Monday, March 31, 2008

NPA Rebels Warn Of More Attacks In South RP

DAVAO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 31, 2008) – Communist rebels on Monday warned of more attacks against government and military targets in the southern Philippines.

The rebels, belonging to the New People’s Army, also vowed to execute soldiers and policemen who committed serious violations of human rights and civilians working as spy for the Philippine military.

“Combatants of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, and their intelligence officers and operatives, those who have committed serious violations of human rights, worst plunderers, persons who have blood debts against the people and the revolutionary movement and the most horrible type of criminals have all the reason to worry about the New People's Army,” Rigoberto Sanchez, a rebel spokesman, said.

The NPA also took responsibility for the killing of a militia leader, Nelson Sam-o, in a raid March 28 in Compostela Valley province. Sam-o was also the village chieftain of San Jose, a hamlet in Monkayo town.

Sam-o was the second village chieftain killed in just ten days in Mindanao. On March 18, rebel forces also executed Custodio Varona, of Fatima village in Paquibato district in the outskirts of Davao City.

“Combat troops of the AFP, PNP and paramilitary forces are legitimate military targets. Under the Geneva Convention and its Protocols, the members of parties in armed conflict, except their medical personnel and chaplains and those considered hors de combat, are legitimate military targets,” Sanchez said.

The outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) last week ordered the NPA, its military wing, to intensify attacks on government and military targets as part of its new offensive. It said the main purpose of the offensive is to seize weapons and increase the number of rebel forces in the country.

The CPP broke off peace talks with Manila in 2004 after the United States on the government's prodding, listed the communist groups as foreign terrorist organizations and froze their assets abroad.

Last week, more than 2,000 people, mostly members of the anti-communist group called the National Alliance for Democracy, held an indignation rally in Tambulig town in Zamboanga del Sur province.

Major Gamal Hayudini, commander of the military's 4th Civil Relations Group, said more and more people are joining anti-communist rallies in the southern Philippines to denounce the NPA atrocities.

“The NPA is just echoing its frustrations; it is act desperation of the part of the CPP and NPA. It is just a deception, it’s an old story. The people are supporting us, they are supporting the government and as a matter of fact, many rebels and their supporters have returned to the folds of the law,” Hayudini said.

The NPA, which celebrated its 39th anniversary March 29, is still fighting for the establishment of a Maoist state in the Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

No People Power Coming, Says Arroyo Security Adviser

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 30, 2008) - Philippine National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales has appealed to citizens to help in nation building and support efforts by the government to bring about peace and development in the country.

Gonzales was in Davao City at the weekend and spoke at a forum participated by members of civil society groups and non-government organizations. He also explained the real story behind the ZTE controversy and current political situation in the country.

“The Filipino people at the moment are not interested in people power. We are not going towards any people power revolt. Most people do not want to attend protest actions,” Gonzales said at the forum organized by the Concerned Dabawenyos for Peace and Development and the Centre for Strategic Studies.

Since the surfacing of Rodolfo Lozada, a self-confessed witness, who alleged that a P200-million bribe was offered by Elections chief Benjamin Abalos Sr., to Romulo Neri, then Economic Secretary. This allegation opened a Philippine Senate investigation that caused sectors from the students, business and civil society to call for President Gloria Arroyo to resign.

Abalos has resigned as head of the Commission on Elections to pave the way for an impartial investigations.

At the forum, Gonzales explained that the prospect of change in the presidency is remote, “because President Arroyo is too strong”.

He said the important elements found in Edsa 1 revolution are not present in the current situation. Bishops, priest and nuns bearing rosaries in rallies is not around.”They do not join now”.

The 1986 people power is a miracle, he said. “Mother Mary made Edsa 1 possible.”

Gonzales said “the trouble is, government is not allowed to do what it should do to address problems of the country.” Government needs a communication system like the ZTE project to synchronize communication system of the country.

“Politicians in the opposition realize the futility of the present exercise calling for the resignation of the president, but they continue to do their tricks to gain the media mileage they badly need for the upcoming national elections in 2010”, the Secretary Gonzales finally said. (Candido Apararece, Jr.)

RP Freedom Of Information Act Up For Debate, Approval

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 30, 2008) - Filipino lawmakers have endorsed a bill that would give the public easy access on government information and contracts.

The proposed Freedom of Information Act, House Bill 3732, explicitly mandates all state offices to make available for public scrutiny all information regarding official acts, transactions or decisions, as well as statistics used for policy development, regardless of the format in which the facts are stored or contained.

The 29-member House committee on public information headed by Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. has endorsed the bill for floor debate and approval.

Cotabato Rep. Emmylou Mendoza and CIBAC party-list Rep. Joel Villauneva, two of the bill's principal authors, lauded Abante's panel for its prompt action.

"Once enacted, the bill will surely give a whole new meaning to the constitutional right to information, reinforce public accountability and repel malfeasance," Mendoza said. "We are absolutely certain this will go a long way in promoting spotless transparency and improving governance," she said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

"We are definitely now counting on the entire House as well as the Senate to give the highest priority to the bill's passage," she added.

The Senate and Malacañang have been wrestling over the executive privilege to withhold supposedly sensitive government information, particularly with respect to the controversial national broadband network (NBN) project and the joint oil exploration accord sealed by the Philippines and China.

The Supreme Court recently upheld the executive privilege when it blocked the Senate from apprehending and compelling Romulo Neri, the erstwhile socio-economic planning secretary, to answer questions on President Macapagal-Arroyo's purported involvement in the NBN project.
The tribunal ruled that the Senate committed "grave abuse of discretion" when it cited Neri in contempt.

Information exempt from the bill's coverage include those declared by the President as "classified," compiled for internal or external defense and law enforcement, obtained by Congress in executive session, on medical and personnel records that may constitute invasion of privacy, and pertaining to current treaty negotiations, among others.

Representatives Joseph Emilio Abaya (Cavite), Juan Edgardo Angara (Aurora), Teodoro Casiño (Bayan Muna), Del de Guzman (Marikina City), Raul del Mar (Cebu), Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales (CIBAC), Risa Hontiveros (Akbayan), Liza Maza (Gabriela) and Lorenzo Tañada III (Quezon) co-authored the bill.

Mendoza said the committee actually limited the executive privilege to withhold sensitive information only in times of war and emergency.

The lawmaker from Mindanao earlier lamented that more than two decades since installation of the 1987 Constitution, "we still do not have a law providing the means for the effective and orderly implementation of provisions concerning the right to information."

The House bill proposes to make possible the efficient execution of the following provisions of the Constitution: Section 7, Article III provides: "The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents, and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law."

Section 28, Article II provides: "Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State adopts and implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest."

Section 22, Article VI provides: "The heads of departments may, upon their own initiative, with the consent of the President, or upon the request of either House, as the rules of each House shall provide, appear before and be heard by such House on any matter pertaining to their departments. Written questions shall be submitted to the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives at least three days before their scheduled appearance."

"Interpellations shall not be limited to written questions, but may cover matters related thereto. When the security of the State or the public interest so requires and the President so states in writing, the appearance shall be conducted in executive session."

Golf Beach Resort Sa Zamboanga, Kalunos-Lunos!

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 30, 2008) – Kalunos-lunos na umano ang estado ng isang beach resort sa Zamboanga City na pinatatakbo ng pamahalaan dahil sa halos wala na umano itong renobasyon.

Dating sikat ang Golf Beach Resort sa Barangay Upper Calarian na nahawakan ng Philippine Tourism Authority ngunit sa kabila ng mataas an singil nito sa bawat isang pumapasok sa resort ay nanatiling sira-sira ang mga daan nito at halos walang tubig sa mga banyo.

Napipilitan tuloy ang maraming mga picnickers na magtungo sa La Vista Beach Resort na pagaari naman ng pamilya ni Mayor Celso Lobregat. Walang choices ang maraming nais na magsaya dahil may mga libreng resort nga ngunit malalayo naman at mabato.

Sa R.T. Lim boulevard naman na sikat na pasyalan at paliguan ng marami ay matindi naman ang polusyon sa tubig dahil sa e-coli bacteria. Ang masakit pa nito ay walang mga sign boards sa kahabaan ng boulevard na nagbibigay babala sa mga manlalangoy ukol sa matinding polusyon.

Ang tapat pa ng naturang beach ay ang Brent Hospital at doon rin lumalabas ang waste water ng lungsod. Nawala na rin ang ibat-ibang kulay na mga ilaw sa lugar na siyang nagpasikat dito nuong dekada 90.

Karamihan sa mga development projects sa Zamboanga City ay sa tuwing sasapit ang pangangampanya ng mga pulitiko. Marami rin mga Muslim at island-barangay ang walang sapat na development projects at inirereklamo ang kakulangan sa street lights, sira-sirang kalye at halos walang mga heath centers sa kabila ng limpak-limpak na pondo ng Zamboanga City mula sa income nito at Internal Revenue Allotment na mahigit sa isang bilyong piso.
(Mindanao Examiner)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

NPA Rebels Raid South RP Village, Kill Militia Leader

Some 2,000 people join an anti-NPA rally Saturday, March 29, 2008 in Tambulig town in Zamboanga del Sur province in southern RP. (Photos by Armed Forces' 4th Civil Relations Group)
DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 29, 2008) – Communist insurgents raided a southern Philippine village and killed a pro-government militia they held hostage before fleeing to the jungle, military reports said.

It said about two dozen gunmen, which belong to the New People’s Army (NPA), attacked the village in Monkayo town in Compostela Valley province late Friday. The insurgents seized the militia, who is also the village chieftain, and then executed him.

The gunmen warned villagers against helping government soldiers and threatened to kill civilians who would provide information to the military about the NPA, armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

The CPP broke off peace talks with Manila in 2004 after the United States on the government’s prodding, listed the communist groups as foreign terrorist organizations and froze their assets abroad.

The CPP also ordered its forces to intensify attacks on government and military targets as part of its new offensive. “The main purpose of intensifying the tactical offensives is to seize weapons and increase the number of Red fighters and fighting units of the NPA.”

“Certain enterprises, such as mining and logging firms and certain installations are targeted by the NPA because these are detrimental to the interest of the people. By attacking these, the NPA compels the enemy to deploy guard units at separate places, each one of which or whose line of supply is vulnerable to further offensive actions by the NPA,” it said in a statement Wednesday which coincided with the 39th anniversary of the NPA.

While the CPP hailed the success of the NPA offensives in the countryside, more than 2,000 people, mostly sympathetic to the military, held an indignation rally in Tambulig town in Zamboanga del Sur province, on the other side of Compostela Valley.

The villagers denounced the NPA atrocities and vowed to support the government’s anti-insurgency campaign, according to Major Gamal Hayudini, new commander of the military’s 4th Civil Relations Group. “People are sick and tired of the NPA atrocities and they want peace to reign in the country, free from the clutches of terrorism,” Hayudini told the Mindanao Examiner.

He said the rally, organized by the pro-democracy group called National Alliance for Democracy, was supported by provincial officials and village chieftains from Tambulig town.

Some of those who joined the rally also burned an effigy of CPP founder Jose Maria Sison, now in exile in the Netherlands.

“The people are sick and tired of the deception of communist rebels. Their so called 39th anniversary is irrational since there is nothing to rejoice for people only out of their minds merry for deaths, collecting revolutionary taxes from local folks and taking away the future of youths where they turn innocent children as child warriors who will fight for a senseless and selfish cause,” NAD National Secretary General Roel Dago-oc.

The NPA is fighting for the establishment of a Maoist state in the Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)

Philippine Leader Accused Of “Treason” Over Spratlys Deal With China

More political fuel was added this month to the crisis surrounding Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. There were accusations that her administration had betrayed the country by signing a 2005 agreement with China and Vietnam to conduct a joint seismic survey of the disputed Spratly Islands chain.

The new allegations come on top of accusations of massive kickbacks involving the awarding of a now-cancelled $US329 million contract to a Chinese corporation, Zhongxing Telecommunication Equipment Co. (ZTE), to build a nationwide broadband network (NBN) in the Philippines.

While the agreement with China and Vietnam is not new, opposition politicians utilised an article in January/February 2008 edition of the Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER) to resurrect the issue. The payoffs contained in the 2006 ZTE contract, they claimed, were made in return for signing the Spratlys agreement in 2005.

The Spratlys, which sit aside key strategic sea lanes in the South China Sea and are believed to have significant reserves of oil and gas, have been the subject of bitter and long-running disputes between China, Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines and Malaysia.

The FEER article entitled “Manila’s Bungle in the South China Sea” was scathing in its criticism, declaring: “As details of the undertaking emerge, the JMSU [Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking] is beginning to look like anything but the way to go. For a start, the Philippine government has broken ranks with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN], which was dealing with China as a bloc on the South China Sea issue.

The Philippines also has made breathtaking concessions in agreeing to the area for study, including parts of its own continental shelf not even claimed by China and Vietnam. Through its actions, Manila has given a certain legitimacy to China’s legally spurious ‘historic claim’ to most of the South China Sea.”

Arroyo’s opponents—both left and right—immediately seized on the FEER article. In the lower house, Teodoro Casiño and Satur Ocampo from the Stalinist Bayan Muna joined with 12 other congressmen to declare that the JMSU agreement was “effectively giving away the national patrimony as it actually concedes the exploration and exploitation of natural resources to foreigners which, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), clearly fall within the archipelagic waters, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Philippines.”

In the Senate, Panfilo Lacson and Anna Madrigal, both right-wing allies of former President Joseph Estrada, and Antonio Trillanes, the leader of a failed 2006 military uprising, filed separate resolutions against Arroyo. Trillanes’s resolution defined the agreement as “treacherous” and an apparent attempt “to circumvent the constitution and to undermine the powers vested by the constitution upon the senate”. If proven, this “amounts to a betrayal of public trust and treason, for which Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and other responsible members of her Government should be held accountable,” his resolution stated.

It may appear odd that a three-year-old agreement has suddenly surfaced in the midst of a bitter faction row in the Philippine political establishment. In fact, the new JMSU “scandal” helps to clarify what lies beneath the allegations of corruption, nepotism and now treason against Arroyo that fill the pages of the Filipino press. Arroyo’s opponents speak for those layers of the ruling elite most closely aligned with the old colonial power—the United States—who are hostile to her administration’s developing economic and political relations with China.

In the tussle for the NBN contract, the Chinese corporation ZTE won out over an American rival ARESCOM. In the case of the Spratlys, even bigger interests are at stake. Ever since September 2001, the Bush administration has been intent on using its fraudulent “war on terrorism” to strengthen the US strategic position in South East Asia and counter its rising rival China.

Arroyo immediately sided with Washington and, with US military support, waged her own “war on terror” in southern Mindanao. At the same time, however, her administration has been increasingly dependent on aid and investment from China to boost the shaky Filipino economy.

US opposition to the JMSU deal was evident in 2005. The right-wing American think tank, the Heritage Foundation, was particularly incensed. It accused Arroyo of caving in to “bullies” and vehemently disagreed with her claims that the “agreement with China does not constitute a surrender of sovereignty over a potentially sensitive area near the Philippines’ coast”.

A similar note was sounded by Mark Valencia, currently a senior associate of the Nautilus Institute, who warned that the agreement “would seem to legitimise China’s occupation of Mischief Reef on the Philippines’ legal continental shelf, and also tacitly implies that both parties recognise the legitimacy of each other’s claims to the area to be ‘researched’, as well as to the nearby features”.

Washington’s opposition

Not accidentally, Valencia is the “independent expert” cited in the FEER article. He has been a senior fellow at the East-West Centre funded by the US Congress, and a contributor to the right-wing Asian Wall Street Journal and Washington Times. He has consistently articulated US strategic interests in opposing the legitimacy of China’s maritime territorial claims in the South China Sea.

In a Japan Times article in 2000, Valencia branded China’s claims as a “serious, long-term threat to safe and secure passage” in the South China Sea. He argued that in basing its claims of sovereignty over the disputed sea as “historic waters”, China was, in effect, directly challenging US interests in the area: freedom of navigation, not just for international shipping, but more importantly for US military forces. “Freedom of navigation and overflight principles do not apply in historic waters,” he wrote.

US efforts to undermine China’s claims in the South China Sea stem from broader strategic considerations. The Bush administration has exploited its bogus “war on terrorism” to secure closer military ties with a number of countries in Asia, including India, Japan and in Central Asia.
However, many countries in the region, including the Philippines, have become increasingly dependent on China economically as a major market and source of investment and aid.

Philippine exports to China, 80 percent of which are electronic parts, have ballooned from $3.14 billion in 2000 to $30.62 billion in 2007.

By last year, the Philippines had become the fourth biggest trader with China among ASEAN members. China and Hong Kong together displaced the US as the Philippines’ largest biggest trading partner, representing 23 percent of the country’s foreign trade. On the other hand, Philippine exports to the US fell from more than 35 percent of total exports in 1997 to just 18.3 percent by 2006.

China is competing with Australian and US multinationals in the Philippine mining industry and has reportedly invested $1 billion in the Surigao del Norte province. It has also invested $476 million in the rehabilitation of the North Luzon Railway System. By contrast with the US, which had generated resentment by refusing to sign a free trade agreement and remove subsidies for US agricultural goods, China has signed major agreements committing the Philippines to set aside 1.5 million hectares for the production of agricultural goods exclusively for the Chinese market.

In 2006, according to a New York Times report, China offered “an extraordinary package of $2 billion in loans each year for the next three years from its Export-Import Bank”. The aid offer easily trumped the “$200 million offered separately by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank for that year alone” and “outstripped a $1 billion loan under negotiation with Japan”.

The Philippines hosted the second East Asian Summit in January 2007, linking ASEAN countries with China, Japan and South Korea. Australia, New Zealand and India were allowed to attend, but the US was notably absent. Concerns have been expressed in Washington that the East Asian Summit will become a means for Beijing to use its growing economic muscle to extend its regional influence. Arroyo, on the other hand, declared at the summit: “We are happy to have China as our big brother in the region.”

The rapid rise of China is profoundly destabilising economic and political relations in the Philippines. As popular opposition has grown over deepening social inequality, rising inflation and high unemployment, Arroyo and her backers have underlined her administration’s economic success story. Her claims, however, largely rest on the financial influx from China, which has contributed heavily to the relatively buoyant Philippine peso, allowing the government to pay off debts, cut the budget deficit and even pump prime the economy.

Chinese aid, investment and trade are cutting across economic ties to the US. The resurrection of the JMSU issue, and its linkage to the ZTE scandal, shows that sections of the ruling elite in Manila are concerned that longstanding strategic ties between the US and its former colony are being compromised. Growing global financial instability and economic uncertainty are compounding the tensions. The increasingly bitter factional disputes in Philippine ruling circles are not being fought out openly, but by means of a sordid scandal, now accompanied by lurid accusations of treason, with the aim of disciplining, if not removing Arroyo.

The key role in obscuring the issues and politically subordinating working people to the anti-Arroyo faction of the ruling elite is being played by the various Stalinist parties, who line up with right-wing figures in denouncing Arroyo and calling for her removal. All this plays a critical function for the ruling class in blocking the emergence of an independent political movement of the working class fighting for its own interests. (Dante Pastrana)

The Beauty That Is Sarangani Province

The beautiful Busagan Falls in the village of Jose Laurel in Sarangani’s Malungon town is one of the province’s most visited areas and is a favorite of backpackers and nature lovers. And calm Celebes Sea off Kiamba town is rich in marine resources that locals and fishermen themselves have banded together to protect it from illegal fishing and pollution. (Photos by Cocoy Sexion and Allan de Lima / Sarangani Information Office)

RP Boxing Champ Is Now A Bilaan Datu

Wearing the traditional Blaan costume, boxing hero Manny Pacquiao is named Datu Damfel Banwe,' which means "a man to unite the people from distant places towards peace and prosperity." (Photo by Cocoy Sexcion / Sarangani Information Office)

SARANGANI, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 28, 2008) – Filipino indigenous tribes have conferred boxing champion Manny Pacquiao the rank of datu in a ceremony attended by hundreds of natives in the southern Philippine province of Sarangani.

Pacquiao, the new WBC Super Featherweight champion, was also named “Datu Damfel Banwe” which means “a man with the power to unite the people from all places towards peace and prosperity.”

The ceremony was held in Malungon town March 26 where Bilaan and Tagakaolos leaders gathered to honor Pacquiao.

“Ipinakita nya ang kahalagahan na walang imposible kapag tayo ay may pangarap at inspirasyon,” (He showed us that in perseverance there is nothing impossible and we can achieve our dreams and goals in life. There is always an inspiration,” Sarangani Gov. Miguel Rene Dominguez said.

Pacquiao defated Mexican Juan Manual Marquez in a controversial bout earlier in March. Marquez’s camp said the Mexican boxer should have won the fight.

Justifying Murder Of Criminals Endorses Murder Itself

From March 18 to 22, seven alleged criminals were killed, including a 16-year-old boy, in separate shooting incidents reportedly perpetrated by men riding on motorcycles in General Santos City, the Asian Human Rights Commission said.

It said the police and the city's mayor quickly announced that the killings could have been the result of a conflict within the group of criminals themselves given that they all have criminal records. Mayor Pedro Acharon Jr. was quoted to have told a local television station: "Iniisip namin baka sila, kasi nag-o-onsehan na eh (We think they themselves are killing each other)".

One of the victims, 16-year old Rolim Dagano, was reported to have also been included in the supposed "list" of persons allegedly involved in the theft of motorcycles.

Prior to this targeted killings, murders of motorcyclists and the subsequent theft of their motorcycles has continue unabated—at least ten were reported in January this year alone. Rolim's previous records of theft were also mentioned by the police, apparently to illustrate his supposed connections in criminal acts, prior to concluding their investigation.

However, apart from Rolim, the remainder of the victims were not reported to have been in the supposed list of criminals. Before these murders took place, the city's police chief, Senior Superintendent Robert Po, issued orders to his field commanders demanding that they "dismantle" the group of criminals involved in the theft of motorcycles.

It was after this demand by Po that these murders started taken place. Incidents of victims who are killed inside their residence in the presence of their relatives, outside a chapel and even places close to their residence have taken place. All the perpetrators have gone unidentified and unpunished for these murders.

There were sweeping allegations and immediate conclusions justifying these murders but the police and the city's mayor has not given any reasonable explanations why they themselves had to justify these murders and why this class of people must be, and deserves to be killed. When crimes are committed it is the obligation of the police to investigate and discover those who are responsible. Whether or not the murder victim had a criminal record is no justification for not carrying out a legitimate investigation. Murder is a criminal act and it is the duty of the police to hold those responsible to account.

By failing to do so, they have already denied the victims' families of any remedies, particularly of knowing the circumstances of their loved ones' death. The claims of their relatives that their loved ones were not criminals, were never involved in any criminal activity and might have been killed by mistake are no longer looked into.

The murder of alleged criminals also buries any possibility for them to defend themselves.

Additionally, such killings also force the families of the victim to live with the stigma of one of their deceased member being branded as a criminal. It deprives them of equality before the law and equal protection of the law because the law enforcement authorities and the local officials have themselves justified these murders. They have already concluded they were nothing but "war amongst criminals".

Justifying these murders has given blanket impunity to the perpetrators who continuously shot their targets dead in open public. The police and the city's mayor act by prematurely concluding the reasons for these murders, thereby diluting the notion that the police authorities have a responsibility to investigate all crimes and to punish the offenders.

They have abandoned these fundamental responsibility in protecting the lives of every citizen by not carrying out adequate action to ensure that no one is arbitrarily deprived of his life—whether he or she is a criminal or not.

If, as the police and the mayor have pointed out it is in fact ‘gang warfare’ then the authorities should have a starting point for their investigations. They should be able to find enough information to identify, arrest and charge the perpetrators in court; however, no one in these "groups" have so far been charged for these murders. Thus the credibility of the police and their alleged complicity into these murders by their failure to take action should be looked into.

The police should give explanation on the existence of the reported list and how they came about it. Is the listing of persons as alleged criminals involved in motorcycle thefts a sanction to murder them?, asked the AHRC.

AHRC is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

US Plays Quiet Role In The Philippines

MANILA, Philippines (BBC)- Hundreds of US troops have been working in the southern Philippines since 2002. Their role is to help train local soldiers in the battle against insurgents, and their presence divides local opinion. The BBC's Vaudine England reports from Manila.

US-trained troops at Jolo airport, file image, 2007Philippine troops have been battling insurgents for decades. It is one of the most ignored, but perhaps one of the most successful, fronts in the Bush administration's so-called War on Terror.

As part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force, US troops train their Philippine counterparts in counter-terrorism and provide financial and logistical support.

Their presence coincides with a stepped-up US aid budget enabling better roads, schools, clinics, ports and more.

Officially the US troops are not involved in any combat operations. In US embassy words, the programme combines the "iron fist and hand of friendship".

Yet there are many conspiracy theories about what the troops are doing - ranging from eavesdropping on Indonesia to buying the way back into a permanent military presence in the Philippines, which the US lost in 1991.

Tom Green of Pacific Strategies and Assessments, a Manila-based security company, argues that both of these theories are nonsense.

"The US is seeing a regional terror threat and sees the south [of the Philippines] as a potential free haven and incubation area for more radical elements," said Mr Green, a former US military officer.

"The US role is training and assistance, as part of a long term effort to develop local capabilities."
He says the US is taking a low profile because this approach is more sustainable.

"If you've got a constructive presence in a village, you've hopefully got a medium to long term contribution to employment, to health, to education," he said.

"And, more tactically, with a constructive relationship with the villagers, they start talking to you."

There is some support among Filipinos, but concerns persist - both about sovereignty and about what the US presence might be doing to already delicate relationships in the south.

Independence groups from the Muslim minority Moro people were fighting the Manila government three decades before the War on Terror was declared.

Peace talks are now in progress between the Moro Independence Liberation Front (MILF) and the Manila government. But the Abu Sayyaf group, long seen within Asia as a gang of kidnappers and smugglers, continues to pose a threat to law and order.

In the 1990s, Philippine military intelligence officers told me that hundreds of Indonesian militants were training with their Muslim brothers in the south.

Members of the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiah (JI) militant group have sought refuge and practiced bomb-making in the Philippines.

Earlier this month the Philippine authorities announced the arrest of three suspected militants plotting to bomb foreign embassies in the capital. The Rajah Solaiman Movement, a home-grown militant group, has also been linked to Abu Sayyaf and JI.

Sometimes opposition to the US troops is expressed as an ideological aversion to any foreign presence in the Philippines - which was once an American colony.

Julkifli Wadi, a professor at the Islamic Studies Institute of the University of the Philippines, argues that "neo-colonialism" is an inadequate word to explain the US role in his country.

Instead, he says, the south is suffering from "multiple colonialisms" with the War on Terror amounting to the "second coming" of the US.

"On the one hand, the Philippines government is able to make her presence felt on the radar screen of US foreign policy and therefore receive hefty financial assistance, making it appear that there is indeed a threat," he said.

On the other hand, he believes that the US is "using the Philippines as a cover for its wider engagement in the region".

To other analysts, the labelling of undesirables as Abu Sayyaf or other terrorists is imprecise and perhaps disingenuous.

"Our feeling is that Abu Sayyaf is decimated," said Amina Rasul, director of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy think-tank.

"The other group they're trying to hunt is Jemaah Islamiah, but already last year they were only talking about two possible leaders" hiding in the area.

"Is this something that requires the combined forces of the Philippine and US militaries? I'm not so sure," said Ms Rasul.

She notes that, in Indonesia and elsewhere in the region, successful counter-terrorism has been led by local police, not foreign soldiers.

"The more we look at the situation in the south, the more many of us realise they should be strengthening the capacity of local police agencies.

"First, they are local, they know local intelligence, they are plugged into local networks. Any act they do against terrorists will never be seen as a move of the non-Muslim majority against a Muslim community," said Ms Rasul.

Measuring the size of the threat against the size of the US presence is difficult - official numbers are not made public.

Mars Buan, a senior analyst with the Pacific Strategies and Assessments, estimates Abu Sayyaf had about 200 fully armed members at the end of 2007, down from about 400 in 2005-06.

US forces amount to about 500 troops on rotation, in addition to visiting "advisers" and other personnel for "training surges".

Many of these are on civil-military operations, but the bulk of the US contingent is believed to be made up of special forces.

The apparent success of foreign troops in building infrastructure in the troubled region highlights, above all, a failure of local governance.

If Philippine government bodies could manage their resources to shelter and assist their own people, maybe all those special forces could go home.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Davao Consumer Groups Assail Water Cooperative

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 28, 2008) – Consumer groups and civil society organizations have assailed the Davao City Water District (DCWD) for allegedly terminating employees without due process.

The Consumer Alert! (CA) and the Nagakahiusang Mamumuo sa Davao City (NAMADACWAD) have thrown its supports to the former employees and condemned their termination.
"We sympathize for the workers and their families who are now in a desolate situation. We believe that the management's move to terminate and suspend the employees annihilates these people's aspirations and their only means for survival," Leon Bolcan, CA spokesman, said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

"What is more condemning is the fact that these employees were terminated and suspended without due process. They were denied of the chance to defend their innocence and the management is seemed unmoved with their arrogance and irrational stands," Bolcan added.

The two groups have previously opposed a plan by the utility cooperative to loan some P126 million from credit firms, saying, it would further put the DCWD in debts. It said DCWD should first put in top priority the welfare and benefits of employees.

“Apart from the loan, the workers of DCWD have other issues that need to be addressed by the management. It is proper and legitimate that the workers demand for the benefits that are due to them. To deny them of this right, or worse, to order for their termination and suspension on the basis of their oppositions is unjust and absurd," Bolcan said.

The loan, DCWD said, would be used to repair pipelines and other projects.
Bolcan said his group would appear to a plenary session of the Davao City Council to express support to DCWD employees and renew their opposition to the proposed loan.

"We support the workers in the fight to protect DCWD and the water consumers of Davao City. We can not allow the management to continue on violating basic human rights and endangering the future of the city," Bolcan said.

Jailed For A Decade Without Justice

MANILA, Philippines - In June 1996, five men were arrested at random for the murder of an influential police colonel and intelligence officer during the Marcos regime, called Rolando Abadilla.

They were brutally tortured while in police custody. Three years later they were convicted, and sentenced to capital punishment.

However since January 2000, the appellate review on the sentence imposed by the lower court – which could have been decided with finality – unnecessarily drags on. For five years it was left with the Supreme Court (SC) without decision; and later the Court of Appeals (CA) took over the case. Nearly three years on and with nine justices appointed to handle the case, still they have failed to complete the review.

The five prisoners have been in jail at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntilupa City. One of the prisoners has a worsening medical condition. The appellate review is currently pending with the ninth judge, Justice Agustin Dizon, who is also retiring on June 27, 2008.

So far there is no substantial progress yet that the CA will act promptly to conclude the review of their sentence.

This case illustrates how miserable lives of prisoners could become due to excessive court delays and the reality of how oddly the system of justice functions in the Philippines, according to the Asian Human Rights Commission.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sayyaf Frees Kidnapped Muslim University Head

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 27, 2008) – Abu Sayyaf militants have freed a kidnapped Muslim university principal after more than two months in captivity in the southern Philippines, police said.
Omar Taup had been freed March 17 in Tawi-Tawi province, but police only announced the release on Thursday for a still unknown reason.
Taup was kidnapped January 16 after militants raided the Notre Dame University in the province and killed its Catholic priest, Reynaldo Roda, after he resisted the kidnappers.
Police did not say if ransom was paid for the safe release of Taup, but the Abu Sayyaf had earlier demanded P1 million for his freedom.
Taup is reportedly sick and taken to a hospital in Zamboanga City. Another Abu Sayyaf faction is holding a Filipino trader, Rosalie Lao, who was kidnapped January 28 outside her house in Jolo town in Sulu province. (Mindanao Examiner)

RP Justice Ministry Investigates Sulu Killings

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 26, 2008) – The Philippines' Department of Justice has sent a team of prosecutors to investigate the killing of seven civilians and an off-duty soldier during a military operation in the southern province of Sulu.
The team, headed by Regional State Prosecutor Jaime Umpa, was sent Wednesday by Justice Secy. Raul Gonzales. Umpa said they briefed Tan about their task.

"We will investigate the killings in Maimbung town. There will be a thorough investigation and we will file criminal charges against those who will be found guilty," Umpa told the Mindanao Examiner.

The raid February 4, the military insisted, was a legitimate operation that targeted the Abu Sayyaf, which is holding a kidnapped trader, Rosalie Lao, in the town.
Seven of those killed by soldiers were two children, two teenagers and a pregnant woman, including a seaweed farmer and a village councilor.
CHR Regional Director Jose Manuel Mamauag said there 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," he said.
Mamauag's reports detailed how troops attacked and plundered the houses of villagers. Mamauag recommended the filing of criminal charges against the soldiers involved in the raid.
The military restrained the more than 50 soldiers who took part in the operation and most of them are members of the so-called elite and US-trained Army Light Reaction Company and the Navy's Special Warfare Group.
The military has ordered a separate probe of the killings after Tan vowed to file charges against the soldiers. The killings also sparked massive protests from international and local human rights organizations and civil society groups.
"Secretary Gonzales is concerned about the incident and allegations of a whitewash (in the military investigation)," he said. "Secretary Gonzales' marching order to this panel is to conduct an impartial investigation and to identify the perpetrators (of the killings)," Umpa said.
The country's largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, also praised Mamauag for his unbiased report into the killings. 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 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.

Tan said there were no reports that US soldiers took part in the actual operations. "US soldiers are all over Sulu, training Filipino troops and engaged in humanitarian missions," he said.
He said US troops deployed in Sulu are not allowed to participate in actual combat operations. "They are not allowed to join Filipino troops in actual combat operations. Their role is strictly to assist and advice the Armed Forces (of the Philippines) in anti-terror operations," he said.
Philippine and US military authorities have repeatedly denied American troops were involved in the raid in the village of Ipil.

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 four others wounded after armed villagers retaliated.
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. Tan branded the killings as “barbaric and dastardly.”

Reps. Yusop Jikiri, of Sulu province and Mujiv Hataman, of Basilan have separately called for a congressional investigation into the killings in Maimbung town. Jikiri, a former rebel leader of the Moro National Liberation Front, said the off-duty soldier killed along with seven civilians was shot in front of his wife.
"Wahid was reportedly hogtied first before he was shot in front of her. The wife, in fact, showed the military uniform of her husband, but the soldiers merely ignored the plea of Mrs. Wahid. Later, Mrs. Wahid was taken by the soldiers to the rubber boat allegedly driven by an American soldier," Jikiri said in a privilege speech.
Hataman also filed a resolution seeking for an urgent investigation of the killings, which he described as "despicable, loathsome and ruthless."
He said: "There is no valid reason, especially for the soldiers who are supposed to be the protector of the people, to kill innocent civilians, particularly children." (Mindanao Examiner)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

AFP, Battling A New War In Southern Philippines

Badjao natives pose with Marine Generals Juancho Sabban and Cesario Atienza and Sulu Governor Sakur Tan and his deputy Nur Anna Sahidulla, center, and other provincial officials and behind them the newly-constructed bamboo houses, a project called "Operation Kandili." Badjao children listen to a marine soldier who doubles as a teacher in Sulu province as Gov. Sakur Tan and his deputy Nur Anna Sahidulla inspected a school built by soldiers in Luuk town. (Mindanao Examiner Photos)

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 26, 2007) – From rustic M16 automatic rifles and smoke grenades, now Filipino marines are arming themselves for a new kind of war - a battle of wits and patience -- to win over minds and hearts of Muslims in the southern island of Sulu, where poverty breeds terrorism.

Now marines in this island of more than half a million Muslims are armed not with weapons, but chalks and pencils, battling to save poor children and educate them to win the war against illiteracy.

Soldiers have not only built schools for the poor in Sulu province, but teach the children basic elementary education. Called the "School for Badjao Adults and Out-Of-School Youth," dozens of mostly poor children who have not held a single book in their life, now are reciting the alphabets and slowly learning how to read.

"Our mission is to help the children in Sulu, our children," one soldier told the Mindanao Examiner and pointed on a signboard outside the school that reads: "Mission…To provide literacy program for the Badjao out-of-school youth that will qualify them for the formal elementary education of the Department of Education as well as basic education for the Badjao adults to be enable them to communicate and exercise their rights, conduct themselves with dignity and courage, and enable them to perform their civic duties as Filipino citizens."

Brig. Gen. Cesario Atienza, commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade in Sulu, said they are also collecting second-hand books for the children.

"The children now go to school clean everyday and eager to learn more and this is basic education and their teachers are the soldiers who patiently held them achieve their dreams and that is to learn how to read and write."

“The soldiers not only teach the children, they have also embarked on various skills training program to help poor families start their own small business – from mat weaving to rice cake baking and other sustainable livelihood projects," he said in a separate interview.

Atienza said soldiers also finished at least 50 bamboo houses, worth over P26,500 each, for poor Badjao families in Tandu Bato in Luuk town. He said Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan funded the project called "Operation Kandili – Preserving a unique culture through providing homes for the Badjao."

He said they will construct at least 50 more houses in Luuk town. They have also finished a basketball court. Tan inspected the projects on Monday and promised to release more funding for education and poverty alleviation programs drawing wild cheers and applause from more than 100 Badjao natives chanting his name.

"He is a good man, a good leader and without him, there will be no beautiful bamboo houses like those. Now, many Badjao families will no longer live by the sea or on those dilapidated thatched houses you see over there on your left," said Kasim, a 29-year old Badjao fisherman, pointing to a row of old bamboo houses on stilts.

Tan said more development projects are underway in Sulu. "We have been funding and implementing a lot of projects in Sulu and all these are part of our peace and development programs. We want a culture of peace and this can be achieved through education and basic infrastructure projects and with the participation of course, of the people themselves," he said.

Marine Brig. Gen. Juancho Sabban, commander of military forces in Sulu, told soldiers during an inspection Monday to work hard to achieve peace in the province by engaging in humanitarian missions to win hearts and minds of the locals.

"We must put an end to the cycle of violence in Sulu, to the threats of the Abu Sayyaf and other terror groups and we can achieve this not by the barrel of the gun, but by winning hearts and minds of the people. With the people on our side, we will surely win the war on terror," he said.

The number of Abu Sayyaf militants in Sulu have drastically dwindled over the past years after many of its known leaders were either killed or captured. From over 1,000 a decade ago, authorities estimate the number of Abu Sayyaf gunmen in the province to be around 200 or less.
(Mindanao Examiner)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Pinoy Boxer Dies After Bout In Leyte Province

SOUTHERN LEYTE, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 24, 2008) - A promising young Filipino boxer in Maasin City died after a 10-round bout with his opponent in Leyte’s Villaba town.

The 23-year old Alex Lasaga Aroy died after fighting recently with Arnel Tadena, from Bohol province. The victim’s mother, Matea Lasaga-Aroy, has been informed about the death. The boxer belonged to the team of Rex Salud, a prominent trainer in the central Philippines.

She said his son had fever prior to the fight and was advised by Salud not to pursue the bout also due to lack of training and practice, but the boxer insisted because he had already signed the contract with the boxing promoter.

“He said he felt that he’s okay to fight since his fever was already gone”, the woman said.

Because of Aroy’s insistence and the determination to fight, Salud finally gave in to the boxer’s insistence, she said, adding, two 2 trainers who were only identified by their first names Archie and Boboli, accompanied the boxer with matchmaker Willy Flores.
At the dressing room, Aroy reportedly puked and complained difficulty in breathing and was rushed to the hospital, but died later. His mother said Aroy was first brought to Villaba hospital, but it had no oxygen supply and they had to rush him to another hospital, but died along the way.

“The hospital is ill-equipped. It has no oxygen supply and no ambulance. If they only have oxygen, mostly probably my son will be saved,” she said.

Maasin Mayor Maloney Samaco urged the Games and Amusement Board in Manila to conduct an investigation to the death of Aroy.

The 108-pound Aroy, who held the Philippine Boxing Federation Junior flyweight title had 10 wins, 2 draws and 3 loses. He was one of Maasin’s most promising boxers. His fight with Tadena was considered a rematch because they had fought in Maasin City last year. (Quirico M. Gorpido, Jr.)

Police Tightens Security Grip In Sulu Province

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 4, 008) – Police have tightened security in the southern Philippine province of Sulu following reports that Moro National Liberation Front forces were planning to launch a series of attacks against government targets.

Some 300 MNLF members have gathered in Talipao town and were said to be planning to attack military posts, police intelligence reports said.

“There were reports alright, but all these are subject to verification. One report suggested the MNLF is to attack military posts in Bayug village in Talipao, but so far there have been no attacks,” Superintendent Jul Asirim Kasim, the Sulu provincial police chief, told the Mindanao Examiner.

Kasim said they received reports from the villagers in Talipao town. He said MNLF leader Khabir Malik was supposed to lead the attack. “Some 300 MNLF members gathered in Talipao last week, but we do not know what was discussed during their meeting,” he said.

Inspector Usman Pingay, police chief of Jolo town and Superintendent Muhibuddin Ismail, chief of an elite provincial police force, said they have no reports about an impending attack. “It is peaceful in Jolo,” Pingay said.

Ismail said his group has not received reports about the planned attacks by gunmen loyal to jailed MNLF chieftain Nur Musuari. “We have no reports about it,” he said in a separate interview.

Other reports said the MNLF in Sulu has joined forces with the Abu Sayyaf group tied to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya and would attack police and military camps.

Misuari signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996 ending decades of bloody war. After the peace agreement was signed, Misuari became the governor of the Muslim autonomous region. But despite the accord, there was a widespread disillusionment with the weak autonomy they were granted.

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

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

And in November 2001, on the eve of the elections in the Muslim autonomous region, Misuari accused the government of reneging on the peace agreement, and launched a new rebellion in Sulu and Zamboanga City, where more than 100 people were killed.

Misuari then escaped by boat to Malaysia, but had been arrested and deported to the Philippines. He is now under house arrest in Manila.

Earlier this year, the Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), urged Manila to free Misuari.

The MILF wanted Misuari released from detention after six of his followers were freed in January this year. The MILF, a breakaway faction of the MNLF, is currently negotiating peace with the Arroyo government, but talks were stalled last year over the issue of the Muslim ancestral domain. (With a report from Nickee Butlangan)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sulu Police Force, Sasanayin Ng Mga Kano

SULU (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 23, 2008) – Magandang balita ang naghihintay sa pulisya sa Sulu matapos na ibunyag ni Gov. Sakur Tan na ito’y makikipagpulong sa mga sundalong Kano sa lalawigan upang mabigyan ng sapat na training ang mga parak.

Nais ni Tan na mapakinabangan ng pulisya ang anumang makukuhang kaalaman sa mga Kano, partikular sa larangan ng pakikibaka sa terorismo. Kabilang sa mga nais ni Tan na matutunan ng pulisya ay ang bomb detection, marksmanship training, medical training at iba pa.

Tinatayang daan-daan mga sundalong Kano ang nasa Sulu pa rin mula pa nuong 2006 ng magkaroon ng joint RP-US military training doon.

“Pupulungin ko ang mga opisyal ng US military o ng Joint Special Operation Task Force-Philippines upang maturuan o mabigyan ng sapat na pagsasanay ang mga pulis natin sa Sulu,” ani Tan. “Kailangan natin na mabigyan ng wastong pagsasanay ang pulisya natin upang maging mas epektibo sa kanilang ginagampanang tungkulin.”

Sa Martes umano pupulungin ni Tan ang mga sundalong Kano, na hanggang ngayon ay tumutulong pa rin sa operasyon ng Armed Forces of the Philippines kontra terorismo sa Sulu. (Mindanao Examiner)

Apat Patay Sa Baha, Landslide Sa Mindanao

DAVAO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 23, 2008) – Apat na katao umano ang nasawi, kabilang ang isang sanggol, at halos isang dosenang iba pa ang nasaktan o sugatan matapos na magkaroon ng landslide sa lalawigan ng Davao del Sur.

Sanhi umano ng malakas na ulan at pagbaha sa mga nakalipas na araw ang naging dahilan sa pagguho ng mga bitak ng lupa sa bayan ng Santa Maria. Hindi naman agad mabatid kung gaano karaming pamilya ang apektado ng pagbaha at landslide.

Unang nagbabala ang mga awtoridad na mag-ingat sa baha o landslide ang mga naninirahan sa mga gulod at tabing-ilog dahil sa patuloy na pagbuhos ng malakas na ulan.

Bagamat walang bagyo sa Mindanao ay bahagi umano ng tail-end ng isang cold front ang sanhi ng pagulan.

Nuong nakaraang lingo ay unang binaha ang lalawigan ng Maguindanao at maraming lugar doon ang lubog sa tubig. Madalas bahain ang maraming lalawigan sa central Mindanao sa tuwing malakas ang ulan. (Mindanao Examiner)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Gay Salon Owner Killed In Sulu Province

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 22, 2008) – Unidentified gunmen shot dead a homosexual salon owner in front of his horrified friends in the largely Muslim province of Sulu, about 950 km south of Manila, police said Saturday.

Police said Romeo Lim, 25, the son of an army soldier, was killed while having dinner on a friend’s house on Friday in the village of Asturias in Jolo town. He was shot several times and died instantly, said Inspector Usman Pingay, the town’s chief of police.

“We still do not know the motives of the killing or who were behind the murder. We are still investigating the killing,” he told the Mindanao Examiner. “We also invited his three friends who witnessed the killing.”

Pingay said two gunmen were involved in the attack, but spared the victim's three friends. The three are being investigated, he said.

Police said Lim, popularly known in Sulu by his alias “Aya Medel,” the name of a sexy Filipino movie starlet, owns the Splash Beauty Salon in downtown. “We are working hard on this case. We want to resolve this soon,” Pingay said.

It was the second killings this week involving attacks on homosexuals. A gay man, Jai Jillang, was also murdered inside the police provincial headquarters in Jolo town. Jillang was stabbed and clubbed to death and his body discovered on March 16 at an alley near a water depot.

It was unknown whether the killings were connected, but homosexuality is strictly forbidden in Islam. It is considered “haram” in Sulu, but despite this many homosexuals not able to find a job have instead put up their own beauty salons in the province, particularly in Jolo, the provincial capital, competing with each other. (Nickee Butlangan)

Military Lauds Civilians, Soldiers In Fight Against Sayyaf

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 22, 2008) – The Philippine military on Saturday lauded soldiers involved in a clash with Abu Sayyaf militants in Sulu province that left one gunman dead.

Marine soldiers killed Nelson Bin Ricson in the village of Pansul in Patikul town Friday after a 15-minute fire fight with a band of Abu Sayyaf militants. Village leader Basir Asil earlier identified the dead militant as Nixon Arbison, believed to be under Abu Sayyaf sub-leaders Juhurim Hussin and Kirrih Hamid Sahiron.

“Every terrorist neutralized and every weapon seized signifies that the country has been rid of a serious threat making every Filipino existence safer,” said Marine Brig. Gen. Juancho Sabban, the new commander of the anti-terrorist Joint Task Force Comet.

Sabban, a decorated combat officer, took over the task force previously held by Maj. Gen. Ruben Rafael, who recently retired. He was the former deputy chief of the Western Mindanao Command.

The military said soldiers recovered an M16 rifle from Ricson, including 15 magazines and 170 ammunition, a cellular phone, maps, his wallet containing identification cards, an army camouflage uniform, a jungle pack, bonnet and other personal belongings.

Sabban assured the public that the military will continue to pursue the Abu Sayyaf group tied to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya and bring peace to Sulu.

“Even as we tread in the right path, the end still lies ahead; there is still so much to do. There are efforts from the enemies to regain what they have lost; it is our job to prevent them as we go onwards with our tasks,” Sabban said.

He attributed the success of the military operation to the support of the civilians and local government officials.

“The heightened alertness and vigilance of the people here significantly helped our troops in their operations against the ASG. Hence, we are grateful for the support and cooperation,” he said. (Nickee Butlangan)

Military Agents Spied On MILF Meeting In South RP

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Troops Step Up Security In Sulu Province

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 21, 2008) – Security forces beefed up patrol in Sulu province in southern Philippines following a clash Friday that killed an Abu Sayyaf militant.

Troops gunned down Nixon Arbison, 19, in a firefight in the village of Pansul in Patikul town. Village leader Basir Asil has identified the Arbison as an alleged Abu Sayyaf member under Juhurim Hussin and Kirrih Hamid Sahiron.

The fighting lasted almost 15 minutes. The clash broke out during Lent's holiest day, but Sulu is a predominantly Muslim province where security forces are fighting the al-Qaeda-linked militant group. Aside from the Abu Sayyaf, Filipino authorities said Indonesian Jemaah Islamiya militants are also hiding in Sulu.

“We beefed up patrol in Sulu because of the fighting. The Abu Sayyaf may retaliate,” one security officer, who asked not to be named, told the Mindanao Examiner.

Philippine military chief General Hermogenes Esperon said the operation against the insurgents will not stop even on Holy Week. (Nickee Butlangan)

Heavy Rains Continue In Mindanao, Residents Warned

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 21, 2008) – Authorities have warned residents near riverbanks to take precautionary measures as torrential rains continued Friday in the southern Philippines.

Several people had died in the south the past days due to floods and landslides and weather experts said more rains are expected fall.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said although there is no existing tropical cyclone, the tail-end of a cold front are affecting not only Mindanao, but eastern Luzon as well.

“The ridge of North Pacific High Pressure Area which extends over Luzon and the easterly waves that affect Mindanao are the major weather systems which are expected to prevail for the next several days,” it said.
(Mark Navales)

Sayyaf Man Killed In Southern RP Clash

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 21, 2008) – Government soldiers killed a suspected Abu Sayyaf militant in a clash Friday in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, officials said.

Officials said the fighting occurred in the town of Patikul where soldiers tracked down the militant. There were no reports of military casualties.

“One Abu Sayyaf terrorist is killed and we have recovered his weapon, an M16 automatic rifle. We are still ascertaining the identity of the terrorist,” Marine commander, Colonel Natalio Ecarma, said.

The clash broke out during Lent’s holiest day, but Sulu is a predominantly Muslim province where security forces are fighting the al-Qaeda-linked militant group. Aside from the Abu Sayyaf, Filipino authorities said Indonesian Jemaah Islamiya militants are also hiding in Sulu.

Philippine military chief General Hermogenes Esperon said the operation against the insurgents will not stop even on Holy Week. This is the time that Catholics usually devout observance, commemorating the passion and Christ's death on the cross. (Mindanao Examiner)

Tremor Rattles South RP, China Too

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 21, 2008) – An earthquake measuring 6.0 in the Richter scale rattled the southern Philippines, but there were no reports of serious damages to buildings and structures.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported the tremor was detected at around 10.10 p.m. on Thursday about 170 km southeast of Davao in southern Mindanao island or 1,125 km southeast of Manila.

Filipino seismologists said the Philippines lies in the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire," where tremors, some caused by volcanic activity, are common.

China was also struck by a 7.2 magnitude quake at 6:33 a.m. Friday. It was traced about 225 km southeast of Hotan City in Xinjiang province, the US Geological Survey said.

There were also no reports of casualties or damages to Chinese structures. (Mindanao Examiner)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

2006 Official Poverty Statistics In Philippines: Worse Than It Looks

Poverty in the Philippines has become so prevalent that it can no longer be hidden, only downplayed through the statistical manipulation that has become an Arroyo hallmark.

With the recent release of 2006 poverty statistics, the Arroyo administration was finally forced to admit that its much-hyped “28 quarters of continuous growth” has failed to benefit the ordinary Filipino.

According to the official figures by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), some 32.9% of the population, or 27.6 million Filipinos are poor. This was a reversal of the trend experienced in 2003, when the poverty incidence fell to 30% from 33% in 2000. It should also be noted that there were actually more Filipinos in 2006 than in 2000 (when some 25.5 million Filipinos were poor).

But despite the admission that poverty has risen despite high economic growth, the official poverty figures may actually be understated and obscure how widespread poverty is in the Philippines. This is because of the low poverty threshold the NSCB uses to estimate the extent of poverty.

For 2006, the NSCB pegged the per capita annual poverty threshold at P15,057, or P75,285 for a family of five members. The poverty threshold is defined as the minimum income/expenditure required for an individual to meet its basic food and non-food requirements. The poor are thus considered as those individuals or families whose incomes fall below the official poverty threshold and cannot afford to provide in a sustained manner for their minimum basic needs for food, health, education, housing and other social amenities of life.

The use of the term minimum basic needs highlights the limitations of the government’s definition of poverty. The government considers only minimum survival standards to measure poverty, thus capturing only those who are desperately poor and cannot meet even their most basic needs. But those individuals and families who fail to meet decent living standards should also be considered poor.

For example, a family with one or two minimum wage earners whose incomes fail to meet their needs are also poor, even if their income is above government’s poverty line.In fact, the government’s own National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) accepts this reasoning.

Thus, the NWPC releases regular estimates of family living wages; such figures measure what is needed for a decent standard of living plus a 10% allowance of total expenses for savings or investments.

As of 2005 (to ensure compatibility with the 2006 poverty threshold since the next estimate was as of December 2006), a family of five needs P16,218 for decent living, or 258% of the P6,274 that the NSCB claims that a Filipino family needs to stay out of poverty in 2006.

If only the NWPC’s food and non-food expenses estimates are considered, then the poverty incidence is 42.5% of NWPC’s estimates.

Thus, it is clear that the actual extent of poverty in the country is grossly understated. In IBON’s January 2008 nationwide survey, 7 out of 10 Filipinos rated themselves as poor.Poverty Despite GrowthThe increased poverty incidence also raises the question of why the number of poor increased even as government figures showed increasing economic growth.

Gross domestic product (GDP) grew an average of 4.6% from 2001 to 2006, while gross national product (GNP) grew by 5.1% over the same period. From 2004 to 2006, when the poverty increase was recorded, GDP and GNP grew by 5.5% and 6.1%, respectively; this was substantially higher than the 3.7% and 4.1% recorded from 2001 to 2003.

The NSCB attributed the higher poverty incidence to the insufficient rise in personal incomes coupled with higher prices, thus making it difficult for poor Filipinos to meet their basic needs.

NSCB also admitted that the implementation of the reformed value-added tax (RVAT) increased prices.But what economic planners failed to point out was that government itself is responsible for low wages prevailing in the country.

Government actually uses the poverty threshold as the basis for setting the minimum wage-- thus, a low poverty line justifies low subsistence-level wages as part of government’s foreign income-driven development strategy.

Despite this, the NSCB still said that a worker in the National Capital Region earning the minimum daily wage of P362 (or P9,412 a month) can support a family of five based on a monthly poverty threshold of P8,569.Also contributing to the rise in poverty figures was record-high unemployment rates. From 2001 to 2006 the country suffered from an average of 11.3% unemployment and 18.5% underemployment, the worst such six-year period recorded in the country’s history.

If jobs were created during the period, these were mostly poor quality, low-paying jobs. According to the NSO Labor Force Survey, from 2001 to 2006 the most number of jobs created were in agriculture, wholesale and retail trade, and private households with employed persons. These were among the lowest paying and most insecure jobs in the country.

Thus, majority of Filipinos did not enjoy the benefits of growth. And what growth there was did not result in an improvement in income inequality. According to the 2006 Family Income and Expenditures Survey (FIES), which is used to compute poverty, the richest 20% of families (accounting for some 3.5 million families) account for 52.8% of total family income.

Further, the income of the richest 10% was nineteen times that of the poorest 10 percent.Not surprising It should not really be surprising that the numbers of poor Filipinos increased.

Agriculture and manufacturing, which should experience growth in order to generate jobs and contribute to overall national development, continue to experience moribund growth. In fact, the number of new manufacturing jobs from 2001 to 2006 was just 153,000 and the sector even lost 18,000 jobs in 2006.

Sectors driven by speculation and with uncertain contributions to real development, on the other hand, were the ones that drove the increased GDP growth.What is surprising is how the Arroyo administration finally owned up to this growing problem. But then again, poverty in the Philippines has become so prevalent that it can no longer be hidden, only downplayed through the statistical manipulation that has become an Arroyo hallmark.

In typical fashion, Malacañang spokespersons brushed aside the poverty figures, simply saying that with the additional money from collections of the RVAT would be used as “payback” for the poor and that poverty would undoubtedly decrease again by 2009 when the next FIES would be conducted. But sans any resolute change in fundamental economic policies, the poverty problem in the Philippines can only get worse. (Joseph Yu)

Clan War Still A Big Problem In Muslim Region In Mindanao

COTOBATO CITY, Philippines - Baikongan Ismail sits in a small airless schoolroom in Datu Piang, a mountain of plastic chairs piled behind her. The classroom has been home to her family of six for three months, ever since renewed armed hostilities between competing local clans, backed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), forced them to evacuate their farm in Barangay Pandi in mid-December 2007.

“Our houses were burned by armed groups,” Ismail told IRIN. “Several times now our family has been displaced.” Each time, she said, her chickens and ducks and crops were looted. The 50-something woman now vows: “We won’t go home. We don’t want to return and be caught in the crossfire again.” Ismail’s family is one of 1,900 displaced by the December 2007 fighting.

Datukan S Mokammad, the provincial social welfare officer covering the municipality of Datu Piang, in Maguindanao province, on Mindanao Island, in the southern Philippines, told IRIN that clan fighting continues in the municipality, with 10 barangays (villages) out of 20 still affected by the conflict.

All the barangays sit in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), an area carved out in 1996 in a peace agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). While peace talks are ongoing between the government and the MILF, a break-away group of the MNLF in the 1970s, which fought the government in large-scale hostilities in 2000, no settlement is close and fighting between government forces and the MILF, and clan warfare, usually over land, breaks out sporadically.

Provincial, regional and municipal disaster response officials are stretched thin. While displacements from each conflict in the region are relatively small-scale – from 1,000 to 2,000 families per incident - the numbers add up quickly. With as many as 24 evacuations per year, up to 200,000 people are being displaced annually and in disparate locations. Government agencies and the humanitarian community alike are challenged to respond quickly with sufficient aid.
Not enough resources

“Our resources for frontline ministries such as health and social services are not that big,” Oscar Sanpulna, of the office of the ARMM regional governor, told IRIN. “In practically all areas, finances for medicines and foodstuffs are not enough.”

Bai Soraida M Biruar, director of the regional office of social welfare and development, echoed his concern: “Government resources are insufficient, there is always a lack.” Her office has only two million pesos (US$48,000) annually for regional emergencies. During the December Datu Piang crisis alone, 500,000 pesos ($12,000) was spent.

Datukan S Mokammad, a social worker for the municipality of Datu Piang, told IRIN that local government gave food assistance but it was insufficient. “It was the same basic problem we have experienced in other evacuations. There are delays and insufficiencies in the response of the NGOs and the international community.” Virtually all municipal, regional and provincial authorities interviewed by IRIN cited such delays.

“Back in 2000-2003, when there were 980,000 IDPs in the region, all the international agencies were here,” said Benjamin S Barga, of the ARMM civil defence regional office in Parang, Maguindanao province. “Not now,” he told IRIN. “Few agencies are here and are capable of responding quickly and effectively.”

During the earlier crisis period, the Mindanao Emergency Response Network (MERN) was an effective coordinating and response entity of the humanitarian community, but, according to Uasa Teng Enok of the regional office of social welfare, “MERN is no longer as active as before.”
WFP deputy country director Alghassim Wurie, operations manager in Cotabato City, Maguindanao Province, told IRIN: “We have a warehouse with food; it depends when we hear about the problem and when we get an official request from the government.”
He conceded, however, that sometimes the quantity distributed was insufficient for large Filipino families. “At a February 2008 meeting, WFP made a decision to increase food assistance to conflict IDPs in Mindanao from 10kg to 25kg of rice.”

Coordination problems

Better coordination and sharing of information is seen by all government agencies and the humanitarian community as key to a faster and more effective response. WFP and other agencies recommend the MERN be revived.

“There is still a lot that needs to be thought through,” said Barga. “There is definitely no coordination and advance planning for the next disaster.”

Even tracking existing displacements is a challenge, Elsie C Amil, Maguindanao provincial social welfare and development officer, told IRIN. “We have a very big gap in monitoring displacements. Our main challenge is tracking movements because of the clan wars. We need technical support for improved coordination and monitoring of IDPs and the entire exercise of coordinating response.”

In the interim, many IDPs seem to fall through the gap. “The food has not been sufficient,” Ismail told IRIN. “We asked for kitchen utensils and mats but never received them.” And even though their temporary home is a school-house, 14 to 15 children of the 10 families there no longer attend classes.

Integrated Regional Information Networks, commonly known as IRIN, is a project of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) tasked with providing information relevant to those responding to and affected by complex emergencies, such a conflict-induced forced migration, and natural disasters, such as hurricanes and earthquakes in sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East.

Created in 1995, it is widely used by the humanitarian aid community and others seeking information on complex emergencies and has diversified into a number of subprojects.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

NBN-ZTE Whistle Blower Jun Lozada, Maiinit Na Tinanggap Sa Cebu

CEBU (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 18, 2008) – Maiinit pa rin ang tanggap ng mga taga-Cebu kay NBN-ZTE deal whistle blower Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada kahit na diumano’y binusalan ni Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal ang bibig ng mga pari na magsalita ukol sa eskandalo na kinasasangkutan ng pamahalaang Arroyo.

Kalat ang balitang pinagbawalan diumano ni Vidal ang mga pari sa Cebu na magmisa kay Lozada ng ito’y dumating doon kamakalawa bilang bahagi ng kanyang pagiikot upang ipabatid sa publiko ang katotohanan sa overpriced NBN-ZTE deal.

Si Vidal ay kilalang supporte ni Pangulong Gloria Arroyo at kamakailan lamang ay napaulat itong makipagkita ng sikreto sa mag-asawang Arroyo sa Wack-Wack.

Bagamat itinanggi ni Vidal na binusalan nito ang mga pari ay umani naman ito ng batijkos mula sa kampo ni Lozada.

Binansagan rin ni Lozada na mayroon “Archbishop of Malakanyang” sa Cebu at ang Black and White Movement naman ay sinabing mistulang “Congressman in Cassock,” si Vidal dahil sa naging asta nito. Nais sana ni Lozada at ng grupo nito na magkaroon ng misa para sa katotohanan sa Cebu, subali’t walang pari ang gustong lumabag sa utos ni Vidal.

Galing si Lozada sa Ilo-ilo na kung saan ay pinagbawalan rin ni Justice Secy. Raul Gonzales ang mga paaralan doon na papagsalitain ito. Subali’t mas mainiit ang naging pagtanggap kay Lozada dahil sa laki ng simpatyang tinanggap nito.

Pilit na sinisira ng Malakanyang ang mga pagbubunyag ni Lozada ukol sa NBN-ZTE deal na kinapapalooban diumano ni dating Elections chief Benjamin Abalos, Sr. na inakusahang nag-overpriced sa proyektong nagkakahalaga ng $330 milyon.

Itinanggi naman ni Abalos at ni Arroyo ang lahat ng bintang. (Mindanao Examiner)

Photo: Filipino Boxing Legend Manny Pacquiao's Farm

An arc created by famed Davao City sculptor Kublai Milan stands at the gate of Filipino boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao's cock farm in the village of Banahaw in Malungon town in Sarangani province in southern RP. It is fast becoming a tourist spot in the province. A sculpture of men and their fighting roosters serve as the centerpiece in the cock farm. (Photo by Cocoy Sexcion/Sarangani Information Office)

Monday, March 17, 2008

NPA Rebels Raid Globe Telecom Facility In Mindanao

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 17, 2008) – Filipino communist rebels raided Monday a telecommunication facility in Mindanao island, security officials said.

Officials said New People’s Army rebels attacked the facility owned by cellular phone giant Globe Telecom, Inc. at around 5.30 a.m. in the village of San Vicente in Compostela Valley province’s Montevista town.

The raiders also carted away firearms of security guard before torching several telecom equipments, said Colonel Benito Antonio De Leon, spokesman for the Army’s 10th Infantry Division.

“This shows the real colors of the insurgents and even communication facilities are not spared. These facilities are vital and important and it can save lives in emergency situations,” De Leon told the Mindanao Examiner.

The motive of the attack is still unknown, but authorities said previous NPA assaults on telecommunication facilities and mining firms in Mindanao were triggered by failed extortion.

Singapore Telecommunications owns 45% of Globe; diversified corporation Ayala owns one-quarter. The company provides local and long distance telecommunications services to more than 12 million wireless subscribers throughout the Philippines.

Just last week, the NPA owned up the attack on a mining firm, Apex Mining Company, in Compostela Valley’s Maco town.

The rebels said the raid on March 6 was a punishment for the firm's failure to pay so-called "revolutionary" taxes and for environment destruction.

Apex is partly owned by international mining company called Crew Gold Corporation based in London and has interests in Lefa Corridor Gold Project in Guinea; Nalunaq Gold Mine in Greenland; and the Maco Gold Mine in the Philippines.

The NPA is fighting for the establishment of Maoist state in the Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)

Photo: MILF Rebels In Mindanao

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Photo: Southern Philippines Turtles Mate Off Kiamba Town

A couple of Olive Ridley marine turtles mate at the municipal waters of Kiamba just in front of the Tuka Marine Park which is declared as marine sanctuary in Sarangani province in southern RP. (Photo by Allan C. de Lima/Kiamba News and Information Center)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Hustisya Sa "Sulu Massacre" Wala Pa Rin

SULU (Mindanao / Mar. 16, 2008) – Nanawagann kahapon sa pamunuan ng Armed Forces of the Philippines at Department of National Defense ang mga ulama at ibat-ibang grupo sa lalawigan ng Sulu upang mabigyan ng hustisya ang pagpaslang sa 7 sibilyan at isang off-duty soldier na mga sundalo.

Nuong Pebrero 4 naganap ang pagpatay sa 8 katao at nangangamba ngayon ang amraming grupo sa Sulu, kabilang na ang mga kaanak ng biktima, na pinagtatakpan ng Western Mindanao Command at Philippine Navy ang mga sundalong sabit sa krimen.

Pawang mga miyembro ng Army’s Light Reaction Company at Navy’s Special Wwarfare Group ang diumano’y responsible sa pamamaslang. Napatay umano ang 8 ng lusubin ng mga sundalo ang Barangay Ipil sa bayan ng Maimbung at nakipagsagupaan sa Abu Sayyaf.

Dalawang sundalo rin ang nasawi at limang iba pa ang sugatan sa panig ng LRC at SWAG, ngunit sa imbestigasyong inilabas ni Regional Director Manuel Mamauag ng Commission on Human Rights sa Western Mindanao ay lumalabas na walang Abu Sayyaf sa nasabing Barangay at pinatay ang walong katao ng walang kalaban-laban.

Ayon naman sa mga saksi ay nagkaroon ng “mis-encounter” ang mga LRC at SWAG at sila-sila mismo ang nagbarilan. Napagkamalan umano ng dalawang grupo ng mga sundalo na Abu Sayyaf ang isat-isa.

Nagsagawa ng imbestigasyon ang Western Mindanao Command sa nasabing labanan at inabswelto nito ang mga sundalo at iginiit na Abu Sayyaf ang kanilang napatay. Ngunit nag utos agad si AFP chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon ng sariling imbestigasyon matapos na bansagan ni Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan na isang masaker ang naganap.

Nagpatawag rin ng imbestigasyon si DND Secy. Gilbreto Teorodo upang mabatid ang katotohanan. Kabilang sa mga napatay ay dalawang bata, dalawang teenager, isang Barangay konsehal, isang seaweed farmer at isang babaeng buntis. Ang pagpatay sa kanila ay binansagan ng mga taga-rito an "Sulu Masscare". (Mindanao Examiner)