Sunday, November 30, 2008

Photo: Moro Children and High School Students Campaign For Peace In Mindanao

Moro children convey their wish, "Peace in Mindanao," and students from the Kiamba National High School in Sarangani province wave small flags during this week’s celebration of peace. (Photo by Ruel Ampatin / Kiamba News and Information Center)



This concert will feature songs and art exhibits that will revolve on the theme Environmental Rights is Human Rights.

Davao - based artists will be performing their own compositions and songs, such as Ciudad Sitiada, Liso, Arangkagana, Oyayi and many more.Songs in the environmental album Rapu-rapu sung by artists Aiza Seguerra, Cookie Chua, Lolita Carbon, Chikoy Pura and other artists will be performed.

In exchange for the opportunity to watch the concert, entrance fees shall be encouraged to be in Any of the following goods: 1 kilo rice, 3 cans of sardines, 6 packs noodles, 1 kilo mongo beans, and 1 kilo of dried fish.

As this concert aims to raise the needed relief goods for the communities affected by the presence of mining, dam and other projects, we shall be encouraging the bringing of gifts on the concert date.

For more details, please contact 09105248579 and 09283417525.

December 1 is regular holiday in RP

MANILA, Philippines - The first day of December 2008, is a regular holiday which means that there will be no classes in all schools and no work in both the government and private offices, the official Philippine Information Agency said.

A stipulated in Proclamation No. 1463 Declaring the Holidays and Special (Non-Working) Days for the Year 2008, signed by President Gloria Arroyo on February 18, 2008, December 1 which is a Monday is a national regular holiday.

President Gloria Arroyo has declared December 1, 2008 as a national regular holiday in observance of Andres Bonifacio Day. December 1 is Monday nearest to November 30.

In declaring December 1 as holiday, President Arroyo aimed to enable Filipinos to have a more meaningful observance of 145th birthday of the revolutionary leader and one of the main rebel leaders of the Philippine Revolution against Spanish colonial rule in the late 19th century.

Andres Bonifacio, the founder of the Katipunan, an organization aimed to start an independence movement against Spain, was regarded as the "Father of the Philippine Revolution" and one of the most influential national heroes of the country.

The Supremo, along with his brother Procopio were executed at Mt. Buntis for the crimes of sedition and treason against the revolutionary government of General Emilio Aguinaldo.

Meanwhile, December 24 is the last working day for the year 2008. This is because December 26, December 29 and December 31 have been declared as Special holidays, while December 25 and December 30 are regular holidays.

Malaysia pulls out remaining peacekeepers in Southern Philippines

The remaining contingent of Malaysian peacekeepers, who were part of the International Monitoring Team, departs Mindanao on Sunday, November 30, 2008. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service / Mark Navales)

SHARIFF KANSUNSUAN, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 30, 2008) – Malaysia has pulled out Sunday all its remaining peacekeepers in the restive southern Philippines island of Mindanao.

Peace talks between Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Arroyo government collapsed in August after the failed the signing of the Muslim homeland deal. The failed deal triggered rebel attacks in August in several provinces in Mindanao.

Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, a Philippine Army spokesman, said the remaining 12 Malaysian peacekeepers led by Admiral Dato Pahlawan Amzah Bin Sulaiman flew out of Mindanao onboard a Malaysian Air Force transport plane. The Malaysians were part of the International Monitoring Team composed of Libya, Brunei and Japan and Canada.

“The terms of reference of the IMT, which expired today, had not been renewed and the remaining 12 Malaysian peacekeepers were recalled by their government. They left at 2.45 p.m. today from the Awang airport (in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Shariff Kabunsuan province),” Ando said.

The Malaysian-led IMT had been in Mindanao since 2004. It was made up of 41 Malaysian Armed Forces and Royal Malaysian Police officers, supported by 10 army officers from Brunei, five from Libya and the team has been expanded to have personnel from Canada and Japan.

In May, Malaysia also pulled out a team of truce observers in Mindanao.

Ando said the Brunei contingent would remain in Mindanao. He said the pull out of the peacekeepers will have no significant effect on the current situation in Mindanao.

But the MILF said those from Libya, Japan and Canada would report to their embassies in Manila. “They will report to their respective embassies in Manila and we hope the IMT would be reactivated again to monitor the cease-fire between the MILF and the Philippines government,” said Eid Kabalu, a senior MILF leader.

“We still have a cease-fire agreement with the MILF. The truce is still in effect, although, sporadic clashes continue in some areas because of our operation against rogue MILF members behind the August attacks in Mindanao,” he said.

Malaysia said it is prepared to consider future participation in the IMT if there is progress in the peace process and a formal request is made by both the peace panels.

Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said they suspended participation in the IMT after its mandate expired Sunday.
“Malaysia remains supportive of the peace process and hope that the two sides opt for dialogue and negotiations in bringing about a peaceful solution in Mindanao,” Rais said.

Fighting between security and rebel forces was also reported in Basilan island, south of Zamboanga City. Clashes broke out Friday and that one civilian was killed in the fighting in the towns of Al-Barka and Tipo-Tipo, both strongholds of the MILF in Basilan island.

President Gloria Arroyo opened up peace talks in 2001 with the MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group fighting for self-determination in Mindanao, but despite the cease-fire accord, hostilities still continue with both sides accusing each other of violating the fragile truce. (With a report from Mark Navales)

NPA releases video clip of Special Forces captive in Mindanao

A video grab of New People's Army prisoner of war First Lieutenant Vicente Cammayo, of the Special Forces. Communist rebels release Sunday, November 30, 2008 a video clip of Cammayo, who was captured November 7, 2008 after a firefight in Compostela Valley province in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 30, 2008) – Communist rebels released Sunday a video clip of a Special Forces commander they are holding as a prisoner of war in Mindanao island, south of the Philippines.

The New People’s Army is holding First Lieutenant Vicente Cammayo since November 7 after rebel forces attacked his unit and killed two soldiers and a government militia in a fierce firefight in Casoon village in the town of Monkayo in Compostela Valley province.

The Army’s Eastern Mindanao Command said Cammayo was shot and wounded during the firefight. The rebels also seized an M60 machine gun and two M16 and one M14 automatic rifles from Cammayo's unit during the fighting.

The undated clip emailed to the Mindanao Examiner showed Cammayo already with mustache and bearded, sitting on a hammock surrounded by shrubs. One guard, armed with an automatic rifle, was standing about seven meters away from Cammayo – he was wearing a black t-shirt with inscription ALC, an acronym for an NPA unit called Alejandro Lanaja Command.

“I am First Lieutenant Vicente Cammayo, Philippine Army, team leader na naka-assign sa 10th Special Forces Company, naka-base sa Laak, ComVal province. I was captured in the performance of my duty during the encounter with the New People’s Army under Alejandro Lanaja Command dated 07 November 2008 at Barangay Casoon, ComVal province,” he said in his opening statement.

Cammayo, wearing a red t-shirt over his camouflage uniform, appeared to be nervous and tensed. “Bilang pamamalagi ko dito sa kamay nila bilang bihag o POW, hindi naman nalapastangan ang aking pagkatao at nirespeto ang aking mga karapatan. Ibinigay sa akin ang mga pangunahing kailangan. Maayos ang kanilang trato sa akin,” he said.

He also told his wife, Marielle Cammayo, and mother, Cecilia Cammayo, not to worry too much about him. Cammayo also asked the two women to pray for his early release from the hands of rebels.

Cammayo also denied military reports that he was shot and wounded during the fighting with rebels.

“Sa akin asawa na si Marielle Cammayo at sa akin nanay na si Cecilia Cammayo, nais kong malaaman ninyo wala akong tama o kaya ay nasugatan doon sa nangyaring enkuwentro at alam ko ngayon na hindi maayos ang inyong pagiisip dahil sa kaiisip sa akin. Nasa maayos akong kalagayan ngayon at sana ay ipagdasal natin na mapaaga ang aking paglaya sa kamay ng NPA,” he said in the last part of the clip.

Aris Francisco, spokesman of the NPA's Alejandro Lanaja Command, accused the 3rd Special Forces Battalion to which Cammayo's unit belongs, as responsible for the series of violations to human rights, protocols of war and international humanitarian law in Compostela Valley province.

He said the Special Forces masterminded the June bombing in Nabunturan town that wounded several innocent civilians. “The bombing was a desperate and fascist attack in response to the sparrow operations of the NPA which killed two of their soldiers at that time,” he said.

The NPA also tagged Special Forces members as behind the brutal murder in June of a peasant leader Noli Llanos in Nabunturan's Mipangi village, where rebels killed three government soldiers; and also the killing of farmer Diego Encarnacion in the village of Linda in Nabunturan town in July. Both farmers were accused by the military as NPA supporters.
The military denied all NPA allegations.

Aside from Cammayo, the NPA is also holding Police Officer 3 Eduardo Tumol, a member of the 1105th Provincial Mobile Group, who was arrested on November 5 by rebels at a checkpoint in the village of Baogo in Davao Oriental’s Caraga town.

Tumol's commander, Chief Inspector Angel Sumagaysay, and another policeman were able to escape from the rebels. Rigoberto Sanchez, a rebel spokesman, said Cammayo and Tumol are both being investigated for possible human rights violations and other crimes related to the operations of the Special Forces and the Provincial Mobile Group in Mindanao.

The NPA, armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), is fighting the government the past four decades for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country. Peace talks between Manila and the CPP-NPA collapsed in 2004 after both sides failed to sign an agreement ending hostilities in the countryside. (Mindanao Examiner)

Photo: Life Goes On!

No matter how hot the weather is, life must go on with these father and son tandem who wait for good Samaritans outside the Immaculate Conception Cathderal in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

New congressional district for Cotabato proposed

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 30, 2008) – North Cotabato Rep. Emmylou Mendoza has filed a bill seeking to establish a third congressional district in the province.

“This is all about providing the entire Cotabato province its fair share of national development funds and basic social services,” said Mendoza, who filed recently House Bill 4947.

“Since we have only two districts now, Cotabato is getting funds meant only for two districts. This is because while the province is already fully entitled to a third district, Congress has yet to be establishing the new district,” she said.

She said national agencies tend to apportion their funds, whether for education, health, social services, farm modernization or public works, along districting lines.

North Cotabato is divided into two congressional districts with Mendoza representing the First District and Rep. Bernado Pinol on the Second District.

Mendoza said her district, which is composed of 9 towns - Carmen, Kabacan, Banisilan, Alamada, Libungan, Pigkawayan, Midsayap, Pikit and Aleosan – had a population of more than 584,000 as of August 2007 and is qualified to have three congressional districts. The total population of the province is 958,643 as of 2000 Census.

The House of Representatives at present has 240 members and the Constitution provides a maximum of 250 congressional seats. Each of the members of the House of Representatives is entitled to P70-million Priority Development Assistance Fund annually.

In Zamboanga City, a similar proposal by Rep. Maria Isabelle Climaco is also drawing huge support among residents. Zamboanga, which has a population of 774,000, is divided into two congressional districts with Climaco representing the First District and Rep. Erico Fabian on the Second District.Climaco said the new funding that goes with it could help develop many poor areas in Zamboanga City.

“A new congressional district would give us additional representation in Congress and additional voice and representation of the people in the House of Representatives,” she said.

Informal and random surveys by a local radio network, Radyo Agong-dxRZ, showed that many residents have been supporting Climaco's proposal. Many of those who joined the survey cited the benefits of the Priority Development Assistance Fund that the new congressional district could get from the House of Representatives.

The Priority Development Assistance Fund makes possible the implementation - in every congressional district - of small-scale, but significant projects which can not be part of large-scale projects of national agencies. These projects, mostly infrastructure, health, education and social aid packages, directly touch the lives of district constituents. (Mindanao Examiner)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Security forces defuse bomb planted at Christian church in Southern Philipppines

A temple of the Inglesia Ni Cristo in the Philippines. Security forces have disarmed Saturday, November 29, 200 two bombs planted in front of an Iglesia Ni Cristo Church in Kabacan town in North Cotabato province in Mindanao island, south of the country. (Photo from

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 29, 2008) – Government soldiers and policemen have defused Saturday two powerful improvised explosives planted in front of a Christian church in Mindanao island, south of the Philippines, where security forces are battling Moro and communist insurgencies the past decades.

The explosives, assembled from two 60mm mortar bombs, were planted in front of the Iglesia Ni Cristo in Kabacan town in North Cotabato province. It was the second time that a bomb was left near the Iglesia Ni Cristo Church this week, said Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, spokesman for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division.

Although no groups or individual claimed responsibility for the failed bombings, Ando said the explosives had the signature of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“The MILF is known to use that kind of IED,” he said without elaborating further, but the military has blamed the secessionist rebel group to a bomb attack late Wednesday outside the church of the Adventist Jehova's Witness also in Kabacan town.

The blast caused no major damage to the church, but it sent a chilling warning that even churches are now being targeted by terrorists, according to Ando. “We still do not know why churches are being targeted,” he said.

Ando said the previous bomb found in front of the Iglesia Ni Cristo Church was concealed in a backpack and had wirings connected to an electronic clock.

The MILF, the country's largest Muslim rebel group, has denied involvement in the foiled attack or in the previous bombing.

Manila has suspended peace talks with the MILF after rebel forces launched simultaneous attacks on civilian targets in Mindanao in August after the failed signing of a Muslim homeland deal, which the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional. The deal would have granted more than four million Muslims their own homeland in Mindanao.

Security forces are fighting both Moro and communist insurgencies in Mindanao for more than three decades now.

Beside the two groups, authorities are also battling local Abu Sayyaf militants, whose group has links with the Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya terrorists, blamed for several deadly attacks in the past in the Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Bishop unfazed by govt threat to file sedition raps - GMANews.TV

MANILA, Philippines - One of the Catholic bishops who earlier said that he is open to 'extra-legal' means to oust President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo remains unfazed by government threats to file inciting to sedition charges.

“We are already used to the threat of the old secretary of injustice. We will just wait what he will do," Novaliches Bishop Antonio Tobias said.

The 67-year old prelate was one of two bishops who expressed openness to the use of extra-legal means to oust Mrs Arroyo.

The other was Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez.

In a press conference Thursday, the two urged the public to join protest rallies against the
His remark came the same day that Justice secretary Raul Gonzalez said that the statement of the two bishops was tantamount to “inciting to rebellion."

On Friday, Tobias said that any move to amend the constitution would likely result in a solid front of bishops who have expressed opposition to the move to extend the term of office of Mrs Arroyo.

"Masyado ng garapal, kaya papunta na diyan. Papunta na diyan na magkakasama-sama kami,"Tobias said.

His statement was in response to the question if they are one with the statement of Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President Archbishop Angel Lagdameo issued last month.

“Yun bang masyadong pagpapakita ng power over the interest of the people, unti-unting nagkakaganoon na. There are more bishops now. I’m very sure yung lima na nauna at kami ay dumarami," Tobias said.

Recalling the martial law years, Tobias said religious leaders in the Philippines all expressed opposition to the continued stay of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

Last month Lagdameo, along with Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz, Masbate Bishop Joel Baylon, Balanga Bishop Socrates Villegas and Legazpi Bishop emeritus Jose Sorra, called on the public to start preparing for a new government that is riddled with massive corruption.

Some bishops, who are known to be friendly with Malacañang, however, tried to downplay the statement of the five bishops saying this does not represent the CBCP as a body.

Lagdameo, in another statement released earlier this week, reiterated the previous pastoral statement of the CBCP expressing opposition to the renewed moves to amend the Constitution during the term of Arroyo.

On Thursday, Tobias, along with Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, urged the public to join in protest rallies versus the Arroyo government to protest against the possibility of extending her term via Charter Change.(GMANews.TV -

Peace Advocates Hold Program In Zamboanga Village

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - Creating a harmonious relationship in the community level is an important means to spread the advocacy of peace, according to Fr Angel Calvo, president of Peace Advocates Zamboanga, as the organization brought the message and action of peace to the village of Santa Catalina in Zamboanga City on Friday.

”It is very important to start the advocacy on peace in the community level such as in the Barangay,” he said during the opening ceremony of the ‘Paz na Barangay,’ which is part of the week-long observance of peace that started on November 27 to December 3.

Hundreds of out-of-school youths, students, teachers, and Christian and Muslim families gathered at the Don Gregorio Evangelista Memorial School in a day-long activity to broaden their appreciation of peace in their community. The event was also initiated by the school in celebration of Filipino Values day.

In his message, Manuel Banua, Santa Catalina village chieftain, said: “We must talk, sit down and coordinate so that we can attain real peace and unity in our community.”

Fr. Calvo emphasized the importance of communal relationships particularly in the inter-religious level.

During the event, colorful cultural presentations were rendered by the school's pupils to signify the diversity of the village and region.

”The multi-purpose court of the school was filled with students wearing colorful clothes. It reflects our different cultural backgrounds and beliefs, but that peace is still attainable,” one young student said.

Simultaneous peace skills workshops on visual arts, culture of peace orientation, and peace on environment and literary were also held during the day.Each of the clusters has several facilitators who trained the participants on how to integrate the “peace in their field of interest,” organizers said.

The Paz na Barangay has been held annually by PAZ to bring peace-making to the grassroots. (Albert Arcilla)

IPHO-Sulu Provincial Hospital Celebrates 92nd Year

SULU, Philippines - The Integrated Provincial Health Office-Sulu Provincial Hospital has recently celebrated its 92nd anniversary with various programs highlighting the dedicated services of its personnel and the transformation of the IPHO to what it is today.

A bit of history, 92 years ago, in November 7, 1916, Dr Sixto Y. Orosa established the hospital system in Sulu with the honorable Hadji Butu as the first patient. Dr Orosa and his wife, Dr Severina Orosa were top graduates of the UP College of Medicine who spent more than 10 years in Jolo managing the “Sulu Hospital.”

It was during this time that the hospital was adjudged as the best administered in the country by General Leonard Woods.

The hospital has had several chiefs, locations and structures up to what it is now, completely renovated in 2005 thru the ARMM Social Fund under Regional Governor Parouk Hussin. The staff then did strategic planning to examine where we are and where we want to be hence our vision –mission statement.

VISION: By 2015, we envisioned the Sulu Provincial Hospital to be one of the best secondary hospitals and a Model of Excellence in health care in the country, insha Allah.

MISSION: The Sulu Provincial Hospital is a government secondary hospital committed to deliver effective, efficient and equitable hospital care to the people of Sulu by competent and compassionate personnel.

The values that we stand for goes by the acronym, ACE IT: Accountability, Commitment, Excellence, Innovativeness, Teamwork.

It’s been 3 years since the strat plan has been formulated and we believed we have made giant leaps that it will take earlier than 2015 and we would have one of the best secondary hospitals in the country, so maybe we could aim higher, be a tertiary hospital, inshaAllah! (Dr Farah Omar-IPHO Sulu)

Philippines To Sign Cluster Bomb Treaty

MANILA, Philippines - Next Wednesday, governments will sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) in Oslo, Norway and the Philippine government, thru the Department of Foreign Affairs, signified its intent to sign the cluster bomb treaty.

Designed to break open in mid-air and scatter up to hundreds of smaller bombs over wide areas, cluster bombs kill too many civilians. Many do not explode on impact, thus continuing to kill and injure long after conflict has ended.

The treaty bans the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster bombs and contains the strongest provisions for victim assistance ever agreed in international law.

Touted as the "treaty with the fastest signing and ratification process," the CCM went past other pending international treaties such as that of Arms Trade and the International Criminal Court.

The Philippine Campaign against Cluster Munitions (PCCM) stated that there is no documented use of cluster bombs in the country. However the group stated that there is a problematic presence of cluster bombs in countries where there are overseas Filipino workers such as Lebanon, Israel and Laos, the "most cluster-bombed" country.

Also, the Philippines had staging points for the cluster bomb attacks in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam during the time of US bases in the country. With the US presence in Mindanao now, it is yet to be confirmed if stockpiles of cluster bombs exist in the area.

The PCCM also highlighted that the Mindanao conflict would be worse with the presence of cluster bombs, as the 'bomblets' become de facto landmines that prevent war evacuees from returning to their communities. (Nikki Delfin)

Philippine soldiers capture NPA rebel camp in Midnanao

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 28, 2008) – Government troops captured a rebel encampment of the communist New People’s Army after a firefight that left one soldier wounded in the southern Philippines, officials said Friday.

Officials said the troops seized the camp in Mount Diwata in Compostela Valley’s Monkayo town late Thursday afternoon. The mountain is a known gold rush area in the province, a stronghold of NPA rebels in Mindanao Island.

An army commander said villagers allegedly tipped off the soldiers about the presence of the rebels. Troops assaulted the camp, sparking a firefight that wounded infantryman Larry Plana.

“This discovery of the NPA encampment was attributed to the locals who informed us of the presence of NPAs in their village,” said Maj.Rolando Rodil, commander of the 25th Infantry Battalion, who led the assault against the rebels.

Rodil said a still undetermined number of NPA gunmen were believed killed or wounded. “The NPAs believed to have suffered casualties as the troops seen scattered bloodstains in the said encampment and at their route of withdrawal,” he said.

He said troops also recovered about 40 meters of wire used for claymore mine, sacks of rice and canned goods, including tents and subversive documents.

“The rebels are believed to be members of the Sentro de Gravidad of Guerilla Front 25 of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee. The encampment, which can accommodate 50 persons, is the improvised explosive manufacturing center of the NPA,” Rodil said.

Government forces are pursuing rebels holding a police officer and a Special Forces commander who were both captured by the NPA in separate attacks in Mindanao.

The rebels said Police Officer 3 Eduardo Tumol, a member of the 1105th Provincial Mobile Group and First Lieutenant Vicente Cammayo, commander of a Special Forces unit, are being investigated for possible human rights violations and other crimes committed against innocent civilians.

Tumol was arrested on Nov. 5 after stopping a police car at a checkpoint in the village of Baogo in Caraga town in Davao Oriental, while Cammayo had been captured Nov. 19 by rebel forces after a firefight in Monkayo town in Compostela Valley province.

The NPA, armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), is fighting the government the past four decades for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country. Peace talks between Manila and the CPP-NPA collapsed in 2004 after both sides failed to sign an agreement ending hostilities in the countryside. (Mindanao Examiner)

A Killing Puzzle: The Life and Death of a Radio Commentator - Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project

GINGOOG CITY, Misamis Oriental — Three days after burying him, the family of Aresio Padrigao were packing up their simple belongings and waiting for the people from the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) witness protection program to take them to the relative safety of Cagayan de Oro, a two-hour drive away.

There they hope to be resettled: there, his three children, Ariston, Arceli and Aries hope to find new schools; and only there is his clearly nervous and distressed widow Teresita prepared to speak in detail to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) which has been ordered in to lead in the hunt for the killers of the local radio block-timer. Padrigao was a heavy critic of the city administration and illegal loggers via his weekly one hour show “Inform the Public.”

“Local police chief Superintendent Leonyroy Ga is working with both the NBI and the DOJ on two possible leads and hopes the case can be solved within the month. Even so, he complains he is heavily reliant on the public coming forward. Ga has only just oved from Iligan City where last year he headed the investigation into another journalist shooting, that of Joe Pantoja, a radioman who survived despite being shot eight times.

Considered by many to be a fair and reliable pair of hands, the police chief was just one week in the job at the time of Padrigao’s killing on November 17. He says there is “a lot of pressure from above” to solve this case.

A 9mm. bullet casing had been retrieved from the scene and so too, somewhat remarkably, the alleged license plate of the motorbike used in the attack.

“We first thought that yes, the plate could simply have been thrown there by the assailants and this could be a false lead to send us on the wrong trail. The bike too may have been stolen, but we have followed it up and it is registered to an owner in Davao,” the police chief told the Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project.

“The plate number will probably have been taken off and held or put in a bag before the shooting. We had witnesses that told us the plate fell out from the killer’s backpack as he was rushing to hide his gun and make a getaway,” he said.

Papers with the name, photograph and address of the bike’s owner were shown to the Project by Ga, who confirmed that while the owner had no known criminal record he remained one of two current suspects. The other, whose name was first given to the Project by another source, is a reported gun-for-hire with two outstanding arrest warrants to his name for murder and attempted murder.

“The problem is we don’t know where he is, but we have the bullet casing and if we can tie that to his gun, then we have a match,” Ga said.

But even if so, while it may prove the case of who pulled the trigger on Padrigao, it will shed no light on the person or people behind his execution.

Recordings of Padrigao’s final four shows have been given to the Project to see if they can help shed any light on his killing – the sixth this year, surpassing last year’s ive media killings. He was also the 61st journalist to be killed in the Philippines since 2001 when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took over.

In his broadcasts, Padrigao attacked city hall, the local government and too, the local police and the local Department of Environment and Natural Resources office for what he saw was a failure to catch illegal loggers.

“He had sources inside the city hall,” said Gualberto Pahunang, station manager of dxRS Radyo Natin (Our Radio) where the journalist had been broadcasting his show every Friday between 10 and 11 a.m. for the past two years. As a block-timer, Padrigao paid the station PhP 1,000 (USD) 20) a week.


Pahunang believes the killing could well be related to his work at the station.

Padrigao was one of six block-timers at Radyo Natin, a local community affiliate of the Manila Broadcasting Company. A framed certificate from the Philippine Red Cross thanking the station for its humanitarian reporting hangs on the wall.

“We are a public service radio for the people,” says Pahunang. “Some officials criticize us saying why are you doing this? You want to be heroes? You’re just monkeys.”

The station is little more than a simple box measuring six square feet with a computer, transmitter, basic mixing desk, two microphones and a stack of plastic chairs which can also be used in the yard outside.

“He was always reading directly from papers and documents he brought with him. He was very careful about that,” said Pahunang. With little experience in journalism, Padrigao was still considered “a trainee” and had to be coached by his manager on legal issues like libel and slander.

“I gave him a discount because he was poor. He was always trying to help the poor. But he was very poor himself. You can see that from where he lives. If people needed medicine, he would try and help and he would get sponsorship for the show from local people like sari-sari (variety) store owners,” said Pahunang.

He added: “His wife said somebody had been following them for a month and he told me he had threats, but he wouldn’t tell me where they came from.”

“It is very sad what happened,” says Attorney Benjamin Guimong, a respected lawyer in the city, from his office in Rizal Street. “Things are getting bad here in this city. You can hire a gunman here for PhP 1,500 (USD 30). That means nobody is safe.”

There has reportedly been a sudden recent spike in cases of extra judicial killings with the shooting of the administrator of the city market – an employee of city hall – under similar circumstances in August.

Some observers who wished not to be named suggested drugs, illegal gambling and extortion are becoming serious problems in this rural and somewhat isolated city of 120,000 people in North Eastern Mindanao. In the local print media, Gingoog is trying to advertise itself as a potential tourist attraction, but is much better known nationally only as a center for illegal logging.

According to Guimong, Padrigao was intending to publicly accuse those he believed responsible for a raid last month on the city treasury which reportedly netted robbers PhP 1 million (USD 20,408).

“I pleaded with him to be careful and not to talk about that on the radio until he had all the evidence,” Guimong said.

Guimong also spoke of the journalist telling him about threats he had allegedly received in the days before his death. Padrigao again supposedly refused to divulge the exact source of the threats.

When the lawyer said he urged him to vary his routine and take extra care, Padrigao replied that he would be okay. A few days later, on Monday, November 17, Padrigao was shot dead outside the gates of Bukidnon State University.

The campus also serves as the local elementary school. Padrigao was dropping off his youngest daughter at around 7 a.m. when he was ambushed by a gunman and his accomplice riding in tandem on a motorcycle.

A simple wooden cross and stone shrine built by local pupils stands at the spot where he bled to death in front of his daughter.

Witness to a killing

Exactly four weeks earlier on Monday, October 14, Padrigao witnessed a similar extrajudicial style killing on the national highway when Randy Naduma, the son of a barangay (village) captain was shot dead in front of him by two men on a passing bike.

“He witnessed the killing. He knew the killer,” said station manager Pahunang.

Many observers in Gingoog believe the two killings are very much connected and some reports claim Padrigao was overheard talking into his phone following the shooting agreeing not to testify.

“He wanted to keep out of that business. He told them that it was their business, not his,” a source told the Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project.

And according to his family, Padrigao refused to report the incident to the police. One month on, witnesses to his own killing are now similarly wary of speaking out.

Padrigao bled to death directly in front of at least five stall-holders and pedicab drivers. All told these writers that they were too scared to help and did not want to get involved.

Only Fely Brianeza says she is prepared to testify in court if called. Even then, she says she did not see anything that could help catch the killers. “I only looked up when I heard his little girl crying. I didn’t even hear the shot.”

Nobody could describe the gunman, the driver-lookout or the motorbike as it sped off heading south and away from the city. Both wore helmets — a serious traffic violation here which has ironically banned them for public safety reasons. Too many armed robberies have been committed by people in helmets.

Asked if he could remember anything or was prepared to testify, a man who prepared and sold small bags of sliced mangoes said no. “I don’t trust or believe in the system,” he said.

Another stall-holder who sells sweets to the children directly in front of the gates said she didn’t offer to help Padrigao “because it was obvious he was dead. There was a lot of blood.”

A neighbor who was bringing his own children to school saw the body and the crying girl and brought her back home to alert Mrs. Padrigao who says she had to take her husband to the hospital herself.

“Death is not the end. It is just the beginning,” says a simple paper streamer hanging over an unlit candle in the Padrigao family’s two-roomed house in the city’s shanty area. Their home in Barangay 19 is dark and hard to find and the lane down from the national highway and toward the sea is almost impassable.

A black and white banner calling for justice and decorated with a bloodied dagger hangs over a makeshift porch outside and above the heads of two special force police officers who have recently been assigned to keep watch over the family. But there is very little sense that justice for Padrigao and his family will be easily found here on the streets of Gingoog City.

In the days immediately following the killing, Padrigao’s wife publicly complained she was not being offered any support or protection from the authorities. It led to reports that protection instead had been offered by the communist New People’s Army (NPA) which is said to be very active in the surrounding hills.

NPA, agent

Like the city Padrigao lived and died in, his life read like a puzzle book up until the very end.

The lawyer Guimong first came across him 20 years ago when he was called to defend Padrigao from a charge of being a member of the NPA. At the same time, Guimong says, the army stepped in and identified him as being a military intelligence asset – an agent – for them.

Whatever the truth, veteran print and radio journalist Bingo Alcordo and columnist for the Mindanao Gold Star Daily remembers Padrigao as a friend and activist who was constantly working in support of the poor.

“He was former NPA but he was well-known for bringing 20 NPA members down from the hills to reintegrate them into society,” said Alcordo, who is based in Cagayan de Oro City.

And while Radyo Natin’s station manger suggests that Padrigao also nurtured political ambitions and was looking forward to campaigning in “some way” for the 2010 elections, his family confirmed that he had worked for many years as a bodyguard to Gingoog mayor Ruthie Guingona before quitting to manage a lumberyard on behalf of his cousin Roger Edma.

Request to interview the mayor was politely declined.

Broadcast targets

Some targets of Padrigao’s radio broadcasts claim Padrigao was himself involved in illegal logging and that illegal loggers may have killed him.

One of Padrigao’s targets on his weekly show was city administrator Tita Garrido. Says station manager Pahunang: “He was against favoritism and attacked her.”

Garrido confirmed she was the subject of some of his attacks, saying that Padrigao had suspicions her decision to come back out of retirement during a City Hall restructuring was ‘irregular.’ However she insisted she had nothing to hide and had even “offered to speak to Padrigao and open the books on her appointment.”

Garrido added that she never personally listened to his broadcasts and was not angry with him. “There was nothing to get angry about. I never get angry,” she said.

Asked if she thought anybody in City Hall had a serious enough grudge against Padrigao to kill him, she replied no.

“I can’t imagine anybody being involved.”

Instead Garrido suggested Padrigao could have been killed because of his involvement in illegal logging. She said: “There were no big problems with drugs or gambling in Gingoog City, just illegal logging.”

The city administrator went on to say that mayor Guingona has been “aggressively targeting the illegal loggers and went out at nights to catch them,” but in doing so she was attacked by Padrigao in his radio broadcasts.

“I believe that Mr. Padrigao should not have been critical of the mayor since she is the one against illegal logging.”

For their part, family and friends insist that Padrigao’s involvement in the logging business was wholly legitimate: contracts were arranged and won fairly and that their only other interest was in working so called “dry logs” or dead and fallen trees which are deemed unprotected and public property.

Clearly agitated and impatient to leave the city that was once her home, Mrs. Padrigao refused to say who she thought was responsible for her husband’s shooting. She also denied having publicly accused Gingoog vice mayor Marlon Kho for being behind her husband’s killing when he spoke to her by cell phone to offer his condolences at the hospital as Padrigao was being certified dead by doctors.

“I have witnesses that she did,” the vice mayor, a local businessman, told these writers outside his villa. He politely refused to answer any questions except to confirm he had filed a case against Mrs. Padrigao and to deny categorically that he had anything to do with the killing. “I will make a statement in due course,” he said. “But not right now.”

Kho also said he condemned the killing of Padrigao but had “no idea” who might have been responsible. “Right now we have convened the peace and order council of the city and the province, and we are discussing a proposal to give additional funds to the police this coming Wednesday.”

Back at the police station, an entry in the police blotter seen by the Project reports an alleged death threat made to a colleague of Padrigao who has a show Monday mornings in Radyo Natin. (Alan Davis and Ma. Cecilia L. Rodriguez / Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project - Alan Davis is Project Director of the Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project and Ma. Cecilia L. Rodriguez is a journalist based in Cagayan de Oro City).

2 bishops open to 'extra-legal' means to bring down Arroyo - GMANews.TV

MANILA, Philippines — Two senior Roman Catholic bishops on Thursday said they were open to “extra-legal" means in forcing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo out of office if the search for truth continues to be suppressed.

Bishops Antonio Tobias and Deogracias Iñiguez expressed their disgust during a press conference in Quezon City a day after administration members of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Justice voted to kill an impeachment complaint filed against President Arroyo.

“If we can no longer go through the legal means of seeking the truth, we will be forced to use extra-constitutional or extra-legal means," Iňiguez said.

"Ipakita natin na ayaw na natin ang nangyayari (Let us show that we are sick and tired of what’s going on)," added Tobias, who argued that such action should not be misconstrued as “destabilization."

The two outspoken bishops said they were hoping that a protest action planned on Nov. 30 at the Balintawak Monument would spark a bigger uprising like the previous “people power revolutions."

In a phone interview, Iñiguez told GMANews.TV that their move would focus on denouncing fresh attempts by Arroyo allies to tinker with the Philippine Constitution.

Tobias also read to journalists a statement made by detained Brigadier General Danilo Lim, former commander of the Army’s Scout Ranger Regiment.

“The Filipino people should act now to reclaim their dignity, remove the pretender from power and steer this nation on the path to greatness," Tobias read from Lim’s statement
Iñiguez said Lim’s letter was given to them through the Kilusang Makabansang Ekonomista (KME). He said the letter was sent to them as a means of support for their upcoming protest action.

“Siguro nabalitaan niya yung affair namin sa Nov. 30 na against cha-cha tapos sumulat siya parang pakikiisa on the part of the military (Maybe he’s heard of the anti- Charter change rally that we would hold on Nov. 30. So, he wrote a letter expressing his support on the part of the military)," Iñiguez said.

Lim is facing court-martial for his involvement in an alleged plot to seize power on Feb. 24, 2006. He was charged with the violation of Articles of War 67 (inciting to sedition).

Iñiguez also said that they were very happy to have received Lim’s support. “We are very happy, siya naman kasi nakakulong siya so he is against the government, we are happy na sa military na meron may ganoong sentiment (We are very happy that at least someone in the military has the same kind of sentiment.)," he said.

In Malacañang, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Anthony Golez, denounced the two prelates for encouraging mass uprising instead of just clamoring for truth.

“I think everybody should be clamoring for peace and the leaders of the Church should be clamoring for peace as well," Golez said.(Aie Balagtas See, GMANews.TV)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Troops Put Up Checkpoints, Secure Highway From Lawless Groups In Mindanao

Government soldiers inspect vehicles passing in front of the Army's 104th Infantry Brigade in Iligan City in the southern Philippines.

ILIGAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 27, 2008) – Army soldiers have put up checkpoints on a highway connecting the cities of Iligan and Marawi as part a security measure aimed at securing the safety of motorists and travelers from lawless groups.

Army Col. Benito de Leon, commander of the 104th Infantry Brigade, said villagers have sought the help of authorities and urged the military and police to put up roadblocks and checkpoints after the presence of gunmen were reported along the stretch of the highway.

“These checkpoints would curb those who plan to impersonate persons in authority, and allow the military to monitor the passage of security forces. Certain individuals were also reported carrying firearms without authority and even on board government vehicles or ambulances, hence the checkpoints,” De Leon said.

The checkpoints, he said, were intended to complement police enforcement activities and contribute to peace and order in the two areas.

De Leon assured the public that soldiers manning the checkpoints would not violate rights of civilians. He advised drivers of vehicle approaching a checkpoint to slow down and prepare to stop if signaled; dim their lights; open their windows; and turn on their cabin lights.

“Rest assured that we will establish any security arrangement allowed by our laws and regulations, including the conduct of checkpoints, if only to protect the people we are duty-bound to serve,” De Leon said. (With a report from Merlyn Manos)

Army disarms IED planted outside Church in southern Philippines

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Week Of Peace Kicks Off In Zamboanga, Other Mindanao Provinces

Members of the Inter-religious Solidarity Movement for Peace including Peace Advocates Zamboanga president Fr. Angel Calvo and Western Mindanao State University President Dr. Grace Rebollos lead the peace march in Zamboanga City as the Week of Peace celebration begins Thursday, November 27, 2008 in Mindanao. And peace advocates light candles in Kiamba town in Sarangani province in celebration of the Week of Peace. (Photo by Ruel Ampatin / Kiamba News and Information Center and Darween Wee)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 26, 2008) – Thousands of people on Thursday joined a march that signaled the start of the Week of Peace celebration in the southern Philippines.

“The week of peace celebration is a way to recognize the achievements, effort and commitment towards the attainment of peace not only here in Zamboanga or Mindanao but as well in the entire country,” said Rev. Fr. Angel C. Calvo, CMF, president of Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ), who initiated the peace celebration 11 years ago.

He said this year's Week of Peace centers on the theme "Integrity of Mind and Heart: A Way to Reconciliation and Peace.”

About 20,000 marchers, some carrying placards and streamers with peace messages, walked around downtown Zamboanga and later trooped to the Joaquin F. Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex where a program was held.

In his speech, Fr. Calvo urged all sectors to join the observance of peace by recognizing that “each one of us has the capability to contribute towards the attainment of peace in Mindanao.”

"People must believe that we can put together our minds and hearts to obtain the dream of peace in our land," he said, adding, the celebration is aimed at integrating advocacy and peace-making efforts of stakeholders in Mindanao.
”It is beautiful to see Muslim and Christians working together, it is a sign of hope and solidarity,” he said.

Prof. Ali T. Yacub, of the Western Mindanao University, who is also a convener of Inter-religious Solidarity Movement for Peace, read a statement of the influential Bishop-Ulama Conference (BUC) that urged citizens to work together for peace and unity in Mindanao.

Various activities are lined up as part of the celebration and these include painting and art exhibits, a musical concert, among others.

The weeklong celebration was conceptualized in Zamboanga City at the height of hostilities and Abu Sayyaf troubles in the southwestern part of Mindanao in 1997.

This was eventually adopted by the influential religious leaders' group of Bishop-Ulama Council, making the celebration not only exclusive to Zamboanga city but in the entire Mindanao, too.

At present, the celebration is recognized as the biggest peace festival in the country and is endorsed by Presidential Proclamation No. 207 issued by then President Joseph Estrada in 1999. President Gloria Arroyo later issued another presidential proclamation enjoining all sectors to take part in its observance.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines through the Western Mindanao Command said it is also jonining the celebration of the Week of Peace. “The military organization is an advocate of peace,” said Maj. Gamal S. Hayudini, group commander of the AFP’s 4th Civil Relations Group.

Sarangani and Cotabato provinces have also participated the weeklong peace celebration. (With reports from Darween Wee, Geonarri Solmerano and Mark Navales)

British government announces simplified visa system for skilled migrants

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 27, 2008) - The British government has been delivering the biggest changes in its immigration system in 45 years with a stronger border that maximises the use of new technology, a selective points system to control migration and the issuance of identity cards to foreign nationals.

This week the British government announced the implementation of the Points Based System (PBS) for skilled migrants, a simplified but more secure method for workers to apply for their UK visa.

Under PBS, skilled foreign nationals applying for UK visa will earn points for objective criteria such as qualifications, previous earnings, age, English language skills and UK experience.

The applicants will need to show a firm job offer in the form of a Certificate of Sponsorship from a British company licensed by the UK Border Agency. However, applicants whose occupations fall under the shortage occupation list may be granted UK visas without reference to their prospective earnings or qualifications.

The shortage occupation lists released by the United Kingdom and Scotland identifies jobs for which there are not enough resident workers. Jobs under this list include senior care workers, civil engineers, chemical engineers and aircraft engineers.

The British government has also launched a new Business Visitor visa which clarifies the activities that are permitted during business visits to the UK.

This allows visitors to stay for up to six months to attend meetings, arrange deals, undertake fact-finding mission, conduct site visits and undertake promotional activities. A Special Visitor visa covers those travelling temporarily to the UK for certain engagements.

This is issued specifically to sportspeople, entertainers and charity workers. It also includes visitors who are seeking extension of leave for medical treatment.

In line with these new procedures, foreign nationals will be issued identity cards containing their facial image and fingerprints to help businesses crack down on illegal workers. All new foreign nationals and those extending their stay will have a card within three years and it is estimated that by the end of 2015 about 90% of all foreign nationals will be issued an identity card. (Oya Arriola)

Philippine Rebels Arrest Police Officer

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 27, 2008) – Communist rebels on Thursday announced they are holding a police officer as prisoner of war after they seized him in Davao Oriental province in the southern Philippines.

The rebels said Police Officer 3 Eduardo Tumol, a member of the 1105th Provincial Mobile Group, was arrested on Nov. 5 after stopping a police car at a checkpoint in the village of Baogo in Caraga town.

Tumol’s commander, Chief Inspector Angel Sumagaysay, and another policeman were able to escape before rebels could arrest them, said Jumabok Kadyawan, a spokesman for the New People’s Army-Antonio Nerio Antao Command.

“Sumagaysay's cowardly flight and desertion of his subordinates only proves his serious accountability. The 1105th PMG is part of the brigade-sized combat formation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police that launched offensive military operation during the past month in Boston and Cateel towns in Davao Oriental, which resulted in the displacement of civilians, destruction of livelihood and several cases of human rights violations,” Kadyawan said.

He said the rebels also seized an M16 automatic rifle and a KG9 sub-machinegun, including a .45-caliber pistol from the police.

“As a prisoner of war, PO3 Tumol will undergo an investigation by the revolutionary government for possible human rights violations and crimes against the people. In accordance with the rules of war, international protocols and laws of the revolutionary government, the Front 15 Committee assures the humane treatment of POW Tumol and will release him if he is found not guilty of grave offenses,” Kadyawan said.

Aside from Tumol, the NPA is also holding First Lieutenant Vicente Cammayo, commander of the Army Special Forces, who was captured Nov. 19 by rebel forces after a firefight in Monkayo town in Compostela Valley province.

The rebels said Cammayo is also being interrogated for possible human rights violations and other crimes related to operations of the Special Forces in Mindanao.

Kadyawan said rebel offensives would continue despite ongoing government anti-insurgency campaign in the restive region. The military repeatedly said that the NPA fighting capability is diminishing because of the government offensives.

“Military actions and tactical offensives of the Red fighters shall continue in Caraga to frustrate the unwarranted military operations of the enemy and punish the fascist elements of the AFP and PNP who are mainly serving the greedy interests of capitalists and those in the reactionary power.”

“The successful action by the people's army debunks once more the declaration of the fascist AFP and PNP that the revolutionary government has already been weakened,” he said.

The NPA, armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), is fighting the government the past four decades for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country. Peace talks between Manila and the CPP-NPA collapsed in 2004 after both sides failed to sign an agreement ending hostilities in the countryside. (Mindanao Examiner)

Report Abuses And Threats Against Journalists

National Union Of Journalists Of The Philippines - Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi Chapter. Report Abuses And Threats Against Journalists +63918 9248086.

EDITORIAL: Gapangan at ang Chacha

Habang abala ang lahat sa hearing ng Kongreso at Senado sa fertilizer fund scam at kay dating Agriculture official na si Jocelyn Bolante ay sinamantala naman ng iba ang gapangan sa lower house upang ihain ang resolusyon na magpapalawig sa termino ni Pangulong Gloria Arroyo at sa pag-amyenda sa Saligang Batas.

Mabuti na lamang at agad na nabatid na nakapaghain na agad ng kanyang resolusyon si Batangas Representative Hermilando Mandanas at bukod pa ito sa kampanyang isinagawa ni House Speaker Prospero Nograles at ni Rep. Mikey Arroyo sa pagsusulong ng pagbabago sa Saligang Batas upang maisakatuparan ang mahahalagang pag-amyenda sa mga batas na may kinalaman diumano sa ekonomiya at iba pa!

Ilang beses na itong tinangka ng administrasyong Arroyo, ngunit bigo! At ngayon, kung kalian malapit na bumaba si Arroyo sa kanyang puwesto ay mas tahasan naman ang pagsusulong nito. Noon panahon ni Pangulong Fidel Ramos ay tinangka rin ito at nabigo rin at katunayan ay nag-rally pa sina Joseph Estrada, Corazon Aquino at Gloria Arroyo upang pigilin ang anumang pagbabago sa Saligang Batas, ngunit ito rin ang ipinatutupad ng kasalukuyang rehimen.

Inginunguso naman ng Malakanyang ang Senado, partikular si Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, sa proposal nitong baguhin ang Saligang Batas at gawin Federal ang uri ng kasalukuyang pamahalaan – ngunit ang mga kaalyado naman ni Arroyo ang nagkukumahog sa paghahain ng mga resolusyon!

Kapag nabago ang uri ng pamahalaan ay tiyak na isusulong ng mayorya sa Kongreso – na pawang mga kaalyado naman ng Pangulo – na mahalal si Arroyo bilang Prime Minister o Punong Ministro.

Dapat magkaroon na ng pagbabago ang bansa, kailangan na ng mga tapat na lider na siyang magpapatakbo nitong gobyerno. At kung may dapat parusahan sa mga nagkasala sa taong bayan ay kailangan pagbayaran nila ito. Kailangan maging handa at matatag ang sambayanang Pilipino upang masigurong hindi na muling mananakaw ang demokrasya ng ating kaawa-awang bansa.

Democracy Is Dead In The Philippines

How congressmen voted in the House justice committee on the Arroyo impeachment complaint on November 26, 2008.

Those who voted to dismiss the complaint for being insufficient in substance:

1. Capiz Rep. Fred Castro (Lakas-CMD)
2. Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman (Lakas-CMD)
3. Baguio City Rep. Mauricio Domogan (Lakas-CMD)
4. Negros Oriental George Arnaiz (NPC)
5. Iloilo Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr. (Lakas-CMD)
6. Cebu Rep. Pablo John F. Garcia (Kampi)
7. Cebu Rep. Antonio Cuenco (Promdi-BOPK-Lakas)
8. Antique Rep. Exequiel Javier (Lakas-CMD)
9. Apec Rep. Edgar Valdez
10. Bohol Rep. Edgar Chatto (Lakas-CMD)
11. Lanao Del Sur Rep. Faysah Maniri Racman Dumarpa (Lakas-CMD)
12. Leyte Rep. Eufrocino Codilla Sr. (Lakas-CMD)
13. Zamboanga Sibugay Rep. Belma Cabilao (Lakas-CMD)
14. Ifugao Rep. Solomon Chungalao (LP)
15. Zamboanga del Sur Rep. Antonio Cerilles (NPC)
16. Masbate Rep. Rizalina Seachon Lanete (NPC)
17. Sulu Rep. Munir Arbison (Lakas-CMD)
18. Bohol Rep. Roberto Cajes (Lakas-CMD)
19. Tawi-Tawi Rep. Nur Jaafar (Lakas-CMD)
20. La Union Rep. Victor Ortega (Lakas-CMD)
21. Lanao Del Sur Rep. Pangalian Balindong (Lakas-CMD)
22. Romblon Rep. Eleandro Jesus Madrona (Lakas-CMD)
23. Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao (NPC)
24. Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas (Kampi)
25. Quirino Rep. Junie Cua (LP)
26. Cebu Rep. Pablo P. Garcia Sr. (Cebu-Kampi)
27. Cavite Rep, Elpidio Barzaga (Kampi)
28. Surigao del Norte Rep. Francisco Matugas (Kampi)
29. Sultan Kudarat Rep. Arnulfo Go (Kampi-PTM)
30. Manila Rep. Ma. Theresa Bonoan David (Kampi)
31. Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas (LP-Ugyon)
32. Parañaque Rep. Eduardo Zialcita (Lakas-CMD)
33. Quezon City Rep. Bingbong Crisologo (NP)
34. Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin (Lakas-CMD)
35. Batangas Rep. Victoria Reyes (Lakas-CMD)
36. Agusan del Norte Rep. Jose Aquino II (Lakas-CMD)
37. Iloilo Rep. Arthur Defensor (Lakas-CMD)
38. Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Maranon III (Kampi) for Rep. Ma. Amelita Villarosa
39. Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong (Lakas-CMD)
40. Cebu City Rep. Raul del Mar (Lakas-BOPK)
41. Bukidnon Rep. Candido Pacrudo Jr. (Lakas-CMD) FOR Rep. Eric Singson
42. Manila Rep. Maria Zenaida Angping (NPC)

Those who voted not to dismiss the complaint since it was sufficient in substance

1. Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza
2. Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño
3. Bukidnon Rep. Teofisto Guingona III (NP-Uno)
4. Cagayan De Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (PMP/Uno)
5. Makati City Rep. Marlen Abigail Binay (Uno/PDP-Laban)
6. South Cotabato Rep. Darlene Antonino Custodio (NPC-Aim)
7, Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo
8, San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora

(This unofficial list as of 7 p.m. on November 26 was provided by the House committee on justice. Some in the list are ex-officio members of the committee / Source: ABS-CBN)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Selling People Overseas To Save the Economy At Home

Father and son pass in front of effigies at an anti-labor migration rally in Manila at the opening of the Global Forum on Migration and Development. Critics says the government depends so much on its overseas workers to survive the economic crunch but does little to protect and save them from abuses and even death abroad. (Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project / Jes Asnar)

MANILA, Philippines (Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project / Nov. 26, 2008) - “We will step up pressure and campaigns so the 40 or so overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on death row around the world have their sentences commuted,” said Connie Bragas-Regalado, chairwoman of Migrante International and Secretary-General of the Hong Kong-based International Migrants Alliance.

She was speaking as thousands of Migrante supporters and those from similar groups joined the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR) and marched in protest in Manila while the government chaired the Second Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) in late October.

Protesters carried balloons with the messages "No to GFMD," "End labor export," "End poverty," and "Create jobs at home," written many of the languages represented by protestors who had gathered here from some 35 countries.

The litany of their complaints was many and they called for an end to racism and xenophobia; sex trafficking; violence against women; unpaid or low wages; domestic work; lack of proper documentation; labor contract violations; and political persecution –just some of the many abuses faced by the international migrant community.

Barely two weeks before the GFMD opened, 20-year old Filipino migrant worker Jenifer (sic) Beduya, a.k.a Venancio Ladion, was beheaded in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for stabbing to death a member of the National Guard who allegedly tried to rape him.

Deathly silence

Forty-six year old Jeremias Beduya, Jenifer’s father, said they learned of his son’s death sentence as early as April. They petitioned Malacañang Palace in Manila for help but were reportedly advised to keep quiet.

“The government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will do everything to keep Jenifer alive,” he said he was told.

The Beduya family agreed but “Jenifer” was beheaded, just the same.

“We regret that we agreed to their demand. Our silence only resulted in the death of my son,” Jeremias tearfully recounted in a gathering of migrant workers held at the Migrante office.
To be fair, Malacañang Palace and the President have repeatedly –and sometimes successfully – saved overseas workers on death row from execution after lobbying Gulf leaders on their behalf.
The Beduya kin joined the family of Cecilia Alcaraz, a.k.a Nemencia Panaglima Armia, a midwife who was working as an English teacher in Taiwan when she was sentenced to death by firing squad in 2007 for reportedly allegedly killing and robbing her employer, a real estate broker.
Alcaraz's family maintains she was framed, and that the real killers were two business rivals of the murdered Taiwanese.

Migrante spokesman Gary Martin claims Alcaraz was not given proper legal support at her trial and that they only heard of her fate from a Taiwanese non-government organization which opposes the death penalty.

"The government has to do everything it can to prevent Cecilia from the suffering the same fate as ‘Jenifer’,” said Martin, citing the fact that international public outrage has prevent executions in the past.

OFWs lobby groups act for those in death row

“In our recent talks with the Department of Foreign Affairs, we found out that as many as 40 are on death row,” claimed Bragas-Regalado as she reiterated her organization’s calls for the Department of Foreign Affairs to conduct a thorough probe of the situation of Filipino migrant workers in more than 180 countries, especially those which keep capital crimes on the law books.
“Many of them are not given appropriate legal assistance,” she said, citing the cases of Beduya and Alcaraz.

The case of Alcaraz and Beduya were among the priority cases that Migrante and the IAMR submitted for action and review to United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights of Migrants Jorge Bustamante who flew in for the GFMD.

In a parallel NGO conference organized by the two groups, Bustamante, a Mexican education specialist gave what many saw as an “inspirational speech” reiterating calls for better migrant protection.

Appointed Rapporteur in August 2005, his mandate is to "examine ways and means to overcome the obstacles existing to the full and effective protection of the human rights of migrants, including obstacles and difficulties for the return of migrants who are undocumented."

While in Manila, Bustamante also met with other migrant and support organizations like the International Migrant Alliance (IMA), Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW), and Caram Asia.

IMA is believed to be the largest alliance of international migrants boasting of more than 100 groups working with it in 35 countries.

Slowing down remittances as protest

As the GFMD unfolded, Dolores Balladares, spokesperson of the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB) said the estimated USD 337 billion remittance of overseas workers from around the world was being used as a development tool by first world countries to save it from properly supporting those in need.

"Remittance of migrants is not a development tool because it will only be used to cover the failure of neoliberal globalization policies that have created the problems the world is having right now,” she said. “The forced migration of people is not a sign of development but actually a symbol of governments who cannot provide proper jobs and decent living for their people."

IMA chairperson Eni Lestari was more forthright: "We are collectively exercising our power to show governments and big businesses that we are finally standing up against modern-day slavery that is forced migration. The GFMD has no right to speak about protecting our rights now when we have been treated for decades as nothing more than sources of profits.”

The Philippine government admitted the current global financial crunch will likely affect the remittances of OFWs as economies in host countries slow down and migrants' incomes and social benefits fall.

Migrants demand that instead of promoting migrant labor their governments should create jobs by developing sustainable economic strategies at home.

“What the Philippines needs as an example is a sound domestic economic base that will provide genuine development for the country and jobs for its people,” Bragas-Regalado said.

Better deal for Sabah deportees

Women activists led by the activist women’s alliance Gabriela and the Gabriela Women’s Party are working to ensure more humane deportation proceedings of undocumented Filipino migrants in Sabah.

Some 200,000 undocumented workers are being targeted to be deported this year.

Mostly war refugees of troubled Mindanao who have been living in Sabah for decades, the Filipino migrants have taken jobs that even poor Malaysians shun because of low pay. They have been employed in construction and factories, hotels and restaurants, public transportation, and as domestic help.

Said Gabriela representative Luzviminda Ilagan, “The Relas (armed civilians given police power by the Malaysian government to arrest suspected “illegal” migrants) forcibly enter houses in the middle of the night, when occupants are asleep. If unable to show proper documents, a person will be arrested and cramped in deplorable detention cells.”

Ilagan said the Philippine government has not reacted properly to the unfolding deportation crisis in Sabah and has called for the implementation of measures recommended by the Joint RP-Malaysia Working Group on Migrant Workers that met in Manila in July.

Among others, both the Philippine and Malaysian governments agreed to minimize health hazards in deportation, ensuring that conditions in detention centers remain safe and sensitive to the special needs of women and children. Children unaccompanied by parents will be turned over to the care of appropriate authorities, and only those medically fit will be deported.

Both governments also agreed to step up efforts to regularize eligible migrants, and to facilitate the processing of travel documents of the deportees.

PhP 250 million fund for displaced OFWs

As many Filipino workers continue to seek jobs abroad, activists in the migrant community argue the government needs to be working better to ensure they are kept at home for the betterment of society.

“Our people need the services of nurses for our clinics, hospitals and schools. We will not leave if only decent jobs are available here,” said Dr. Leah Samaco-Paquiz, president of the Philippine Nurses Association, the single biggest group of nurses in the country.

About 600,000 licensed Filipino nurses are unemployed. Many more would be unemployed were it not for other jobs in the health and care sector the world over which offer employment for Filipino nurses.

Paquiz is aware of government attempts to create new jobs and meet development targets but sees corruption as a major problem.

Late last month, President Arroyo said her government would set up a PhP 250-million (USD 5.1 million) livelihood fund if the global slowdown worsens.

"For returning expatriates we will have and expanded livelihood and business formation program," she said in a speech before businessmen at the 34th Philippine Business Conference in Manila.

“The government's contingency plan for OFWs include ‘a 24/7 heightened’ monitoring of displacements, monitoring job orders and redeploying of displaced OFWs to emerging labor markets as well as assistance in repatriation,” she said.

Pushing for recognition of OFW skills

Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque is also pushing for the mutual recognition of professional skills and qualifications of OFWs to ensure equality of treatment and compensation for migrants.

At the GFMD, Roque called on the international community, particularly destination countries of OFWs and other migrant workers to provide for mutual recognition arrangements and other means of determining skills equivalences of migrants at bilateral and regional levels.

“To maximize opportunities (and) capacity of migrant workers to contribute to development, we need to agree at bilateral and international levels on better systems of recognizing their professional, education, and technical achievements,” Roque said.

He stressed that “fair equivalency methods can expand opportunities for migrants in sending countries while meeting the needs of receiving nations for needed skills.”

Mutual cooperation of sending and receiving nations may zero in on providing migrants opportunities for additional skills upgrading, either through on-the-job training or before they leave their home countries for their employment abroad.

Partnerships with host countries, like the Philippines’ partnership with Norway and Japan in the establishment and operation of training centers for the maritime sector, can facilitate these objectives, as he urged countries to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers.

Stepping up bid to attract more employers

President Arroyo meantime claims there are more jobs waiting for Filipino migrant workers, who should seize all opportunities. In her speech last month before a business group, she maintains that there will be a demand for 500,000 OFWs in Europe; 30,000 in Canada’ 30,000 in Australia; 10,000 in New Zealand; and 20,000 in Guam.

Many migrant groups however remain unimpressed, both with the figures and too the premise behind the belief that overseas jobs are the answer to the Philippine economy.

Ellene Sana, coordinator of the Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA) explained: “We are not against migration per se. But it should not be a forced migration. The (problem is) the government is the one selling our workers by targeting to send a million OFWs every year.”

Instead of scavenging job opportunities abroad, government should assure full employment through industrialization that in turn would build up a whole new set of fiscal, monetary, trade, industrial and other policies, argued Sana.

“By showcasing to the international community its labor-export program and the country's dependence on remittances, President Arroyo is exposing the government's inability to create jobs at home and keep the economy from sinking like a dead weight,” said Bragas-Regalado.

The global financial crisis will likely make situation worse for OFWs, she added. “As in the past, employers (will) use the crisis to cut salaries and benefits further, exploit migrants' desperation for work by offering lower pay as it is, and generally pass on the crisis on migrant workers through more abuses.”

OFWs also stand to face worse discrimination and xenophobia as they are made scapegoats for job losses in the host countries and accused of "stealing" jobs from nationals.

“Migrant labor will be further cheapened and workers will be made to bear the brunt of businesses adjusting to more difficult times,” warned Bragas-Regalado. (Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project / Nora Gamolo, the author is a columnist and former senior desk editor of The Manila Times.)

Seaman's daughter kidnapped in Basilan island

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 26, 2008) – Unidentified motorcycle gunmen snatched late Wednesday a nine-year daughter of a Filipino seaman in the southern Philippine province of Basilan, officials said.

The girl, identified as Nicole Rabeche, was seized at gunpoint from her mother at around 7 p.m. near their house in Lamitan City. The kidnappers escaped with their victim on motorbikes, according to local government officials.

No group claimed responsibility for the latest abduction, but Basilan has been plagued by a series of kidnappings for ransom in recent months. Provincial and regional police officials ignored phone calls from journalists.

More than a dozen people had been kidnapped by suspected Abu Sayyaf militants in Basilan, including two aid workers, and most of them had been freed in exchange for huge ransoms.
The Abu Sayyaf is still holding the son of a another seaman, Joed Pilangga, a nursing student kidnapped Oct. 17 outside their house in Zamboanga City and brought to Basilan. Kidnappers have demanded P20 million from Pilangga's family.

The locals blamed the police and military authorities for their failure to secure the safety of the civilians.

An Abu Sayyaf faction, headed by Puruji Indama and Nur Hassan Jamiri, were largely blamed for the kidnappings. They also sent letters to Christians living on the island threatening them with harm if they do not embrace Islam.

A Catholic clergy, Bishop Martin Jumoad, also blamed the police and military for the breakdown of peace and order in Basilan after receiving also a signed letter from the Abu Sayyaf threatening his group. The clergy earlier sought the replacement of the Basilan police chief Salik Macapantar for his failure to secure the island from the Abu Sayyaf.

In October, gunmen also ambushed and wounded Claretian priest Felimon Libot in while on his way to say mass in Basilan's Sumisip town. (Mindanao Examiner)