Saturday, October 31, 2009

Filipino kidnappers release video, demand $2 million for freedom of Irish cleric

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 31, 2009) – Philippine gunmen holding captive an elderly Irish missioner have released a video of their hostage and demanded two million dollars for his freedom.

The kidnappers are holding Father Michael Sinnott since October 11 after he was taken at gunpoint from his Columban missionary house in the western Mindanao city of Pagadian.

Sinnott is being held the boundary of Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte provinces in northern Mindanao. In the video, the 79-year old priest was shown reading a newspaper and said that his captors were demanding the ransom for his release.

A senior Sinn Féin figure Gerry Kelly and former Downing St chief of staff Jonathan Powell who have been involved in behind-the-scenes talks in an attempt to secure the ailing Columban missioner have earlier said that the kidnappers were demanding ransom.

The Irish Times has quoted Kelly as saying: “The good news is that they believe he is in Lanao del Norte. The kidnappers are asking for ‘board and lodgings’ – a euphemism for a ransom.”

Kelly did not say how much ransom the kidnappers were demanding, but another report by the Ireland Online also quoted him as saying: “We know the kidnappers have got in touch looking for ransom – the good news about that is it means he is alive and in health.”

“The second news we’ve got is that they have managed to get some medication to him for his heart condition,” Kelly said. “What we will do is continue on. The main people who are doing the most work are the MILF who are active on the ground and the Philippine government.”

It said Kelly and Powell have been in regular contact with the Philippine government and the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, through intermediaries since Farther Sinnott was captured.

The MILF was initially thought to have been behind the kidnapping, but Kelly said a criminal gang was now believed to be responsible. The MILF is currently negotiating peace with Manila, although it has been fighting for independence in Mindanao the past three decades.

The Missionary Society of St. Columban to which Sinnott belongs said the priest had several heart surgeries in the past.
Philippine military officials and MILF rebels said they have not seen copy of the video.

“I have not seen the video and have no knowledge about its existence. We don’t know anything about the video which showed Father Sinnott. We have not seen the video,” said Marine Major General Benjamin Dolorfino, chief of the Western Mindanao Command.

Eid Kabalu, a spokesman for the MILF rebels, said: “We are not aware of the video. Until now we have no proof of life – we have no photos or video of Father Sinnott, but if there is such a video, well that’s good and a proof that Father Sinnot is alive,” he said.

Kelly said the priest is not a rich man and has been helping poor Filipino children through his own foundation. “This is an Irish priest who went out to the Philippines and has worked there for decades with the poor people of the country,” he said.

“This is the wrong man to kidnap – this isn’t a rich man and he doesn’t have any independent wealth. All that he’s done has been good for the people and he needs to be released.”

Dolorfino and Kabalu said they were unaware of any negotiations involving Kelly and Powell for the release of Sinnott.

“We are not aware of this negotiation by Kelley and Powell. What we know is the MILF is trying to help the authorities in securing the release of Father Sinnott,” Dolorfino said.

“We don’t know that Kelly or Powell or the Sinn Fein is involved in the negotiations, if there is, to free the priest, but some European Union ambassadors have sought our help last week in securing Father Sinnott,” Kabalu said.

Sinn Féin is an Irish political and cultural society founded about 1905 to promote political and economic independence from England, unification of Ireland, and a renewal of Irish culture. It now constitutes the political branch of the Irish Republican Army, a dissident republican group that fought an armed campaign over almost three decades to end British rule in Northern Ireland before renouncing violence. (Mindanao Examiner)

Moro rebel killed, 3 soldiers wounded in Sulu clash

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 31, 2009) – Security forces clashed Saturday with Moro rebels in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, killing one gunman, but three soldiers were also wounded in the fighting, officials said.

Marine Major General Benjamin Dolorfino, commander of military forces in Mindanao, said the fighting erupted at around 6:45 a.m. on a village in Panamao town. He said soldiers were tracking down rebels when they clashed with gunmen under Moro National Liberation Front leader Habier Malik.

“We have recovered the body of the slain rebel and his weapon, an M16 automatic rifle. Three soldiers were wounded in the fighting,” Dolorfino told the regional newspaper the Mindanao Examiner.

He said Malik’s group has joined forces with Abu Sayyaf militants blamed for the spate of bombings and ambuscades of soldiers in Sulu in recent months.

The Abu Sayyaf was also tagged as behind this week’s grenade attack at a Roman Catholic Church in the capital town of Jolo. The group was also linked to the kidnapping early this year of a Filipino, Italian and Swiss Red Cross workers in Sulu’s Patikul town and freed weeks later in exchange for huge ransom.

The military said dozens of rebels and soldiers, including two US Special Forces specialists, had been killed in fierce clashes in Sulu since September.

Fighting in Sulu erupted between rebels and soldiers after the military mounted fresh offensives against the Abu Sayyaf and Moro rebels in Indanan town. The offensive coincided with the Muslim celebration of the Eid al Fit’r, a day after Islam’s holiest month of Ramadan.

The MNLF has declared a holy war or jihad against the military for disrespecting the Muslims. Different Muslim groups also condemned the attack during the Eid celebration.

Early this month, rebel forces also attacked a major military base in the capital town of Sulu. It was the second time in eight years that rebels attacked the base.

In November 2001, on the eve of the elections in the Muslim autonomous region, Abu Sayyaf militants and rebels loyal to Moro National Liberation Front chieftain Nur Misuari attacked the camp in Jolo and another group raided a village in Zamboanga City that left more than 100 people dead.

Misuari signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996 ending decades of bloody secessionist war. After the peace agreement was signed, Misuari became the governor of the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao. The Muslim autonomous region was meant to implement the 1976 Tripoli Agreement between Manila and the MNLF.

But despite the peace accord, there was a widespread disillusionment with the weak autonomy they were granted. And Misuari accused the government of reneging on the peace agreement.

Presently, the governor of the Muslims autonomous region, Zaldy Ampatuan, a close ally of President Gloria Arroyo, is not a member of the MNLF which is said to be a violation of the peace deal signed during President Fidel Ramos administration.

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

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

After the rebellion in Jolo and Zamboanga, Misuari then escaped by boat to Malaysia, where he had been arrested and deported to the Philippines and jailed.

Misuari also ran twice for governor in Sulu even while under detention, but lost. He also supported President Gloria Arroyo's election bid and her allies in the Senate and Congress in 2004 and again in 2007 in exchange for promises that he would be pardoned and freed. He was eventually set free. (Mindanao Examiner)

Mindanao Examiner TV Talk Show



Mindanao Examiner TV Week in Review Oct 18-24, 2009

Mindanao Examiner TV Week in Review Oct 18-24, 2009 Part 1



Mindanao Examiner TV Week in Review Oct 18-24, 2009 Part 2

Policemen beat up vendor in Zamboanga

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 30, 2009) – Local policemen have allegedly beaten up an ambulant vendor with their clubs after he was caught illegally selling fruits at a sidewalk in Zamboanga City in Mindanao.

One witness told the Mindanao Examiner how policemen attacked the still unidentified vendor who was just selling lemons and oranges in front of terrified shoppers.

“I have witnessed the brutal and ruthless treatment of the police towards the illegal sidewalk vendors. They have beaten the vendor with a club and hit him with their fists as if the poor vendor was a criminal. What a pathetic scene,” the witness said.

Policemen also scattered the fruits as the hapless vendor as he was being beaten. The incident occurred at around 3:30 p.m. outside the Shopper’s Central in downtown Zamboanga.

“Is that the way they are taught on protecting the citizens, sacrificing the dignity of the poor, enforcing the law in a dehumanizing way that befits only criminals?,” the witness asked.

The vendor was also taken by the police by force aboard their vehicle and I have no knowledge anymore regarding the succeeding events,” the witness added.

The scene was not uncommon in Zamboanga City where policemen - armed with a city ordinance that prohibits vendors from selling on sidewalks and public areas - regularly round up illegal sellers and their merchandize - from newspapers to fruits and vegetables to video discs - are seized and destroyed or given to prisoners and charity houses. But there were fears that the seized merchandize could end up in the homes of unscrupulous policemen. (Mindanao Examiner)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Filipino banana workers hold protest





Banana plantation workers who are members of the Maragusan United Workers Union and ANAKPAWIS held a picket Friday, October 30, 2009 in Davao City in Mindanao to protest against union busting and labor malpractice.



DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Filipino banana plantation workers on Friday picketed in front of the local Labor office and at the headquarters of their employer Stanfilco to condemn alleged repression and union busting activities.

Zoilo Ebora, chairman of the Maragusan United Workers Union, claimed the Stanfilco management had been offering one time payment in exchange for the resignation as regular workers.

He said the union submitted its complaint to the National Conciliation and Mediation Board.

Romualdo Basilio, Anakpawis party list provincial spokesperson, has expressed support for the plight of the union workers and lambasted the Stanfilco.

Kidnappers demand ransom for Irish priest, says Sinn Fein member

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 30, 2009) – Philippine kidnappers holding a kidnapped Irish priest have demanded ransom and Senior Sinn Féin figure Gerry Kelly and former Downing St chief of staff Jonathan Powell have been involved in behind-the-scenes talks in an attempt to secure the ailing Columban missioner.

Father Michael Sinnott, 79, was kidnapped by six gunmen October 11 from his home in Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur in western Mindanao. And Kelly said the priest is being held captive in Lanao del Norte, a province in northern Mindanao, according to a report by The Irish Times.

It said the priest, who has had several heart surgeries in the past, received his life-saving medicines through emissaries in the Philippines.

Kelly said he had been contacted by a relative of another priest working in the Philippines about Father Sinnott. “I understand that Fr Sinnott is both safe and alive and I also understand that he has got his medicine for his heart condition,” he said.

He said: “The good news is that they believe he is in Lanao del Norte. The kidnappers are asking for ‘board and lodgings’ – a euphemism for a ransom.”

Kelly did not say how much ransom the kidnappers were demanding. Another report said Kelly and Powell have been in regular contact with the Philippine government and the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, through intermediaries since Farther Sinnott was captured.

The MILF was initially thought to have been behind the kidnapping, but Kelly said a criminal gang was now believed to be responsible. The MILF is currently negotiating peace with Manila, although it has been fighting for independence in Mindanao the past three decades.

“We know the kidnappers have got in touch looking for ransom – the good news about that is it means he is alive and in health,” Kelly said. “The second news we’ve got is that they have managed to get some medication to him for his heart condition.”

“What we will do is continue on. The main people who are doing the most work are the MILF who are active on the ground and the Philippine government,” the Ireland Online quoted Kelly as saying.

Kelly said the priest is not a rich man and has been helping poor Filipino children through his own foundation. “This is an Irish priest who went out to the Philippines and has worked there for decades with the poor people of the country,” he said.

“This is the wrong man to kidnap – this isn’t a rich man and he doesn’t have any independent wealth. All that he’s done has been good for the people and he needs to be released.”

The Philippine military said it was unaware of any negotiations involving Kelly and Powell for the safe release of the priest.

“We are not aware of this negotiation by Kelley and Powell. What we know is the MILF is trying to help the authorities in securing the release of Father Sinnott,” said Marine Major General Benjamin Dolorfino, Western Mindanao military commander in-charge of recovering the cleric.

Sinn Féin is an Irish political and cultural society founded about 1905 to promote political and economic independence from England, unification of Ireland, and a renewal of Irish culture. It now constitutes the political branch of the Irish Republican Army, a dissident republican group that fought an armed campaign over almost three decades to end British rule in Northern Ireland before renouncing violence.

In the 1990s, with fewer nationalist grievances left to exploit, the Irish Republican Army began talks with the British government. A ceasefire was enacted in 1997, and the next year the main political parties of Northern Ireland, including Sinn Féin, renounced violence in the US-brokered Good Friday Accord. In 2005 the Irish Republican Army itself disarmed. (Mindanao Examiner)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Philippine Congress to pursue stronger environmental reforms

MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives will continue to pursue policy reforms needed to strengthen government’s environmental protection and promotion programs, Speaker Prospero Nograles said on Thursday.

"Nature's wrath exempts no one. The devastation and sufferings wrought by the floods only reflect the extent of injury man has inflicted on mother earth," Nograles said.

He also lauded President Gloria Arroyo's recent enactment of the "Climate Change Act of 2009" as a concrete and clear resolve of government to give priority to the issue of climate change.

"The enactment of the Climate Change Act symbolizes the Philippines' ascent to being an active participant and partner in the global collective action to protect Mother Earth and save our future generations," Nograles said.

At the same time, the House leader said that Congress or government could only do as much as the people’s collective and cohesive actions to protect the environment.

"It's what each of us does everyday. The simple proper disposal of plastic food wrappers is as important as the multi-million garbage disposal programs of the national and local governments," he added.

Nograles noted that the House of Representatives has passed and sent to the Senate for its proper appreciation numerous measures including some 161 national and 782 local bills of various concerns.

"Of the 161 national House-approved bills pending in the Senate, around eleven bills deal with environmental issues," Nograles revealed noting statistics from the Committee on Rules chaired by Majority Leader Arthur Defensor.

"We have more proposed measures on environmental concerns," Defensor said, affirming the Speaker’s advocacy to put premium on environment protection and promotion.

Among the environment-related legislative initiatives endorsed to the Senate by the House plenary are, among others, the following:

1. HB 5990 - Marine and Coastal Resources Protection Act of 2009;
2. HB 6364 - Lake Development and Management Act of 2009;
3. HB 6403 - Small Islands Development and Management Act of 2009;
4. HB 6409 - Geology Profession Act of 2009;
5. HB 4419 - Environment Planning Act of 2008;
6. HB 3590 - Adopt a Wildlife Species Act of 2008;
7. HB 5207 - Subdivision Green Parks Act of 2008;
8. HB 5219 - Philippine Hazardous and Radioactive Wastes Management Act of 2007;
9. HB 5228 - Fire Protection Modernization Act of 2008;
10. HB 5792 - Sustainable Forest Management Act of 2008; and
11. HB 233 - Revival of Arbor Day

6 Western Mindanao Firms Win 2009 Productivity Olympics

ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 29, 2009) – Six established Filipino companies, including an electric cooperative in Western Mindanao, have been named regional winners in the prestigious Department of Labor and Employment’s 2009 Productivity Olympics.

The six winners were Julie's Bake-shop, Philippine Pioneer Rubber Products Corporation, Pagadian City Springland Resort, Vic Engineering and Drilling Services, Zamboanga del Sur Electric Cooperative, Incorporated and Zaragoza Foods Corporation. They were awarded plaques during a ceremony held in the town of Ipil in Zamboanga Sibugay province, which hosted the Olympics.

Three Tripartite Industrial Peace Councils from Zamboanga City, Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga del Norte provinces were also awarded with plaques of appreciation for their generosity and immediate response to the affected victims of recent typhoons that devastated Luzon and other parts of Metro-Manila.

Lawyer Nicerio Napigkit Jr., convener of the Regional Tripartite Industrial Peace Council, represented Sibugay provincial governor George Hofer in welcoming the different contingents of the various Tripartite Industrial Peace Councils.

He also emphasized the promotion of a decent work agenda as a priority concern of the TIPC.

Labor Undersecretary Rosalinda Baldoz, who flew from Manila to grace the occasion, spoke on various issues to the different leaders and representatives of the management, labor and government sectors.

She stressed on the promotion of the so-called Green Jobs efforts which will soon be implemented to all regional offices. The labor official spoke also on how to employ productivity focusing on decent job and the implementation of the Comprehensive Livelihood Emergency Employment Programs, among others.

President Gloria Arroyo signed Proclamation Number 726 on October 29, 2004 and declaring the month of October of every year as the National and Productivity Improvement Month.

Thus, one of the lined activities in this month long celebration was the awarding of the winners for the Productivity Olympics.

In June this year, the Department of Labor and Employment has called on micro, small and medium enterprises that implement productivity improvement programs to join the 2009 Productivity Olympics as a survival strategy against the current economic uncertainty and fluctuating market demand.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said the productivity contest showcases best practices in improving plant-level productivity, which micro, small and medium enterprises need to survive the current economic downturn.

Regional Labor Director Ponciano Ligutom said the competition of good productivity practices was focused on people development and business excellence of micro, small and medium enterprises in the Agribusiness, Service and Industry Sectors.

This year's theme was "Enhancing Quality and Productivity towards Competitiveness.”

The competition was organized by the National Wages and Productivity Commission in coordination with all its Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards. (With reports from Jung Francisco and Jonathan Deles)

Pronounciation: See-boo-guy; bake shop, north-teh

Pronounciation: Zamboanga Sibugay

Pronounciation: See-boo-guy; bake shop, north-te

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bulaklak at kandila, malakas na negosyo sa Digos



Handang-handa na ang mga nagbebenta ng bulaklak at kandila sa lungsod ng Digos sa pagsalubong sa Todos los Santos at Todos los Almas. Malaking tulong umano at pandagdag na rin sa kanilang kabuhan at pantustos sa pagkain ang pagbebenta ng mga bulaklak at kandila. (Mindanao Examiner / Kuha ni Geo Solmerano)

Army Sultan’s shot for unity in Mindanao





The 104th Infantry (Sultan) Brigade of the Philippine Army, deployed in a culturally diverse and a conflict area of Northern Mindanao, attempts to further bring harmony with the Pagari Park in Iligan City. The word “pagari” means friend or friendship in Maranao.


ILIGAN CITY, Philippines - The 104th Infantry (Sultan) Brigade of the Philippine Army, deployed in a culturally diverse and a conflict area of Northern Mindanao, attempts to further bring harmony with the Pagari Park.
The word “pagari” means friend or friendship in Maranao.

The park is a newly developed garden, converted from a former dump of volcanic rocks at the heart of the Sultan Brigade camp in Iligan City, with the support of those who shared the thought of promoting peace.

Amid the festive atmosphere of the 9th Founding Anniversary of the Army’s Sultan Brigade on Mondayr, Former Lanao del Norte Governor Imelda Dimaporo — a Christian married to a Muslim and a strong advocate for cultural harmony and eco-tourism —graced the inauguration of the park.

Also, to show unity in support of the purpose of the park, Iligan Diocese Catholic Bishop Elenito Galido, Islam Aleem Elias Macarandas, and Lumad Datu Rolando Soong made the interfaith joint consecration.

Colonel Benito de Leon, the brigade commander, explained that “pagari” was chosen since the place will be used to receive guests, and a spot dedicated to promote friendship and harmony. The three corners in the garden represent the major Philippine Muslim cultures — Maguindanao, Maranao, and Tausug — that have inspired the brigade moniker of “Sultan.”

De Leon was conferred the Maranao honorary title of Sultan Romaponut (Leader of Peace) for his peace efforts during the MILF hostilities in 2000.

During the inauguration of the park, guests had the chance to have a glimpse of the different traditional wear and sample respective delicacies. The calming landscape easily made it a favorite for pictorial settings. Saturnina Rodil, a professor of Mindanao State University-Institute for Peace and Development and a theosophist, commented that Pagari Park” has a strong good vibes.

MILF launches operation to rescue kidnapped Irish priest in southern Philippines

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 28, 2009) – Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels helping Philippine authorities track down a kidnapped Irish clergy have mounted an operation Tuesday to rescue the hostage in the hinterlands of Mindanao.

Columban missionary Father Michael Sinnott was taken at gunpoint by pirates October 11 from his home in Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur province and brought to Lanao del Sur.

“We are preparing to rescue Father Sinnott,” said Eid Kabalu, a spokesman for the MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group which is currently negotiating peace with Manila.

Kabalu said they were closely working with the government’s coordinating cease-fire committee in the rescue operation. He said the military’s Western Mindanao Command has approved the operation.

But a regional military commander, Marine Major Benjamin Dolorfino, denied the MILF claims and said it was the crisis management committee headed by Zamboanga del Sur Governor Aurora Cerilles which allowed rebel forces to join the government operation in rescuing the priest.

“It is the crisis management committee which decides what actions to take and the military is only assisting in those decisions,” Dolorfino said.

Dolorfino tagged pirate leader Guingona Samal as behind the kidnapping of the priest. But the police said Sinnott was handed over to an MILF commander Jamat Latip in Lanao del Sur province in central Mindanao.

The MILF has denied the accusations. “It’s not true. We have nothing to do with Sinnott’s kidnapping and Jamat Latip has denied any involvement in the kidnapping,” Kabalu said. “This (operation) is an honest to goodness intention to help secure the freedom of Father Sinnott.”

The secluded chieftain of the MILF, Murad Ebrahim, has ordered rebels to help rescue Sinnott, who had several heart surgeries in the past.

“As a matter of policy, the MILF is obliged to exert its best efforts to help for the safe and immediate recovery of Father Sinnott,” Ebrahim was quoted as saying. “His kidnapping requires all conscience-guided people and those with true faith in God to extend every help for his immediate freedom.”

The rescue operation coincided with reports that Sinnott’s Missionary Society of St. Columban has opened negotiations with the kidnappers for the safe release of the hostage, but details of the talks were unknown.

The Missionary Society of St. Columban has appealed to US President Barack Obama to help secure the safe release of Sinnott, who is the third Irish missioner to be kidnapped in Mindanao since 1997. Fr Des Hartford was held by Moro rebels for 12 days, and in 2001, Fr Rufus Hally, a missioner from Waterford, was shot dead during an attempted abduction in the volatile region. (Mindanao Examiner)

Philippines, MILF rebels sign civilian protection accord

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 28, 2009) – The Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed a new accord with Manila ensuring the protection of civilians in areas in Mindanao where there are fighting.

Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF chief peace negotiator, said Agreement on Civilian Protection was signed Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur. “This historic agreement pushed further the GRP-MILF peace talks to formal resumption,” he said.

President Gloria Arroyo opened up peace talks with the MILF in 2001 in an effort to end decades of bloody Muslim secessionist war in the restive, but mineral-rich region of Mindanao, south of the Philippines, where rebels are fighting for self-determination.

“After a hard and prolonged discussion, the MILF and Philippine government peace negotiators finally signed the Agreement on Civilian Protection,” Iqbal said.

Last month, Philippine and MILF peace negotiators signed an agreement for the formation of the International Contact Group, which would open the way for the participation of countries, particularly from the European Union and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), in the peace process.

“The Framework Agreement on the formation of the International Contact Group and the Agreement on the Protection of Civilians are essential mechanisms to prevent the repeat of the debacle in Kuala Lumpur on August 5, 2008 when the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain was not signed by the government, as well resulting displacement of more than 600,000 people in Mindanao,” Iqbal said.

He said the ICG serves as guarantee that both the government and MILF comply with all signed agreements.

Iqbal was referring to the Muslim homeland deal initially signed by peace negotiators, but declared as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The failed signing sparked a series of rebel attacks that killed and wounded dozens of civilians in Mindanao.

Iqbal said this agreement reaffirmed the commitment of the MILF and the Philippine government for the observance of the international humanitarian law and respect for the internationally recognized human rights instruments and the protection of the internally displaced persons.

The two groups have designated humanitarian and nongovernmental organizations, both international and national, with proven track record for impartiality, neutrality and independence, to carry out the civilian protection functions.

Iqbal said the agreement on civilian protection component will be incorporated into the Terms of Reference of the International Monitoring Team which would be discussed when the formal peace talks resume this year in Malaysia, which is facilitating the negotiations. The international cease-fire monitoring team was composed of Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Libya and Japan.

Under the civilian protection deal, the MILF and the Philippine government agreed to refrain from intentionally targeting or attacking non-combatants, prevent suffering of the civilian population and avoid acts that would cause collateral damage to civilians.

And to refrain from targeting or intentionally attacking civilian properties or facilities such as schools, hospitals, religious premises, health and food distribution centers, or relief operations, or objects or facilities indispensable to the survival of the civilian population and of a civilian nature and take all necessary actions to facilitate the provision of relief supplies to affected communities.

The two sides also agreed to take all precautions feasible to avoid incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, and danger to civilian objects and to ensure that all protective and relief actions shall be undertaken in a purely nondiscriminatory basis covering all affected communities.

They would also issue orders to their respective military units or security forces, including paramilitaries, associated militias, and police units to conduct their operations consistent with their obligations and commitments described in the accord. (Mindanao Examiner)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

45 injured as truck falls into ravine in South RP

NORTH COTABATO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 27, 2009) – At least 45 people were injured after a truck carrying wedding guests plunged into a ravine Tuesday in the southern Philippines, police said.

Police said the driver lost control of the wheel while trying to negotiate a curve road in the village of Bulatukan in the town of Makilala and rolled over before plunging down the cliff.

The truck, which came from South Cotabato, was heading to Digos City to attend a wedding when the accident occurred, police said.

The injured passengers were rushed to hospitals. (Geo Solmerano)

Blast hits Cathedral in the southern Philippines

ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 27, 2009) – A grenade exploded Tuesday at the Roman Catholic cathedral in the largely Muslim province of Sulu in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said the grenade was hurled at the back of the cathedral in the capital town of Jolo at around 10.45 a.m. There was no report of casualties from the blast and no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, said Marine Major Ramon David Hontiveros, a regional military spokesman.

“Post-blast investigation reveals that the explosion was caused by an M72 grenade thrown from the back of the cathedral over the rear wall. Nobody was hurt,” Hontiveros said, adding the attack could be a test by terrorists to see the reaction of the police and military forces in the area.

Church officials in Sulu could not be contacted to comment on the attack, but soldiers and policemen have been guarding the cathedral in years because of threats of Abu Sayyaf attacks against priests and nuns.

Early this year, suspected Abu Sayyaf militants also detonated a homemade bomb in front of the cathedral. The Abu Sayyaf has been blamed by the police and military for the spate of kidnappings for ransom and terrorism in the southern Philippines.

In 1997, militants shot dead Sulu Bishop Benjamin de Jesus as he was walking in front of the cathedral. (Mindanao Examiner)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Roll back oil prices, House Speaker tells gas firms

MANILA, Philippines - Even with the recent consensus of the country's oil firms to heed with the directive of President Gloria Arroyo to restore their pump prices to the October 15 level of oil prices, Speaker Prospero Nograles said the rollback should take place immediately as he noted that the so-called Big 3 - Shell, Caltex and Petron - might try to use dilatory tactics to prolong the implementation of the president's order.

“It should just be a phone call away and the roll back can take effect immediately. However, the representatives of the so-called Big 3 are raising some concerns before their compliance to the president's directive. This, to me, is just a dilatory tactic,” Nograles said, as he lauded President Arroyo for her swift action to stop the oil firms from further punishing the millions of Filipinos who were devastated by typhoons.

“The last thing we want is another increase in oil products. Everybody is affected, especially those in the lower income groups,” Nograles said.

Nograles added that now is a most timely opportunity for these big companies to help alleviate the pains being suffered by Filipinos. “Anyway, when times are good, profits come flowing like water from springs,” Nograles noted.

The House leader also lauded the decision of Unioil on Sunday to cut diesel prices by P2/liter; gasoline by P1.25/liter; regular gasoline by P0.85/liter and kerosene by P1.50/liter.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued last Friday an Executive Order to keep pump prices at their October 15 levels. The other oil players have yet to announce if they will comply with the President’s directive and follow Unioil’s move.

Thinking aloud, the Speaker expressed concern why the Big 3 have not responded to the President's directive as quickly as Unioil.

“I would like to believe that they could be studying how much they can reduce their pump prices,” Nograles said, adding that “if Unioil can do it, why not the big players?” (With a report from Gil Bugaoisan)

NPA Rebels Own Up Killing Of Soldier In Davao City

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 26, 2009) – Communist rebels on Monday have claimed responsibility for the killing of a government soldier in the southern Philippines.

Security officials said two young gunmen attacked Corporal Orly Pedregoza while talking to friends in the remote village of Malabog in Paquibato District. The weekend attack also wounded a motorcycle taxi driver and a farmer, said Captain Emmanuel Garcia, a spokesman for the Army’s 10th Infantry Division.

Simon Santiago, a spokesman for the New People’s Army, said the soldier was killed after he fought off rebels who were sent to arrest him because of his involvement in the rape-slay of Rebelyn Pitao, whose father Leoncio Pitao, is a senior NPA leader in Mindanao.

Pitao, 20, 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 body bore torture marks and was believed raped before she was stabbed in the chest.

NPA spokesman Simon Santiago said Pedregoza, a member of the 10th Infantry Division's Military Intelligence Battalion, was ordered arrested to face trial by a rebel court.

“He was armed, dangerous and gave battle to the NPA arresting team that resulted to his death. Corporal Pedregoza was one of the 21 respondents indicted by the People's Court for the rape-slay of civilian Rebelyn Pitao,” Santiago said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper, the Mindanao Examiner.

He said rebels seized from the soldier three hand grenades, intelligence documents, a .357-caliber pistol and a counterfeit 1,000 peso bill.

He said Pedregoza's arrest order along with several others was issued by the People's Court following an indictment against 21 others, including 11 military intelligence members, on March 29 for war crimes, crimes against humanity and serious violations of international humanitarian law in the abduction, torture, rape and brutal murder of the woman.

“The different units and commands of the New People's Army shall continue to effect the arrest order of the People's Court to individuals, persons and fugitives who are facing serious cases being lodged before the People's Court. With the boundless support from the oppressed masses to the strong determination of the people's army, the revolutionary movement shall pursue the ends of justice,” Santiago said.

In May, communist rebels also gunned down Ruben Bitang, a suspect in the brutal murder of Pitao, in Panabo City in Davao del Norte province.

The NPA said Bitang was the driver of the van used in the abduction of the rebel leader’s daughter. Bitang’s nephew, Army Sergeant Helvin Bitang who is assigned with the Military Intelligence Group, was also among those accused by the rebels in the killing of Pitao.

The army spokesman said Pedregoza was unarmed at the time of the attack.
“Corporal Orly Pedregoza, a resident of Paquibato and assigned with the 10th Infantry Division, died on the spot due to multiple gunshot wounds on his head. He was practically defenseless as he was attending a religious festivity of Filipinista of the Philippine Independent Church, a local Christian religious sect, when simultaneously attacked by at least two youthful gunmen while talking to some friends and acquaintances,” Garcia said.

Major General Reynaldo Mapagu, the army division commander, also condemned the rebel attack, saying, the killing shows the true nature of the NPA.

“We condemn the killing perpetrated by this atrocious group and pray that the wheel of justice grind in the interest of truth and of the people. We commiserate with the families of the many victims of these terrorists as we appeal for sobriety in the pursuit of legal remedies so that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes could be brought before the bar of justice and ultimately serve the punishment due them,” the general said.

Mapagu said the attack was a total disregard to the safety of civilians and contempt to a peaceful gathering in the community. He said rebels last week also killed a 71-year old tribal leader, Datu Intoy Baguio and his 72-year old brother Pablo Ebero, and Silvano delas Alas, a 50-year old farmer in Boston town in the nearby province of Davao Oriental for a still unknown reason.

The NPA has been waging a secessionist war the past four decades and had broken off peace talks with Manila in 2004 after accusing government negotiators of reneging on several agreements, among them the release of all political prisoners. (Mindanao Examiner)

Mindanao Examiner TV Week in Review October 11-17, 2009

Mindanao Examiner TV Week in Review Oct. 11-17, 2009 P1



Mindanao Examiner TV Week in Review Oct. 11-17, 2009 P2



Mindanao Examiner TV Week in Review Oct. 11-17, 2009 P3

Kidnapped Irish priest in Philippines is alive, Muslim rebels say

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 26, 2009) – The Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group helping the government recover a kidnapped Irish clergy in the volatile southern region of Mindanao said the ailing 79-year old missioner is still alive.

Eid kabalu, a spokesman for the MILF, said the ailing Columban priest, Michael Sinnott, is being held in Lanao del Sur, a Muslim province in central Mindanao. The Wexford native was kidnapped October 11 from his missionary house in Pagadian City in western Mindanao by a group of pirates led by Guingona Samal.

Media reports last week said Sinnott had died in captivity after suffering from a massive heart attack. The Missionary Society of St. Columban where Sinnott belongs said the priest, who had multiple heart surgeries in the past, is alive, but weak.

“As far as we know, Father Sinnott is alive and being held somewhere in Lanao del Sur. We are coordinating closely with the Philippine authorities to help recover the priest,” Kabalu told the Mindanao Examiner.


“This report that the priest had died could be all part of the kidnappers’ strategy to confuse the authorities or put pressure to Sinnott’s family,” Kabalu said without elaborating further.

Police had previously linked the priest’s kidnapping to a rebel commander Jamat Latip, whose group is operating in Lanao del Sur, but this was denied by the MILF.

At least 2 Irish and three Italian priests had been kidnapped by Moro rebels in Mindanao the past decade and most of them were freed in exchange for huge ransoms. (Mindanao Examiner)

Soldier killed, 2 others wounded in Davao City attack

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 26, 2009) – Suspected communist insurgents killed a government soldier and wounded two civilians in a broad daylight attack in the southern Filipino city of Davao, security officials said Monday.

Officials said two young gunmen attacked Corporal Orly Pedregoza while talking to friends in the remote village of Malabog in Paquibato District. The weekend attack also wounded a motorcycle taxi driver and a farmer, said Captain Emmanuel Garcia, a spokesman for the Army’s 10th Infantry Division.

The motive of the attack was unknown, but Garcia blamed the New People’s Army rebels for the killing.

“Corporal Orly Pedregoza, a resident of Paquibato and assigned with the 10th Infantry Division, died on the spot due to multiple gunshot wounds on his head. He was practically defenceless as he was attending a religious festivity of Filipinista of the Philippine Independent Church, a local Christian religious sect, when simultaneously attacked by at least two youthful gunmen while talking to some friends and acquaintances,” Garcia said.

Major General Reynaldo Mapagu, the army division commander, also condemned the rebel attack, saying, the killing shows the true nature of the NPA. “We condemn the killing perpetrated by this atrocious group and pray that the wheel of justice grind in the interest of truth and of the people. We commiserate with the families of the many victims of these terrorists as we appeal for sobriety in the pursuit of legal remedies so that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes could be brought before the bar of justice and ultimately serve the punishment due them,” the general said.

Mapagu said the attack was a total disregard to the safety of civilians and contempt to a peaceful gathering in the community.

He said rebels last week also killed a 71-year old tribal leader, Datu Intoy Baguio and his 72-year old brother Pablo Ebero, and Silvano delas Alas, a 50-year old farmer in Boston town in the nearby province of Davao Oriental for a still unknown reason.

The NPA has been waging a secessionist war the past four decades and had broken off peace talks with Manila in 2004 after accusing government negotiators of reneging on several agreements, among them the release of all political prisoners. (Mindanao Examiner)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

5 kidnapped forest rangers freed in Southern Philippines

ILIGAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 25, 2009) – Five forest rangers kidnapped in the southern Philippines had been freed Sunday after a series of government negotiations, reports said.

Government negotiations began Friday after two of the seven captives - Emeliano Gatillo Jr. and Efren Sabuero - had been freed in the town of Sibagat in Agusan del Sur.

The remaining captives - Gabriel Arlan, Rito Espinido, Teofredo Pujadas and two others identified only as Clar and Abogatal – were released unharmed in the province. It was unknown whether the release of the hostages was connected to the demands of the kidnappers.

The seven were abducted by tribesmen who demanded the government to cancel all forest agreements with commercial loggers in areas where there are presence of indigenous communities.

Chief Inspector Martin Gamba, a spokesman for the police task force handling the case, said the negotiation was spearheaded by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.

The NCIP is the primary government agency that formulates and implements policies, plans and programs for the recognition, promotion and protection of the rights and well-being of indigenous peoples with due regard to their ancestral domains and lands, self-governance and empowerment, social justice and human rights, and cultural integrity.

Gamba said the kidnappers are believed members of a local indigenous tribe, adding the negotiations were held in the hinterland village pf Padiay in Butuan City in Agusan del Norte province.

The seven men rangers, who are all employees of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, were kidnapped on October 21 near a forest checkpoint in Butuan City.

The military said the kidnappers have made four demands in exchange for the freedom of the hostages after a man who claimed to be the leader of the gang holding the foresters contacted the DENR.

Major Michelle Anayron, a spokesman for the Army’s 4th Infantry Division in Mindanao, said the kidnappers demanded the cancellation of the Community-Based Forest Management Agreement in the town of Sibagat; the awarding of the Certificates of Ancestral Domain Title; government approval of customary farming and the cancellation of the Integrated Forest Management Agreement with commercial logging companies in their area.

The Community-Based Forest Management Agreement in the town of Sibagat had already been canceled Friday by the government. (Mindanao Examiner)

No news on kidnapped Irish priest in Mindanao

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 25, 2009) – Kidnappers of an elderly Irish clergy have not contacted authorities in the southern Philippines as the crisis entered its second week.

Reverend Father Michael Sinnott, who will turn 80 in December, was taken at gunpoint October 11 by six men from his missionary home in the western Mindanao city of Pagadian. And the military, which is tracking down the Columban missioner, said the kidnappers are holed out in the hinterlands of Lanao del Sur, an area in central Mindanao where Moro rebels are actively operating.

Authorities said Sinnott, from County Wexford, has had several heart surgeries and badly needs his medicines, but there have been no contact with the kidnappers and making it difficult for his family or the Missionary Society of St. Columban where the ailing priest belongs.

Last week, authorities have offered P200,000 for any information about Sinnott’s whereabouts. Allan Molde, the spokesman for provincial crisis group handling Sinnott’s case, there have been no contacts with the kidnappers, one of them has been identified by the military as pirate leader Guingona Samal.

Police also said that Samal handed the priest to a Moro rebel commander Jamat Latip in Lanao del Sur. Latip denied the allegations, according to Army Colonel Benito de Leon, who contacted the rebel leader by phone last week.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is negotiating peace with Manila, also denied that Latip was involved in the kidnapping and ordered its forces to help recover Sinnott.

Eid Kabalu, a senior MILF leader, said the order came from the group’s chieftain Murad Ebrahim after ambassadors from the European Union sought its assistance.

“We are helping the Philippine government recover Father Sinnott and this after EU ambassadors sought the MILF help in recovering the Irish priest,” he said on Sunday.

Kabalu said Spanish ambassador Luis-Romero led a delegation last week and met with Ebrahim in Mindanao. Among those who attended the meeting were ambassadors from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Romania, Finland and Greece among others.

He said the MILF has formed a task force that will handle Sinnott’s case.

“As a matter of policy, the MILF is obliged to exert its best efforts to help for the safe and immediate recovery of Father Sinnot,” Ebrahim was quoted as saying. “His kidnapping requires all conscience-guided people and those with true faith in God to extend every help for his immediate freedom.”

The Missionary Society of St. Columban has appealed to US President Barack Obama to help secure the safe release of Sinnott, who is the third Irish missioner to be kidnapped in Mindanao since 1997. Fr Des Hartford was held by Moro rebels for 12 days, and in 2001, Fr Rufus Hally, a missioner from Waterford, was shot dead during an attempted abduction in the volatile region. (Mindanao Examiner)

Is the US forces winning hearts and minds in Sulu?

Sulu, one of five provinces under the restive Muslim autonomous region in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)


SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 25, 2009) – US forces helping Filipino troops defeat terrorism in Sulu thought it is winning the hearts and minds of Muslim in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, but it is not.

It may have won little in the so-called America’s war on terror in Sulu with the killings of some of the leaders of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group.

But the public support on the US role in the local insurgency is small despite its massive humanitarian and infrastructure projects over the years in an effort to win hearts and minds of the locals and as a cover for the continued stay of some 600 American troops deployed in the volatile southern region as part of the campaign called “Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines.”

The US troops are under the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, composed mostly of Special Forces and Marines and have been operating in Sulu since 2006, although the American forces have been staying at tightly guarded base in Zamboanga City since 2001 after the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped dozens of European, Asian and US tourists in Malaysia and the Philippines.

In Sulu, support for the continued stay of US troops have evaded the Pentagon, although press handouts from American and Filipino military spokesmen say the public clamor for the presence of the foreign troops is overwhelming.

Anti-US rallies and accusations of human rights violations are not uncommon in Sulu and also in other areas where there are presence of US troops – Mindanao, the second largest island in the Philippines where local military is battling communist and Muslim insurgents, and is also fighting al-Qaeda-linked militants and members of the Indonesian terror group Jemaah Islamiya which have been blamed for the spate of bombings that had killed three US Special Forces soldiers since 2002.

The only pro-US rally held in Sulu was headed by Sultan Mohd Pulalun in 2006 where some 300 Muslims welcomed the arrival of hundreds of American soldiers participating in the “Balikatan-06,” which means “shoulder-to-shoulder,” a codename for the joint military exercises on the province. But it was staged to get the Washington to support Pulalun, who is one of dozens claiming to be the real leader of the Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo.

Muslims in Sulu accused US troops of being arrogant. Filipino journalists covering the US presence in Mindanao were chased away by American soldiers in public places for taking their pictures; some seized equipment of cameramen while others had been threatened with bodily harm and arrested for photographing US military planes and patrols.

Many locals in Sulu said they felt as if they are terrorists by how American troops looked at them. Others think US troops are paranoid who looked at Muslims as suicide bombers or rebels. In the past, US troops deployed in Muslim areas in Mindanao undergo seminars and briefing on the traditions of Islam, but not anymore.

Some looked at US troops with suspicions and hatred. Many thought the US troops are digging for treasures left behind by the Japanese forces during World War 2, while others think they are securing American interests and oil exploration in the Sulu Sea.

But the elders still recall the US counter-insurgency campaign in Sulu in 1906 where hundreds of Muslims – women and children and old men – were mercilessly killed in what is now called Bud Dajo Massacre during the Philippine-American War.

Historians said that during this battle, 790 US soldiers under the command of Colonel J.W. Duncan, assaulted the volcanic crater of Mount Dajo, which was populated by some 1000 Muslim villagers. Although the battle was a victory for the US forces, it was also an unmitigated public relations disaster. Only six Muslim villagers came out alive from the crater of Bud Dajo, an extinct volcano some 2,100 feet above sea level.

According to the Wikipedia, the first battle at Bud Dajo happened during the final days of General Leonard Wood's term as governor of the Moro Province.

Following the American victory, President Theodore Roosevelt sent Wood a congratulatory cablegram, but reporters stationed at Manila had cabled their own somewhat imaginative account to the press. The March 9, 1906 New York Times headlines read, “WOMEN AND CHILDREN KILLED IN MORO BATTLE PRESIDENT WIRES CONGRATULATIONS TO TROOPS.”

The press' lurid account of the "Moro Crater Massacre" fell on receptive ears. There were still deep misgivings among the American public about America's role during the Spanish-American War and the stories of atrocities carried out during the Philippine Insurrection. The public had also been largely unaware of the continuing violence in the Moro Province, and were shocked to learn that killing continued.

Under pressure from Congress, Secretary of War, William Howard Taft, cabled Wood for explanation of the “wanton slaughter” of woman and children. Despite not being in command of the assault, Wood accepted full responsibility. By the time the scandal died down, Wood had assumed his post as Commander of the Philippine Division, and General Tasker H. Bliss had replaced him as governor of the Moro Province. (Mindanao Examiner)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Groups unite to clean Kidapawan City's Nuangan River





City officials and civil servants join representatives of various nongovernmental organizations, students and environmentalists during a recent clean-up drive of the Nuangan River in Kidapawan City in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Geo Solmerano)

Boy sells candies, cigarettes in Digos City to help poor family

A boy helps his family by selling candies and cigarettes in front of a Catholic church in Digos City in Davao province in Mindanao. Many children in the Philippines skip school to help their family earn a living. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Geo Solmerano)

Troops search for kidnapped architect in Southern Philippines


ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 24, 2009) – Security forces on Saturday mounted an operation to trace a Filipino architect kidnapped in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said Pablo Mercado, 45, was seized at noon Friday after gunmen, clad in police uniform, flagged down a passenger van on a highway in the village called Bubong in Saguiran town in Lanao del Sur in the volatile Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao.

The van was carrying eight passengers, but gunmen singled out Mercado and dragged him to a waiting get-away car with markings “Councilor’ on its front bumper.

The armed men fled toward Marawi City along with Mercado, said Marine Major Ramon David Hontiveros, a regional military spokesman.

“Our units are tracking down the armed men and their captive. We still don’t know the motive of the abduction,” Hontiveros told the Mindanao Examiner.

It was not immediately known whether the gunmen were policemen or not, but kidnappers and criminal syndicates also use police and military uniforms which can easily be bought in gun shops and tailoring in the Philippines.

In 1998, Moro rebels clad in police uniform stormed a laboratory on an island off Tawi-Tawi and seized three Hong Kong fishery experts and ransomed them off to government negotiators.

Early this week, at least 11 robbers who posed as members of a police bomb squad walked past a security gate at the posh Greenbelt mall near Manila and stormed a Rolex shop. One of the gunmen was killed after a shootout with two policemen who were in the area, while the rest of the gang escaped.

Gunmen wearing police uniform were also behind the series of bank heist in Manila. (Mindanao Examiner)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Philippine Air Force Reservist Command Holds Disaster, Rescue Training In Mindanao





The logo of the Philippine Air Force and the participants to the first-ever training on disaster and rescue operations conducted in Davao City in Mindanao by the Philippine Air Force’s 7th Reservist Command in coordination with the Office of the Civil Defense Disaster Team, 911 Medical Team, 911 Search and Rescue Team, Philippine Air Force 505th Search and Rescue. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Mark Navales).

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 23, 2009) – The Philippine Air Force’s 7th Reservist Command ended Friday a four-day training on disaster and rescue operations in Mindanao.

Major Adolfo dela Torre, chief of the 7th Reservist Command, said some 50 active air force members and reservists have participated in the training which began on Tuesday in Davao City.

“We are overwhelmed by the number of those who participated in the first-ever disaster and rescue operations training and we hope to duplicate this in other areas in Mindanao,” dela Torre said.

The training, which was also participated by policemen and village officials, was held in Sasa village. “The training included land and sea rescue operations,” dela Torre said.

Dela Torre’s command covers the cities of Cotabato, Davao, General Santos, Tagum and Compostela Valley province. “We hope to conduct a similar training in those areas and probably to include civilian volunteers, among others, and that they may also train other people,” he said. (Mark Navales)

Negotiations begin for safe release of 5 kidnapped forest rangers in Mindanao

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 23, 2009) – Government negotiations began Friday for the safe release of five kidnapped forest rangers in Mindanao.

Police said kidnappers have earlier freed two hostages - Emeliano Gatillo Jr. and Efren Sabuero in Sibagat town in Agusan del Sur province, but the gang held on to the other captives - Gabriel Arlan, Rito Espinido, Teofredo Pujadas and two others identified only as Clar and Abogatal.

The kidnappers were demanding the government to cancel all forest agreements with commercial loggers in areas where there are presence of indigenous tribes.

“There is an ongoing negotiation spearheaded by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples for the safe release of the remaining five hostages,” said Chief Inspector Martin Gamba, a spokesman for the police task force handling the case.

But Gamba said the progress of the talks is still unknown. “We still don’t know what transpired, but we are hoping this crisis would end soon through peaceful negotiations,” he told regional newspaper, the Mindanao Examiner.

The NCIP is the primary government agency that formulates and implements policies, plans and programs for the recognition, promotion and protection of the rights and well-being of indigenous peoples with due regard to their ancestral domains and lands, self-governance and empowerment, social justice and human rights, and cultural integrity.

Gamba said the kidnappers are believed members of a local indigenous tribe, adding the negotiations were held in the hinterland village pf Padiay in Butuan City in Agusan del Norte province.

The seven men rangers, who are all employees of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, were kidnapped on Wednesday near a forest checkpoint in Butuan City.

The military said the kidnappers have made four demands in exchange for the freedom of the hostages after a man who claimed to be the leader of the gang holding the foresters contacted the DENR.

Major Michelle Anayron, a spokesman for the Army’s 4th Infantry Division in Mindanao, said the kidnappers demanded the cancellation of the Community-Based Forest Management Agreement in the town of Sibagat; the awarding of the Certificates of Ancestral Domain Title; government approval of customary farming and the cancellation of the Integrated Forest Management Agreement with commercial logging companies in their area. (Mindanao Examiner)

Philippines offers reward for info on kidnapped Irish clergy

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Al Jacinto / October 23, 2009) – Philippine authorities on Friday have offered P200,000 for any information about an elderly Irish clergy kidnapped in the volatile southern region of Mindanao.

The bounty was offered to help police and military locate Columban missioner Michael Sinnott who was taken from his home in Pagadian City in the western Mindanao province of Zamboanga del Sur.

Allan Molde, the spokesman for provincial crisis group handling Sinnott’s case, said the money came from the mayor of Pagadian City, Samuel Co. “Mayor Co has offered P200,000 to whoever who can give us any information on the exact location of Father Sinnott, or to whoever who can help us recover Father Sinnott,” he said.

The military said Sinnott is being held by pirates led by Guingona Samal in the hinterlands of Lanao del Norte province in Northern Mindanao. Samal headed the gang that kidnapped the ailing priest on October 11, according to a regional military chief Major General Benjamin Dolorfino.

But police also linked a commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, to the kidnapping of Sinnott. The MILF denied the accusations and said a kidnap-for-ransom group is holding the Wexford native.

“We have information that a gang of kidnappers are holding the priest in Lanao del Norte province. We know the location of the hostage and we have forces now in the area. There is action on the ground,” said Eid Kabalu, a senior MILF leader.

Dolorfino said the elderly cleric, who will turn 80 in December, had several heart bypass surgeries in the past and needs his medication. He said that Sinnott’s captors had contacted The Missionary Society of St. Columban in Mindanao, but this was denied by priest’s superiors.

The Missionary Society of St. Columban has last week appealed to US President Barack Obama to help secure the safe release of Sinnott, who is the third Irish missioner to be kidnapped in Mindanao since 1997. Fr Des Hartford was held by Moro rebels for 12 days, and in 2001, Fr Rufus Hally, a missioner from Waterford, was shot dead during an attempted abduction in the volatile region. (Mindanao Examiner)

Sayyaf bombs another bridge in South RP


ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 23, 2009) – Suspected Abu Sayyaf militants bombed a bridge in Sulu province in the southern Philippines in a wave of attacks that had already killed and wounded dozens of soldiers since last month.

Security officials said there were no reports of casualties in the latest bombing in the village of Taung in Patikul town. The attack which occurred late Thursday, damaged half of the Tangan-Tangan Bridge, but it remains passable, said Marine Major Ramon David Hontiveros, a regional military spokesman.

“Civilians at the locality disclosed that the blast caused partial damage to half of the bridge, but still passable to any vehicle. We have deployed combat units to pursue the bombers,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Hontiveros blamed Abu Sayyaf militants tagged as behind the spate of bombings and terrorism in the troubled southern region.

Early this week, militants also bombed a bridge a communication relay tower in Parang town and cutting off phone services in Sulu. The Abu Sayyaf also detonated a roadside bomb and killing a patrolling marine soldier and wounding two others in Patikul town.

The Abu Sayyaf also tried, but failed to bomb another bridge on Tuesday in Indanan town after troops recovered two improvised explosives.

Security forces were battling Abu Sayyaf and Moro rebels in the province since September and had so far left dozens of casualties from both sides, including two members of the US Special Forces aiding the military in defeating terrorism in Sulu.

Fighting broke out after the military aided by US intelligence, mounted fresh offensives against the Abu Sayyaf and Moro rebels in Indanan town. The offensive coincided with the Muslim celebration of the Eid al Fit’r, which started on the day after Islam’s holiest month of Ramadan.

Rebel forces also attacked a major military base in the capital town of Sulu. It was the second time in eight years that rebels attacked the camp, where US troops have put up a small forward base. Some 600 US troops under the Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines are aiding the Philippine military in defeating terrorism in the region. (Mindanao Exasminer)

Abductions and Disappearances in the Philippines


Beset by natural disasters like the devastating typhoon Parma, an ever-widening poverty gap, stumbling efforts at much-needed land reform, and two ongoing conflicts resulting in the death and displacement of thousands of people, the Philippines finds itself in a dark time. Set against this, the shocking legacy of human rights violations which plague the country while drawing little international scrutiny are a damning indictment against the government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Philippine human rights group Karapatan estimates that more than 900 activists, journalists, street children, petty thieves and outspoken clergy have been the victims of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings while the Arroyo regime has been in office, a tally that is rightfully pushing the notion that - while in international notoriety it is nowhere near its equal - in the sheer number and horror of crimes committed against the populous and, in the words of European Commission envoy Alistair MacDonald, the 'culture of impunity' that has developed at the highest levels of the political and military establishments, the Arroyo administration is beginning to best that of Ferdinand Marcos.

Many admirable, campaigning Filipino organizations consistently draw attention to the issue, alongside Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, yet little criticism is heard from the West. At the G20 meeting in London, the British Government seized the opportunity to highlight the human rights records of Russia and China; the Philippines was conspicuous by its absence from the UK foreign office's list of offenders. Only last month, Philippine leader Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was treated to a red carpet welcome in London, with a slavering Peter Mandelson re-enforcing the message of growing trade and investment and enhanced political relations between the two countries. No mention was made of the extraordinary human rights situation in the Philippines.

This month, an altogether different visit to the UK by a Filipina will take place: that of Dr Edita Burgos, mother of Jonas Burgos, one of many unaccounted for desaparecidos (disappeared) who have come to be a hallmark of the Arroyo regime.

The case of Jonas Burgos has drawn significant media attention in the Philippines, in no small part due to the fame of his late father, Joe Burgos Jr - publisher of the newspaper Malaya - who in the words of late former president Corazon Aquino "lit our paths in the dark, long years of martial rule".

The Burgos case shows many of the disturbing patterns of what has become a 'style' of abduction: dragged from a busy restaurant with two of his friends in a metropolitan shopping mall in broad daylight, his masked and armed abductors claimed they were policemen and warned against interference. His 'crime,' Burgos helped peasant farm workers learn organic agricultural techniques and was affiliated with Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines), which aims to help farmers fight for their rights through peaceful means.

Since that day in April 2007 there is still no one, least of all his family, who can confirm where Jonas is. Although President Arroyo personally called Dr Burgos to give her assurances that the police would aggressively pursue the case, little progress has been made since.

Dr Burgos has testified before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva that she believes the military took and still hold her son. However, all the implicated men have denied involvement. Witnesses have come forward claiming that the abductors were seen driving into to nearby military bases, and, in 2007, a confidential military memo surfaced which showed Burgos' name in the army's 'order of battle', a list of communist insurgents targeted for arrest or elimination. Next to his name was the word "neutralized". The three officers implicated in the abduction have all since been promoted.

Thankfully, the case has not completely escaped the international spotlight. Alistair MacDonald highlighted the plight of Burgos in a speech in 2007, saying that, "Just this week we've seen the appalling case of the abduction of Jonas Burgos and two companions...frankly I am shocked about what this suggests about the culture of impunity in this country."

Prof Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said in a statement given to the UN General Assembly that, "The Supreme Court's decision to establish a writ of amparo [protection] to facilitate the prompt resolution of alleged extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances is also encouraging...whether the judiciary will use its powers to overcome the military's resistance to clarifying the case of Jonas Burgos - a missing activist who may have been disappeared or killed - will be an important test."

What has the government done in the face of this relentless tide of extrajudicial killings and abductions? While publicly endorsing human rights and denying involvement, the all too obvious lack of successful prosecutions tells its own story.

In 2006, a special police unit named ‘Task Force Usig' was established by Arroyo. Since then, its main concern seems to be a pre-occupation with discrediting statistics in favor of pursuing prosecutions. The Melo Commission was set up in the same year to investigate all killings since 2001. Human rights groups pointed to a biased panel on the Commission which would favor the incumbent administration, and refused to take part and advised witnesses to do the same. Upon producing its findings, Arroyo attempted to keep the information secret, even though the Philippine constitution provides for the "right of the people to information on matters of public concern".

When its findings saw the light, the conclusion was stark: "Killings of activists and media personnel is pursuant to an orchestrated plan by a group or sector with an interest in eliminating the victims, invariably activists and media personnel...there is certainly evidence pointing the finger of suspicion at some elements and personalities in the armed forces, in particular General Palparan, as responsible for an undetermined number of killings, by allowing, tolerating, and even encouraging the killings."

Yet, in spite of the findings Human Rights Watch has stated that it has, "Failed to find any cases where prosecutions of commanding officers have been pursued based upon the principle of command responsibility...Instead, there is a perception that military officers who at the least condone killings...however unlawful, are rewarded."

When Dr Burgos arrives in the UK later this month in a visit organized by Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines with Amnesty International UK and UNISON, she will hope that at least in some small way her presence and push for publicity will, if not directly lead to the release of her son, alert people to the dire state of affairs in her home country.

But to bring an end to the chains of impunity something more may be needed. The Arroyo regime is notable for its 'trapos democracy' style of government, wherein it courts the historically powerful local clans, showing little care for a disenfranchised working class whose campaigners are often prominent victims of disappearances; little hope resides in change coming in this term of office.

As Dr Edita Burgos says: "I want us to elect honest people who will help end disappearances. If we do not put people there who will be sincere in dismantling all the institutions used to abduct people, these disappearances will not end." (By Mark Dearn for openDemocracy.net. The author has written and researched for the Independent, Chunichi Shimbun and the Tokyo Shimbun. He focuses on southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific.)


Link: http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/philippines/abductions-and-disappearances-in-the-philippines

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Kidnappers free 2 of seven forest rangers in southern Philippines

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 22, 2009) – Two of seven kidnapped Filipino forest rangers were freed unharmed late Thursday and their captors demanded the government to return their ancestral lands and to cancel all forest agreements with commercial loggers in areas where there are presence of indigenous tribes, police said.

Police said the kidnappers released Emeliano Gatillo Jr. and Efren Sabuero, but held on to the other hostages - Gabriel Arlan, Rito Espinido, Teofredo Pujadas and two others identified only as Clar and Abogatal.

They were taken on Wednesday near a forest checkpoint in Butuan City in Agusan del Norte province. The hostages are all employees of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

“The freed hostages, Emeliano Gatillo Jr. and Efren Sabuero, are being debriefed,” said Chief Inspector Martin Gamba, a spokesman for the police task force handling the case.

The fate of the remaining captives is unknown, Gamba told the regional newspaper, the Mindanao Examiner.

He said the two were freed in the village of Kulambugan in the town of Sibagat in Agusan del Sur province. “The two men are okay,” he said.

The military said the kidnappers have made four demands in exchange for the freedom of the hostages after a man who claimed to be the leader of the gang holding the foresters contacted the DENR.

“A man claiming to be the captor of the seven foresters has made four demands for the release of the hostages. We are leaving the negotiations to the police and local government authorities for the safe release of the foresters,” Major Michelle Anayron, a spokesman for the Army’s 4th Infantry Division in Mindanao, said in a separate interview.

Anayron said the captors demanded the cancellation of the Community-Based Forest Management Agreement in the town of Sibagat; the awarding of the Certificates of Ancestral Domain Title; government approval of customary farming and the cancellation of the Integrated Forest Management Agreement with commercial logging companies in their area.

He said the man who made the demands identified himself as Anoy Behing, a native of Sibagat town.

The province is a known lair of illegal loggers and a stronghold of communist New People’s Army insurgents. The illegal logging in Agusan del Norte continues unabatedly and is threatening water shed areas in the province.

Last year, some 500 leaders of indigenous tribes and representatives of nongovernmental organizations and the Catholic Church appealed to Manila to put an end to illegal logging and destructive mining in the province and other areas in the Caraga region considered as ancestral domain. (Mindanao Examiner)

Village chieftain killed in Zamboanga City

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 22, 2009) – An unidentified gunman killed a village chieftain an attack in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines, police said Thursday.

Police said Tagasilay village chieftain Ezmer Francisco was killed on the spot and his brother wounded in the attack late Wednesday. The duo was resting in their house when the gunman opened fire with an automatic rifle.

“So far, nobody has identified the attacker. We are still investigating the killing,” said Superintendent Amador Corpuz, the city police chief.

He said the gunman fled after the shooting. Francisco was the second village chieftain killed in Zamboanga City in four months.

In June, gunmen also killed the village chieftain of Muti, Malik Akbar, and his aide after having lunch at the Santa Cruz market. The attack also left 3 civilians wounded. (Mindanao Examiner)

House urges Senate to fast track P3-Billion Aid and Resettlement Program


MANILA, Philippines - Speaker Prospero Nograles and House Committee on Housing and Urban Development Chairman Rodolfo Valencia appealed to the Senate for the early passage of a House-approved three billion pesos, resettlement and rehabilitation fund for families along waterways and other danger zones in Metro Manila.

"This is a very timely measure which originally intends to assist families to be affected by demolitions and clearing operations in Metro Manila. The recent typhoons made this program imperative," Nograles said.

Nograles noted that the bill was sponsored in plenary until its final approval by the House way back in January 2009 in view of the program to clear metro waterways, sidewalks and other danger areas.

"Nature's wrath that resulted to hundreds of lives lost and billions in damages to property, infrastructure and agriculture only underlines the necessity to use all available resources to clean up our environment and assist our people improve their lives," he said.

Housing Chairman Valencia said that HB 5623, which was jointly sponsored in plenary by the Committee on Appropriations chaired by Representative Junie Cua, had been transmitted to the Senate sometime in late January of early February 2009, way before the onslaught of natural calamities that flooded urban centers and many provinces of Luzon.

"If the budget under the P12-B supplemental program for relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction of damages in areas hit by recent typhoons does not include the resettlement of families affected by earlier demolitions and clearing operations, then HB 5623 must be given due course by the Senate," Valencia pointed out.

The original objective of HB 5623 when approved in January 2009 is to provide resettlement to some 126,320 families that were expected to be displaced by demolitions and clearing operations in Metro Manila as well as to some 12,082 families that will be affected by government infrastructure projects through the establishment of resettlement centers, home sites or town sites, whether off-site or beneficiary-led, through the Community Mortgage Program or other socialized housing programs.

"This is a permanent solution to the problem of informal settlers in Metro Manila and provide a live of dignity to our poor Filipino families," Valencia said.

The bill, which is pending in the Senate, designates the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council in consultation with the Metro Manila Inter-Agency Committee and the Local Government Unit as host site, to assist in the resettlement of beneficiaries through a beneficiary-led or off-site Community Mortgage Program or other socialized housing programs.

The bill also designates the responsibility to undertake the census of beneficiaries to the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor in coordination with the MMIAC and the LGU concerned. The census of beneficiaries shall be cross-checked with the census of the National Housing Authority. (Gil Bugaoisan)

Filipino nurses seeking US jobs plunge 21%

MANILA, Philippines - The number of Filipino nurses that indicated their desire to seek employment in America by taking that country’s nursing licensure examination plunged by 21.38 percent in the nine months to September this year, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) reported Thursday.

Former Senator and TUCP secretary-general Ernesto Herrera said a total of 11,854 Filipino nurses took the NCLEX for the first time from January to September 2009, a decrease of 3,225 compared to the 15,079 that took the test in the same nine-month period in 2008.

On account of its economic decline, America has lost some of its allure as a land of greener pasture for foreign nurses and other highly skilled professionals, according to Herrera, former chairman of the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development.

"The confidence of foreign workers in America’s economic supremacy has clearly been shaken by the staggering job losses there," Herrera said in a statement.

A total of 7.6 million Americans have lost their jobs since the start of the U.S. recession in December 2007. Since then, the number of unemployed Americans has doubled to 15.1 million, with the national jobless rate at 9.8 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Herrera said that in the July to September quarter alone, only 3,582 Filipino nurses took the NCLEX for the first time, down 1,660 or 31.66 percent versus the 5,242 that took the test in the same quarter in 2008.

The continued decline in the number of Filipino nurses seeking to practice their profession in America comes even after the establishment of an NCLEX testing center in Manila, which has made it easier for them to take the examination, Herrera pointed out.

Prior to the establishment of the local test center, Filipino nurses had to travel overseas to take the NCLEX in Hong Kong, Guam or elsewhere.

The NCLEX refers to US National Council (of State Boards of Nursing) Licensure Examinations for registered and practical nurses.

In the whole of 2008, a total of 20,746 Filipino nurses took the NCLEX for the first time. This was down 3.5 percent compared to the 21,299 Filipino nurses that took the test for the first time in 2007.

Filipinos still account for four out of every 10 foreign nurses seeking to enter the US nursing profession.

The aggregate remittances of Filipino workers in America, including some 200,000 nurses, fell by $635 million or 11.84 percent to $4.731 billion in the seven months to August this year compared to $5.366 billion over the same period in 2008, according to Herrera.