Friday, February 29, 2008

Controversial Arroyo EO 464: To Lift Or Not To Lift?

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 29, 2008) – Malacanang on Friday said the legal team recently formed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to study the recommendation of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to lift Executive Order 464, has reached a consensus.

Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said the legal team would meet with representatives of the CBCP probably next week to discuss the Palace position on the proposed abolition of EO 464, according to the official Philippine News Agency.

"On our end, yes (we’ve reached a consensus) but we have to meet with representatives of the CBCP," he said without disclosing what the legal team agreed on.

"We already have a stand on this subject to discussion with the bishops," he said. "We will brief you as soon as the meeting takes place."

The influential CBCP issued a pastoral statement on Tuesday evening, after an emergency meeting called amid growing protests, many of these joined by clergy and religious, brought about by the botched national broadband network (NBN) deal controversy.

In the pastoral statement issued last Tuesday, the CBCP sought the abolition of EO 464 and for the President to allow her subordinates to reveal the anomalies in government, particularly on the allegedly tainted NBN contract forged with China’s ZTE Corp., "without being obstructed in their testimony no matter who is involved."

In recommending for the abolition of EO 464, the CBCP noted "so that those who might have knowledge of any corruption in branches of government, may be free to testify before the appropriate investigating bodies."

It also asked the Senate and the Ombudsman to use their distinct power to fight corruption; called on media to be objective in their reporting; and encouraged the creation of a "culture of truth and integrity -- the new version of people power."

"We are convinced that the search for truth in the midst of charges and allegations must be determined and relentless, and that the way to truth and integrity must be untrammeled, especially at the present time when questions about the moral ascendancy of the present government are being put in question," the CBCP statement said.

Malacanang earlier said there should be safeguards to government officials appearing before the Senate should EO 464 as recommended by the CBCP in their pastoral statement.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the legal team is studying the possibility of scrapping EO 464.

He however, stressed the team wants to ensure that there should be "safeguards" for executive officials appearing before Senate inquiries should the Order be scrapped.

Ermita said the team will submit its recommendation to the President next week.

RP Leader Unfazed By Protests

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 29, 20080 - President Gloria Arroyo remains in control of her embattled government as 15,000 demonstrators trooped to the streets and demanded for her resignation.

They accused Arroyo of corruption over the failed national broadband network deal with ZTE Corp. of China that opposition politicians claimed is flawed and overpriced.

But for Arroyo, Friday is just another busy day.

Government media said Arroyo put a full day’s work and in her first official schedule of the day, the President inducted the new members of the executive directorate of the 235-strong Lady Municipal Mayors Association of the Philippines (LMMAP) at the Heroes’ Hall in Malacañang.

The mayors pledged their full support for the President.

Arroyo also inducted the new set of officers and directors of the People Management Association of the Philippines, and the Metro Manila Federation of Environment Multipurpose Cooperatives.

She later motored to the Quirino Grandstand in the Luneta park in Manila for the soft opening of the Manila Ocean Park, the Philippines first state-of-the-art "oceanarium".

Arroyo also traveled to Meycauayan City in Bulacan province where she inaugurated the Nestle Business Service (NBS) Asia–Oceania-Africa (AOA), a new corporate entity of the global Nestle Group,
She then proceeded to the inaugural drive-through the Meycauayan Bridge in also in Meycauayan. From there, Arroyo went to Sta. Maria town in Bulacan for the groundbreaking ceremony of a two-storey four-classroom Sta. Maria Central School building.

Photo: Anti-Arroyo Protests In Mindanao

More than a thousand Filipinos gather at the Rizal Park in Davao City in Mindanao on Friday, February 29, 2008 for an interfaith rally as part of a nationwide protest calling for the ouster of embattled Philippine leader Gloria Arroyo over corruption charges involving the flawed and overpriced national broadband network deal with China’s ZTE Corp. Similar protests are also held in Zamboanga, General Santos, Davao, Cotabato and other key cities in Mindanao. In Manila, tens of thousands of anti-Arroyo protesters also gather to demand Arroyo’s resignation.
Latest surveys show Arroyo remains unpopular among Filipinos and many say she is one of the most hated presidents in the country’s political history. (Keith Bacongco / AKP Images, Text by the Mindanao Examiner)

Muslim Groups Assail Gov't "Terrorists" Hysteria As Anti-GMA Rallies Begin

President Gloria Arroyo prays.

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 29, 2008) – A Muslim human rights organization on Friday assailed Philippine authorities for using so-called “terrorists” hysteria every time there are anti-Arroyo street protests.

The Suara Bangsamoro, an umbrella organization of human rights and civil society groups, said the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines have been making pronouncements about impending attacks by the local Abu Sayyaf and the Jemaah Islamiya, an Indonesian terror group tied to a string of bombings in Jakarta and Manila.

Philippine police chief Avelino Razon on Friday said they arrested a suspected foreign terrorist believed plotting terror attacks in Manila. Razon made the announcement the same day as huge anti-Arroyo protesters gathered in the capital to demand for the President’s resignation over corruption allegations.

“We have arrested a foreigner suspected of plotting terror attacks, including an assassination on the president,” Razon said.

The Philippine military this week also said that the Abu Sayyaf, Jemaah Islamiya and the communist New People’s Army rebels are plotting to bomb civilian targets in Manila. The military also made the same warning last week days before anti-Arroyo protesters held a huge rally in Manila.

“We cannot anymore stomach the use of the police and military the ‘terrorist’ hysteria in a bid to make Arroyo look like a target of terrorist killing in the midst of a mammoth interfaith rally calling for her resignation,” Amirah Lidasan, national president of the Suara Bangsamoro, said.

Opposition and civil society groups demanded Arroyo’s resignation after the president and her husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo were both linked to alleged scandals involving the flawed and overpriced national broadband network deal with China’s ZTE Corporation.

The president admitted the deal was flawed and cancelled the contract five months later after the scandal broke out. She and husband denied any wrongdoings.

Hundreds of students in Zamboanga and General Santos cities also marched on Friday, many demanding for Arroyo’s resignation. Some 200 students from Mindanao State University in General Santos held a rally and demanded Arroyo to step down.

More than 500 students from different colleges in Zamboanga also gathered at the Ateneo University in Zamboanga where they attended an interfaith forum. They denounced corruption in government. Many lighted candles and demanded Arroyo’s resignation.

The Inter-religious Solidarity Movement for Peace in Mindanao has joined calls for truth and clean, corruption-free society.

“Our country has constantly scored high on the scales of corruption in Asia and the world. As a people, we have seemingly become habituated to the culture of sleaze and dishonesty in the way that many of our leaders carry out their supposed duties to the people.”

“In these days we have again become flooded with these exact same stories of corrupt transactions happening in high places. Information on the blatant manipulation and obstruction of the truth on the NBN-ZTE Project has implicated very important government officials, including the President of this Republic and her family,” it said in a statement. (Mindanao Examiner)

Foreign Terror Suspect Falls In Manila

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 29, 2008) – Philippine police on Friday said it has arrested a foreigner suspected of plotting terror attacks in the Manila.

Police chief Avelino Razon made the announcement the same day as huge anti-Arroyo protesters gathered in the capital to demand for the resignation of the Filipino leader over corruption allegations.

“We have arrested a foreigner suspected of plotting terror attacks,” Razon said.
He did not say how or when the foreigner was arrested, but claimed the man has links with international and local terror groups.

The Philippine military on Thursday said Jemaah Islamiya and the local Abu Sayyaf group are plotting to bomb civilian targets in Manila. The military also made the same warning last week days before anti-Arroyo protesters held a huge rally in Manila.

Opposition and civil society groups demanded Arroyo’s resignation after the president and her husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo were both linked to alleged scandals involving the flawed and overpriced national broadband network deal with China’s ZTE Corporation.

The president admitted the deal was flawed and cancelled the contract five months later after the scandal broke out. She and husband denied any wrongdoings.

In southern Philippines, the Inter-religious Solidarity Movement for Peace has joined calls for truth and clean, corruption-free society.

“Our country has constantly scored high on the scales of corruption in Asia and the world. As a people, we have seemingly become habituated to the culture of sleaze and dishonesty in the way that many of our leaders carry out their supposed duties to the people.”

“In these days we have again become flooded with these exact same stories of corrupt transactions happening in high places. Information on the blatant manipulation and obstruction of the truth on the NBN-ZTE Project has implicated very important government officials, including the President of this Republic and her family,” it said in a statement.

It added: “This is now leading us to a crisis point that is prompting us to even question the integrity of the highest official of the land. It is utterly immoral to impose this obligation upon our people without consideration for their poverty and struggle to live in dignity and peace.”

“We add our collective voice to the many who call for an end to corruption, falsehood and dishonesty. We are not a society of cheats. With a sense of urgency, we exhort everyone to consider the consequences of the culture of corruption that plagues our society from top to bottom. These practices must end in united, honest and serious work for truth and adherence to the rule of law.”

“Confident in our legal system, let us get to the bottom of these anomalies and prosecute those who are found liable – regardless of their high or powerful positions, including the President of the country– and replace corrupt leaders with those who are more transformational and moral. Let us rebuild our country on the building blocks of participative working democracy, reflective of the will of our people. A clean, peaceful and corruption-free society, where people are empowered as they live in security and dignity, is our best legacy to our children.”

But the Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns has criticized Arroyo and said it would join calls for her to step down.

“The anomalies and scandals on the secret deals of the Arroyo government emit unbearable stench, no matter how the government tries to cover it up. The whole nation can smell the horrible stench and even the children can smell it too,” Alphonse Rivera, the group’s spokesman, said.

“We have witnessed how the government deprived our children of basic services while fattening their own pockets. Now is the time to speak out and defend our children’s future. We want to put across the message that, whichever way, Mrs. Arroyo has to go away now. She has never considered the children’s interests in her 7 years in power and we have lost trust that she will do so in the next two years. We can no longer bear the disgusting stench of her government,” Rivera said.

A Call For Truth and Clean, Corruption-Free Society


Our country has constantly scored high on the scales of corruption in Asia and the world. As a people, we have seemingly become habituated to the culture of sleaze and dishonesty in the way that many of our leaders carry out their supposed duties to the people.

In these days we have again become flooded with these exact same stories of corrupt transactions happening in high places. Information on the blatant manipulation and obstruction of the truth on the NBN-ZTE Project has implicated very important government officials, including the President of this Republic and her family.

Because the project shall be prosecuted on a loan, the Filipino people shall assume the task of servicing the national debt, including the super-heavy kickbacks that would have gone on to line the pockets of those who have brokered the deal.

This is now leading us to a crisis point that is prompting us to even question the integrity of the highest official of the land. It is utterly immoral to impose this obligation upon our people without consideration for their poverty and struggle to live in dignity and peace.

As one witness after another unravels the disgusting elements of immorality, treason and flagrant racketeering, there is a call to bring the truth to light. There is a call for morale support to these witnesses to pluck up their courage amid threats of litigation, physical harm, and even death.

We add our collective voice to the many who call for an end to corruption, falsehood and dishonesty. We are not a society of cheats. With a sense of urgency, we exhort everyone to consider the consequences of the culture of corruption that plagues our society from top to bottom. These practices must end in UNITED, HONEST, AND SERIOUS WORK FOR TRUTH AND ADHERENCE TO THE RULE OF LAW.

Confident in our legal system, let us get to the bottom of these anomalies and prosecute those who are found liable – regardless of their high or powerful positions, including the President of the country– and replace corrupt leaders with those who are more transformational and moral. Let us rebuild our country on the building blocks of participative working democracy, reflective of the will of our people. A clean, peaceful and corruption-free society, where people are empowered as they live in security and dignity, is our best legacy to our children.

NGO Slams Philippines Judge Advocate General’s Office

Shot in the forehead and an eye missing, one of eight victims killed by soldiers in Sulu province. Below, Muslims protest the killings in Sulu. (Photo by Area Coordinating Center, Sulu Provincial Government)

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 29, 2008) - The Children’s Rehabilitation Center criticized the Armed Forces of the Philippines Judge Advocate General’s Office (JAGO) for exonerating the soldiers involved in the massacre of civilians, including 2 children and a pregnant woman, in Sulu province early this month.

“The AFP has done it again. It has used its usual excuse of “legitimate encounter” to escape accountability over the loss of civilian lives during military operations,” Ma. Esmeralda Macaspac, Executive Director of the Children’s Rehabilitation Center, said in a statement.

Macaspac also said that operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group have become a convenient excuse whenever human rights violations are committed against civilians in Mindanao, particularly in Muslim areas. “They disregard the damage to lives, limbs and property. They even disregard the findings of investigations by human rights groups and even the Commission on Human Rights.”

She said the exoneration of the soldiers was a move to prevent further antagonizing the soldiers in the midst of rumours of military unrest.
“The last thing that the Arroyo government needs right now, especially with a fragmented military, is to further rock the boat. This further shows that at whatever cost, they will trudge any path just to appease the military men and keep themselves in power. And this they do at the expense of the human rights of the people.”

Macaspac lauded the CHR for endorsing the filing of criminal charges against the soldiers in civilian court. She however cautioned the relatives of the victims not to pin much hope on winning the case because of the current state of the Philippine justice system.

“Seeking justice is part of the healing process of victims and their relatives. While we encourage the victims and the relatives to go through the process, we don’t encourage them to consider the court as the “end all and be all” of getting justice. They should also seek other means to attain justice,” she said.

“In the end, the success of their coping would depend on their own strength, enhanced by their social support network, and how they use this strength to change the crisis situation they are in."
The Children's Rehabilitation Center is a non-government organization providing direct psycho-social help to children victims of human rights violations.

Muslims, Christians In South RP Join Interfaith Prayer Rally For Truth

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 29, 2008) – The Suara Bangsamoro, Jesus Is Lord Movement (JIL) and other Moro and civil society groups will stage an interfaith prayer and candle lighting rally on Friday evening.
The groups will convene at City Plaza at 4:00 PM, as part of the people’s unyielding quest for truth, justice, accountability and meaningful reforms in governance amid the deteriorating political crisis prodded by the $329-million ZTE-NBN scam.
Danny Vergara, resident pastor of JIL-Cotabato City, depicted the interfaith prayer assembly as a dignified gathering of groups, sectors and individuals who are resolute to grasp the genuine truth of the overpriced ZTE-NBN deal and make all those involved, including President Gloria Arroyo, accountable for their abuses and callousness.
Suara Bangsamoro’s national secretary-general, Bai Ali Indayla remarked that the movement calling for Arroyo’s resignation or ouster keeps mounting and intensifying as the political crisis drags on stressing that ‘Arroyo has a lot to answer including the organized extra-judicial killings, Hello Garci scandal, electoral fraud and numerous cases of multi-billion peso graft and corruption involving her family and cronies.’
“The pathetic statement of CBCP could not give GMA some relief. Cries of people from all walks of life are intense. She has escaped judgment in the past, but people now will decisively say, ‘Enough of Corruption, Enough of GMA!’ Indayla said in a statement.
The groups pointed out that they will stage series of activities including street education, sinehang bayan (film viewing) and concert for truth to edify the people on the present political quagmire until the downfall of Arroyo’s regime.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Malakanyang Motukod Ug Usa Ka Legal Team Aron Pagtuon Sa Pagwagtang Sa EO 464

PAGADIAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 28, 2008) Motukod ang Malakanyang ug usa ka legal team nga maoy magtuon sa posibleng pagwagtang sa mando ehekutibo 464 isip tubag sa tawag sa Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

Matod pa ni Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, gimandoan siya ni Presidente Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo paghulma gilayon sa usa ka legal nga grupo sa wala pa mibiya ang presidente padulong sa Davao City kahapon sa buntag.

Kini ang gisugyot sa Presidente kaniya sa diha-diha magpatawag ug meeting uban sa maong team sa may alas kuwatro sa hapon kagahapon aron sa pagtuon awhag sa CBCP kabahin sa EO 464.

Ang legal team pagalangkuban sa kalihim sa Departmento sa Hustisya, Solicitor General, ug Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs, ug ang legal officers sa government corporate counsels. (PIA Pagadian City)

Photo: Balikatan 2008 In Southern Philippines - Veterinary Care

SHOULDERING THE LOAD TOGETHER. Fireman 1st Class Jalicando Mamolo, of the Philippine Navy, administers oral vitamins to a cow while Capt. Kevin Hinson, a U.S. Army veterinarian assigned to the Japan District Veterinary Command, assists during a free veterinary clinic held February 26, 2008 in Nabalawag village in Midsayap town in North Cotabato province in Mindanao as part of the humanitarian assistance programs of Balikatan 2008. True to the meaning of the word Balikatan, Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. military veterinary providers are shouldering the load together to help the greatest possible number of people in need. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Taylor released by the US Embassy to the Mindanao Examiner)

Youth Groups Demand GMA Resignation In South RP

Philippine leader Gloria Arroyo, center, with husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, and daughter, Luli Arroyo.

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 28, 2008) – Militant youth and student groups calling for President Gloria Arroyo’s resignation held a street rally Thursday in Davao City in southern Philippines and vowed for more and larger protests in the weeks to come.

Rachel Pomar, spokesperson of the Anakbayan-Southern Mindanao, said there will be huge street protests to come as more groups are joining calls for the president to resign over corruption scandals involving the flawed national broadband network deal with China’s ZTE.

Members of youth organizations League of Filipino Students (LFS) and Anakbayan led the rally which coincided with the national day of action initiated by the group called "Youth Act Now!".

“The NBN-ZTE Deal is said to be a concrete manifestation of how the present government would want to steal people's wealth to stay on power,” Pomar said in a statement.

She said the many young people, particularly the youth, are disappointed with the Arroyo administration. “In as much as the youth's primary concern is education, they say that it has long been neglected by the government, instead, focuses on other projects that are not actually demanded by the people," Pomar added.

“Here is our call for our right to education which we believe is more important to be largely allocated by government budget than an overpriced broadband network deal, among others. Majority of the Filipinos is in dire need of free and affordable education while GMA and her corrupt officials continue to harbor projects as sources of corruption.”

Karlos Manlupig, LFS-Southern Mindanao spokesperson, said Arroyo’s resignation would bring new hope for the country to move on. “We cannot wait for her to retire on 2010 as she had a bad record of telling the truth in the past, she would only perpetuate her stay in power. The Filipino people deserve a better leader that would genuinely serve the interest of the people,” Manlupig said. “The streets will serve as our den in defending our democratic interest slowly stolen and deprived by a corrupt government.”

Moro Human Rights Group Assails AFP Probe Of Sulu Massacre

Muslims hold rally to demand justice for eight people killed by government soldiers in Sulu province. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 28, 2008) – A Muslim human rights group on Wednesday accused the Philippine military of covering up soldiers accused of killing 8 people in Sulu province.

The Philippine military absolved dozens of members of the Army Light Reaction Company and Navy Special Warfare Group in the murder of seven civilians and an off-duty soldier during a raid on the village of Ipil in Maimbung town on February 4.

The Western Mindanao Command's Judge Advocate General's Office absolved all the soldiers involved in the killings and said the attack in the village was a legitimate operation. "It was a legitimate encounter with the Abu Sayyaf and that is according to the report and findings of the JAGO," Army Major Eugene Batara, a regional military spokesman, said.

Colonel Fred Lleosa headed the JAGO team which investigated the killings, he said.

Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan said among those killed in the raid were two children, two teenagers and a pregnant woman, including a seaweed farmer and a village councilor. He also accused soldiers or murdering innocent villagers.

He said a fact-finding board was created Wednesday to study and file appropriate criminal charges against the soldiers and their commanders implicated in the killings.

“There should be no cover-up to the killings. We want justice and justice we will get. We will file criminal charges against those involved in the killing of innocent people,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) which held separate investigations into the raid also accused the soldiers of killings innocent civilians.

But the Philippine Commission on Human Rights said was no Abu Sayyaf in the village and that seven of those slain in the military attack were innocent civilians.

“None of them was an Abu Sayyaf member. Seven civilians and a government soldiers were killed in that attack,” CHR Regional Director Jose Manuel Mamauag said in a separate interview.

The Suara Bangsamoro, an umbrella organization of Muslim human rights groups, urged the Philippines Congress and the Senate to investigate the killings and reports that four US soldiers were spotted on a navy boat just off the village of Ipil as local troops were firing on civilians they mistook as Abu Sayyaf militants.

Amirah Ali Lidasan, national president of Suara Bangsamoro, her group has long expected that the military will absolved the soldiers. “We believe the CHR’s findings because they were based on testimonies of survivors and the whole seaweeds-farming community of Ipil. We have long feared that the Western Mindanao Command investigation will want to whitewash the investigation and absolve their soldiers for the crimes,” Lidasan said in a statement.

“The Philippine should be concerned in giving the Moro people the long-awaited justice that the military deployed in our communities have time and again have been absolved. This cycle of injustice is only one of the many reasons why the Moro people cannot stomach the Arroyo administration and her anti-terror and militaristic policies,” she said.

The Western Mindanao Command had previously said, even before the start of investigations, that those killed in the raid were either members of the Abu Sayyaf members or coddlers of the group and in several occasions claimed the victims were killed by the Abu Sayyaf or hit in the cross-fire.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country's largest Muslim rebel group, also criticized the findings of the military investigation.

"The findings are sanitized aimed at lessening the burden of responsibility to members of the elite troops under the Light Reaction Company and the navy's Special Warfare Group. Acting as judge for itself will lead to nowhere and no justice is expected forthcoming," the MILF said.

The MILF also praised Mamauag for his unbiased report of the CHR investigations into the killings. "Conscience-guided men, like Mamauag, deserved to be commended by everyone, despite differences of loyalties and orientations," Muhammad Ameen, chairman of the MILF Secretariat, said.

The CHR findings detailed how troops attacked the village and plundered houses owned by civilians.
Mamauag has recommended the filing of criminal charges against the soldiers involved in the raid.

Survivors of the carnage testified in investigations that soldiers opened fired on villagers as they pleaded for their life. Four of those killed were shot at sea as they fled for safety on boat.

One of the survivors Rawina Wahid, wife of the slain soldier, Pfc. Ibnul Wahid, said her husband was hogtied and tortured by soldiers before being shot at the back of his head.

"My husband told the soldiers that he is a member of the Philippine Army, but they never listened and dragged him out of the house, bound his hands behind his back and then shot him. They did not listen to our pleading and they killed my husband," she said.

She said she also saw four US soldiers on a navy boat where the body of her husband was brought. "I saw four American soldiers on the boat before Filipino troops blinded folded me," she told reporters. Wahid said she boarded the boat that took her husband's remains to a military base in Jolo town.

One of the victims had been shot at close range in the forehead, his right eye was gorged out and right ear missing. One had a missing finger while another had burns on his body and legs.

The slain civilians were identified as Marisa Payian, 4; Wedme Lahim, 9; Alnalyn Lahim, 15; Sulayman Hakob, 17; Kirah Lahim, 45; Eldisim Lahim, 43; Narcia Abon, 24. Two of the raiders were also killed and five others wounded when they mistook each others as enemies and traded gun fires, according to the CHR report.

Reps. Yusop Jikiri, of Sulu province and Mujiv Hataman, of Basilan have separately called for a congressional investigation into the killings in Maimbung town.

Muslim religious groups and human rights advocates are reportedly planning to hold a series of street rallies to demand justice for the victims. But many are worried that Muslims, angered by the cover-up of the military into killings, may mount sympathy attacks targeting government soldiers in Sulu.

Dozens of Christian soldiers had been killed in Sulu in random machete and gun attacks the past years by angry villagers because of atrocities and human rights abuses of the military on the island of over half a million Muslims. (Mindanao Examiner)

Sulu Vows Support To COMELEC, Poll Reforms

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 28, 2008) - Sulu Governor Sakur Tan has pledged to support efforts by the national government for poll reforms and transparency, including the modernization of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC).

He said the COMELEC has been in the forefront of clean and honest elections and the computerization of polls in the country, especially in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to which Sulu belongs.

Tan said they closely coordinating with the COMELEC for the registration of voters in the August elections in the ARMM and to ensure peaceful and honest polls.

Romeo Brawner, former Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals, is the current COMELEC chairman.

"We are supporting efforts of the COMELEC for clean and honest elections and the computerization of polls in the country or at least in the ARMM," Tan said.

Tan said he was impressed with Brawner's plans for the COMELEC which includes the Implementation of Republic Act 8436 as amended by Republic Act 9369 or the Automated Election System Project, particularly the proposed automation of the August 2008 ARMM polls.

He said Brawner, in his 10-point agenda for COMELEC, pledged to carry out new general registration of voters and also the cleansing of list of all registered voters; improvement of the judicial functions of the Commission and a thorough revision of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure.

Brawner said there should be an institution of a system for the raffle and assignment of poll-related cases and speedy disposition of these cases; review of the COMELEC organizational structure; increase in the salary and compensation package of COMELEC employees and the institutionalization of programs and activities for human resource development.

Brawner is also proposing for the institutionalization of a health and welfare package and program for COMELEC employees and to strengthen ties with other election stakeholders, according to Tan.

He said the COMELEC is also working to enhance voters' education and information campaign and other infrastructure projects needed by the poll body. (With a report from Nickee Butlangan)

Southern RP Blast Kills 1

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 28, 2008) – A suspected homemade bomb exploded in the southern Philippines, killing one man and wounded at least six more, police and military reports said.

The blast occurred in the middle of a crowd watching a street dance in General Santos City late Wednesday. No group claimed responsibility for the blast, but police is investigating whether the lone victim was the bomber after a waist bag believed used to hide the explosive had been recovered from his body.

Other reports said a cell phone was also found in the bag and believed used to trigger the explosion. However, it was not immediately known whether the explosion was accidental or a suicide attack.

Last month, three people were killed and 22 others wounded when a homemade bomb also exploded outside the Philbest Canning Corporation in General Santos City.

No group also claimed responsibility for the bombing, but previous attacks had been blamed by Philippine authorities to the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya, including the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. (With a report from Mark Navales)

TESDA Mopahigayon Ug Massive Skills Training Program

Manila, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 28, 2008) - Ilusad karong tuiga sa Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) ang massive skills training program ginamit ang tanang kapasidad pagbansay-bansay sa tibuok nasud nga network sa tekbok schools ang training centers.

Ang maong training gipunting alang sa regular nga programa sa tesda nga gibana-bana sa 597, 313 ka mga graduates. Dugang 50,000 ka mga graduates sa target ang sa training for work scholarship program ug ubang nga mga susamang training assistance services.

Ang maong pagbansay-bansay gipunting alang sa President Gloria Arroyo rural development program nga nagbarog sa 100,000 ka mga graduates.

Mao kini ang gitaho ni TESDA Director General Augusto Syjuco mahitungod sa massive training targets ug ang nagkatagdo nga mga programa ngadto kang presidente Arroyo panahon sa cabinet meeting ning milabay'ng Enero 2008, giingon sa Philippine Information Agency.

Religious Groups Join Calls For Arroyo To Resign

"Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another." Leviticus 19:11

We, members and leaders of the religious community, lawyers' organization, academe, youth organizations and multi-sectoral groups, have come together to express our common understanding on the recent political crisis that was triggered by controversies on the anomalous $329 million NBN-ZTE deal and to act in accordance with the principle of truth and justice. The Arroyo administration's brazen attempt to silence truth bearers through intimidation and abduction and by continuously invoking Executive Order No. 464 to evade Senate inquiries are acts in complete disregard of the truth and a betrayal to the basic tenet of governance that "public office is a public trust".

We believe that the Arroyo administration should be held accountable of the crimes that it has committed against the Filipino people, which include political killings, graft and corruption and electoral fraud. If perpetrators of these crimes are left unpunished, public officials from various agencies of the government will be emboldened to steal public funds, to cheat during elections, and to conceal the truth about illegal acts in the bureaucracy. Leaving to the Arroyo administration the task to reveal the truth and to give justice to the Filipino people is completely inappropriate at this time especially that the President herself has been involved into illegal transactions and has been using different agencies of the state to hide the truth.

We are also saddened with the continued apathy on the part of Former National Economic and Development Authority Director General Romulo Neri especially that he religiously submitted himself to the administration's script instead of standing up as an agent of truth. His testimony could help us thresh out the details on how intense is the corruption in the government after series of scandals haunting the Arroyo administration since 2004.

We urge Neri to reflect and be enlightened that it is time that public interest should supersede the welfare of Arroyo and her administration.

We deplore the Arroyo administration's blatant disrespect to the Filipino people's constitutional rights to expression and peaceful assembly in redress of grievances. Surveillance cameras have been installed outside educational institutions to monitor activities of students seeking for the truth about the NBN ZTE controversy. Protest rallies are being dispersed wantonly, by which it has become the administration way to neutralize dissent starting from the implementation of calibrated preemptive response to the declaration of the state of the national emergency. Up until now, political killings are systematically done with impunity in the country sides and it has instituted fear among local residents.

We believe that the Arroyo administration has been given enough time and chances to correct mistakes she has committed in the past, which include the controversy hounding the 2004 elections and scams about the fertilizer fund and jueteng.
Yet, we have had enough of Arroyo administration's lies and deception. Truth will never prevail in an administration that thrives in injustice, corruption, greed, fraud and political persecution. Justice and change can never be achieved by a president who had lost the moral ascendancy and the trust of the Filipino people to lead. Thus, we believe that we can only move on by putting an end to this political deadlock. We call on Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to RESIGN. If she still insists to lead this country until 2010, we will work for her removal from Malacañang.

To carry on this task, we have organized a gathering for an Interfaith Worship for Truth and Accountability on Friday, the 29th of February, to be held in Rizal Park, from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm.

SPONSORING ORGANIZATIONS: Assumption College of Davao, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-SMR, Center for Overseas Workers' Development Inc., Promotion of Church Peoples' Response, Religious of the Good Shepherd, Sisters Association in Mindanao, Union of Peoples' Lawyers in Mindanao, United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Arroyo Mihatahag Pasidungog Nga Order Of Sikatuna Sa Outgoing Australian Ambassador

Manila - Gitugyan ni Presidente Gloria Arroyo ang Order of Sikatuna uban sa ranggo sa datu ngadto kang outgoing Australian ambassador to the Philippines Anthony John Hely.

Si Hely gikutlo alang sa iyang kontribusyon sa paghimo sa relasyon tali pilipinas ug australia mas lig-on pa gayud.

Mapaslanon kaayo siya sa kalampusan sa gipahigayon nga Philippine-Australian ministerial meeting niadtong agosto 2005, ang pagbisita sa Presidente ngadto sa Australia ning milabay'ng Mayo miaging tuig ug ang pagtambong ni kanhing Australian Prime Minister John Howard sa 12th ASEAN Leaders' Meeting sa Cebu City ning milabay'ng Enero miaging tuig lakip ang mga hinabang militar nga gipadala sa Australia dinhi sa Mindanao.

"Gusto ko magpasalamat kanimo tungod sa mga maayong panahon sa akong pagpuyo dinhi sa Pilipinas", miingon si Hely kang Presidente Arroyo.

Gisugdan ni Hely ang iyang tulo ka tuig tour of duty dinhi sa Pilipinas niadtong Marso 2005.(Philippine Information Agency)

RP Military Absolves Troops In Sulu Massacre

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Militanteng Grupo, Progresibong Magsasaka Pinagbantaan Ng Army Sa Negros

DUMAGUETE CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 26, 2008) – Muling nagsiga-sigaan na naman ang Philippine Army sa Negros Oriental at tila martial law ang paningin nito sa estado ng lalawigan matapos nitong balaan ang mga militanteng grupo at progresibong organisasyon ng mga magsasaka na umano’y tutol sa kaunlaran.

Mismong si Col. John Bonafos, ang deputy commander ng kilabot na 302nd Infantry Brigade, ang nagsabi sa mga mamamahayag na dudurugin nito ang mga grupong tutol sa kaunlaran.

Naunang inireklamo ng mga militanteng grupo ang Philippine Army, partikular ang 61st Infantry Battalion, na siya umanong nasa likod ng panghaharas sa mga magsasaka na ayaw magtanim ng jathropa o “tuba-tuba”, isang halamang malaki umano ang potensyal sa langis na posibleng magamit bilang bio-fuel ng pamahalaan.

Katwiran ng mga magsasaka ay maraming mawawalan ng taniman at palayan kung itutuloy ng militar ang pamimilit sa pagtatanim ng jathropa sa libo-libong ektarya sa Negros na pakikinabangan lamang ng mga malalaking haciendero.

Binansagan pa umano ni Bonafos ang mga militanteng grupo tulad ng Anakpawis, Gabriela, Bayan, Anakbayan at ilang mga church-based charity at progresibiong grupo na umano’y front lamang ng Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Itong mga grupo rin ang tinawag ni Bonafos na mga tutol sa kaunlaran.

Umani naman ng malaking batikos si Bonafos sa kanyang mga binitiwang pahayag sa media at nanawagan tuloy ang mga human rights advocates sa pamunuan ng militar at pamahalaang na tanggalin agad sa Negros si Bonafos at ipadala sa Sulu na kung saan ay naghahari-harian doon ang Abu Sayyaf at Jemaah Islmiaya.
Natatakot ang mga human rights grupo na mas tataas pa ang bilang ngh mga kaso ng human rights sa lalawigan sa pamamalagi ni Bonafos at ng mga iba pang unit ng Philippine Army tulad ng 61st Infantry Batallion. (Mindanao Examiner)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Arroyo's Pictures Pelted With Tomatoes In Iligan City

Anti-Arroyo protest Monday, February 25, 2008 in Iligan City.
ILIGAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 25, 2008) – Filipino activists pelted with rotten tomatoes pictures of President Gloria Arroyo during a rally Monday in the southern city of Iligan.
Members of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) also demanded Arroyo’s resignation over corruption allegations that sparked huge protest rallies in the country since the past weeks.
The protest coincided with the 22nd commemoration of the EDSA People Power revolution that deposed President Ferdinand Marcos and catapulted Corazon Aquino into power in 1986.

Today’s nationwide protests by opposition and civil society groups failed to attract citizens to join the rallies that could have triggered another people power revolution.“People power fatigue is never true,” Bayan’s secretary-general Anjo Bacarisas, said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

“The people will never be tired of struggling against a President who gives them the hardest days of their lives, and the collective action of toppling this hated regime is the only way out.”
“The people’s poverty increases while Arroyo gets richer! Hunger is everywhere,” he said.

Bacarisas said Arroyo’s boasting that the country’s Gross Domestic Product has risen 7.5% was an empty reality. “The growing numbers of people instead are living with empty stomachs and it is deception on the part of this regime to paint the picture of a progressive economy.

Rising prices of basic commodities, oil price hikes, lack of jobs, low wages, land grabbing — this is the real situation of the people,” Bacarisas said.
In nearby Cagayan de Oro City, more than 500 anti-Arroyo protesters also held noise barrage and marched in downtown area calling for the president’s resignation. (Merlyn Manos)

Fighting Erupts In Southern RP Province

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 25, 2008) – Troops killed an unidentified gunman in a barrage of mortar fires after security forces foiled an attack early Monday on a military post in the southern Philippine province of Basilan, officials said.

Officials said troops fired on a group of armed men near their post in the village of Baguindan in Ungkaya Pukan town shortly before 3 a.m. An ensuing fire fight killed one gunman, said Army Major Eugene Batara, spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command.

“The armed men were moving towards the position of the troops and stopped them after security forces fired mortar rounds. One enemy was killed,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

There were no reports of military casualties and no group claimed responsibility for the foiled attack, but the area is a known stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country’s largest Muslim secessionist rebel group currently negotiating peace with Manila.

The MILF did not say whether the slain gunman was a member or not, but rebel forces had previously clashed with government soldiers in the town since last year.

Peace talks between Manila and the MILF was stalled last year after government and rebel negotiators failed to agree on the most contentious issue, the ancestral domain that will comprise the homeland for some 4 million Muslims in the strife-torn, but mineral-rich region of Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner)

Anti-Arroyo Protests Held In Mindanao

A small group of Muslim and Christian activists hold a picket Monday, February 25, 2008 in downtown Zamboanga City in southern Philippines calling for the resignation of embattled President Gloria Arroyo, accused of fraud in the 2004 elections. A similar rally is also held in Cotabato City. Opposition politicians and civil society organizations also accused Arroyo of corruption involving the flawed and overpriced national broadband network deal with China's ZTE. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 25, 2008) – Political activists and members of militant Muslim groups calling for the resignation of embattled Filipino leader Gloria Arroyo held a peaceful rally on Monday in Zamboanga City.

The protesters, mostly from the group called Kawagib Moro Human Rights, Suara Bangsamoro and the Liga ng Kabataang Moro, distributed anti-Arroyo propaganda to citizens and took turns in criticizing the president on corruption scandals brought about by the flawed and overpriced national broadband network deal with China.

Sittie Sundang, Kawagib Moro Human Rights secretary-general, said public clamor for Arroyo to step down is getting stronger every day. “People want change and they want Arroyo to resign,” she told the Mindanao Examiner.

“The public should know all the truth behind the flawed NBN deal and corruption scandals that are now hounding the Arroyo government,” one activist, Abdul Muktar, said.

Arroyo admitted she knew about the flawed NBN deal, but still signed the $329-million contract with China only to scrap it five months later after the opposition accused her government of corruption.
The opposition said the contract was overpriced by $130 million. The scandal triggered calls from the opposition and civil society groups, including the Church for Arroyo to resign.

“She should resign if she still has little shame left and there must be snap presidential elections in order to restore trust and confidence. We are fed up with corruption,” said Juanita dela Cruz, 54.

But the influential Bishop-Ulama Conference said Arroyo should finish her term in 2010 and appealed to citizens for sobriety despite calls by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines for a communal action in the wake of corruption scandals hounding the Arroyo administration.

CBCP President Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said the Philippines is experiencing a “new brand” of people power in various archdioceses and dioceses. “Various activities in the form of people’s response to calls for communal action are borne out of discussions in the parishes, groups and associations for truth, justice and accountability,” Archbishop Lagdameo said.

But Ustadz Shariff Julabbi, spokesman for the Bishop-Ulama Conference, appealed to religious groups to stay neutral. “Filipinos should unite for the sake of the country and work together for progress and development to achieve real peace in the land,” Ustadz Julabbi said in a separate interview.

Anti-Arroyo protesters also held a rally in Cotabato City on Monday, which coincided with the 22nd anniversary of the EDSA People Power revolution that toppled the Marcos regime.

Bai Ali Indayla, of the Suara Bangsamoro, said the rally was participated by members of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Liga ng Kabataang, Alyansa ng Kabataan Laban sa Panghihimasok ng Amerikanong Sundalo and Gabriela Youth. (With a report from Mark Navales)

Students, Youths Call For US Troop Pull Out In Mindanao

Student leaders and out-of-school youths hold a forum in Cotabato City Saturday, February 23, 2008 calling for pull out of all US troops in southern RP.

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 25, 2008) – Militant students and out-of-school youths gathered in Cotabato City in southern Philippines to call for the pull out of all US troops involved in anti-terror warfare training.

They also held a forum spearheaded by the group called Alyansa ng mga Kabataan Laban sa Panghihimasok ng mga Amerikanong Sundalo or AKLAS which is oppose to the presence of American forces in Mindanao.

The group said US military forces are not only involved in joint training with local soldiers, but are secretly participating in combat operation in the guise of the Balikatan, a codename for the annual joint military training between the United States and the Philippines.

The weekend forum was also attended by campus journalists, student leaders and youth mass organizations in central Mindanao.

Jeppie Ramada, Bayan Muna vice president for Mindanao, was the forum’s resource speaker while the panels included Liga ng Kabataang Moro spokesperson Michael Dumamba and AKLAS’ Yousri Usop. (Mindanao Examiner)

Photo: Government Buildings In Middle Of Coconut Farm In Sulu province

Two government buildings with no markings are erected in the middle of a coconut plantation in Sulu province in this photo taken last year. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

Photo: Balikatan 2008 Humanitarian Mission In North Cotabato In Philippines

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Child Rights Advocates Join Anti-Arroyo Protest

MANILA, Philippines - “Learning by doing.” This is how child rights advocates teach children the different concepts related to their rights. And this is exactly how they taught children the right to freely express opinions and the value of collective action.

In a gathering of child rights advocates, various child-focused NGOs formed the Child Rights Advocates Act against Corruption and Tyranny Now! (Children ACT Now!) and came up with a unity statement that condemned the practice of corruption by government officials at the expense of the budget for basic services for children and their families.

“We are appalled that millions of pesos in cash for bribes changed hands among those in power while our children and their families struggle to work for a whole day’s subsistence,” their unity statement read.

The group also expressed their disgust at President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her family, as well as her cronies for living off “on people’s money while our children work on the streets, in quarries, in sweatshops and even in dirty canals and rivers to earn a decent living.”

Representatives of the group led by Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns, Association for the Rights of Children in Southeast Asia (ARCSEA), Konkokyo Peace Activity Center (KPAC),Children’s Network Against Corruption and Deceit and Magulang at Paslit Laban sa Digmaan at Karahasan (MAPALAD-KA) carried an oversized styro slipper representing the collective action of child rights workers.

They used the slipper to hit an over-sized can representing corruption in government, as in the children’s game, Tumbang Preso. “Our children do not deserve her disgraceful and dishonorable government. We demand that GMA account and face the consequences of this unbelievable degree of corruption. We must continue to teach our children that for every wrong done, there is accountability.”

While child rights advocates’ greatest virtue is patience, they said that their “patience with the Arroyo government has grown thin and time has run out”. They added that “our children deserve a better government, better leaders and a better future, without Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in Malacanang.”

In order to realize this, they are calling on child rights advocates from all over the country, as well as the children -- the future generation, to exercise vigilance against future leaders who may do just the same or even worse than what Arroyo is doing now.

The group planned a series of activities that involved discussions among parents and children in their communities on the issue of corruption vis-à-vis the situation of children through various creative forms. They are also slated to do a forum-interaction on corruption to be participated in by about 500 children and child rights advocates on February 25.

Joining the national organizations in the alliance are child rights organizations Kabiba Alliance from Southern Mindanao based in Davao City and the Children’s Rehabilitation Center- Panay Regional Office based in Iloilo City. More organizations are expected to join the alliance in the next few days.

RP Military Chief Remembers 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution

Philippine Armed Forces Chief General Hermogenes Esperon speaks on mobile phone during a visit in Zamboanga City. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)


The spirit of EDSA emanates from the Filipinos’ act of self-giving, of believing that aspirations could be achieved thru peaceful and non-violent means. The spirit of EDSA reminds us that every citizen, poor or rich, young or old, lowly or elite, military or civilian, can make a difference.

EDSA regained for us our democratic way of life. Whether or not you were in EDSA in 1986, the spirit calls all of us to strengthen democracy and its institutions. People power and civil society must make those institutions work so that democracy will always be with us. We went back to EDSA again in 2001 if only to recommit ourselves to the spirit, and make necessary corrections.

The military was and is a proud part of people power, but the military must not be coaxed to lead or join another EDSA. The challenge is for civil society to make democracy work; the more that the military intervenes, the more that democratic institutions weaken.

Let us believe in reasonable Senate hearings. Let us make sure those Senate hearings lead to cases filed in court or to bills filed. Let us believe in the Courts and the Ombudsman. Let us believe in peaceful assemblies. Let us believe in democratic process including impeachments. Let us believe in democracy. We can’t afford to weaken it, much more lose it again.

The military should ensure that the democratic institutions and processes could freely function. Devoid of undue pressures from vested interest groups, instead of the military usurping the functions of these institutions, past experiences have taught us very valuable lessons, but they are all part of our maturing process.

Let us not retrogress. Rather, we must move forward and allow the institutions to work the way we envisioned them to be.

We, your AFP, pledge that it is our duty to be constitutional. By following and adhering to the chain of command, we believe we will be in better position to safeguard democracy, our territory and sovereignty, and most of all our countrymen.

By opting not to intervene, the military believes that democracy in this land will become stronger. Civil society must prove that it can stand for, sustain and make our democratic way of life work for all Filipinos. Civil society must prove itself to be worth defending.

Long live the spirit of EDSA!!!

General Hermogenes Esperon

Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines

Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City

Stay Away From Ancestral Lands, Rebels Warn Mining Firms In Mindanao

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Police Raid Zamboanga City Shabu Lab

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 23, 2008) - Anti-narcotics agents, backed by policemen, raided a suspected shabu laboratory on a remote village in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines, but no arrest was made.

Police said it was tracking down a Taiwanese man and his Filipino cohort who allegedly operate the laboratory in the village of Lamisahan. It was the first time that authorities have discovered a shabu laboratory in Zamboanga.

Shabu which is also known as methamphetamine hydrochloride is a clear, chunky form of crystals resembling ice and is sometimes referred to as "crystal" or glass" by drug users.

The drug releases high levels of stimulant dopamine that works on brain cells to activate body movement and elevate moods. When used regularly it has a neurological toxic effect and can damage brain cells.

Policemen raided the laboratory late Friday afternoon after villagers complained of obnoxious smell coming out from a compound thought by locals as a tire recapping factory. The compound was empty, police said.

"We have recovered plastic containers with chemicals believed used in manufacturing shabu, including a hydrogenation apparatus" one policeman said.

Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat also inspected the site and ordered police to investigate who was behind the illegal drug laboratory.

Superintendent Manuel Barcena, the city police chief, said the obnoxious smell from the laboratory and the contaminated water from a creek nearby gave away the illegal operation. "There was this report about that bad smell coming from the area and also the water from the creek smelled differently and that led to the discovery of the laboratory," he said. (Mindanao Examiner)

Dengue Breaks Out In Zamboanga

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 23, 2008) – At least 170 people have been infected with dengue in the southern Philippine port city of Zamboanga.

Mayor Celso Lobregat said more than 170 people had been infected with dengue since early this year and has appealed to residents to help fight the disease by cleaning their surroundings.

But latest reports said as much as 243 people were infected by the disease – 186 in January and 84 since early this month and that two had already died.

"There is an outbreak of dengue, according to the City Health Office, and we are appealing to everybody to help us fight dengue by cleaning our houses, backyards and surroundings and to get rid of breeding places of mosquitoes, such as stagnant water, canals, flower pots and discarded tires," he said in a television broadcast.

Dengue is an infectious tropical disease caused by an arbovirus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, and characterized by high fever, rash, headache, and severe muscle and joint pain.

Lobregat said the dengue outbreak has affected many villages and that most of the victims were children. He also appealed to village officials to continue their clean-up drive to curtail the rise in dengue cases.

He said the number of dengue cases from January to February is five times more during the same period last year.

The Department of Health said more than 300 people had died and that 30,000 more infected with dengue last year. It said the most effective ways to fight dengue are to search and destroy the breeding sites of Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes such as coconut husks and empty bottles and tin cans.

It also urged citizens to seek immediate treatment when symptoms set in, and to stop indiscriminate fogging. (Mindanao Examiner)

Friday, February 22, 2008

What US Bases? They Are Temporary Military Facilities!

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 22, 2008) – The Philippine military has denied Friday reports by a Filipino fact-finding group that US troops have put up secret bases in Mindanao.

The Citizens Peace Watch (CPW), an umbrella organization of political and human rights groups, said it has confirmed the presence of a fortified US military base inside the headquarters of the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City.

It said the base is the headquarters of the US Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, a unit of the US Special Forces that has been deploying troops to various parts of Mindanao since 2002.

Lawyer Corazon Fabros, of the CPW, said her group was sent away by Filipino soldiers after they failed to get a permission to inspect the US facility. She said the base has communication facilities and is heavily guarded that even Filipino soldiers are not allowed without a pass.

"The 'visitors' have not only stayed on, they have set up camp in our house and told us – their hosts – to go away," said Fabros in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

She said the US military base stands out and is sealed from the rest of Western Mindanao Command by walls, concertina wire, and sandbags. The actual size of the area it occupies could not immediately be established from the outside. But communication facilities such as satellite dishes, antenna, and other instruments are visible.

US Marines provided protection for the facility; some workers were seen wore IDs identifying them with DynCorp, a controversial US military contractor.

The group said other facilities inside the base were unknown. "What exactly are they hiding here? Why all this secrecy?" asked Amabella Carumba, of the Mindanao People's Peace Movement, a member of the fact-finding mission.

The US military maintains similar facilities in Mindanao where it is assisting and advising Filipino troops in fighting terrorism. US troops were also spotted inside the headquarters of the Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Division and in Philippine Marine bases in Sulu province and in Mactan island in Central Philippines.
There are American forces in Tawi-Tawi and Lanao provinces.

A Bangkok-based international research organization called Focus on the Global South, said US troops deployed in Mindanao have established a new kind of US base.

Major Eugene Batara, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command, strongly denied the reports and said there are no secret US bases in the region.“There are no US bases in Mindanao. In Zamboanga City, the US maintains a temporary facility inside the Western Mindanao Command. It is not a US base nor it is secret because everybody knows about it,” he said in a separate interview.

Batara said Filipino soldiers also use the facility of the JSOTF-P. “We also use their facility, such as their communications as part of the joint Balikatan program,” he said.

But Focus on the Global South said contrary to previous efforts by the US and Philippine governments to portray the troops as participating only in temporary training exercises Balikatan, it has since been revealed that this unit has stayed on and maintained its presence in the country for the last six years.

Contradicting claims that they are not involved in the fighting, Focus has gathered pronouncements by US troops themselves who have gone on record to say that their mission in the south is "unconventional warfare" – a US military term that encompasses combat operations.

With the Philippine government not giving a definite exit date, and with US officials stating that this unit – composed of between 100 to 500 troops depending on the season – will stay on as long as they are allowed by the government, it is presumed that it will continue to be based in the Philippines for an indefinite period.

According to Focus' research, the JSOTF-P's stationing in the south is a prototype of the new kind of overseas basing that the US has introduced as part of its ongoing effort to realign its global basing structure.

Since 2001, the US – which has more than 700 bases and installations in over 100 countries around the world – has embarked on the most radical realignment of its overseas basing network since World War II.

Part of the changes is the move away from large permanent bases – such as the ones in Subic and Clark – in favor of smaller, more austere, more low profile bases such as the JSOTF-P's presence in Zamboanga and in other places in Mindanao.

In terms of profile and mission, Focus pointed out that the JSOTF-P is very similar to the Combined Joint Task Force–Horn, which was established in Djibouti in western Africa in 2003 and which has been described as a sample of the US austere basing template and the "model for future US military operations."

Focus said the Philippines is one of the "nodes for special operations forces" that former Defense Secretary Donald Rusted himself revealed the Pentagon would establish as part of its changes in Asia.

Focus notes that US troops themselves refer to their base in Sulu as "Advance Operating Base-920."

It also said the US Naval Facilities Engineering Command NAVFAC) had in June 6, 2007, awarded a six-month $14.4-million contract to a certain "Global Contingency Services LLC" of Irving, Texas for "operations support" for the JSOTF-P.

According to its own website, the NAVFAC is the unit within the US military that is in charge of providing the US Navy with "operating, support, and training bases."

It "manages the planning, design, and construction and provides public works support for US Naval shore installations around the world." Among their business lines are "bases development" and "contingency engineering."

The Pentagon said the contract awarded to Global Contingency Services LLC includes "all labor, supervision, management, tools, materials, equipment, facilities, transportation, incidental engineering, and other items necessary to provide facilities support services."

Global Contingency Services LLC is a partnership between DynCorp International, Parsons Global Services, and PWC Logistics. The $14.4 million contract is actually part of a bigger $450-million five-year contract for Global Contingency Services to "provide a full range of world-wide contingency and disaster-response services, including humanitarian assistance and interim or transitional base-operating support services."

According to DynCorp's website, this will include "facility operations and maintenance; air operations; port operations; health care; supply and warehousing; galley; housing support; emergency services; security, fire, and rescue; vehicle equipment; and incidental construction."

Contingency Response Services LLC describes its work as encompassing "operating forces support," "community support," and "base support." According to the Defense Industry Daily publication, the contract also includes "morale, welfare, and recreation support."

The specific contract for work for the JSOTF-P was expected to be completed last month, but other contracts may follow as part of the $450 million-package.

According to Focus' research, the JSOTF-P has not only been involved in the Philippine military's operations in the south, it also represents the new kind of more austere, more low-profile kind of overseas presence that the US has been striving to introduce as part of its comprehensive restructuring of its forward-deployment.

Last year, US Embassy deputy spokesperson and deputy press attaché Karen Schinnerer admitted the American government commissioned the construction of facilities across Mindanao for US soldiers, but insisted the projects are not permanent military bases.

She said the US construction projects are for “medical, logistical and administrative services” to be used by the American soldiers. She said the structures are not permanent US bases. US troops use the facilities only on a temporary basis for them to “eat, sleep and work,” she told The Manila Times. (Mindanao Examiner)