Friday, September 30, 2011

NPA rebel captured in Southern Philippines


DAVAO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 30, 2011) – Security forces arrested a communist rebel tagged as behind the burning of a passenger bus in the southern Philippines, officials said Friday.

Officials said an Uzi submachine gun and munitions were also seized from the rebel who was identified as Reminaldo Lumagalan after soldiers and policemen arrested him in the village Astorga in Davao del Sur’s Santa Cruz town.

Lumagalan, who is allegedly a member of the New People’s Army, was blamed for the burning of the bus in May in the province. Village guards tipped off authorities about Lumagalan’s presence in a house in Astorga where he was spotted brandishing the weapon.

Officials said Lumagalan admitted to burning the bus, owned by Holiday Bus Lines, after a failed extortion attempt.

The NPA is fighting for a separate Maoist state in the country. (Mindanao Examiner)

ARMM officials incapable of instituting reforms

Former ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan and his deputy and now acting ARMM Governor Ansaruddin Adiong. (Zamboanga Southwall)


MANILA (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 30, 2011) - A Filipino senator said incumbent officials of the troubled Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao are incapable of instituting immediate reforms, particularly in prosecuting those who are involved in misappropriation of billions of pesos in government funding.

Drilon, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, made the statement after acting Regional Governor Ansaruddin Adiong admitted that they have passed the buck to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in going after the Ampatuan clan.

“It is quite clear to us that they are not capable of instituting these reforms because they have passed on the problem to the DILG. The acting governor admitted that he did not do anything and he did not even complain about this,” said Drilon after a hearing on the ARMM’s proposed P12.469 billion budget for 2012, pointing out huge sums of public fund being wasted during the reign of former ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan.

Drilon, citing a special audit conducted by the Commission on Audit (COA) on ARMM, said that from January 2008 to December 2009, a total of P1.123 billion in payments to 112 suppliers and contractors were questionable since these were either not supported with documents or supported with documents that may be considered spurious.

Further, among the findings of the state audit agency indicated that a total of P1.862 billion represented cash advances where P98.25 million were encashed in one day, with Drilon saying this is “highly improbable” considering that the purported payees were located in the different municipalities and provinces.

Also, transactions amounting to P865.8 million were fictitious as these were denied by the suppliers or supported with spurious documents. Payments of salaries and allowances amounting to P232.73 million were not properly documented or were not even acknowledged received by the claimants, the CoA report said.

“The COA finding is indeed mind boggling in terms of the corruption and this corruption took place because the previous administration under (former President) Gloria Arroyo tolerated the Ampatuans in Maguindanao. I have not seen this report in all the budgets that I have been looking at in the last 12 years that I have been in the Senate,” Drilon said in a statement to the Mindanao Examiner.

Drilon said that with such extent of corruption in the ARMM, the Aquino administration sought reforms, particularly in the selection of leaders who are committed to instituting reforms.

“There must be electoral reforms, for one, because obviously, the democratic way of election that has been conducted in the past has not given us the right leaders. That is why this is the frustration of President Aquino, that the leaders who were elected are of such caliber that the welfare of our Muslim brothers and sisters were farthest from their agenda, were at the bottom of their agenda. It is their personal power and their personal wealth which were the primordial interest of the previous officials,” Drilon said.

According to Drilon, reforms started with the postponement of the ARMM elections and synchronization of such in the 2013 polls which hopefully will result in a better election of leaders and the selection of officers in charge who will have the capacity to institute the reforms.

“It is therefore a frustration on the part of the Aquino administration that they are trying to institute immediate reforms in order to try to get our Muslim brothers and sisters out of extreme poverty, but they get frustrated by legal obstacles, including TROs from the Supreme Court,” Drilon said.

P100M OFW legal defense fund restored


MANILA (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 30, 2011) - The Aquino government is restoring fully the P100-million Legal Assistance Fund for overseas Filipino workers to the Department of Foreign Affairs, House Assistant Majority Leader Eduardo Gullas said Friday.

“We are counting on the LAF to extend ample legal protection to the growing number of OFWs coming into conflict with the law in their respective host countries,” Gullas, a member of the House committee on appropriations, said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

“As more Filipinos go abroad to seek greener pastures, those getting into potential trouble with the law will also likely increase. The LAF is there to be used exclusively to support their legal defense,” Gullas said.

In the proposed 2012 General Appropriations Act, a fresh allocation of P30 million would keep the LAF at P100 million, said Gullas, also a member of the House committee on labor and employment.

The LAF was first established by law with P100 million, of which P50 million was sourced from the Contingency Fund of the President, and P30 million from the Presidential Social Fund, and another P20 million from the trust fund of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

The fund is run by the DFA’s Legal Assistant for Migrant Workers, which is responsible for the provision and overall coordination of all legal aid services to OFWs and other Filipinos abroad.

Gullas said expenses chargeable against the LAF include the professional fees of foreign lawyers who represent OFWs facing charges, bail bonds to secure the temporary release of those detained, and other costs associated with going to court.

The cases of Filipinos Sally Villanueva, 32; Ramon Credo, 42; and Elizabeth Batain, 38, who were executed in China on March 30, became a highly emotional issue in the Philippines.

The three were convicted of drug smuggling and put to death, despite repeated pleas by the Philippine government for their sentences to be commuted.

Still on OFWs, Gullas said another P50 million has been earmarked to support their economic reintegration through livelihood and jobs programs upon their return.

“The amount is on top of the P2-billion fund meant to help reassimilate returning OFWs through sustainable small business opportunities,” he said.

Government recently launched the fund in partnership with the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines.

The Philippines deployed a total of 1,470,826 workers overseas in 2010 – four percent, or 48,240, more than the 1,422,586 it set out in 2009.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Peaceful solution urged to address feud in Mindanao


DAVAO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 29, 2011) - "Ridu or feud is the consequence of the absence of justice or failure of the administration of justice," Professor Abhoud Syed Lingga told participants to the 2011 national convention of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP).

The CEAP convention was held recently in Davao City with the theme, “Building a culture of peace: shaping the vision, living the dream.”

Lingga, Executive Director of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies and a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panel, explained to the participants that “ridu is a state of conflict where parties involved resort to violent retaliation and counter retaliation resulting to cyclic system of vengeance.”

Conflict becomes ridu when there is violent hostility between or among the parties involved resulting to retaliation. In most cases, conflict becomes ridu when it resulted to death in either party. Sometimes, even if no one dies one party takes preemptive action if he perceives that the other party has the plan to attack, he said.

He said: "If wrong is done and justice is given to the offended party, the conflict is resolve and will not lead to a ridu, but if no justice is done the response of the offended party will depend upon his capability. Access to guns will likely make the response violent."

Lingga said that ridu is practiced not only in Mindanao, but also in other parts of the Philippines, and it is a new phenomenon in Muslim communities in Mindanao.

He said ridu became a practice after the decline of the powers of the sultanate and the Bangsamoro were incorporated into the Philippine political entity, which also went with it the decline in the effectiveness of the administration of justice.

To address the problem of ridu, Lingga said that it is necessary to resolve the self-determination conflict between the Bangsamoro and the Philippine Government because the effective administration of justice requires that authority is uncontested. "Ridu in areas where authority is contested by the Philippine Government and MILF are difficult to resolve. Areas where authority is uncontested, citing the case of Camp Abubakre, ridu were easily resolve or there are even no ridu," he said.

Camp Abubakre was established in later part of 1980s and was under full control of the MILF until middle of year 2000. Crime rate in Camp Abubakre at that time was zero and there was no reported ridu. Ridu cases before the establishment of the camp or committed outside the camp were resolved when brought to the camp for mediation.

There were also cases where Christians from other parts of Mindanao went to Camp Abubakre to file complaints against Muslim respondents after their complaints were pending in Philippine courts for years, and the MILF Shari’ah Court promptly decided in favor of the Christian complainants.

Lingga also said that it is necessary to improve the administration of justice to address ridu. He revealed that in 2006, there was no municipal judge in the provinces of Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

He said that security reform is necessary in addressing ridu by strengthening policing, reform in jail management, and disbandment of government militias and private armies. Lingga suggested the promotion of alternative dispute resolution and use of peaceful methods in conflict resolution.

Pinoy nurses urged to look for jobs in Saudi Arabia


MANILA (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 29, 2011) - Filipino nurses looking for gainful employment overseas should set their sights on Saudi Arabia, where the foreign labor market remains highly favorable, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said.

Buoyed by elevated commodity prices, the world’s largest oil producer has emerged as the most aggressive recruiter of Filipino nurse practitioners, overshadowing economically troubled America, Ernesto Herrera, TUCP Secretary-General said.

“Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East are definitely still hiring Filipino and other foreign nurses,” he said.

Herrera also played down the potential adverse impact of Saudi Arabia’s Nitaqat program on migrant Filipino workers.

He said the kingdom imposed Nitaqat just to appease its citizens, amid mounting social unrest and political turmoil in neighboring countries.

Nitaqat has required more than 300,000 firms in the kingdom to increase their hiring of locals, and lessen their employment of foreigners.

Herrera, however, said Filipinos in Saudi Arabia are mostly performing jobs or services that Saudi citizens themselves do not want, or could not provide.

Saudi citizens mostly prefer to be employed in the public sector, in the civilian bureaucracy, or in banks and financial institutions, where they could work in the relative comfort of an office environment, the former senator pointed out.

“Our nurses, household service workers, even our skilled construction laborers there won’t be affected that much by Nitaqat,” Herrera said.

President Benigno Aquino earlier ordered the Department of Labor and Employment to study the possible negative effect of Nitaqat on Filipinos in Saudi Arabia, who sent to their families here more than $1.5-billion in 2010 alone.

Citing data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Herrera said a total of 8,771 “newly hired” Filipino nurses were deployed to Saudi Arabia in 2010, without counting those whose labor contracts were simply renewed, or rehired.

He said Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Libya, Kuwait, the United Kingdom, Qatar, Taiwan, Jordan and Bahrain are also still hiring Filipino nurses, though at a slower pace.

These nine countries received a combined 3,660 newly hired Filipino nurses in 2010, Herrera said.

More poor Filipinos to benefit from CCT program

Shoppers walk past two beggars outside a mall in the Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

MANILA (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 29, 2011) - The Aquino government plans to enroll an additional 700,000 beneficiaries for the so-called Conditional Cash Transfer program for next year raising hopes that it would improve the lives of the impoverished, Senator Franklin Drilon said Thursday.


Drilon, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said that as of September 5, a total of 2.23 million households were registered in the program.

“Right now, the beneficiaries are placed at 2.3 million households and by the end of 2012, with an additional budget of P39.4 billion, the beneficiaries will reach up to 3 million households,” he said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

The Aquino administration is allotting P39.4 billion for the program - which took off in 2008 - in the 2012 budget, from this year’s P21 billion funding, to cover more beneficiaries, he said.

“If you are to judge the CCT program on the basis of the assessment so far of various agencies, indeed there is a reason to be optimistic about the success of the program,” he said.

Senators Edgardo Angara and Panfilo Lacson backed the CCT, also called the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, saying they were generally satisfied with the way the program has been implemented under the Aquino administration.

The CCT is an allowance scheme for poor households with children 0-14 years old that will require beneficiary families to send their children to school and have regular visits to health centers. It is a five-year program for every family enrolled, and the first enrollees started in 2008.

Drilon said the World Bank made its finding that in its three years of implementation, the program has shown “positive impact” on the beneficiaries and the conditionalities have helped improve the education and health of the children.

“Anecdotal evidence shows that net education enrolment rates of children in beneficiary households have risen,” said the Washington-based institution in its Social Protection Note released in May 2011.

Philippine Moro rebels expel renegade leader in deadly attacks on civilians


MAGUINDANAO - (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 29, 2011) – The Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, has disowned a senior leader who is accused of masterminding deadly attacks in the southern island of Mindanao.

“Officially, Ameril Umra Kato is no longer a member of the MILF,” said Von Al-Haq, a rebel spokesman.

He said the MILF would come out with an official statement on the expulsion of Kato and would send a copy of this to Malaysia, which is brokering the peace talks between Manila and the rebel group; and the Aquino government.

The MILF has given Kato until September 26 to return to its fold, but the rebel leader flatly rejected the offer. It said the ultimatum was based on the recommendation of the Ulama Council in Mindanao.

Kato has formed his own rebel group called Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement and vowed to fight for an independent Muslim homeland. The 60-year old rebel leader has several times criticized Ebrahim for talking peace with the Aquino government which insisted on granting wider autonomy to some four million Muslims in Mindanao.

He accused Ebrahim of abandoning their original demand for an independent state and opted instead to negotiate with Manila for a Muslim sub-state in the mineral-rich, but strife-torn southern region.

Kato is facing a string of criminal charges in connection to the series of attacks that he led after the failed signing of the Muslim homeland deal in 2008 between the MILF and the government. The Supreme Court declared the accord as unconstitutional and the aborted deal triggered a series of deadly attacks by Kato’s forces in Mindanao.

Colonel Noel dela Cruz, a spokesman for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said they have pinpointed Kato’s hideout in Maguindanao province, but troops cannot arrest him because he is hiding inside an MILF stronghold and feared that any assault could violate a fragile truce with the rebel group.

“We know where he’s hiding, but cannot do anything unless the MILF helps us in capturing Kato, who is wanted by authorities,” he said.

The MILF said it is willing to help in the military operation against Kato and could provide forces to block all entry and exit points around his hideout.

“The ad hoc joint action group of the MILF and government peace panels can discuss on how to go about the operation. The MILF is willing to assist the Philippine government in this operation,” Al-Haq said.

The MILF forged an agreement with Manila in 2004 that paved the way for rebel forces through the ad hoc joint action group to help government hunt down terrorists and criminal elements in areas where the rebel group is actively operating.

Just this month, Kato's forces clashed with MILF rebels in Maguindanao's Datu Piang town, leaving four people dead on both sides. The groups have previously clashed over a piece of land in the province. (Mindanao Examiner)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Phoenix runners win in CamSur International Marathon


MANILA (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 28, 2011) - Five out of seven Team Phoenix elite runners topped the Summit CamSur International Marathon: Race to a Green Philippines held over the weekend at the CamSur Watersports Complex (CWC) in the town of Pili in Camarines Sur province.

Davao’s Brian Lupio emerged champion in the men’s 21k Local race with an official time of 1:15:54, only eight seconds earlier than second placer Gerald Sabal (1:16:01) of Manila. Lupio brought home a cash prize of P20,000.

Team Phoenix’s Monalisa Ambasa of Davao and Cebu’s Mendel Lopez placed second in the female and male categories of the marathon’s 42k Local leg. They each received P95,000 in cash.

Ambasa, winner of the 2011 Cebu City Marathon, finished the race in 3:15:17 after first placer Mary Grace delos Santos (2:59:53), while Cebu top runner Lopez clocked two hours, 34 minutes and eleven seconds following Eric Panique (2:28:03) who took the top spot.

Phoenix runner Cynthia Jaro bagged P50,000 after finishing third in the women’s 42k Open race with a time of 3:20:17. Rose Chesire of Kenya (2:50:26) and Filipina Ailene Tolentino (3:12:29) took the first and second spots.

Cebuana Mary Joy Tabal took one hour, 24 minutes and 31 seconds to place second in the women’s 21k Open category. She edged out Rhoda Chepkirui (1:25:10) of Kenya who placed third, but was behind Ethiopian Genet Agtew (1:22:22) who took the win. Tabal received a prize of P30,000.

Tabal shares she owes her win to her personal coach and trainer John Philip Duenas, also a Phoenix runner, who sacrificed his run to pace her.

Another Phoenix runner Anthony Nerza of Davao did not make it in the top three of the 42k Local category after finishing fifth. Nerza, however, was included in the 42k’s Magical 6.

Team Phoenix was composed of the top Filipino finishers of the Araw ng Dabaw Phoenix Run last March 13 in the 21K category. They are among the best runners in Davao and Cebu, topping other races as well.

The CamSur International Marathon is the only marathon in the Philippines certified by both the Association of International Marathon and Distance Races (AIMS), and the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF). It will also serve as a qualifier for the Boston Marathon on April 12 next year.

Phoenix Petroleum Philippines’ exclusive sponsorship to the runners is part of Phoenix’s advocacy to promote sports. Phoenix is a partner of the PBA and recently concluded its first “Trip Ko Phoenix Fuels Basketball Cup” for under-16 players. Phoenix also holds the Phoenix Run Series, which has been to Davao City, Compostela Valley, and Tagum City and joined by thousands of runners.

Sineng Pambansa Opens in Tawi-Tawi province


ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 28, 2011) – The Sineng Pambansa opened Wednesday a three-day film festival in the southern Philippine province of Tawi-Tawi as part of its commitment to bring local films to Filipinos.

The Sineng Pambansa is a program of the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP).

“The decision to hold a Filipino film festival in Tawi-Tawi - the first ever cultural activity of its kind to be staged in the province which in the past was considered a remote outpost - underscores the commitment of the FDCP to bring Filipino films to Filipinos, wherever they may be in the scattered islands of the archipelago, or in their overseas communities,” FDCP said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

It said the Memorandum of Agreement for the festival was signed on July 19 by Tawi-Tawi Governor Sadikul Sahali and FDCP Chairman Briccio Santos and Executive Director Jose Miguel de la Rosa at the FDCP office in Makati City.

The film festival in Bongao town, which ends on Friday, is the third location site of Sineng Pambansa in Mindanao. The first was in Zamboanga City on February and the third location would e in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur province on June 28 next year.

The list of films included in the festival were Limbunan (Teng Mangansakan, 2011), Hospital Boat (Arnel Mardoquio, 2009), Last Journey of Ninoy (Jun Reyes, 2010), Alab ng Lahi (Robin Padilla, 2003), Bagong Buwan (Marilou Diaz-Abaya, 2001), Ang Panday (Fernando Poe Jr., 1980) and Tum (My Pledge of Love, 2010).

The Sine ng Masa (mobile People’s Cinema) will feature Badjao (Lamberto Avellana, 1957), Emir (Chito Roño, 2010), Perlas ng Silangan (Fernando Poe Jr., 1969), Home Along da Riles I and II (Efren Jarlego, 1993 and 1997).

And the three winning films of the Lanao del Sur film festival’s short film competition on the theme of Peace - Margas (Najib Alyhar Benito Zacaria, 2011), Renek (Doss Lucman Pacasum, 2011), and Pagari (Sittie Ayeesha Dicali, 2011).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

6 dead in Abu Sayyaf raid in Basilan province


ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 26, 2011) - Six people were killed and five others wounded in an Abu Sayyaf raid on Tuesday on a village in the southern Philippine province of Basilan, officials said.

Officials said Abu Sayyaf gunmen led by Radzmer Jannatul attacked the village of Upper Benengbengan in Sumisip town at around 5 a.m. The raid sparked a fire fight between militants and soldiers in the area that left six people dead, including four civilians.

Among the dead were an army soldier and a militiaman. Five civilians were also wounded in the attack.

“They harassed the community and forces reacted to protect the civilians, but unfortunately one soldier and a government militia, and four civilians were killed,” said Army Colonel Alex Macario, commander of military forces in Basilan, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.

The motive of the attack was unknown, but a military post in the village was likely to be the target of the raid.

On Sunday, troops killed an Abu Sayyaf sub-leader, Imram Asgari, in a clash in the village of Busay in Zamboanga City. It was unknown if the Abu Sayyaf raid was connected to the killing of Asgari.

The latest fighting occurred just a week after soldiers also clashed with Asgari’s group killing one of his followers in Busay village. (Mindanao Examiner)

Storm ‘Nesat’ ravages through the Philippines


Weather over Makati City in these photos taken September 25 and September 26, 2011.(Mindanao Examiner Photo by J. Magtanggol)


MANILA – The Philippine weather bureau has raised Storm Signal 3 over large part of Luzon Island due to typhoon “Nesat” (local codename Pedring) as it ravages through provinces on Tuesday.

The Department of Education also suspended classes in Metro Manila.

The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration or PAGASA said Storm Signal 3 have been raised in the provinces of Aurora, Cagayan, Ifugao, Isabela, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Quirino, and Nueva Vizcaya.

And Storm Signal 2 has been raised over the provinces of Abra, Apayao, Bataan, Benguet, Bulacan, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, and Catanduanes. Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Metro Manila, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Pangasinan, Polillo Island, Quezon, Rizal, Tarlac, and Zambales.

And Storm Signal 1 in Albay, Babuyan Islands, Batangas, Burias, Calayan Islands, Cavite, Laguna, Lubang Islands, Marinduque, and Sorsogon, PAGASA said.

“Residents in low lying and mountainous areas under Public Storm Warning Signals are alerted against possible flashfloods and landslides. Likewise, those living in coastal areas are alerted against big waves or storm surges generated by this tropical cyclone,” it said in a bulletin. (J. Magtanggol)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mindanao mayor captured by rebels admits human rights violations, issues public apology

Mayor Henry Dano.

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 26, 2011) – A Philippine mayor being held captive by communist rebels have apologized for human rights violations he committed in the southern island of Mindanao.

“I apologize to the revolutionary movement, in particular to the masses and to the New People's Army, for my acts constituting violations to human rights and to international humanitarian law, Mayor Henry Dano, of Lingig town in Surigao province, said in an audio clip released by the New People’s Army to the Mindanao Examiner on Monday.

It was not immediately known whether the statement was prepared by the rebels or not.

“The commission of these acts, in collaboration with the armed troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines under the Government of the Philippines, resulted in the charges that I am facing in the people's court of the people's democratic government that is based in the countryside.”

“I trust that my apology shall be accepted and that I will be given an opportunity to rectify my errors and change for the benefit of the masses,” Dano said.

The rebels said Dano’s private army was responsible in the brutal murder of a tribal leader –Eduardo Toyogon - in Lingig town. Toyogon, who opposed mining operation in tribal areas in the town, was murdered in October 2010, said Rubi del Mundo, a spokesperson for the New People’s Army.

The politician is being tried by rebels on various criminal charges. He could face execution by musketry if rebels find him guilty of all accusations against him.

Dano was seized August 6 in a daring raid by rebels who also captured two soldiers - Private First Class Allan Saban and Corporal Alrey Desamparado - guarding the politician in his house in Lingig town.

“Mayor Dano is facing the charge of serious violations of human rights and International Humanitarian Law in connection with the building and maintenance of a private armed group that operates in pursuit of mining interests and in conjunction with the larger armed counterrevolutionary program of the Philippine government,” Del Mundo said.

The militias also served as security forces for the politician’s mining-related enterprises in the villages of Palo Alto and other areas in Lingig where they harassed peasants and tribesmen who are oppose to mining operations in the town.

The rebels said Dano was also involved in the government’s covert operations against the NPA.

Aside from Dano and the soldiers, the rebels are also holding four jail officers - Police Inspectors Murphy Todyog and Eric Llamasares, Special Jail Officer 2 Rogelio Begontes and Jail Officer 1 Rolando Bajuyo Jr. - who were seized July 21 after a daring rescue of a jailed rebel leader Dennis Rodenas in Bukidnon province.

Manila is currently negotiating peace with communist rebels in an effort to end decades of bloody fighting in the country. But both sides have not signed any cease-fire agreement and clashes still continue in many parts of the Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)

Philippine military tags MNLF members in Sulu attack

Police commandos patrol Sulu province in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 26, 2011) – The Philippine military tagged a leader of the former Muslim rebel group Moro National Liberation Front as behind an attack that killed two soldiers in the southern province of Sulu.

It said Ustadz Habier Malik led some 150 MNLF members in attacking a military post in Talipao town over the weekend, sparking a fierce gun battle that killed 11 of his followers, including a sub-leader Salip Jainal Kausi.

Marine Major Dennis Hernandez, of the Joint Task Force-Sulu, said Malik’s group was opposing the construction of US-funded school buildings in the village of Kabungkol in Talipao town.

Hernandez said troops in the area were guarding the construction of the school when Malik’s forces attacked them. The fighting also left six soldiers wounded.

“More or less 150 renegade MNLF members armed with high powered firearms to include mortars, light machineguns and recoilless rifle, staged the daring attack at the break of dawn which was repulsed by the brave and determined soldiers though so much outnumbered,” he said.

“The action of the rebel group is related to their opposition on the on-going developmental projects being undertaken in the area. Three more school buildings will be constructed to cater to the growing number of students and pupils, and to improve the educational situation in the area in support to the current thrust of the Department of Education and the local government units of Sulu,” he added.

Police and military earlier reported that the attack was carried out by a new group called Jat Wahibul Ujud, whose slain leader was a religious fanatic.

Malik is facing a string of criminal charges after his group had previously held hostage over two dozens military and defense officials while visiting Sulu province in 2007.

Malik and Khaid Ajibun, another senior MNLF leader, held Marine Major General Benjamin Dolorfino and Defense Undersecretary Ramon Santos, and 23 soldiers and staff of Presidential peace adviser, Secretary Jesus Dureza and demanded the release of Nur Misuari, the group’s chieftain who was then being detained in Manila on rebellion charges.

Misuari signed a peace deal with the Philippine government in September 1996, ending more than 20 years of bloody fighting in the southern Philippines.

After the peace agreement was signed, Misuari became the governor of autonomous region. But many former rebels were disgruntled with the accord, saying, the government failed to comply with some of its provisions and uplift their standards of living. They accused the government of failing to develop the war-torn areas in the south, which remain in mired in poverty, heavily militarized and dependent financially on Manila.

In November 2001, on the eve of the ARMM elections, Misuari accused the government of reneging on the peace agreement, and his followers launched a new rebellion in Sulu and Zamboanga City, where more than 100 people were killed.

Misuari escaped by boat to Malaysia, but was arrested there and deported to the Philippines. He was eventually freed in 2008 after Manila dropped all charges against him for lack of sufficient evidence.

Malik’s group was also being blamed by the military for the killing of two US soldiers and a Filipino marine in a landmine explosion in Sulu’s Indanan town on September 2009, and to the spate of attacks on government targets in the province the past years. (Mindanao Examiner)