdue.

In their plenary statements, Malaysia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates supported Indonesia’s proposal, according to a statement Tuesday of the Philippine Foreign Affairs.

It said other countries which expressed strong support to Philippines’ Observer bid were Syria, the Host and Chairman of the 36th CFM; Egypt; Saudi Arabia; Pakistan; Morocco; Libya; Bahrain; Kuwait; Jordan; Oman; Iraq; Turkey; Uganda; Bangladesh; and Brunei Darussalam.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group, earlier said that at least four countries have opposed Manila’s bid for an Observer status in the 57-state organization.

It said the OIC is not considering granting the Philippines an Observer status after Turkey objected to it. Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iran have supported Turkey’s decision, the MILF said.

The MILF and the MNLF, which has a permanent Observer status in the OIC, are strongly opposed to the Philippine bid.

“The OIC decision is by consensus and all it takes is one state to oppose the Philippine bid for an observer status is enough to defeat a motion,” said Mohagher Iqbal, a senior MILF leader.

The government statement said the OIC decided during the 36th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers that the criteria for the approval of new Observers should be finalized first before the admittance of additional countries as Observers.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary and Philippine Envoy to the OIC Rafael Seguis reported that the Philippines had the overwhelming support of OIC member states during the May 23-25 Session.

He said none of the member states objected to the Philippines’ admission as Observer.

Seguis added that had the criteria for Observers been adopted, the Philippines would have been granted the Observer seat during the 36th CFM.

The Philippines applied for Observer status in the OIC in 2003.

However, it was only during the 36th CFM that its application was discussed by the Islamic organization for the first time, upon the initiative of supportive OIC member states.

As a result of the insistence of OIC member states for the Philippines’ immediate admission, the Council has adopted in the Report of the 36th CFM the following recommendations: Calling upon the OIC General Secretariat to prepare a proposal on the criteria of observer status for states in accordance with the OIC Charter; that the proposal be submitted to an Expert Group Meeting preparatory to the 37th Session of the CFM and that the 37th CFM Meeting shall consider these proposals.

The new charter of the OIC, adopted in Senegal in March 2008 during the 11th Islamic Summit, provides that Observers may be admitted based on consensus and on criteria approved by the Foreign Ministers of the OIC member states.

The 37th CFM is scheduled to be held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan in 2010.

Manila said having an observer status in the OIC would help the government’s peace process in Mindanao.

The MILF has repeatedly accused the Philippine government of violating human rights of Muslims in Mindanao. Peace talks between the MILF and Manila collapsed last year after the government reneged on a deal that would have granted homeland to some four million Muslims in the restive region.

“The bid of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines for observer status in the 57-states Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) is adding insult to injury. It is irksome that the oppressor tries to represent the very people that it oppressed. What can be expected in such representation, if not more mutation of Moro voices and repression of their rights?” the MILF said in a separate statement.

It said some 600,000 civilians who fled government offensives in Mindanao are suffering in makeshift tents and evacuation centers and that more are escaping the military operations against the MILF.

The MNLF has also sent a letter late last month to the OIC Secretary General Professor Ekmelledin Ihsanoglu stating its opposition to the Philippine bid for an observer status.

Alhag Abdulbaki Aboubakr, the MNLF’s Secretary General for Foreign Relations, in his letter enumerated the following:

1. The MNLF is already recognized by the OIC as the sole and legitimate representative of the Bangsamoro people. The entry of the Republic of the Philippines (RP) as an observer will duplicate the role of the MNLF as the sole and legitimate representative of the Bangsamoro people in the OIC.

2. The Philippine constitution prohibits any support to religion. Under the existing law entitled “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act,” the use of government funds to support religion/religious projects and programs is a crime because “it is injurious to the state”.

For example, the construction of mosques, madrasa and other infrastructure projects to advance the teachings of Islam is prohibited under the Philippine Constitution and Anti- Graft and Corrupt Practices Act law.

3. The RP constitutionally, culturally, socially and religiously does not/cannot represent the Bangsamoro Muslims’ aspiration in any fora, let alone the OIC. The so-called “interfaith” program of the Philippine government is just paying lip service to religious tolerance the fact being that the Philippine government’s heavily favored Christianized society is discriminatory to Muslims.

4. The government of the RP has been committing acts violating the human rights of Muslims citizens and continues to do so until the present with impunity.

5. Crimes concomitant with the repressive acts of the RP against the Bangsamoro people consisting of massacres, torture, illegal arrests and detentions, indiscriminate aerial bombings, salvaging/disappearances, arson and others have never found injustice and continues to be committed until today by RP so called law enforcement agents with impunity;

6. The territories of the Bangsamoro people have shrunk tremendously due to: a) the RP government sponsored migration of Filipinos from northern Philippines; b) land grabbing, legal maneuvering or unilateral legislation. As a result the Bangsamoro people had been "minoritized" in their homeland.

7. Philippine articulation on the Bangsamoro issue shall always be tainted with vested interest of the highly partisan politics of the powers that be in the country.

8. The RP is a violator of peace covenants as exemplified by the non-implementation of the MNLF-GRP 1976 Tripoli Agreement, 1996 Peace Agreement, let alone the 1986 GRP-MNLF Jeddah, as proof of the RP’s failure to comply with its international commitment and obligation, the OIC continues to urge the RP to implement the 1996 Peace Agreement until the present.

9. Statistics show that the provinces predominantly Muslims in Southern Philippines particularly within the ARMM, Region IX and XI receive the lowest government expenditure compared to Christian majority areas. For this reason the Muslims provinces are the poorest in the country, despite the fact that about 80% of the national income is derived from Mindanao, the homeland of the Bangsamoro people and milking cow of the RP.

10. The repressive policy towards the Muslims in the Philippines have caused massive internal displacement and evacuation to Sabah of more than two million persons, thousands of Muslims are languishing in jails and some of them were mercilessly massacred in cold blood in Camp Bagong Diwa jail in Manila.

11. The interest of the Bangsamoro people cannot be properly articulated by the RP because of the very high partisanship of the political ruling elite in the country which is bias favoring the Christian majority.

12. The RP injustices, oppression, and genocidal war committed against the Bangsamoro people must not be awarded by an OIC Observer status.

13. The state of the Philippines that takes pride of its crucial split vote in the UN General Assembly in the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 (from the heartland of Palestine) must not be rewarded with a grant of an observer status in the OIC.

14. The (proposed) entry of RP as observer in the OIC will degrade the honor and dignity of the Bangsamoro Muslims in the arena of the Islamic Ummah and will deliver a death blow to their struggle for freedom and self-determination.

The OIC is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations. (Mindanao Examiner)

Sayyafs free 3 hostages in southern Philippines



Abu Sayyaf militants have freed Tuesday, May 26, 2009 three teachers kidnapped in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines after four months in captivity. The trio - Quizon Freires, 28; Janette Delos Reyes, 29; and Rafael Mayonado, 24 – were kidnapped at sea on January 23 while returning by boat from a break on Sacol Island in Zamboanga City. They were brought to Basilan province where the kidnappers originally demanded P6 million ransoms and eventually lowered this to P2.5 million for their safe release. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Jung Francisco)



ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 26, 2009) – Abu Sayyaf militants have freed Tuesday three teachers kidnapped in Zamboanga City after four months in captivity.

The trio - Quizon Freires, 28; Janette Delos Reyes, 29; and Rafael Mayonado, 24 – were kidnapped at sea on January 23 while returning by boat from a break on Sacol Island in Zamboanga City.

They were brought to Basilan province where the kidnappers originally demanded P6 million ransoms for their safe release.

Radio station dxRZ in Zamboanga City reported that the hostages were released to a private negotiator in the town of Mohamad Ajul.

Military and police officials did not give any statement about the release of the hostages and telephone calls from journalists were either ignored or went unanswered.

Other reports said an unspecified amount of ransom was allegedly paid to the Abu Sayyaf headed by Commander Aguila, who lowered their demand to P2.5 million.

The families of the hostages have previously approached the Moro Islamic Liberation Front after accusing the government of failing to help them secure the freedom of the trio.

The release of the hostages came a week after Abu Sayyaf militants beheaded a kidnapped farm owner Doroteo Gonzalez in Basilan’s Akbar town. His body was not recovered.

Gonzales, 61, was snatched from his house April 25 in the village of Buenavista in Zamboanga City and brought to Basilan by his captors. Gonzales was killed after his family failed to pay P25 million ransom.

Late last year, Abu Sayyaf gunmen also kidnapped a hospital nurse and a nursing student in Zamboanga City and brought them to Basilan and were ransomed off by their families several weeks later.

Police said the Abu Sayyaf is also holding a lending firm collector, Leah Patris, seized near Basilan’s Maluso town and a Sri Lankan national, Umar Jaleel, a member of the international peace advocate group called Nonviolent Peaceforce, both were kidnapped in February.

The Abu Sayyaf is a small band of militants blamed for the country's worst terrorist attacks and is still holding an Italian Red Cross worker Eugenio Vagni who was seized in January in Sulu province. (Mindanao Examiner)

MILF rebels bomb bridge, torched houses in Mindanao





Philippine Army armored personnel carriers and trucks move down a highway of the town of Datu Piang in Maguindanao province after separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels bombed a bridge in the village of Lintokan on Tuesday May 26, 2009. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Mark Navales)



COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 26, 2009) – Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels on Tuesday bombed a bridge and raided a village Maguindanao province in the restive Muslim autonomous region in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said the attack on the bridge occurred before dawn in the village of Lintokan in Datu Piang town. Rebels also torched houses on a nearby village of Reina Regente forcing residents to flee the rampage.

There were no immediate reports of civilian casualties, but the military blamed the attacks on a senior MILF leader, Ameril Kato, who also led a series of deadly attacks last year in the region.

“Troops are clearing the area,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Ponce, a spokesman for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division.

He said security forces were tracking down the rebels. “The rebels are desperate and even Muslim communities are being attacked, especially those which are not sympathetic to their cause. This is a clear manifestation of terrorism in the region,” Ponce told the Mindanao Examiner.

The MILF said the bombing of the bridge was part of a counter-attack. It denied rebels burned houses of civilians.

“We have nothing to do with the burning of the houses, but rebel forces bombed the bridge – it was part of a counter-attack against the military, which have targeted the innocent Muslims in their offensives,” said Eid kabalu, a senior MILF leader.

Kabalu said rebels forces also attacked Tuesday morning another military target in Datu Saudi Ampatuan tow, also in Maguindanao province.

He said the military launched a series of offensives that targeted the MILF, but Ponce said the attacks were aimed at capturing Kato’s group.

Security forces were also tracking down two other MILF leaders, Abdurahman Macapaar and Sulayman Panglian, who were blamed by the military and police for the string of attacks in Mindanao since last year after the seven-year old peace talks between the rebels and the government collapsed.

On Sunday, MILF rebels fired anti-rockets at the positions of the Army’s 54th Infantry Battalion in the village of Datu Gumbay in Datu Piang town.

The MILF said it was targeting the 105mm cannons and munitions storage of the soldiers.

Rebel forces also attacked government troops earlier in the day in the village of Teren-Teren in North Cotabato’s Alamada town and three other areas in the towns of Banisilan, Aleosan and Midsayap.

There was no immediate statement from the governor of Maguindanao, Datu Andal Ampatuan, or his brother Datu Zaldy Ampatuan, who is also the governor of the autonomous region. Both are fierce rivals of the MILF.

Last month, two civilians were wounded at market bombing blamed to the MILF in Sultan Kudarat’s Lebak town and another bombing of a bridge in Iligan City.

Manila opened peace talks with the MILF in 2001, but the negotiations collapsed in August after government negotiators reneged on a deal that would grant some four million Muslims a separate homeland across more than 700 villages in Mindanao. The Supreme Court said the deal was unconstitutional. (With a report from Ferdinandh Cabrera)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Mindanao Examiner TV Special Presentation: An Interview With Sulu Gov. Dr. Sakur Tan

Homemade bomb discovered in Mindanao port

ILIGAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 25, 2009) – Philippine authorities said it disarmed an improvise explosive planted at a busy port in the restive region of Mindanao where security forces are battling insurgents and terrorism.

Security forces disarmed the explosive discovered on Sunday near a ferry ticketing office in the port of Nasipit in Agusan del Norte province. The bomb was made from chemical fertilizers banned in the Philippines and packed with nails.

No group claimed responsibility for the foiled bombing, but military forces are battling Moro and communist insurgents fighting for separate homelands in Mindanao.

It was unknown whether the two groups were involved in the failed attack or if it was the handiwork of extortionists.

Previous bombings had been largely blamed to the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militants and the larger rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front, although the New People’s Army was also implicated in several attacks on private corporations refusing to pay illegal taxes.

More than 100 people were killed in Abu Sayyaf bombing of a ferry in 2004 on Manila Bay. It was the worst maritime attack in the Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)

MILF rebels attack army posts in southern Philippines

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 25, 2009) – Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters attacked several army posts as clashes continue in the southern Philippines.

The MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group fighting for independence in the troubled region, said its forces fired anti-rockets at the positions of the Army’s 54th Infantry Battalion late Sunday.

The attack, it said, left a still undetermined number of soldiers either dead or wounded in the village of Datu Gumbay in Maguindanao’s Datu Piang town. The MILF said it was targeting the 105mm cannons and munitions storage of the army soldiers.

“We aimed to hit the 105mm howitzers and their ammunition so that we can destroy the firepower being used by the Armed Forces of the Philippines in its indiscriminate artillery attacks against our troops and innocent civilians,” it said in a statement.

Rebel forces also attacked government troops earlier in the day in the village of Teren-Teren in North Cotabato’s Alamada town and three other areas in the towns of Banisilan, Aleosan and Midsayap.

”Guerilla counter offensives of the MILF had rendered big casualties, unrests, sleepless nights, budget wastes and failure to the already more than nine-months government military campaign to crush the MILF military structures,” the MILF said.

The military did not give any statement about the rebel attacks and army spokesmen in Mindanao did not answer telephone calls from journalists. (Mindanao Examiner)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Captured soldier killed during escape try, NPA rebels say

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 24, 2009) – Communist insurgents on Sunday admitted killing a government soldier they captured in Mindanao.

The New People’s Army said the soldier, Staff Sergeant Rolen Maglangit, was killed during a failed escape in the town of Monkayo in Compostela Valley province.

The military said the soldier, who was seized Friday, had been tortured and executed. His body was found on Saturday.

“Consistent with the Standard Operating Procedures pertaining to enemy combatants arrested or captured by NPA units, Sgt. Maglangit was to be subjected to an investigation for possible violations of human rights, other violations of international humanitarian law and crimes against the people particularly owing to the notorious record of the 36th Infantry Battalion versus the masses in the tri-boundaries of Agusan del Sur, Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley provinces.”

“But after being informed of the investigation he needed to undergo and despite repeated warnings from his captors not to run in the course of their trek, Sgt. Maglangit showed clear signs of resistance and eventually tried to escape. He was able to run a distance, but was hit by a burst of gunfire from the pursuing NPA troops. His corpse was left behind so as to be easily discovered by residents for proper disposition,” said Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesman for the NPA’s Merardo Arce Command.

The NPA is fighting for a separate Maoist state in the Philippines.

His unit said Maglangit was seized by the NPA after he tried to aid villagers being harassed by rebels in the village of Pasian.

“The commotion reached the attention of Maglangit, who was in the area procuring supplies. Maglangit, on civilian attire and unarmed, rushed to the scene to verify the disturbance.”

“He was able to relay the report to his unit when he confirmed the presence of undetermined number of NPAs harassing the civilians. While leaving the area, another group of NPAs suddenly held Maglangit and eventually kidnapped him,” said Captain Rosa Maria Cristina Manuel, a spokeswoman for the 10th Infantry Division.

Major General Reynaldo Mapagu, commander of the army division, the soldier was brutally killed. His body bore torture marks and several gunshot wounds. “The brutal murder of Staff Sergeant Rolen Maglangit perpetuated by the NPA last May 22 is enough wake up call for the Mindanaoans to unite and a put to stop their killing spree.”

“They have switched to a mode wherein they are willing to violate human rights and put justice into their own hands,” Mapagu said.

“We believe that he was murdered immediately after his kidnapping. I am sure that Sergeant Maglangit was not even sentenced by their kangaroo court. He was a brave soldier. He was going around his area of work, checking on the reported harassment of civilians by the NPA, when he was kidnapped,” he added.

But the NPA said the soldier was seized at a rebel checkpoint and his .45-caliber pistol was also confiscated by rebels.

“This incident should serve as a strong warning to captured enemy personnel as well as units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police neutralized during raid-disarming tactical offensives of the NPA that resistance would prove fatal.”

“A number of similar incidents in the past and even recently have shown that enemy personnel are left unharmed when they offer no armed resistance, in the case of attacks on AFP detachments and PNP stations; and do not escape, in the case of arrest operations. The MAC-SMROC hopes that enemy combatants who would be caught in these situations in the future would not follow what Sgt. Maglangit did,” Sanchez said.

The abduction of Maglangit came barely two weeks after rebels freed a captured government soldier – Private First Class Ronnie Trinidad - in Compostela Valley. The NPA said it freed the soldier on humanitarian grounds.

Rebels captured Trinidad, who belongs to the 66th Infantry Battalion, on April 28 at a checkpoint in the village of Pagsabangan in New Bataan town. Trinidad was seized while on his way to barracks with another soldier, Corporal Japhet Lavid, who had escaped from rebels.

Last week, communist rebels also executed a former army soldier, Dante Villa, they seized May 9 in Davao del Sur province, also in Mindanao. His body was recovered in the village of Dongan Pekong in Matanao town.

Early this month, NPA rebels admitted killing four civilians - Ruben Bitang, Macky Estremos, Marcelino Payot and Bobong Gambuta - they accused of aiding the military in its anti-insurgency campaign.

The rebels also tagged the four men as behind the brutal murder of Rebelyn Bitang, a daughter of a senior NPA leader Leoncio Pitao.

Pitao’s daughter was abducted in Davao City on March 4. Her naked body was found the next day floating in a shallow creek in the village of San Isidro in Davao del Norte’s Carmen town. Her family said the woman’s body bore torture marks and was believed raped.

The NPA is the armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines. Peace talks between Manila and the CPP-NPA collapsed in 2004 after both sides failed to sign an agreement to end more than four decades of bloody fighting. (Mindanao Examiner)

RP's bid in OIC opposed by Turkey, 3 other countries

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 24, 2009) – At least four countries have opposed the Philippines’ bid for an observer status in the 57-state Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front said Sunday.

It said the OIC is not considering granting the Philippines an observer status after Turkey objected to it. Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iran have supported Turkey’s decision.

Philippine government propagandists said Syria and Egypt are supporting Manila’s bid after the Filipino leader Gloria Arroyo recently visited the two countries. Indonesia, Iraq and Bahrain were also supporting the Philippines.

The MILF and the former rebel group Moro National Liberation Front, which has a permanent observer status in the OIC, are strongly opposed to the Philippine bid.

The MILF said Syria and Egypt were “silent” over the Philippine bid after the Turkey objected to it.

“Syria and Egypt are silent. The OIC decision is by consensus and all it takes is one state to oppose the Philippine bid for an observer status and it is enough to defeat a motion,” Mohagher Iqbal, a senior MILF leader, told the Mindanao Examiner.

Manila has been trying since 2003 to have an observer status in the influential Muslim body, but it failed to gather enough supports from member states in the OIC. It said having an observer status in the OIC would help the government’s peace process with Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines.

The MILF has repeatedly accused the Philippine government of violating human rights of Muslims in Mindanao. Peace talks between the MILF and Manila collapsed last year after the government reneged on a deal that would have granted homeland to some four million Muslims in the restive region.

“The bid of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines for observer status in the 57-states Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) is adding insult to injury. It is irksome that the oppressor tries to represent the very people that it oppressed. What can be expected in such representation, if not more mutation of Moro voices and repression of their rights?” the MILF said in a separate statement.

It said some 600,000 civilians who fled government offensives in Mindanao are suffering in makeshift tents and evacuation centers and that more are escaping the military operations against the MILF.

The MNLF has also sent a letter late last month to the OIC Secretary General Professor Ekmelledin Ihsanoglu stating its opposition to the Philippine bid for an observer status.

Alhag Abdulbaki Aboubakr, the MNLF’s Secretary General for Foreign Relations, in his letter, enumerated the following:

1. The MNLF is already recognized by the OIC as the sole and legitimate representative of the Bangsamoro people. The entry of the Republic of the Philippines (RP) as an observer will duplicate the role of the MNLF as the sole and legitimate representative of the Bangsamoro people in the OIC.

2. The Philippine constitution prohibits any support to religion. Under the existing law entitled “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act,” the use of government funds to support religion/religious projects and programs is a crime because “it is injurious to the state”.

For example, the construction of mosques, madrasa and other infrastructure projects to advance the teachings of Islam is prohibited under the Philippine Constitution and Anti- Graft and Corrupt Practices Act law.

3. The RP constitutionally, culturally, socially and religiously does not/cannot represent the Bangsamoro Muslims’ aspiration in any fora, let alone the OIC. The so-called “interfaith” program of the Philippine government is just paying lip service to religious tolerance the fact being that the Philippine government’s heavily favored Christianized society is discriminatory to Muslims.

4. The government of the RP has been committing acts violating the human rights of Muslims citizens and continues to do so until the present with impunity.

5. Crimes concomitant with the repressive acts of the RP against the Bangsamoro people consisting of massacres, torture, illegal arrests and detentions, indiscriminate aerial bombings, salvaging/disappearances, arson and others have never found injustice and continues to be committed until today by RP so called law enforcement agents with impunity;

6. The territories of the Bangsamoro people have shrunk tremendously due to: a) the RP government sponsored migration of Filipinos from northern Philippines; b) land grabbing, legal maneuvering or unilateral legislation. As a result the Bangsamoro people had been "minoritized" in their homeland.

7. Philippine articulation on the Bangsamoro issue shall always be tainted with vested interest of the highly partisan politics of the powers that be in the country.

8. The RP is a violator of peace covenants as exemplified by the non-implementation of the MNLF-GRP 1976 Tripoli Agreement, 1996 Peace Agreement, let alone the 1986 GRP-MNLF Jeddah, as proof of the RP’s failure to comply with its international commitment and obligation, the OIC continues to urge the RP to implement the 1996 Peace Agreement until the present.

9. Statistics show that the provinces predominantly Muslims in Southern Philippines particularly within the ARMM, Region IX and XI receive the lowest government expenditure compared to Christian majority areas. For this reason the Muslims provinces are the poorest in the country, despite the fact that about 80% of the national income is derived from Mindanao, the homeland of the Bangsamoro people and milking cow of the RP.

10. The repressive policy towards the Muslims in the Philippines have caused massive internal displacement and evacuation to Sabah of more than two million persons, thousands of Muslims are languishing in jails and some of them were mercilessly massacred in cold blood in Camp Bagong Diwa jail in Manila.

11. The interest of the Bangsamoro people cannot be properly articulated by the RP because of the very high partisanship of the political ruling elite in the country which is bias favoring the Christian majority.

12. The RP injustices, oppression, and genocidal war committed against the Bangsamoro people must not be awarded by an OIC Observer status.

13. The state of the Philippines that takes pride of its crucial split vote in the UN General Assembly in the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 (from the heartland of Palestine) must not be rewarded with a grant of an observer status in the OIC.

14. The (proposed) entry of RP as observer in the OIC will degrade the honor and dignity of the Bangsamoro Muslims in the arena of the Islamic Ummah and will deliver a death blow to their struggle for freedom and self-determination.

The MNLF signed a peace pact with Manila in 1996, but many former rebels were disgruntled with the government for failing to uplift their poor living standards.

There was no immediate statement from the Philippine government about the latest development. The OIC is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations. (Mindanao Examiner)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

NPA rebels execute captured army soldier in Mindanao

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 23, 2009) – Communist rebels fighting for a separate Maoist state in the Philippines have executed a government soldier they captured in the restive region of Mindanao, officials said.

Officials said the body of Staff Sergeant Rolen Maglangit, of the 36th Infantry Battalion, was recovered at around 6.30 p.m. on Saturday, a day after he was seized by New People’s Army rebels in Compostela Valley province.

Two policemen who were also reported taken by the rebels in the town of Monkayo town had been accounted for, said Captain Rosa Maria Cristina Manuel, a spokeswoman for the 10th Infantry Division.

“The abducted soldier is dead,” she told the Mindanao Examiner.

Maglangit was seized by the NPA after he tried to aid villagers being harassed by rebels in the village of Pasian.

“The commotion reached the attention of Maglangit, who was in the area procuring supplies. Maglangit, on civilian attire and unarmed, rushed to the scene to verify the disturbance.”

“He was able to relay the report to his unit when he confirmed the presence of undetermined number of NPAs harassing the civilians. While leaving the area, another group of NPAs suddenly held Maglangit and eventually kidnapped him,” the army spokeswoman said.

Major General Reynaldo Mapagu, commander of the army division, the soldier was brutally killed. His body bore torture marks and several gunshot wounds.

“The brutal murder of Staff Sergeant Rolen Maglangit perpetuated by the NPA last May 22 is enough wake up call for the Mindanaoans to unite and a put to stop their killing spree.”

“They have switched to a mode wherein they are willing to violate human rights and put justice into their own hands,” Mapagu said in a statement.

“We believe that he was murdered immediately after his kidnapping. I am sure that Sergeant Maglangit was not even sentenced by their kangaroo court. He was a brave soldier. He was going around his area of work, checking on the reported harassment of civilians by the NPA, when he was kidnapped,” Mapagu said.

The NPA said the soldier was killed during his attempted escape.

“Consistent with the Standard Operating Procedures pertaining to enemy combatants arrested or captured by NPA units, Sgt. Maglangit was to be subjected to an investigation for possible violations of human rights, other violations of international humanitarian law and crimes against the people particularly owing to the notorious record of the 36th Infantry Battalion versus the masses in the tri-boundaries of Agusan del Sur, Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley provinces.”

“But after being informed of the investigation he needed to undergo and despite repeated warnings from his captors not to run in the course of their trek, Sgt. Maglangit showed clear signs of resistance and eventually tried to escape. He was able to run a distance, but was hit by a burst of gunfire from the pursuing NPA troops. His corpse was left behind so as to be easily discovered by residents for proper disposition,” said Rigoberto Sanchez, a rebel spokesman.

The abduction of Maglangit came barely two weeks after rebels freed a captured government soldier – Private First Class Ronnie Trinidad - in Compostela Valley. The NPA said it freed the soldier on humanitarian grounds.

Rebels captured Trinidad, who belongs to the 66th Infantry Battalion, on April 28 at a checkpoint in the village of Pagsabangan in New Bataan town. Trinidad was seized while on his way to barracks with another soldier, Corporal Japhet Lavid, who had escaped from rebels.

Last week, communist rebels also executed a former army soldier, Dante Villa, they seized May 9 in Davao del Sur province, also in Mindanao. His body was recovered in the village of Dongan Pekong in Matanao town.

Early this month, NPA rebels admitted killing four civilians - Ruben Bitang, Macky Estremos, Marcelino Payot and Bobong Gambuta - they accused of aiding the military in its anti-insurgency campaign. The rebels also tagged the four men as behind the brutal murder of Rebelyn Bitang, a daughter of a senior NPA leader Leoncio Pitao.

Pitao’s daughter was abducted in Davao City on March 4. Her naked body was found the next day floating in a shallow creek in the village of San Isidro in Davao del Norte’s Carmen town. Her family said the woman’s body bore torture marks and was believed raped.

The NPA is the armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines, which has been waging a secessionist war in the country. Peace talks between Manila and the CPP-NPA collapsed in 2004 after both sides failed to sign an agreement to end more than four decades of bloody fighting. (Mindanao Examiner)

Kidapawan City holds Philippine Tennis Open Tournament


Kidapawan City hosts first Philippine tennis tourney. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Geo Solmerano)


KIDAPAWAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 23, 2009) - For the first time, Kidapawan City in Mindanao island, was chosen to be the venue of the Philippine Tennis Open.
"The preparation was short, but the result was great" said Dr. Edwin Gantuangco, President of the Kidapawan City Tennis Club, who led the team in making this event a success.

This year's theme "Play tennis and add joy and years to your life," simply wants to encourage everyone especially the youth to be active in sports, like tennis.

“This is also a venue to show that peace and order in Mindanao is and will never be a hindrance to host such sporting events,” Gantuangco told the Mindanao Examiner.

The competition was tough, as dozens of tennis players from all around the country joined the event. "There were almost 100 players who wanted to join, but due to the bad weather, only 60 made it here, Gantuangco said.

Manila’s Elbert Anasta was named champion after he defeated Rocky Paglalunan in the singles category. Doing the same offense as his opponent was Anasta's secret to victory, he said.
On the other hand, Paglalunan did not stop until his name was not put on the winners list.

After being paired with Ronard Jovan, the 2nd placer in singles events, made it to the championship in doubles category. “This simply implies that Filipinos never say die,” Gantuangco said.

“All players did not come here to just play, but to prove themselves as they make their names shine even more in their chosen sport,” he added. (Giovani Solmerano and Mary Nina Rodriguez)

Silsilah Dialogue Movement celebrates 25th anniversary in the Philippines

Silsilah Dialogue Movement celebrates 25th anniversary in the Philippines.
Touched by an experience of conflict between Muslims and Christians in Mindanao and inspired by God's dialogue with people of all cultures and religions, Fr. Sebastiano D'Ambra, PIME with a group of Muslim and Christian friends started officially the Silsilah Dialogue Movement in Zamboanga City on May 9, 1984.

Silsilah is an Arabic word which literally means chain or link. As used by the Sufis (Muslim Mystics), it describes a process of attaining an experience of the Divine. The same root word is used as “geneological tree” which implies a spiritual chain of humanity as created by the same God.
Thus, “Silsilah” in the context of the Movement is taken as an inspiring and key concept to describe Muslims, Christians and people of other living faiths who are moving together as one universal family towards a shared vision and mission of dialogue and peace.

CALL

Recognizing the uniqueness of each religion, people are called to undergo a process of spiritual growth by a continuous discovering of God's dialogue in human experience. It is a call to witness God's presence in the plurality of religions and cultures.
It is also a call to live the spirituality of life-in-dialogue as the basic experience that leads to dialogue and peace. Silsilah is an arabic word which literally means chain or link.

VISION

In the name of God, the Fountain and Source of dialogue, Silsilah envisions a life-in-dialogue for all Muslims, Christians and Peoples of other living faiths, in respect, trust and love for one another and moving together towards a common experience of harmony, solidarity and peace.

MISSION

As instruments of dialogue and peace, we, the members of Silsilah, commit ourselves:

- to live the essence of our own faiths and bear witness to the value of our religious traditions.

- to be in dialogue with all people, regardless of culture and faith, by promoting a culture of dialogue with particular emphasis on the spiritual values; and
-to be in solidarity with all people in the upliftment of the less privileged in the building up of a progressive, just, humane and ecologically sound society.

Silsilah welcomes all to be part of the Movement as members, partners or friends willing to have a sincere responsible "link" in the spirit of dialogue and peace promoted by Silsilah.