Sunday, January 31, 2010

MILF says Muslim man murdered near Philippine military post

BASILAN, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 31, 2010) – The Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, has urged authorities Sunday to investigate the murder of a Muslim village near a military post in the troubled southern province of Basilan.

It said Najim Nitih was found dead several meters away from the military post in the village of Al-Barka late Saturday. The 28-year old motorcycle taxi driver was heading home when he was fatally shot.

No group or individual claimed responsibility for the attack. The MILF said the victim’s family and relatives sought its help to probe the killing which they blamed to soldiers manning the military post.

“Relatives who buried Najim late last night believed that the Marines who fired upon and killed the innocent victim,” the MILF said.

There was no immediate statement from the military about the accusation.

Last year, unidentified gunmen also ambushed the mayor of Al-Barka town, Karam Jakilan, killing him instantly and two of his aides in Basilan. Jakilan was returning to Al-Barka when he was attacked.

Al-Barka is a known MILF lair where 14 soldiers were killed - ten of them beheaded - in a firefight with rebels and Abu Sayyaf militants in July 2007.

The MILF is currently negotiating peace with Manila, but despite a cease-fire agreement, sporadic clashes still continue in many parts of Mindanao, including Basilan, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region. (Mindanao Examiner)

Philippine military honors crash victims


Major General Jess Fajardo, Air Chief-of-Staff, and Colonel Cris Tumanda, commander of the Philippine Air Force Tactical Operation Group, lead the military honor as soldiers carry the coffins of those who died in a Nomad plane crash in Cotabato City in Mindanao. Those who were killed are Major General Mario Butch Lacson, commander of the 3rd Air Division; air force pilots Captain Genaro Gaylord Ordonio and First Lieutenant Angelica Valdez, Major Prisco Tacuboy, Lieutenant Alexander Ian Lipait and Staff Sergeants Ronaldo Mejia, Ianne Christy Marose Llamera and Jeffrey Gozon. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Mark Navales)

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 31, 2010) – The Philippine military honored a senior air force commander and seven other who perished in a plane crash in Mindanao.

Major Randolph Cabangbang, a regional military spokesman, said those killed were Major General Mario Butch Lacson, commander of the 3rd Air Division in Zamboanga City; air force pilots Captain Genaro Gaylord Ordonio and First Lieutenant Angelica Valdez, Major Prisco Tacuboy, Lieutenant Alexander Ian Lipait and Staff Sergeants Ronaldo Mejia, Ianne Christy Marose Llamera and Jeffrey Gozon.

Cabangbang said the plane crashed on a village in Cotabato City two minutes after it took off at around 11:35 a.m. Thursday at a military base in Maguindanao province.

Lacson’s group came from a conference in Davao City and was returning to Zamboanga City, but their plane had a brief stopped at an air force base in Maguindanao’s Awang town. (Mark Navales)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Philippines peace talks with MILF end with no new agreements

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 29, 2010) – The Philippines and Moro Islamic Liberation Front ended peace talks abruptly in Kuala Lumpur without new agreement that would put an end to decades of bloody fighting in the restive region of Mindanao.

Peace negotiators exchanged drafts on the comprehensive compact agreement on Wednesday, but the MILF said Manila had offer nothing new that would lead to a political settlement of the fighting in Mindanao.

The MILF peace panel headed by Mohagher Iqbal said Manila was offering the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao instead of what was previously agreed upon.
“The GRP draft essentially offers the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” Iqbal said, referring to the Philippine government.

The peace talks were supposed to end on Thursday, but the MILF peace panel backed out from the last day of the negotiations with Manila and instead met with Malaysian facilitator Datuk Othman bin Abd Razak and members of the International Contact Group to explain its position.

“The GRP draft is practically an enabling legislation piece,” MILF lawyer Michael Mastura said.

The MILF previously expressed concern that a peace agreement is possible before President Gloria Arroyo ends her term in June. But government peace negotiators said that a peace pact is still possible within the remaining term of office of Arroyo.

“We doubted this very much, simply because Arroyo then had been in office for almost eight years, and the comprehensive compact was never discussed. Even the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain was only initialed, but not signed, so how much more for a larger and more important document such as the comprehensive compact and Arroyo has barely five months remaining in office?”

“But we gave value to what my good counterpart (Rafael Seguis) had put forward, as coming no less from the President (Gloria Arroyo). We agreed to work together and willingly gave a serious try, Iqbal said before the start of the peace talks.

Peace talks was stalled in 2008 after both sides failed to sign any agreement on the most contentious issue — ancestral domain – which refers to the rebel demand for territory that will constitute a Muslim homeland.

The failed agreement triggered deadly rebel attacks in Mindanao after the Supreme Court stopped the formal signing of the peace accord. Politicians and lawmakers opposed to the ancestral domain deal filed their petitions to the High Court and asked Manila to make public the rest of the agreement.They claimed the accord was made without public consultations, an accusation strongly denied by government leaders.

The MILF said it will not renegotiate the ancestral domain agreement. "It is already a done deal; we have already initialed the memorandum of agreement on the ancestral domain. We will not revisit or renegotiate the agreement," Iqbal said in the past.

But despite the deal, there is still a need to amend the Constitution to allow plebiscite on areas under the ancestral domain that would make up the so-called Bangsamoro Juridical Entity and give Muslims their own homeland.

Ancestral domain is the single most important issue in the peace negotiations before the rebel group can reach a political settlement with the Philippine government.

It covers the whole of the Muslim autonomous region – Sulu, Tawi-Tawi-, Basilan, Maguindanao and Lanao, including Marawi City. And some areas in Zamboanga Peninsula, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani provinces in Mindanao where there are large communities of Muslims and indigenous tribes. And also Palawan Island, off Mindanao.

But Tawi-Tawi Representative Nur Jaafar has filed House Bill 4963 proposing to divide the Muslim autonomous region into two – the South Western Autonomous Region and the Central Mindanao Autonomous Region – and that a plebiscite will be held in every village in the provinces of Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay and the cities of Isabela, Pagadian, Dipolog, Dapitan and Zamboanga.

And also in the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Sarangani and the cities of Cotabato, Marawi, Iligan, Kidapawan, General Santos, Koronadal and Tacurong.

Despite the abrupt ending of the peace talks, Malaysia announced the deployment in Mindanao on February of a group of international cease-fire observers to monitor the implementation of the truce between the Philippines and the MILF.

Peace talks are expected to resume on February 18 and 19 in Malaysia which is brokering the talks. The talks are expected to discuss the draft agreement and identify the next steps for the purpose of achieving a comprehensive compact and a negotiated solution to the Muslim problems in Mindanao.

President Arroyo opened peace talks with the MILF in 2001 and vowed to forge a peace deal with the rebels before her term ends. (Mindanao Examiner)

Manila offers ARMM to MILF; direct talks cut short in KL

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 29, 2010) - Peace representatives of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines have conducted a brief negotiation Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur.

After exchanging drafts on the proposed Comprehensive Compact Agreement, they returned to their respective hotels to scrutinize each other’s proposal with the understanding to return the next day for consideration.

The MILF Peace Panel, finding that the GRP’s draft had nothing new to offer, decided not to meet its counterpart. Instead, the MILF peace panel requested for a special meeting with the Malaysian facilitator and members of the International Contact Group to explain the position they have taken.

“The GRP draft essentially offers the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” says Mohagher Iqbal, chairman of MILF negotiating panel, adding that “this offer was done in April of 2000 and repeated in February of 2003, just before the attack on the MILF Buliok complex in North Cotabato province.

The Seguis-led GRP negotiating panel submitted a 17-page document while the MILF’s was 37 pages.

Asked about his comment, MILF lawyer Michael Mastura commented off-hand that, “the GRP Draft is practically an enabling legislation piece.” It was learned from Iqbal later that this GRP approach deviated from what was agreed during the Agenda Setting Session in the previous GRP-MILF special meeting on December 8 and 9, 2009.

Among those commonly agreed items that the GRP lawyer Camilo Montesa summed up are: 1) Identity and citizenship, 2) Governance structure, 3) Security arrangements, 4) Wealth-sharing, natural resources and property rights, 5) Restorative justice and reconciliation, 6) Implementation arrangements, and 7) Independent Monitoring.

But Mastura also pointed out that, except for Item 5, the MILF agreed to prepare a Draft as outlined earlier. However, he clarified that “the MILF stresses Transitional justice and reconciliation rather than Restorative justice.”

The meeting opened with the statements from the Malaysian facilitator, Seguis, Iqbal, and some members of the ICG. After this, drafts were exchanged.

A chance interview with three other members of the MILF peace panel, Maulana Alonto, lawyer Abdul Dataya, and Antonio Kinoc, revealed that the MILF draft adhered to the general outline agreed during the Agenda Setting Session.

He said the two drafts have wide divergence that have no point of convergence, adding that the GRP draft’s derogation of prior agreements is not a positive response to sustain confidence building measures.

According to Jun Mantawil, head of the MILF Peace Panel Secretariat, “the meeting on Thursday) was supposed to be the deliberation session.” But in place of the normal “face-to-face deliberation” between the two panels, “proximate meetings” took place, thereby the Malaysian facilitator Datuk Othman bin Abd Razakand an ICG representative shuttled between the two sides.

Meanwhile, a more positive development is the announcement of the Malaysian facilitator that the deployment of the International Monitoring Team is under way before the end of February 2010.

The parties agreed to meet again on February 18 and 19 to discuss the draft texts and identify the next steps for the purpose of achieving a comprehensive compact and a negotiated solution.

According to Datuk Othman, the parties also agreed to preserve previous gains made in the peace process and to review each other draft with their respective principals and to consult concerned stakeholders on options of moving forward.

The GRP peace panel is composed of Seguis, Agrarian Secretary Nasser Pangandamen, Dr. Ronald Adamat, Atty. Tony Laviña, and Atty. Mariano Sarmiento. Director Ryan Mark Sullivan and Zoilo Velasco composed the GRP Peace Panel Secretariat.

The representatives of the ICG were Hitoshi Ozawa and Yoshihisa Ishikawa, Minister and First Secretary of the Embassy of Japan in Manila respectively; Ambassador Boyd McCleary, British High Commissioner to Malaysia and Christopher Wright, Second Secretary, British Embassy in Manila; Yasin Temizkan, Chargé d’ Affaires, Embassy of Turkey in Kuala Lumpur.

The INGO members who attended were David Gorman, Mediation Adviser of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HDC); The Asia Foundation’s(TAF) Dr. Steven Rood, Country Representative for the Philippines; Herizal Hazri, Program Director in Malaysia, and Thomas Parks, Regional Director for Governance and Conflict based in Thailand; Cynthia Petrigh, Advisor on Peace Process, Conciliation Resources; and Dr. Din Syamsuddin, President of Muhammadiyah accompanied by an adviser, Surwandono. (Binhamen Madany)

3 explosions hit Zamboanga City

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 29, 2010) – Philippine authorities on Friday stepped up security following three small explosions in the southern port city of Zamboanga previously bombed by al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militants.

Army Colonel Santiago Baluyot, commander of a military anti-terror task force, said the explosions at dawn occurred in three areas in downtown Zamboanga, but there were no reports of casualties.

“The explosions occurred at dawn and there are no reports of casualties. The explosions are probably meant to sow fear,” Baluyot told the regional newspaper, the Mindanao Examiner.

He said the first blast was reported along Sevilla Street at around 3:30 a.m. and followed by another explosion at 4:20 a.m. in front of the Universidad de Zamboanga and one more at Plaza Pershing at 5:10 a.m.

Baluyot said bomb experts have recovered no shrapnel from the three areas. He said police and military are still investigating the explosions. No group or individual claimed responsibility for the blasts, but previous bombings had been largely blamed by authorities to the Abu Sayyaf group. (Mindanao Examiner)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Philippine soldiers mourn death of general, 7 others in plane crash





Soldiers and volunteers at the scene of the crash site in Cotabato City in Mindanao where a Philippine Air Force Nomad plane went down on Thursday, January 28, 2010. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Mark Navales)


COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 28, 2010) – The Philippine military mourned Thursday the death of a senior commander and seven more whose Nomad aircraft crashed on a village in Cotabato City in Mindanao.

“We are sad by what happened; seven of our own died in the crash. This is terrible day for us all in the military service,” said one soldier who helped pulled out the charred remains from the smoldering wreckage of the ageing aircraft.

Soldiers and paramedics rushed to the crash site after the crash in an effort to find survivors, but there was none.

Major Randolph Cabangbang, a regional military spokesman, said among the dead was Major General Mario Butch Lacson, commander of the 3rd Air Division in Zamboanga City.

Cabangbang said the plane crashed on a village in Cotabato City two minutes after it took off at around 11:35 a.m. at a military base in Maguindanao province. “It is a sad day for us. All eight passengers and crew perished in the crash,” he told the regional newspaper, the Mindanao Examiner.

Lacson’s group came from a conference in Davao City and was returning to Zamboanga City, but their plane had a brief stopped at an air force base in Maguindanao’s Awang town.

Other reports said soldiers pulled out the charred remains of the passengers, including two pilots and a crewman. It was unknown whether there casualties on the ground, but the plane crashed in two houses which caught fire.

Cabangbang said there is an ongoing investigation into the crash. “We still don’t know what happened, but the plane is quite old. There is an ongoing investigation,” he said.

The Philippine Air Force has one of the oldest fleet of air crafts in the world, including about a dozen Nomad plane. (Mark Navales contributed to this report)

Protests greet SOCA of Zamboanga mayor



Anti-riot policemen armed with truncheons block a group of political activists protesting the rising crimes, unemployment and other social issues during the state of the city address of Celso Lobregat, the mayor of Zamboanga City on Thursday, January 28, 2010 in Zamboanga City. Children from the Sanit Francis Orphanage also display their placards at the Zamboanga City Council appealing to Lobregat not to take over the operation of the orphan center founded and run by a Catholic priest Fr. Arthur Winikoff. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)


ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 28, 2010) - Anti-riot policemen armed with truncheons block a group of political activists protesting the rising crimes, unemployment and other social issues during the state of the city address of Celso Lobregat, the mayor of Zamboanga City on Thursday.

The protesters, mostly from Akbayan party list group, carried placards and shouted slogans as they tried to march to the Zamboanga City Council where Lobregat delivered his state of the city address. Police said the protesters had no permits to hold a rally, but leaders of the group said they were expressing their freedom of speech.

"We are only expressing our disgust to the rising crimes - the spate of killings - and the unemployment and many more problems the city is facing under Lobregat," Edgar Araojo, one of the leaders of the protesters, who is also a university professor, told reporters.

The protesters later dispersed peacefully.

Dozens of orphans, mostly children, from the Saint Francis Orphanage, also trooped to the Zamboanga City Council, but they failed to speak to Lobregat about his plans to take over the orphan house founded and run by a Catholic priest Fr. Arthur Winikoff. Some of the children also carried placards appealing to Lobregat not to take the orphan house, founded in 1988, away from them.

"We are appealing to mayor Celso Lobregat to spare the orphanage and not to take it away from us. This is our home," one child said.

The priest said he signed a contract with the previous mayor, Vitaliano Agan, and even was commended and praised by Maria Clara Lobregat, a former mayor of Zamboanga and mother of Lobregat, for Winikoff's sacrifices in running the orphanage, which sits on a three-hectare government lot. (Mindanao Examiner)

Philippine military plane crashes in Mindanao, 8 killed

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 28, 2010) – An ageing Philippine Air Force Nomad aircraft crashed Thursday in Cotabato City in the southern region of Mindanao, killing all 8 people onboard, including a senior military commander, officials said.

Major Randolph Cabangbang, a regional military spokesman, said among the dead was Major General Mario Butch Lacson, commander of the 3rd Air Division in Zamboanga City.

Cabangbang said the plane crashed on a village in Cotabato City two minutes after it took off at around 11:35 a.m. at a military base in Maguindanao province. “It is a sad day for us. All eight passengers and crew perished in the crash,” he told the regional newspaper, the Mindanao Examiner.

Lacson’s group came from a conference in Davao City and was returning to Zamboanga City, but their plane had a brief stopped at an air force base in Maguindanao’s Awang town.

Other reports said soldiers pulled out the charred remains of the passengers, including two pilots and a crewman. It was unknown whether there casualties on the ground, but the plane crashed in two houses which caught fire.

Cabangbang said there is an ongoing investigation into the crash. “We still don’t know what happened, but the plane is quite old. There is an ongoing investigation,” he said.

The Philippine Air Force has one of the oldest fleet of air crafts in the world, including about a dozen Nomad plane. (Mark Navales, Geo Solmerano and Beck de Asis contributed to this report)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Building contractor killed in Zamboanga City

ZAMBOANGA DEL CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 27, 2010) – A building contractor was killed despite a strict gun ban being implemented by authorities in an attack in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines.

Engineer Joselito Yanga, also the vice president of the local contractors called “Los Contratista”, was heading home on a motorcycle late Tuesday when he was shot in the head in the village of Guiwan.

Police said it still investigating the murder. “Engineer Yanga was a good man and a happy person and we were shocked to learn that he was shot and killed,” said Engineer Raymon Go, a local building contractor.

At least 15 gun attacks have been recorded in Zamboanga City since early January and all these occurred just as the police and military are implementing a nationwide gun ban.

The Commission on Elections ordered a six-month nationwide gun ban beginning January 10 ahead of the May national and local polls to minimize political violence during the election campaign period.

Only duty policemen and soldiers and members of law enforcement agencies are authorized to bear arms provided they have permits from the Commission on Elections exempting them from the gun ban.

But the order also put at risk many local gun owners who are receiving death threats. Hired killers are actively operating in Zamboanga City and had been blamed for many murders the past years. (Mindanao Examiner)

Zambo town mayor links killings to politics

ZAMBOANGA DEL SUR, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 27, 2010) – A southern Philippine town mayor on Wednesday said assassins are targeting his relatives and political supporters after gunmen killed three cousins in separate attacks in Zamboanga del Sur province.

Labangan town mayor Abubakar Afdal said the killings were purely political aimed at weakening his hold in the province. “The killings are an act perpetrated by evil persons,” he told the regional newspaper, the Mindanao Examiner.

Gunmen had killed the mayor’s cousins Rascal Afdal, Hanira Agcong and Steve Tapodoc, who was running foe a seat in the town’s council. They were all gunned town by motorcycle gunmen in separate attacks this month.

Afdal believed the killing of his supporters is being perpetrated to end his clout in Labangan, one of the vote-rich municipalities in Zamboanga del Sur.

Police said family feud could be the motive behind the killings, but the mayor disputed this and said the murders were political. “I believed these killings are connected to politics and not family feud,” Afdal said. (Becky de Asis)

Mindanao Examiner TV Week in Review January 17-23, 2010

Mindanao Examiner TV Week in Review January 17-23, 2010 Part 1



Mindanao Examiner TV Week in Review January 17-23, 2010 Part 2



Mindanao Examiner TV Week in Review January 17-23, 2010 Part 3

Zambo police warn citizens vs. illegal firearms

PAGADIAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 27, 2010) – Police on Wednesday reminded citizens not to carry firearms whether licensed or not because of the nationwide gun ban being implemented in the country ahead of the May national polls.

Senior Superintendent Ramon Ochotorena, the Zamboanga del Sur provincial police chief, said the total gun ban which took effect this month will stay until June.

“We will spare no one. This should served as warning to all that the police will not tolerate any violations of the gun ban whether civilians or not,” he told the Mindanao Examiner newspaper.

He said the Resolution 8714 of the Commission on Elections strictly prohibits the carrying and transport of firearms, explosives and deadly weapons from January 10 to June 09, 2010.

He said only uniformed members of the police, military men, and government security agencies that are on official duties are allowed to carry firearms during the 150-day election period or provided they have Comelec permits exempting them from the gun ban.

Ochotorena explained the gun ban will prevent or reduce poll related violence. “This early there are 30 mobile check points scattered around the whole province to implement the order,” he said.

Police have arrested several gun ban violators in the province. (Becky de Asis)

Extrajudicial killings decried in Zamboanga Sur

PAGADIAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 27, 2010) - The vice governor of Zamboanga del Sur province Roseller Ariosa decried the series of extrajudicial killings in Pagadian City happening at a time when a total gun ban is being implemented by authorities.

He ordered police and military to tighten security in the province to prevent future killings and arrest those behind the murders.

The murders where believed to be politically motivated. First to fell from an assassin's bullet was Rascal Tiban Afdal, a political leader of the Liberal party, and a relative of Mayor Abubakar Afdal of Labangan.

Afdal was killed on January 4 by three motorcycle gunmen in the village of Dao while on his way to work. He was with his wife when the shooting occurred.

On January 16, another political leader of the Afdal clan, Hadja Hanira Abdullah Agcong, was fatally shot while seating in her parked van along Rizal Avenue.

The next day, Muttalidem Tapodoc, executive secretary of Labangan town, and a candidate for the town council, was shot dead along Datoc Street at the back of city hall near the police station.

Local city police chief, Michael Palermo, did not rule out the politics as the motive of the killings. He said they are investigating whether the murders were connected to grudge or family matters.

Palermo said Afdal's murder was believed connected with the illegal drug trade while Agcong's killing had something to do with family feud.

Since early this month, police said nearly a dozen people had been killed. (Becky de Asis and Jong Cadion contributed to this report)

Electric coop to tear down signs put on Zambo street poles



Two candidates - who are part of the political party of Celso Lobregat, the mayor of Zamboanga City - for the Zamboanga City Council, put up their signboards on electrical posts in Zamboanga City despite a local ordinance prohibiting the putting of any signs on electric poles. Engineer Cesar Melat, of the Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative on Wednesday, January 27, 2010 says they would tear down the illegal signs. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 27, 2010) – The Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative on Wednesday ordered the removal of signs put by politicians on street lights, saying, it violated a local ordinance.

Engineer Cesar Melat said there is an existing city ordinance that prohibits the putting of any signs on street poles. He said they would remove all signs illegally put on street lights.

Two candidates - who are part of the political party of Celso Lobregat, the mayor of Zamboanga City - for the City Council, put up their signboards on electrical posts.

“We will remove these signs. They are illegal because there is a city ordinance that prohibits the putting of any signs on street poles which is also dangerous,” Melat told the Mindanao Examiner newspaper.

Many local politicians who are running for reelections have resorted to different propaganda ahead of the start of the campaign period on March 25 for the general elections in May.

Some politicians even had their jingles whose melody is lifted from different Filipino and foreign songs and aired in radio stations. (Mindanao Examiner)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

7 soldiers wounded in roadside bombing in South RP

KIDAPAWAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 26, 2010) – A roadside bombing on Tuesday wounded 7 government soldiers in North Cotabato province in the southern Philippines, reports said.

It said the explosion occurred at around 6:30 p.m. on a village in Makilala town. The soldiers, who belong to the Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion, were rushed to hospital because of shrapnel wounds.


The soldiers were patrolling when the bomb exploded near them.

No group or individual claimed responsibility for the attack, but Moro and communist rebels are actively operating in North Cotabato province in Mindanao Island.

There was no immediate statement from the military about the attack. (Geo Solmerano)

Family of missing Maguindanao cop says son is safe

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 26, 2010) – A police officer who was reported to have gone missing is safe and now in the custody of the Department of Justice, his family said Tuesday.

Officials said Inspector Ariel Diongon left the main police headquarters in Camp Crame in Manila on January 21 and did not return since then. Diongon, commander of the Maguindanao provincial police mobile group, has been in police custody since last year after the gruesome murders of 26 innocent civilians and at least 31 journalists accompanying a political caravan in the province on November 23.

Police in the southern Philippines ordered a massive search for Diongon who is a probable key government witness to the brutal slayings.

"Diongon is seeking protection and now with the Department of Justice and he is safe," the policeman's father said in General Santos City in Mindanao where the family lives.

Senior Superintendent Salik Macapantar, of the Muslim autonomous region, said Diongon left the police headquarters without clearance from his superiors. “We have ordered police forces to search for Diongon and take him in custody immediately if he returns to Mindanao. Diongon was last seen in Camp Crame on January 21,” he said on Monday.

He said police is also verifying reports that Diongon – who could shed light into the killings – is in Iloilo province where he is to get marry. He said they tried call Diongon’s mobile phone, but it remained unanswered.

Macapantar said they have also coordinated with the police and other law enforcement agencies in General Santos City where Diongon is currently residing should he return home.

Six of Diongon’s policemen – who are also in restricted custody in Camp Crame - are all accounted, Macapantar said. “Diongon is the only one missing and the six others who also were reported missing also is all accounted.”

Police said a scion of a powerful political clan in Maguindanao, Andal Ampatuan Jr., the mayor of Datu Unsay town, allegedly led some 100 gunmen in the gruesome killings in the province. Among those murdered were the wife and two sisters and supporters of Esmael Mangudadatu, the vice mayor of Buluan town who is running for governor of Maguindanao – a position being held by the mayor’s father and namesake, Andal Ampatuan Sr. - in the May elections.

The Ampatuan and the Mangudadatu clans are bitter political foe in Maguindanao, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region, whose governor, Zaldy Ampatuan, is a brother of Andal Ampatuan Jr.

All three politicians, including other clan members and supporters, had been arrested in connection with the killings. They denied involvement in the murders. (Mindanao Examiner)

After kidnapping, Irish priest back to his missionary work in Mindanao

Fr. Michael Sinnott. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)


PAGADIAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 26, 2010) – Freed Irish Catholic priest Michael Sinnott has returned to his missionary work in the southern Philippines, two months after a harrowing ordeal in the hands of Moro rebels in the restive region of Mindanao.

The 80-year old Sinnott, who belongs to the Missionary Society of St. Columban, returned to Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur province on Monday, reports said.

He immediately visited children staying at a charity house he founded in Pagadian City and vowed to continue his missionary works.

Sinnot arrived January 15 in Manila after a two-month vacation in Ireland following his release in November in Zamboanga City. “It’s very nice to be back and am looking forward to going back to my work in Pagadian,” Sinnot said shortly after his return.

Sinnott was taken by six gunmen on October 11 from his missionary house in Pagadian City and brought to Lanao province. The kidnappers demanded $2 million for his release, but Manila and Sinnott’s government said no ransom was paid and that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front helped secure the priest’s freedom.

“I was amazed when I came out of here there were a lot of people who prayed for me and I would like to thank them very, very sincerely from the bottom of my heart,” Sinnot said, adding, he would “like to do the little bit I can for as long as I can.”

Shortly after he was freed, Sinnott spoke with reporters at a Philippine Air Force base in Zamboanga City and told them his ordeal during his captivity. He said he was treated well by his captors, whom he identified as members of a “lost command” headed by Kikay. The priest said his captors told him that he was kidnapped because of ransom.

Sinnott was the third Irish missioner to be kidnapped in Mindanao since 1997. Father Des Hartford was held by Moro rebels for 12 days, and in 2001, Father Rufus Hally, a missioner from Waterford, was shot dead during an attempted abduction in Mindanao. (Becky de Asis contributed to this report)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Region 10 Emerging as Mindanao’s Dominant Regional Economy

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines - Since Iligan City and Lanao del Norte were integrated back into Northern Mindanao (Region 10) in 2002, the resulting region has become Mindanao’s biggest economy. Recent years indicate it is now pulling away to attain a position of dominance among the island’s regional economies.

The economic accounts of the island’s Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP) show that before the realignment of regions in 2002, Region 10 trailed the Davao Region (Region 11) in GRDP. However, since Iligan and Lanao del Norte rejoined Region 10 and some parts of the Davao region were re-aligned to the SOCCSKARGEN region, Davao has trailed Region 10 in current and adjusted GRDP.

SOCCSKARGEN is an acronym that stands for the region's four provinces and one of its cities - South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City - and its regional center is Koronadal City in South Cotabato.

The gap between the two region’s GRDPs in current prices wavered from P9.8-billion (B) in 2003, dropping to P7.8-B in 2005 before accelerating to P25.1-billion by 2008. However, when the differences are adjusted for 1985 constant prices (to negate the effects of inflation on prices), the figures show that the gap between Regions 10 and 11 has been exponentially increasing from P2.3-B in 2003 to P4.9-B in 2006 and further to 8.7-B in 2008.

Latest available data generated by the Economic and Social Statistics Office of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) from primary and secondary data sources gathered from various data producers in the country shows Region 10 with a 2008 GRDP of P362.4-billion vs. P337.3-B for Region 11 (based on current prices) or P71.7 billion vs. P62.99 billion based on 1985 constant prices, said Linnito Pascual, officer-in-charge and regional division head of the NSCB-10 office.

The emergence of Region 10 as Mindanao’s largest economy has been further but stressed when it became the fastest growing economy in the country in 2008, outperforming even the National Capital Region and the Philippine economy as a whole, official estimates released by the NSCB show.

Figures presented by NSCB-10 show Region 10 grew faster than the national average of 3.8 percent and outstripped all regions from all over the country in terms of growth, although its growth rate was a deceleration from the 7.7 percent it attained as the country’s third fastest growing regional economy in 2007.

The annual estimates for regional economies showed Region 10 growing by 5.3 percent in 2008, thanks to the robust performance of the agriculture, fisheries and forestry (AFF) sector. From 6.3 percent in 2007, AFF accelerated to 10.7 percent in 2008, making up for the so-so performance of the service and industrial sectors.

“The service sector remains the biggest contributor to the region’s economy at 38.5% despite its growth decelerating to 2.3 percent from 8.1% in 2007,” said Pascual. “The industry sector, which accounted for 30.3 percent of the region’s economy, posted a 4.2% growth in 2008, or 4.4 percentage points short of the 8.6% growth recorded in 2007.”

On top of this, Northern Mindanao also sustained its status as Mindanao’s biggest regional economy, increasing its share of the island’s economy from 27.9 percent in 2007 to 28.3 percent in 2008. It also accounted for the biggest share of the sectoral pies with 30.6 percent of service, 30.3 percent for industry and 24.5 percent for AFF.

Not the least, Region 10 also sustained its growth in per capita GRDP, growing by 3.2 percent in 2008, although this was a slight decrease from its 5.5 percent growth in 2007. It was the only region in Mindanao to record a per capita GRDP rate above the national average, one of only three regional economies to do so in 2008, and ranked third among all regions nationwide.

An analysis of the economic accounts of Mindanao’s two biggest regions reveals similarities as well as contrasts. Although the regional capitals of both regions account for the bulk of the region’s GRDP, there are significant differences in the way the two economies are structured. The bulk of Davao Region’s GRDP comes from the Service Sector based in Davao City and agriculture based both in DC and its surrounding provinces.

On the other hand, Region 10 has a more diversified regional economy with its 2008 GRDP almost evenly distributed among the Service Sector (38.48%), Industry (30.31%) and Agriculture, Fishery and Forestry (31.21%) sectors.

Champions of Region 10 in the private and public sectors have often cited the resiliency of the regional economy made possible by this sectoral profile. Because of the even distribution of its GRDP among three sectors, the regional economy has managed to maintain a steady growth rate despite fluctuations in the national and global economy.

This distribution and diversity carries over to the geographical spread of the various sectors. Region 10’s agriculture is concentrated in Bukidnon (pineapple, sugar cane, banana, corn) and Lanao del Norte (rice, coconut) while its industries are mainly found in Misamis Oriental (Phividec Industrial Estate) and Iligan City.

Services which consist mainly of trade (shopping malls), finance (banks), dwellings and real estate (subdivision and commercial business centers), private (BPOs, hotels, schools) and government services (regional government offices) are found mostly in Cagayan de Oro which remains the region’s administrative and trading capital and center of learning and Camiguin, the region’s top tourism destination.

“This well-defined positioning of the provinces also contributes to the complementation of the economic contribution of the various sectors,” noted Eliza Pabillore, Misamis Oriental provincial director of the Department of Trade and Industry.

However, the geographical distribution of Region 10’s industrial sectors does not necessarily guarantee it immunity from the effects of external influences which may affect one or more of its industrial sectors. That’s because of the way with which these sectors have become vertically and horizontally integrated over the years, leading to varying degrees of interdependence and autonomy.

For instance, when the National Steel Corporation in Iligan City shut down in November 1999, the service sector in Cagayan de Oro also suffered a downturn as machine shops, transport firms, banks, and other downstream industries serving the giant steel firm were forced to cut down or close shop.

Similarly, many agricultural products produced in Bukidnon are processed in Cagayan de Oro or the Phividec Industrial Estate in Misamis Oriental before they are shipped out abroad or to markets in the Luzon or the Visayas. Changes which adversely affect a specific link in this supply chain would inevitably have repercussions downstream and upstream of the affected portion.

Nevertheless, despite the slowing down of the national and global economies during the past few years, Region 10 continues its steady growth and emergence as Mindanao’s dominant regional economy. (Contributed by Mike Banos)

Muslim farmer killed after attacking army soldier in Maguindanao province

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 25, 2010) – A government soldier was wounded after a farmer whom he tried to arrest for carrying a sickle near a checkpoint attacked him in the southern Philippines.

Other soldiers also manning the checkpoint fatally shot the farmer in Maguindanao’s Datu Piang town. The military blamed the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, in the weekend attack. It said the man was a member of the MILF, an accusation strongly denied by the rebel group.

“The MILF has nothing to do with the attack. The reports we have received said the soldier was trying to arrest the farmer and confiscate his sickle which he was using in his farm. Apparently an altercation ensued and for a still unknown reason, the farmer attacked and wounded the soldier. The farmer was later killed by soldiers,” Eid Kabalu, a senior MILF leader, told the independent regional newspaper, the Mindanao Examiner.

Military officials could not be immediately reached to comment on the reports.

Maguindanao, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region, is under a state of emergency after the brutal murder of 57 people, including at least 31 journalists on November 23 in Ampatuan town.

A scion of the powerful political clan, Andal Ampatuan Jr., the mayor of Datu Unsay, allegedly led the killings. Among those murdered were the wife and two sisters and supporters of Esmael Mangudadatu, the vice mayor of Buluan town who is running for governor of Maguindanao – a position being held by the mayor’s father and namesake, Andal Ampatuan Sr. - in the May elections. (Mindanao Examiner)

'Sikat' goes to Mindanao




Filipinos in Davao City view Sikat, a car developed by De La Salle university, which runs on solar power is currently on a road show in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Geo Solmerano)


DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 25, 2010) – A car developed by a Filipino university which runs on solar power is currently on a road show in the southern Philippines.

Called ‘Sikat,’ the car was built by the De La Salle University and is now in Davao City and would be here up to Friday before proceeding to Iligan City at the end of this month.

The car’s tour in Mindanao and other areas in the Philippines is in preparation to the 2011’s World Solar Challenge.

Road show organizers said the three-wheeled Sikat is designed as a single-seater race car whose power comes from solar radiation and converted to electricity via solar cells and stored using lithium iron phosphate batteries. Almost all mechanical parts are made by the De La Salle team.

The car’s overall dimensions are 4450mm x 1720mm x 1110 mm and is significantly lighter, smaller, and more aerodynamic than the first solar car, ‘Sinag.’ The upper shell is made of fiber glass lattice framework. The lower hull is formed using carbon fiber skin.

It is a front wheel drive using in-wheel motor, which is a direct transmission, in-wheel CSIRO Surface-Type brushless permanent magnet motor rated at 1.8kW with 97% efficiency controlled via a Tritium motor driver.

Sikat has a hydraulic brake system and regenerative braking for energy recovery and has a cable-type hand brake attached to the front wheel. The solar array consists of 386 SunPower A300 C65 Silicon cells with a total area of 6 square meters. Its cells are manufactured by SunPower Philippines, Ltd. And solar cells have an efficiency rating of 21%.

It alsi uses Lithium Iron Phosphate - 598 cells connected in 46s13p layout – with 3.2 V, 3.3 Ah on each cell and has a total weight of 49 kilos.

From direct solar power supply, through solar panels only, Sikat is expected to run at about 80 kph. If battery charged is utilized, the car can run up to 110 kph for a limited amount of time. Running from battery power alone and cruising at 80 kph on a flat road, and it has a range of 400 km. However if the run includes daylight, the range can extend up to 933 km. (Geo Solmerano)

Police order massive search for missing witness to Maguindanao massacre

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 25, 2010) – Police in the southern Philippines ordered a massive search for an officer – a probable key government witness to the brutal slaying of 57 people in Mindanao - who had gone missing from since last week, officials told the regional newspaper, the Mindanao Examiner, on Monday.

Officials said Inspector Ariel Diongon left the main police headquarters in Camp Crame in Manila on January 21 and did not return since then.

Diongon, commander of the Maguindanao provincial police mobile group, has been in police custody since last year after the gruesome murders of 26 innocent civilians and at least 31 journalists accompanying a political caravan in the province on November 23.

A scion of the powerful political clan, Andal Ampatuan Jr., the mayor of Datu Unsay, allegedly led some 100 gunmen in the killings. Among those murdered were the wife and two sisters and supporters of Esmael Mangudadatu, the vice mayor of Buluan town who is running for governor of Maguindanao – a position being held by the mayor’s father and namesake, Andal Ampatuan Sr. - in the May elections.

The Ampatuan and the Mangudadatu clans are bitter political foe in Maguindanao, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region, whose governor, Zaldy Ampatuan, is a brother of Andal Ampatuan Jr. All three politicians, including other clan members and supporters, had been arrested in connection with the killings. They denied involvement in the murders.

“We have ordered police forces to search for Diongon and take him in custody immediately if he returns to Mindanao. Diongon was last seen in Camp Crame on January 21,” said Senior Superintendent Salik Macapantar, of the Muslim autonomous region.

He said police is also verifying reports that Diongon – who could shed light into the killings – is in Iloilo province where he is to get marry. He said they tried call Diongon’s mobile phone, but it remained unanswered.

Macapantar said they have also coordinated with the police and other law enforcement agencies in General Santos City where Diongon is currently residing should he return home.

Six of Diongon’s policemen – who are also in restricted custody in Camp Crame - are all accounted, Macapantar said. “Diongon is the only one missing and the six others who also were reported missing also is all accounted.”It was unknown how Diongon was able to flee despite his restricted custody at the police headquarters. (Mindanao Examiner)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hustisya, sigaw pa rin ng pamilya ng Maguindanao massacre victims!




Mga journalists at pamilya at kaanak, at mga human rights advocates na dumayo nuong Sabado, Enero 23, 2009 sa bayan ng Ampatuan sa lalawigan ng Maguindanao upang gunitain ang ika-dalawang buwan ng binansagan ‘Maguidanao Massacre’ na kung saan ay 57 katao, kabilang ang 31 mga journalists ang walang-awang pinatay nuong nakaraang Nobyembre 23. (Mga larawan kuha nina Geo at Giovanni Solmerano / Mindanao Examiner)


MAGUINDANAO (Mindanao Examiner / January 24, 2010) – Hustisya pa rin ang isinisigaw ng mga pamilya at kaanak ng mga 57 biktima ng Maguindanao massacre na naganap dalawang buwan na ang nakalipas.

Kabilang sa mga walang-awang pinatay ay 31 journalists na sumama lamang sa convoy ng asawa ni Buluan town vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu upang maghain lamang ng certificate of candidacy ng pulitikong tatakbo sa pagka-gobernador ng Maguindanao nuong Nob. 23 sa bayan ng Ampatuan. Bahagi ang lalawigan sa Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Ayon sa pulisya ay hinarang ang convoy ng halos 100 armado sa pangunguna diumano ni Datu Unsay town mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., na ang ama ay ang kasalukuyang gobernador ng Maguindanao, at saka dinala sa Ampatuan at doon ay pinagbabaril sa ulo, mukha at maseselang bahagi ng kanilang katawan ang mga biktima sa kabila ng kanilang pagsusumamo at pagmamakaawa.

Nuong Sabado ay halos 100 mga kaanak, pamilya, human rights advocates at journalists ang nagtungo sa bayan ng Ampatuan at doon ay nag-alay ang mga ito ng dasal at kandila at bulaklak sa mga grave sites na kung saan ay nabawi ang mga bangkay ng 57 biktima.

"Mahirap at talagang marami ang naiyak habang nagaalay ng dasal ang lahat. Masakit pa rin kasi sa damdamin ng mga pamilya ng massacre ang alaala ng karumal-dumal na krimen. Hustisya ang hinihingi ng lahat para matahimik ang mga kaluluwa ng mga napatay," ani Geo Solmerano, ang bureau chief ng regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Nakapiit sa National Bureau of Investigation sa Maynila si Andal Ampatuan Jr., matapos itong sumuko sa mga awtoridad nuong nakaraang taon at isinabit rin ng pulisya ang ama nito at ang kapatid na si Zaldy Ampatuan, ang gobernador ng ARMM, at ilan pang mga clan members na nahaharap sa kasong rebelyon. (May karagdagang ulat sina Geo at Giovanni Solmerano)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Kin of Maguindanao massacre victims, journalists commemorate brutal slayings


Dozens of journalists and human rights advocates trooped Saturday, January 23, 2009 to a remote farming village in the southern Filipino province of Maguindanao to offer prayers and seek justice for the brutal slayings of 57 people, including at least 31 journalists two months ago today. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Nickee Butlangan)


MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 23, 2010) – Dozens of journalists and human rights advocates trooped Saturday to a remote farming village in the southern Filipino province of Maguindanao to offer prayers and seek justice for the brutal slayings of 57 people, including at least 31 journalists two months ago.

Families and relatives of those who were murdered November 23 in Ampatuan town also joined journalists. They offered candles and many were weeping as they offered prayers for the victims of the massacre blamed by authorities to the scion of a powerful political clan Andal Ampatuan, the mayor of Datu Unsay town in Maguindanao.

Among those killed, including the wife and two sisters and supporters of Buluan town vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu who is running for governor in Maguindanao province.

The victims were traveling with Mangudadatu’s wife on a political caravan when some 100 gunmen allegedly led by the mayor seized them in Shariff Aguak’s town and herded them to the next town where they were brutally killed. The Ampatuan and Mangudadatu clans are bitter political foe.

Early this week, widows and family members of at least 13 journalists who accused Major General Alfredo Cayton and Colonel Medardo Geslani of negligence and dereliction of duty in connection with the murder filed formal charges against them with the Ombudsman in Davao City.

They said that prior to the killings, journalists who were in the caravan requested Cayton for security escorts for fear that armed supporters of the Ampatuan clan would attack the convoy, but the general did not provide them and instead told them that it was safe to travel to Shariff Aguak.

They added that the massacre could have been prevented had Cayton provided security to the convoy.

The Mindanao Times reported that Myrna Reblando, whose husband, Alejandro Reblando, was among the journalists killed in the massacre, said: “We have only begun. It does not mean that just because Gen. Cayton and Col. Geslani were not accused by the DPJ (Department of Justice) prosecutors of murder that they should no longer be held responsible for the death of our loved ones. We still hold them criminally and administratively liable for their gross negligence and dereliction of duty. Had it not been for their inaction, our loved ones could still be alive today.”

The Philippine Army investigated the accusations, but cleared Cayton, then the commander of the 6th Infantry Division, and Geslani, former commander of the 601st Infantry Brigade in Maguindanao province, for any culpability. Both Cayton and Geslani were relieved from their positions shortly after the massacre. Cayton was later promoted as Army deputy chief.

The Ampatuan clan is one of the most feared in Mindanao, but also the wealthiest in the impoverished province of Maguindanao, whose governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., and his sons, Zaldy Ampatuan, the regional governor, and several family members and relatives were linked by authorities to the gruesome killings. (With a report from Nickee Butlangan)

Children work to help parents in Kidapawan City

After classes, these school children in Kidapawan City in Mindanao clean a motorcycle taxi in an effort to help their parents earn a living to buy food and other necessities. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Geo Solmerano)

Justice For Maguindanao Massacre Victims

Names of journalists who were brutally murdered in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao province on November 23, 2009.

Adolfo, Benjie - Gold Star Daily, Koronadal City
Araneta, Henry - dzRH, General Santos City
Arriola, McDelbert - UNTV, General Santos City
Bataluna, Rubello - Gold Star Daily, Koronadal City
Betia, Arturo - Periodico Ini, General Santos City
Cabillo, Romeo Jimmy - Midland Review, Tacurong City
Cablitas, Marites - News Focus / dxDX, General Santos City
Cachuela, Hannibal - Punto News, Koronadal City
Cadagdagon, Jepon - Saksi News, General Santos City.
Caniban, John - Periodico Ini, General Santos City
Dalmacio, Lea - Socsargen News, General Santos City
Decina, Noel - Periodico Ini, General Santos City
Dela Cruz, Gina - Saksi News, General Santos City
Duhay, Jhoy - Gold Star Daily, Tacurong City
Evardo, Jolito - UNTV General Santos City
Gatchalian, Santos - DXGO, Davao City
Legarte, Bienvenido, Jr. - Prontiera News, Koronadal City
Lupogan, Lindo - Mindanao Daily Gazette, Davao City
Maravilla, Ernesto - Bombo Radyo, Koronadal City
Merisco, Rey - Periodico Ini, Koronadal City
Montaño, Marife - Saksi News, General Santos City
Morales, Rosell - News Focus, General Santos City
Nuñez, Victor - UNTV, General Santos City
Perante, Ronnie - Gold Star Daily correspondent, Koronadal City
Parcon, Joel - Prontiera News, Koronadal City
Razon, Fernando - Periodico Ini, General Santos City
Reblando, Alejandro - Manila Bulletin, General Santos City
Salaysay, Napoleon - Mindanao Gazette, Cotabato City
Subang, Francisco - Socsargen Today, General Santos City
Teodoro, Andres - Central Mindanao Inquirer, Tacurong Cit
Tiamson, Daniel - UNTV, General Santos City
Reynaldo Momay - Midland Review, Tacurong City

Friday, January 22, 2010

Peasants hold protests in Mindanao, remember massacre of farmers 23 years ago

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 22, 2010) - In commemoration to the 23rd year of the Mendiola Massacre, hundreds of farmers belonging to the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Anakpawis partylist staged a march rally in Davao City in Mindanao on Friday and demanded justice and genuine agrarian reform in the Philippines.

“Today, we mark history as we deliver the strongest condemnation against the continuing exploitation of the poor Filipino peasants and the worsening landlessness within the framework of the bogus and inutile Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms,” said Pedro Arnado, chairperson of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas - Southern Mindanao and regional coordinator of the Anakpawis partylist.

More than 700 farmers from Davao City, Davao Oriental and Davao Del Sur provinces together with representatives from the various sectoral and cause-oriented groups also dramatized and reenacted the so-called Mendiola Massacre which occurred 23 years ago. The action also emphasized the farmers' demand for genuine land reform.

The groups’ protest march ended at in front of the congressional office of House Speaker Prospero Nograles, whom they were holding responsible for the passage of the extended CARP and for authoring the House Resolution 737 which seeks to allow 100% foreign ownership of Filipino land.

“Speaker Nograles committed the worst crimes against the Filipino farmers when he allowed the passage of CARPER and have initiated a resolution that wants to sell out our lands and resources to foreign capitalists. He has further betrayed the country by conniving with Gloria Arroyo's attempt to change the constitution,” Arnado said.

A similar protests were also held by thousands of farmers in different parts of Mindanao in solidarity with the peasant groups.

In Manila, more than 7,000 farmers are expected to march to the Mendiola Bridge where the culminating protest of the 10-day Caravan for Land and Justice will be held.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Top Filipino terrorist killed in US drone attack in Pakistan

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 21, 2010) – A senior commander of the Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, who is wanted both by Manila and Washington for terrorism, was believed killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan, reports said on Thursday.

Reports said Abdul Basit Usman, who had links with the al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya, was allegedly killed last week close to the Afghan border. There was no immediate confirmation from Filipino authorities about the reports of Usman's death.

The MILF, which is fighting for an independent Islamic state in Mindanao, repeatedly denied that Usman is a member of the rebel group and even ordered guerilla forces to hunt down the terrorist and bring him to justice.

"We have no reports at this point that Abdul Basit Usman is killed in Pakistan. We are trying to verify that reports, but if it is true, then we are happy about it because this cleared all suspicions by the Philippine military that Abdul Basit Usman is a MILF commander."

"As far as we know, Usman had links with the Jemaah Islamiya and the Al-Qaeda and could be fighting alongside with the Taliban which has links with Al-Qaeda. It is not impossible for Usman to fight alongside with the Taliban because of his extensive links with the Al-Qaeda," Eid Kabalu, a senior MILF leader, told the independent regional newspaper, the Mindanao Examiner.

Just last year, the US Department of State offered up to $1 million for information leading to the location, arrest or conviction of Usman, a known bomb expert tagged by Filipino authorities as behind the spate of deadly attacks in Mindanao region, south of the Philippines.

The Philippine military also linked Usman to the Abu Sayyaf group in Mindanao and had been captured in 2002 in Sultan Kudarat province, but he escaped from jail. Usman was tagged as behind deadly in the Mindanao cities of General Santos, Kidapawan and Cotabato that killed and wounded dozens of innocent civilians.

Western Mindanao military chief Lieutenant General Benjamin Dolorfino said they have to verify the reports to confirm whether Usman was killed in the US attack along with 11 other militants.

"If the reports are true then it is good news for us because the killing of (Abdul) Basit Usman means one less terrorist on the street. We still have to verify the reports. Usman was involved in many deadly bombings in Mindanao - in General Santos City, in Kidapawan City, in Koronadal in South Cotabato and parts of Mindanao," Dolorfino said in a separate interview.
(Mindanao Examiner)

Phillipines Negotiates With Kuwait To Save Filipino From Gallows

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine government is negotiating for the issuance of forgiveness from the victim's family to save a Filipino housemaid, who was found guilty of murder, from facing her death sentence, reported China's Xinhua news agency on Thursday.

Kuwait's Court of Appeals upheld the death sentence on overseas Filipino worker Jakatia Pawa for killing her employer's daughter in 2007.

Jakatia, 34, a native of Zamboanga Sibugay in southern Philippines, was sentenced this week to face the gallows by the Kuwaiti Court of Cassation for killing the 22-year-old daughter of her employer, whom she has worked for over five years.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos said that after this negotiation, Philippine Vice President Noli De Castro will go to Kuwait to hand over a written letter from President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to the Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, to ask for commutation of her sentence from death to life imprisonment.

Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday, Conejos is optimistic that Pawa will be saved from the death sentence, citing the two cases of Marilou Ranario and Mae Vecina, who also met the same fate as Pawa.

The death sentences on the two persons were later commuted to life by Kuwait emir following a personal appeal from President Arroyo. Vecina has been granted royal pardon and returned to Manila on July 1, 2009.

About 73,000 Filipinos, including 60,000 women employed mostly as domestic helpers, work in oil-rich Kuwait and earn less than US$200 a month on average.

The Kuwaiti criminal court sentenced Pawa to die by hanging on April 14, 2008 for stabbing to death her employer's in the Al-Qurain district, south of Kuwait City.

Pawa reportedly stabbed the victim several times with a kitchen knife while she was asleep at dawn on May 14, 2007.

The court rejected the request by defense lawyers for Pawa to undergo psychiatric examination for the determination of her mental state. (Bernama)


Link:http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/newsworld.php?id=470074

Journalist who criticized illegal logging activities in Mindanao is missing

ILIGAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 21, 2010) – A radio broadcaster who strongly criticized rampant illegal logging activities in the southern Philippines was reported missing, reports said Thursday.

Emmanuel Ansihagan, who works for the radio station dxRS, disappeared after he went to the police to report that he was being threatened after exposing about the unabated illegal logging operations in Misamis Oriental province.

Ansihagan, who also writes for the Caraga Times, reported the threats to his life to the police on Thursday. His cousin Mark Ansihagan and uncle, Datu Bayhon Ansihagan, said the journalist has not returned home since, according to a report by television giant GMA News.

It said Gingoog City police chief, Senior Superintendent Roy Ga, has formed an investigating team to look into the threats against Ansihagan.

GMA News reported that one of the text messages sent to Ansihagan read: "Hununga imo pakigbisog batok logging ug mining basin baya mapareha ka sa mga gipangpatay nga tribal datu. (Stop your struggle against logging and mining or end up like the other tribal leaders who were killed)."

In his complaint, Ansihagan also said that somebody has been following him and that he has been receiving threats almost every day because of his reports about illegal logging and mining activities in his radio program “Barog Mindanao."

Ansihagan said because of the threats to his life, he was forced to discontinue his radio program. He said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources failed to put a stop to the illegal activities, particularly in areas where there are indigenous tribes.

He said a fellow radio broadcaster, Arecio Padrigao, was also killed in November 2008 because of his staunch anti-illegal logging advocacy and criticism of the police and environment officials over their failure to put a stop on the nefarious activities.

GMA News said one of Ansihagan’s relative, Datu Berting Pinagawa, was also murdered on Christmas Eve last year in Gingoog City after two motorcycle gunmen shot him. Pinagawa also headed an anti-illegal logging group and criticized local officials for allegedly coddling the illegal loggers.

The international media watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists said the
Philippines is the world's most dangerous place for journalists. More than 100 journalists were killed in the Philippines since President Gloria Arroyo came into power in 2001.

Last year, at least 31 journalists were massacred along with more that two dozen people after their convoy were attacked by some 100 gunmen allegedly led by the scion of powerful political clan, Andal Ampatuan Jr., who is the also the mayor of Datu Unsay town in Maguindanao, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region. (Mindanao Examiner)

Planning body refreshes ARMM dev’t direction

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Line departments and offices of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao ended Thursday their three-day strategic planning workshop, drafting a two-year development package aimed at bringing the impoverished ARMM communities to greater heights.

Some 70 heads and technical personnel of the ARMM’s agencies and offices threshed out problems besetting the region and proposed the corresponding solutions in three successive days of deliberations attended personally by acting Regional Governor Ansaruddin Alonto-Adiong.

The two-year development plan, which has been collated from the proposals of participating departments and bureaus, will be tackled further for adoption by the Regional Economic and Development Planning Board (REDPB), the ARMM’s highest policy-making body chaired by Adiong.

The REDPB, which opens Friday their two-day meeting at the same venue here, is composed of the governors of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, the mayors of Marawi and Lamitan cities and the tops officials of the ARMM Regional Legislative Assembly.

At the opening of the preceding workshop Tuesday, Adiong addressed the participants, citing among others funding supports from national and foreign sources now in the pipeline that include a $30-million package earmarked by the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the World Bank.

In his brief speech, Adiong said the national and foreign-funded development projects will be proportionately spread across the ARMM component areas to meet the social, economic, infrastructure and peace and order concerns of the target areas.

“Let us pursue our development thrusts and address squarely the grey areas under the principle of transparent, consultative and moral governance,” Adiong said.

Adiong joined the seminar and exchanged ideas with the participants in their respective tables.

Malacanang through Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno installed to office Adiong last December 14 in lieu of ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, who has been suspended and detained in connection with the Nov. 23 massacre in Maguindanao of 57 people including 31 journalists.

Over the weekend, Sulu Governor Sakur Tan and Tawi-Tawi vice Governor Ruby Sahali-Tan expressed their cooperation with the new ARMM leadership, saying they were optimistic that Adiong would be able to “achieve reforms in the regional bureaucracy and deliver better services to the populace.” (Ali Macabalang)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kidapawan Medical Specialist Incorporated

The Kidapawan Medical Specialist Incorporated, a tertiary hospital in Kidapawan City, is equipped with advanced medical facilities. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Geo Solmerano)

Maguindanao refugees get UN food aid





The United Nations has distributed relief goods to thousands of internally displaced people in the southern Philippines. The distribution, led by acting Maguindanao governor Nariman Ambolodto, was carried out Monday, January 18, 2010 through the support of the Muslim autonomous region under the the UN Action for Conflict Transformation for Peace Programme, which is now on its fourth and final phase of the Government of the Philippines – United Nations Multi-Donor Programme that started in 1997. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Mark Navales)


MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 20, 2010) – The United Nations has distributed relief goods to thousands of internally displaced people in the southern Philippines.

The distribution was carried out Monday through the support of the Muslim autonomous region under the the UN Action for Conflict Transformation for Peace Programme, which is now on its fourth and final phase of the Government of the Philippines – United Nations Multi-Donor Programme that started in 1997.

Acting Maguindanao governor Nariman Ambolodto distributed relief goods to more than 1,400 displaced families in the province. Thousands more are still in different refugee shelters in Maguindanao.

With support from the Governments of Australia, New Zealand and Spain, the ACT for Peace Programme is being implemented over a period of five years, starting in June 2005 up to May 2010.

It covers 16 provinces and 14 cities of the former Special Zone for Peace and Development in southern Philippines and four more provinces and three cities in the Caraga Region considered to be also vulnerable to armed conflict.

The Mindanao Economic Development Council serves as the overall implementing agency of the ACT for Peace Programme with the Muslim autonomous regional government as the lead implementing agency in the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and lanao.

The United Nations Development Programme serves as the managing agent for the ACT for Peace Programme which contributes to the promotion of national harmony and a just conclusion of the government’s peace process and to strengthen peace-building efforts and sustain the gains for peace and development in southern Philippines. (Mark Navales)

Mindanao Examiner TV Week in Review January 10-16, 2009

Mindanao Examiner TV Week in Review January 10-16, 2009 Part 1



Mindanao Examiner TV Week in Review January 10-16, 2009 Part 2

Security forces raid Maguindanao house, recover huge cache of illegal munitions





Police raid a house in the southern Philippine province of Maguindanao on Wednesday, January 20, 2009, and recovered a huge cache of munitions. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Nickee Butlangan)


MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 20, 2010) – Police forces recovered a huge cache of ammunition in a raid Wednesday in the southern Philippine province of Maguindanao, where security forces continue to search for illegal weapons owned by a powerful political clan linked to the brutal murder of at least 57 people last year.

Police forces, backed by army soldiers, swooped down on a house in Shariff Aguak town and owned by Salik Santiago, said to be the father-in-law of massacre suspect Andal Ampatuan Jr, the mayor of Datu Unsay town in Maguindanao, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.

“We have recovered many munitions; bullets for automatic weapons – machine guns, rifles and even munitions for a grenade launchers. This is part of our continuing campaign to collect all illegal weapons in Maguindanao and other areas in the region,” said Senior Superintendent Bienvenido Latag, the regional police chief.

Police also recovered the gun permit of Andal Ampatuan Jr. in the house. It was unknown if he owns the cache. The politician is currently detained at the headquarters of the National Bureau of Investigation in Manila and is facing multiple murder charges filed by families and relatives of the massacre victims.

Latag said security forces continue to search for illegal arms in Maguindanao where more than a thousand light artillery and heavy infantry weapons and hundreds of thousands of munitions had been unearthed in Shariff Aguak after the massacre.

The weapons were believed owned by the Ampatuan clan, whose patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr., the governor of Maguindanao, and his sons, including Zaldy Ampatuan, the regional government, were arrested in connection with the brutal killings. (With a report from Nickee Butlangan)

Media, human rights groups hail filing of charges vs. Philippine Army officers by kins of massacre victims



Philippine Army Major General Alfredo Cayton and Colonel Medardo Geslani. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Mark Navales)


DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 20, 2010) – Various media and human rights groups hailed the filing of criminal and administrative charges against the Philippine Army vice chief and a brigade commander who are accused of negligence and dereliction of duty in connection with the brutal murder of 57 people in the southern Maguindanao province.

At least 31 journalists were among those killed, including the wife and two sisters and supporters of Buluan town vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu who is running for governor in Maguindanao province.

The victims were traveling with Mangudadatu’s wife on a political caravan when some 100 gunmen allegedly led by Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., seized them November 23 in Shariff Aguak’s town and herded them to the next town where they were brutally killed. The Ampatuan and Mangudadatu clans are bitter political foe.

Widows and family members of at least 13 journalists accompanied by lawyer Harry Roque filed the charges on Tuesday against Major General Alfredo Cayton and Colonel Medardo Geslani with the Ombudsman in Davao City.

Prior to the killings, journalists who were in the caravan requested Cayton for security escorts for fear that armed supporters of the Ampatuan clan would attack the convoy, but the general did not provide them and instead told them that it was safe to travel to Shariff Aguak.

The Mindanao Times also reported that Myrna Reblando, whose husband, Alejandro Reblando, was among the journalists killed in the massacre, said: “We have only begun. It does not mean that just because Gen. Cayton and Col. Geslani were not accused by the DPJ (Department of Justice) prosecutors of murder that they should no longer be held responsible for the death of our loved ones. We still hold them criminally and administratively liable for their gross negligence and dereliction of duty. Had it not been for their inaction, our loved ones could still be alive today.”

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said it is supporting the filing of the charges against the two army officers.

“The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines-Davao City Chapter expresses solidarity in the continuing fight for justice for the victims of the most horrendous pre-election massacre of hapless civilians in recent history—a senseless waste of life which could have not happened had it not been allowed by the state.”

”We believe that the Ampatuan Massacre of November 23, 2009 allegedly perpetuated by the influential Malacanang-ally Ampatuan family would have not happened had government security agents in the province did not allow it to happen at all. NUJP shares with the grief of the family of all the victims, especially our fellow journalists’ widows, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers,” it said in a statement.

It said the massacre could have been prevented had Cayton provided security to the convoy.

”The testaments of the families of the victims pointed to Cayton as having refused to provide the slain journalists their requested military escorts and for declaring that there was no threat from the ground which prompted the journalists to proceed with the coverage that led to their massacre,” the NUJP said.

The Philippine Army investigated the accusations, but cleared Cayton, then the commander of the 6th Infantry Division, and Geslani, former commander of the 601st Infantry Brigade in Maguindanao province, for any culpability. Both Cayton and Geslani were relieved from their positions shortly after the massacre. Cayton was later promoted as Army deputy chief.

The Ampatuan clan is one of the most feared in Mindanao, but also the wealthiest in the impoverished province of Maguindanao, whose governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., and his sons, Zaldy Ampatuan, the regional governor, and several family members and relatives were linked by authorities to the gruesome killings. (Mindanao Examiner)