Tuesday, June 30, 2009

MILF orders rebel forces to fight kidnappings-for-ransom in South RP

SULTAN KUDARAT, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 30, 2009) – The Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, has ordered its 12,000-strong mujahideen to fight kidnapping-for-ransom activities in Mindanao.

It also ordered rebel forces to arrest and take drastic actions against kidnappers in areas where the MILF is actively operating. It was the second order in seven years that the MILF told rebels to fight kidnappings-for-ransom.

Police and military authorities have accused rogue MILF members of either coddling kidnappers or themselves involved in the nefarious activities in Mindanao to raise fund for the purchase of weapons or finance their secessionist campaign.

“The Central Committee of the MILF directs its freedom fighters comprising the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces to arrest and take drastic actions against the perpetrators of this heinous crime until these criminal activities are neutralized and stopped in MILF areas,” said an MILF order signed on Monday by the Front’s chief of staff, Sammy Al-Mansur.

“Anti-kidnapping task force is hereby organized for this purpose. For strict compliance and implementation,” it further said.

The order was also signed by Ghazali Jaafar, the MILF’s vice chairman for political affairs.

Authorities said Moro rebels were behind the kidnappings of wealthy traders, including an Italian priest, Luciano Benedetti, in Zamboanga del Norte province in 1998. Benedetti, 52, was held for nearly 10 weeks until he was freed in exchange for a huge government ransom.
In 2001, renegade MILF rebels also snatched Fr Giuseppe Pierantoni as the 44-year-old from Bologna said mass in the parish church of Dimataling town in Zamboanga del Sur. The priest was freed after six months in captivity in exchange for an unspecified ransom, but he claimed to have escaped from his kidnappers. His companions claimed he suffered from Stockholm syndrome, a phenomenon in which a hostage begins to identify with and grow sympathetic to his or her captor.

Kidnappings-for-ransom has become a lucrative business for rebels and criminal syndicates in Mindanao, where many areas are underdeveloped and job opportunities are scarce. Sometimes criminal gangs kidnapped civilians and hand them over to rebels in exchange for a cut in the ransom. Poverty has been blamed for many kidnappings in the South.

In February 2002, the MILF also issued a similar order after Manila sought its help in running after kidnappers in the southern Philippines. President Gloria Arroyo, who opened peace talks with the MILF in 2001, also signed a truce with rebels.

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

But peace talks collapsed in August last year after the MILF accused Arroyo of reneging on a preliminary Muslim homeland deal. The Supreme Court said the agreement which was initially signed in Malaysia in July 2008 is unconstitutional.

Since then, fighting between military and rebel forces continue. The MILF said it will not resume peace talks unless Arroyo honors the ancestral domain deal. Arroyo is to step down next year without any significant deal with the MILF. (Mindanao Examiner)

Kidapawan City intensifies campaign on Influenza A(H1N1)

Dr Ted Calica, of the Kidapawan City Hospital, speaks to students of Notre Dame College about the dreaded Influenza A(H1N1) virus. A local woman was said to be infected by the virus. The Philippines has reported its first Influenza A(H1N1)-related death and that hundreds of people are infected with the virus. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Geo Solmerano)
KIDAPAWAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 30, 2009) – A Filipino woman returning from a trip in Manila was found infected with the Influenza A (H1N1), making her the first local to have contracted the dreaded virus.

The 38-year old victim who arrived in Kidapawan City with her husband is now being treated. Her husband, who recently returned from a job in Japan, was tested negative for the swine flu virus.

Local Mayor Rodolfo Gantuangco also ordered an intensified campaign to prevent the spread of the virus. He also ordered local health officials to assist the woman’s family so they can be tested for the virus in Davao City.

He released funding to help support the campaign against the Influenza A (H1N1).
He urged residents to always wash their hands thoroughly using soap and water to help avoid the H1N1 flu virus. He said keeping the hands away from the face, covering nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing, avoiding sick individuals, and staying home when sick are the best ways to prevent contracting and spreading the flu.

The H1N1 flu, also known as swine flu, is a respiratory illness similar to seasonal influenza. (Arlene Solmerano)

Philippine Military Shows Desperation In Latest Propaganda, Says NPA Rebels

Campaign against Ka Parago, a showcase of AFP Desperation.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has just made official its policy of adding another dimension to its counterrevolutionary war under the mantle of the Arroyo regime’s Enhanced National Internal Security Plan notoriously known as Oplan Bantay Laya II or OBL II. Shortly after Gen. Victor Ibrado hinted about “adding new parameters” to its “counter-insurgency” program —- citing the difficulties encountered in achieving its mid-2010 goals -- the AFP’s black propaganda machinery took off with its rehashed vilification campaign against leaders of the revolutionary movement.

The new dimension Gen. Ibrado was talking about, it came to pass, was directly concocted out of the latest showbiz scandal that has since pre-occupied the national mass media. Taking cue from his higher ups, Col. Daniel Lucero of the Philippine Army’s Civil Military Operations Group presented his own “sex scandal and corruption expose,” against Leoncio “Ka Parago” Pitao, Red commander of the NPA’s 1st Pulang Bagani Company in Southern Mindanao.

It is quite clear that the AFP has had utilized all imaginable combat, intelligence and special operations against units and leaders of the NPA. They have killed many leaders and members of militant and progressive organizations and continue to place an even larger number in the AFP Order of Battle. Thus, Col. Lucero’s cheap propaganda gimmick comes as no surprise as he merely rides on a crest of widespread public attention generated by the latest scandal to rock the Philippine entertainment scene.

For all intents and purposes, Col. Lucero’s “expose” is nothing but a lowest level type of an ill-conceived character assassination scheme. AFP psychological operation run alongside its murderous campaign of OBL-mandated extrajudicial killing that has victimized hundreds of activists, unarmed civilians and non-combatants that included Ka Parago’s daughter Rebelyn.

This latest smear campaign only succeeds in showcasing heights of desperation that has shaken the AFP as a result of the monumental failure of Oplan Bantay Laya 1 and 2.

Col. Lucero of the AFP top brass would be well-advised if they look into the endemic corruption that is a plague in the AFP organization. The Filipino people are convinced that a cabal of AFP generals is lording it over the AFP, siphoning public funds to their pockets as has been credibly revealed during the Oakwood Mutiny and the recent Western Mindanao Command corruption as disclosed by Navy Lt. SG Nancy Gadian, among others.

That Gloria Arroyo and her husband Mike Arroyo jointly command the biggest corruption syndicate in the country is no longer news to the people; it only further inflames the people’s rage and steels their resolve to oust the fake and hated president in conjunction with the armed revolutionary struggle. No amount of AFP black propaganda against the people’s army and its leaders could deter its steady advance.

Rigoberto F. Sanchez
Merardo Arce Command
Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command
New People’s Army

Video From Al Jazeera Television

The New People's Army has been fighting for a communist state in Philippines since 1968 in a campaign that has cost more than 40,000 lives. In the first of two special reports from the island of Luzon, Al Jazeera's Marga Ortigas finds out why the fighting has been going on for so long.

Zamboanga street pole falls, workers rush repair to restore power

Workers rush to fix a fallen electrical post on Tuesday, June 30, 2009 in Zamboanga City in Mindanao. Electricity has been cut off in some areas in downtown Zamboanga, says
Betty Marquez, of the Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative.
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 30, 2009) – Workers were rushing Tuesday to fix a fallen electrical post in Zamboanga City in Mindanao and return power in many areas.

The wooden post broke and damaged three other electrical posts near the Port of Zamboanga, said Betty Marquez, of the Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative.

“We still don’t know why the pole broke, but it’s kind of old already. Workers are rushing up the repair so we can restore power in the area soon,” she told the Mindanao Examiner.

No was hurt when the pole fell, but Marquez said the electric cooperative will have to cope with the huge expenses brought about by the damages and the effects of it from their operations.

“The damages are really huge on our part. We have to replace or repair the fallen post and the three other damaged poles,” she said.

Several commercial banks nearby were also affected by the black out. (Mindanao Examiner)

Journalists visiting refugee shelters held by military in Mindanao

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 30, 2009) – Government troops briefly held Tuesday dozens of Filipino journalists who were on fact-finding mission in the strife-torn province of Maguindanao.

About 60 journalists from different outfits in Manila and Mindanao were stopped by army soldiers on a highway in Guindulungan town, scene of fierce fighting between military forces and Moro rebels. The area is also where soldiers allegedly burned houses owned by Muslim villagers.

“I don’t know why they are preventing us from inspecting villages affected by the fighting. This is a violation of the freedom of the press,” said Romy Elusfa, a freelance journalist.

He said soldiers stopped the journalists, but allowed other civilians to pass the village. GMA Television also reported that soldiers were insisting journalists get a clearance from the Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade headed by Colonel Medardo Geslani.

The journalists, who were on a convoy of eleven vehicles, were held for about an hour and eventually allowed them to go after news of the incident broke out and reached top military leaders in Manila.

Elusfa’s group is also schedule to inspect refugee shelters in Maguindanao to see the plight of those who fled their homes because of the strife.

Colonel Jonathan Ponce, a spokesman for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division in Maguindanao province, said the journalists were stopped because soldiers were clearing a road planted with improvised explosives on the village of Datu Piang near Guindulungan.

“It is for the safety of the journalist, soldiers have discovered explosives planted by rebels in Datu Piang and journalists can proceed after the area has been cleared,” Ponce said.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front last week said an army shelling hit a house and killed a woman and injured another in Guindulungan, an accusation strongly denied by the military.

Ponce insisted the attack was launched by rebels to discredit the military ahead of the three-day fact-finding mission by journalists from June 29 to July 2. The mission was organized by various nongovernmental and media organizations for journalists to see the situation and plight of war refugees in Mindanao.

Ponce also linked the organizer of the media fact-finding mission to the MILF.

“An NGO identified with the MILF invited media from Manila paying all expenses and pocket money,” Ponce said.

Ponce did not identify the NGO, but the mission was organized and supported by independent and credible groups - the Mindanao ComStrat and Policy Alternatives, MindaNews, Center for Community Journalism and Development, National Union of Journalists in the Philippines, Peace and Conflict Journalism Network, the Institute of War and Peace Reporting and the Oblate Media’s I –Watch and the Asia Foundation.

The MILF has previously accused the military of shelling civilian targets on suspicion rebels were hiding in the area. It also charged army of widespread human rights violations in the Muslim autonomous region where soldiers looted and torched civilian houses.

Some 31,000 people are in different refugee shelters in Maguindanao’s Datu Piang town alone and that at least 95 civilians, many of them children, had been killed since fighting between military and rebel forces began last year.

“The world's largest new displacement last year happened when 600,000 people fled fighting between the Army and rebel groups in the southern region of Maguindanao,” reported the Oslo-based Norwegian Refugee Council.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines also reported that representatives of nongovernmental and humanitarian organizations were being prohibited by the military from going to evacuation centers in the guise of protecting humanitarian workers from being caught in the crossfire.

Ponce denied all the accusations against the army and branded them as propaganda. (Mindanao Examiner)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Mindanao Examiner Television Week In Review June 21-27, 2009





Tawi-Tawi Province To Pass Environment Code; Boost Coral Triangle Preservation

The Coral Triangle.
TAWI-TAWI, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 29, 2009) - The provincial government of Tawi-Tawi has supported the creation of the Environment Code to promote principles of ecologically sustainable development and protection of the environment, especially the marine ecosystem.

Tawi-Tawi, which is in the southernmost part of the Philippines, is the center of the Coral Triangle also known as the apex of global marine diversity. The Environment Code is to take effect this month.

The provincial government also held a series of consultations with different municipalities, simultaneous with the launching of the Natural Resources Management Program in the towns of Bongao, Panglima Sugala, Sibutu and Sitangkai.

Several agencies and sectors like the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the media, participated in a three-day workshop on environment law.

Provincial Vice-Governor Ruby Sahali-Tan with an invitation from the US State Department, attended the International Observation Study Tour on Environment, from June 1 to 26. She is the sole representative of the Philippines in the event participated by Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Taiwan.

Being the center of the coral triangle, coral reefs in Tawi-Tawi plays two crucial functions to the larger ecology - as a spawning ground and nursery of diverse marine species and as corridor for migratory marine mammals, fish stocks and turtles.

The Coral Triangle is a geographical term referring to the waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste with an abundance of coral reef.

It is the most diverse marine environment in the world - listed by WWF as the top priority for marine conservation and the focus of its WWF Coral Triangle Program launched in 2007.

The Coral Triangle has been identified as covering more than 5.4 million square kilometers, with over 600 reef-building coral species which encompasses 75 percent of all species known in the world.

More than 3,000 species of fish live in the Coral Triangle, including the largest fish - the whale shark, and the living fossil coelacanths. (Amilbahar Mawallil and Dayang Babylyn Kano Omar)

Broadcaster shot dead in Southern Philippines

AGUSAN DEL SUR, Philippines - A radio broadcaster was shot dead by an unknown gunman in Agusan del Sur province, police said Monday.

Jonathan Petalvero, the 43-year-old host of a news commentary program on dxFM station in Bayugan town, was attacked by a gunman riding a motorcycle along a road here late Saturday, Bayugan police officer Johnny Orlanez said.

The motive for the attack was unclear, although residents said the victim had planned to run for public office in the municipal council in the May 2010 general elections.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists earlier this year said the Philippines was among several countries where media workers were murdered with impunity. (ABS-CBN / AFP)

Link: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/regions/06/29/09/broadcaster-shot-dead-agusan-del-sur-govt

2 killed Maguindanao bombing

Soldiers inspect a site in the village of Kitanggo in Maguindanao's Datu Saudi Ampatuan town where an improvised explosive went off Monday, June 29, 2009 killing two persons and wounding eight others. The Army's 6th Infantry Division has blamed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for the bombing, an accusation strongly denied by the rebel group. (Mindanao Examiner Photo by Mark Navales).

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 29, 2009) – Two people were killed on Monday and at least 8 others wounded in a bomb attack blamed by the military to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the restive Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao.

Colonel Jonathan Ponce, a regional army spokesman, said the powerful explosion occurred at around 6 a.m. near a market in Kitanggo village in town of Datu Saudi Ampatuan in Maguindanao province.

He said the explosion killed Malimpunok Nunokan, 65, and Tong Hadji Omal, 25.

“One of the dead was the courier of the bomb and a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s special operations group,” Ponce said without identifying the bomber.

It was unknown if the bombing was a suicide attack. Other reports said the improvised explosive was planted near a café.

Ponce the bomb was assembled from an 81mm mortar. “The series of IED bombings in central Mindanao are the handiwork of the special operations group of the MILF,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the blast, but the MILF denied it was behind the bombing and said soldiers planted the explosive as part of its campaign to discredit the rebel group.

“Villagers saw soldiers arrived in the area at dawn and there was an explosion several hours later,” Eid Kabalu, a senior MILF leader, told reporters.

The MILF, which is fighting the last three decades for self-determination in Mindanao, previously accused government soldiers as behind the spate of bombings and burning of houses in the province to discredit the rebel group. (Mindanao Examiner)

Philippines to export Muslim women to work as maids in Malaysia

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 29, 2009) – The Philippines is virtually selling its Muslim women to work as housemaids in Malaysia. This after Indonesia recently announced a temporary ban on sending domestic helpers to Malaysia after a recent case of maid abuse.

Malaysia’s New Straits Times reported on Monday reported that the Philippine government was ready to send up to 60,000 Muslim women from Mindanao who are willing to work as maids to fill a void left by Indonesians.

It quoted Malaysian Association of Foreign Maid Agencies (Papa) president Datuk Raja Zulkepley Dahalan as saying that Philippine embassy labor attaché Hassan Humdain had expressed sending Filipino housemaids at a recent meeting.

“Since we have reached an initial agreement, Papa will write to the Philippine Overseas Labor Office and the embassy to seek permission to bring in these maids. Papa plans to bring in maids from Davao City, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga and Batuan City on Mindanao Island,” Raja Zulkepley said.

He said about 10,000 non-Muslim maids, mainly from Luzon Island in the Philippines, are currently employed as maids in Malaysia. He said Papa was expanding its source of Muslim maids to the southern Philippines.

"Papa will start by bringing in about 500 to 600 Muslim maids from Mindanao every month. These maids are also fluent in English," he added.

He said the Philippine embassy had stipulated that non-member maid agencies must obtain a letter of approval from Papa. He said the Philippine government wanted to ensure that Filipinos were not brought in through illegal means.

Indonesia has been the main provider of domestic workers for Malaysia, but banned last week the sending of housemaids because of abuses by their employers.

The Philippine Embassy said it is confident that Filipino maids would be treated fairly in Malaysia. The Filipino maids are expected to receive some RM800 monthly wage.

Raja Zulkepley said maid agencies are free to take in Muslim maids from Mindanao following the rising cost of Indonesian maids.

He said there is a shortage of Indonesian maids as agents there charge between RM2, 000 and RM3, 000 as processing fees and are always complaining about the low the wages in Malaysia, the report said. (Mindanao Examiner)

Melissa Roxas: ‘Talking About What Happened Is Like Going Back to That Dark Place’

Melissa Roxas during the press conference in Los Angeles. (Courtesy: Bulatlat.com and http://www.arkibongbayan.org/2009/2009-06-June02-Melissa/melissaroxas.htm)
MANILA, Philippines — Filipino-American Melissa Roxas finally broke her silence and recounted her ordeal in the hands of the military.

Roxas and her two companions, Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Jandoc, were abducted in the afternoon of May 19 in sitio Bagong Sikat, barangay Kapanikian, La Paz town, in Tarlac, a province just north of Manila.

Roxas was freed after six days, followed by Juanito Carabeo. The family of Jandoc said he had texted them that he was already free but he has not been seen.

Speaking at a press conference in Los Angeles broadcast simultaneously online, Roxas read portions of her affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court. Her counsel filed a petition for writ of amparo before the Supreme Court days after her release. The Court of Appeals is still hearing the petition.

Roxas said her captors repeatedly interrogated and tortured her. She said she was also handcuffed to a bed.

They accused her of being a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) and that they were “instruments of God” whose mission was to bring communist rebels back to the fold of law. “My God does not torture people,” Roxas told them.

“Talking about what happened is like going back to that dark place,” Roxas said. She has been seeking medical treatment for the physical and psychological trauma she suffered.

Roxas, Jandoc and Carabeo were volunteer health workers preparing for a medical mission in Tarlac when they were abducted, according to Bayan in Manila.

Though she has not received threats since she came back to the United States, where she was born, Roxas said she continues to fear for the safety of Carabeo and Jandoc. “I have to live with that fear every day,” she said.

Roxas went back to the US to be reunited with her family there and to seek the treatment for the effects of the abduction and torture.

“I don’t want what happened to me to happen to any one else ever again,” Roxas said.


Reacting to the statement of the government lawyers that the abduction was stage-managed, Roxas said: “No amount of their lies or denials can deny the truth.”

Arnedo Valera, her lawyer in the US, said the Philippine government should be ashamed for their highly irresponsible and immoral remarks about Roxas’s case.

During the first hearing at the Court of Appeals last week, state prosecutors said the abduction was stage-managed by the victim. Earlier, the Philippine Human Rights Commission led by Secretary Eduardo Ermita claimed the incident was a mere fabrication.

“Melissa was tortured. That is a fact,” Valera said, adding that the Philippine government only wants to escape liability for claiming otherwise.

Valera said that instead of lying, the least the Philippine government should have done is to surface the abductors. “They know what they have done to Melissa,” he said.

“Instead of following the rule of law [on the case of Roxas], the rule of the jungle prevails,” the lawyer added.

Valera said they will seek before a US federal court punitive and compensatory damages against Roxas’s identified assailants or the Arroyo government in the absence of named assailants.

They will also file a private complaint before the US Department of State’s Human Rights Desk against the Philippine government for the violation of the fundamental rights of a US citizen. Valera said Melissa will also file complaints before the appropriate United Nations agencies for violations of the International Covenant Against Torture, the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

Roxas said she will be exercising all of her rights. She said she is willing to pursue the petition she filed in the Philippines even if that means she would have to appear in a Manila court.

Rhoda Ramiro, secretary-general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-US chapter said Roxas’s case is not isolated, noting the pattern of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and abductions in the Philippines.

Citing data from human-rights group Karapatan, Ramiro said that from 2001 to March 2009, there have been 1,017 victims of extrajudicial killings, 201 victims of enforced disappearances, 203 victims of abduction and 1,010 victims of torture.

Ramiro said state agents carried out these atrocities as part of the Arroyo administration’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya.

What is more infuriating, Ramiro said, is that the hard-earned taxes they pay to the US government is being used to commit abuses against Melissa and other victims of state-sponsored violence in the Philippines.

The US remains as the top source of military aid for the Philippines, where the US government keeps an undetermined number of troops for so-called military exercises in the south and elsewhere.
Critics have said these exercises have spawned numerous human-rights atrocities. (By Ronalyn V. Olea, Human Rights Watch / Bulatlat.com)

Link: http://www.bulatlat.com/main/2009/06/28/melissa-roxas-talking-about-what-happened-is-like-going-back-to-that-dark-place/

Basilan protocol for Influenza A(H1N1) sought

BASILAN, Philippines - While many hope it will not come, some believe it is just a matter of time that Influenza A(H1N1) will be coming to Basilan province. But how prepared are the Basileños in handling cases?

This was the main concern of some 50 participants during a recent forum on Influenza A(H1N1) organized by the Basilan Communicators Network (BASCOMNET) and the Department of Health-Center for Health and Development, Zamboanga Peninsula (DOH-CHDZP).

The participants, mostly member-agencies of the BASCOMNET have sought for a provincial protocol in managing cases of IA(H1N1) in Basilan. A protocol that will ensure full coordination among concerned agencies of government and medical team that will respond to a suspected case.

"This is what we are waiting from the Provincial Government to organize the soonest possible time," said DepEd Nurse Alex Anquillano. "At this time there is no existing task force or protocol in the province."

Anquillano disclosed that most of the schools were already given orientation about the virus, especially in Isabela City, through the initiative of the City Health Office, and that they are already starting to provide the necessary equipment and mechanisms in every school, unfortunately, Anquillano lamented the lack of funds and nurses.

The DOH National Center for Disease Prevention and Control has released its preparedness plan containing technical guidelines on various occasions, settings, and incidence. Since he is school-based, Anquillano only explained the preparedness plan for schools.

Nobody from the Provincial Health Office attended the forum.

Dr. Rufino Gaudiel of the Basilan General Hospital announced that throat swabbing is readily available in all hospitals in Isabela City in case symptoms of the virus would appear on individuals who had history of travel to areas known to be infected with the virus.

He advised the public, however, not to submit for swab test unless suspected cases are evident in the patient. This will also discourage panic, referring to some individuals who started to stock anti-flu medications. He strongly advise the public not to take Tamiflu if not inflicted with the IA(H1N1) virus.

Dr. Gaudiel gave a brief orientation about the virus and some updates from DOH on a national scene, and explained the preventive measures for individuals to remember. "Proper hand washing with soap and water is still our best defense against contracting viruses and diseases," he stressed.

He added that local hospitals can only do the testing. If a case is confirmed, the patient will be immediately vacated to Zamboanga City Medical Center where treatment will be administered for free. Representatives from the PhilHEALTH also confirmed the government’s assistance package to patients that will be inflicted with Influenza A(H1N1) virus.

Veterinary Doctor Erwin Jalao explained the difference between the current Influenza A(H1N1) and the swine flu. While both have the same H and N, it is at the core of the virus where lays the difference. Thus, the swine flu, i.e. for pigs, has an existing vaccine, for the Novel Influenza A (H1N1) in humans is still being developed.

The participants of the forum agreed to appeal for the local government’s immediate response to establish protocol in managing cases of Influenza A(H1N1) in Basilan. The BASCOMNET headed by Myra Alih expressed gratitude to Vice Governor Al-Rasheed Sakkalahul and Provincial Board Member Munap Pacio, chairman of the Sanguniang Panlalawigan's Committee on Health, for supporting the forum. (Rene Carbayas)

Pananalig sa Diyos, Sipag at Tiyaga Nagbunga! (Ang Tagumpay ni Edwin Alvarez Pantaleta ng Isabela City)

Edwin Alvarez Pantaleta.

ISABELA CITY, Basilan (Mindanao Examiner / June 29, 2009) – Patuloy na umaani ng papuri ang isang kilalang negosyante sa Isabela City sa Basilan province dahil sa magandang halimbawa sa lipunan at pagtulong nito sa mga mahihirap.

Si Edwin Alvarez Pantaleta ay kilalang pilantropo at likas na matulungin dahil na rin sa karanasan nito mula sa pagkabata na siyang humubog sa kanyang kadakilaan.

Malimit na hingan ng abiso ng mga lider ng ibat-ibang barangay sa Isabela si Edwin dahil sa malawak nitong kaalaman sa mga aspetong may kinalaman sa kalakal, sa pamamahala at iba pa.

Sa edad na 37 ay napatunayan na rin ni Edwin na ang pagsisikap at pagiging matiyaga ay mahalagang bagay sa bawat isa upang marating ang mga mithiin.

Bagama’t malaki ang tagumpay ni Edwin sa kanyang negosyo ay palagi naman nitong pinasasalamatan ang Panginoon na siyang gumagabay sa bawat hakbangin na sinusuong – mula noon at hanggang ngayon.

Lingid sa kaalaman ng iba ay galing sa isang maralitang pamilya si Edwin Pantaleta.

Ang ama ni Edwin na si Timoteo Salazar Pantaleta ay isang magsasaka at ang inang si Angelina Rollano Alvarez ay labandera naman at sa edad na 2 ay nagkahiwalay ang mga magulang nito. Ngunit hindi naging hadlang ito o ang kahirapan ng pamilya upang marating ni Edwin ang kanyang mga pangarap.

Mistulang pelikula diumano ang buhay ni Edwin, ayon sa mga kaibigan, dahil na rin sa makulay na istorya ng buhay nito.

Tubong-Isabela City si Edwin Pantaleta – ipinanganak ito nuong Enero 23, 1972 sa Barangay Binuangan. Nagtapos ito ng elementarya, high school at college sa Isabela at may bachelor’s degree – isang tanyag na accountant rin si Edwin.

Naalala pa nga ni Edwin na nuong nag-aaral pa ito ay butas na sinelas at sapatos ang tanging gamit. “Sa Sirin(Sunset) kami nakatira noon at mula elementary hanggang kolehiyo ay tiyaga talaga ang naging gabay ko. Rain or shine noon ay talagang pumapasok ako sa paaralan – walang baon at walang magarang gamit na tulad ng mga iba. Yun mga kaklase ko nga ay hinahatian ako ng kanilang baon dahil wala nga talaga akong pagkain,” salaysay pa ni Edwin.

“Mula Grade 1 hanggang Grade 4 ay net bag nga ang gamit ko at ang tanging laman nito ay pad paper, minsan nga eh wala pa at humihingi lang ako sa mga kaklase ko sa Isabela East Central Elementary School, pero hindi naman ito naging hadlang sa kagustuhan kong makapag-aral,” dagdag pa ni Edwin.

Naalala pa nga ni Edwin na naging ka-batch pa nito ang artistang si John Estrada sa Isabela Pilot Elementary School na kung saan ay doon ito lumipat ng Grade 5 at doon na rin nagtapos.

“Nuong high school naman ay nasa special section ako – yun ‘try out class’ kung tawagin – at naka short pants nga lang ako noon butas pa rin ang sapatos,” wika nito at natawa pa ng maalalang ang naturang butas na sapatos rin ang kanyang ginamit ng mapili bilang isang soccer player ng paaralan.

Nang 4th year high school naman si Edwin ay namasukan rin ito bilang janitor ni Bishop Jose Ma. Qurexeta na kung saan nga ay isang cook ang ina nito. At lumipat na nga ng bahay si Edwin at nanirahan sa Barangay Sunrise.

“Doon ko na rin nakita kung gaano karaming mga maralita ang nagpupunta kay Bishop Qurexeta upang humihingi ng tulong, kaya ngayon ay gusto ko rin makapaglingkod at tumulong sa mga mahihirap na kababayan ko sa Isabela dahil alam ko kung gaano kahirap ang mamuhay ng wala,” ani Edwin.

Likas ang angking talino ni Edwin at 3rd year college pa lamang ito ng makapasa sa sub-professional level ng Civil Service examination nuong 1992.

Matagumpay rin natapos ni Edwin ang kanyang Post Graduate studies sa Ateneo de Zamboanga at mayroon rin itong Master’s Degree in Business Administration, bukod sa pagiging scholar ng Land Bank of the Philippines - National Scholarship for Development (NSFD). Naging scholar rin ito ng PESFA dahil sa matataas na grado at may cash gift pa sa tuwing makakakuha ng grading hindi bababa sa 1.5 o 95%.

Likas na masipag si Edwin – namasukan ito sa Land Bank of the Philippines at doon ay nanungkulan mula 1994-2007 bilang Agrarian Operations Specialist. Naging academic instructor rin si Edwin sa Claret College of Isabela.

Sa kasalukuyan ay siya ang tumatayong General Manager ng Basilan Country Development Cooperative. At bukod sa mga tagumpay sa edukasyon at larangan ng kalakal, ay isa rin commander (Chief of Finance) sa Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary-CGADSWM District si Edwin Pantaleta.

Ibat-ibang mga samahan at organisasyon rin ang hinahawakan ni Edwin sa kasalukuyan at patunay lamang ito sa kanyang husay at dedikasyon sa trabaho at tungkulin.

Ang ilan sa mga ito ay ang Jessica Hills Homeowners Association na kung san ay siya ang pangulo; gayun rin sa Basilan Football Association, Rotary Club of Basilan –SMPHF; BCHS/BNHS Alumni Association (Auditor), Prelature of Isabela (Extra Ordinary Communion Minister), Worldwide Marriage Encounter (WME) - Ecclesial Couple (Basilan Satellite) at INTELCEPT.

Si Edwin rin ang nagtatag ng Lapaz Youth Organization sa Isabela at naging volunteer pa ng Philippine National Red Cross at ilang mga religious organizations.

Kabilang rin sa mga accomplishments ni Edwin ay ang pag-organisa nito ng mga kooperatiba sa bayan ng Sumisip, Lamitan City at Isabela City sa Basilan.

Isinalaysay rin ni Edwin sa Mindanao Examiner ang kanyang karanasan sa buhay at ito rin ang nagsisilbing gabay sa maraming mga taong naniniwala sa kanya.

“Mahirap ang naging buhay ko noon dahil sa murang edad pa lamang ay naghiwalay na ang aking mga magulang. Dalawang taon yata ako noon ng maghiwalay ang aking ama’t ina sa kadahilang sila lamang ang makakasagot.”

“Kaming magkakapatid na Cristina at Rosella, Melvin, Pacita at Zenaida at Jaime ay napunta sa ama, samantalang ang isa namin kapatid na si Godelia ay nasa ina naman,” ani Edwin.

Sinabi pa ni Edwin na sa edad 5 ay tinutulungan na nito ang kanyang ama sa pagsasaka at iba pang gawain sa copra.

“Naalala ko pa nga na yun sakahan ay hindi namin lupain. Ngunit after two years, kinuha ako ng aking ina at pinag-aral naman. Natatandaan ko rin kung gaano kalayo ang aking nilalakad upang mangahoy at mamitas ng mga saging para maluto at maipagbili at makaipon ng perang pangbigas at ulam - siguro halos dalawa’t kalahating kilometro ang layo ng aking nilalakad bitbit ang mga saging at kahoy na panggatong,” wika pa ni Edwin.

Namulot rin ng basura si Edwin – mga plastic at bote – at ibinibenta ito sa junk shop upang makadagdag sa gastusin ng kanyang pamilya.

“Pati nga yun mga tuyo at daing na nalaglag sa lupa ng mga bularan ay inaamut ko na rin para may ulam kami dahil hindi nga kasya ang perang kinikita ni Nanay sa paglalaba. Talagang mahirap ang buhay na dinanas ko. Sipag at tiyaga lang talaga ang aking gabay. Nuong nagaaral nga ako sa high school ay short pants lang ang gamit ko kasi hindi namin kayang bumili ng pantaloon na uniporme, ngunit sa awa naman ng Diyos ay nakaraos rin at napili pa akong maging player ng soccer nuong 3rd year sa Basilan National High School,” kwento pa ni Edwin.

Pinasok rin nito ang pagiging kargador at truck man sa mga proyekto ni Bishop Jose Ma. Querexeta. Paulit-ulit na inamin ni Edwin na sa kabila ng matinding kahirapan sa buhay ay nagpumulit itong mag-aral at magtrabaho upang marating ang kanyang pangarap.

“Kahit mahirap at walang pera ay sige lang ako at hindi ito naging hadlang sa akin dahil gusto ko talagang makatapos at makapagtrabaho upang matulungan ang aking pamilya. Sabi ko nga sa aking sarili ay balang araw maiaahon ko rin sa kahirapan ang aking pamilya at nakatuon ako sa pangarap na yan at sa tulong ng Diyos ay naabot ko ang aking pangarap,” dagdag pa ni Edwin.

Nuong Nobyembre 1995 ay ikinasal si Edwin kay Naomi Anguet Casinillo, ng Barangay Begang sa Isabela City rin at mula noon ay nagsikap silang dalawa upang makipag-ipon. Ibat-ibang mga negosyo ang pinasok nina Edwin at Naomi - mula mga ready-to-wear clothes hanggang sa copra at goma upang maitaguyod naman ang sariling pamilya at kinabukasan ng limang anak na sina Eunice, 13; Ednico, 12; Earl Jan, 7; Ed Daniel, 5; at Emerly Naomh, 2.

Ngayon ay isa ng tanyag na civic leader at matagumpay na negosyante si Edwin Pantaleta. May mga scholars na rin itong pinagaaral sa Claret bilang ganti sa kabutihan ng Panginoon sa kanya. Anong tanging hangad na lamang nito ay kapayapaan, kaunlaran at kasaganaan ng Isabela.

“My positive outlooks in life enabled me to successfully battle and win over the difficulties, and embark on bountiful activities that would benefit my family and the community I live in and most of all …the poor. The greatest rapture of my life is to see a well-transformed city and better Isabela – my beloved home and people,” pangwakas pa ni Edwin. (Mindanao Examiner Feature)

Bomb blast kills 1, injures 7 in Maguindanao province

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sarangani villagers march for peace

Villagers gather at the Malapatan municipal park in Sarangani province in the southern Philippines during a pace rally Sunday, June 28, 2009. Citizens say they want peace and progress and rejected violence. One person was killed and 32 others wounded in a recent grenade attack in Sarangani's Maasim town. The military has blamed Moro Islamic Liberation Front for the attack, an accusation strongly denied by the rebel group which is fighting for independence in the troubled South. (Photo by Cocoy Sexcion / Text by the Mindanao Examiner)

7 cops killed in Basilan ambush

BASILAN, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 28, 2009) – Gunmen ambushed a police patrol on Sunday and killing seven on a remote village in the troubled province of Basilan in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Senior Superintendent Salik Macapantar, the Basilan police chief, said one civilian informant was also injured in the attack that occurred at around 2 p.m. in the village of Lower Benengbengan in Sumisip town.

He said among those killed in the ambush was a police officer of the 1520th Provincial Mobile Group.

“Seven of my brave policemen were killed in the ambush. One civilian who is helping us in intelligence was also wounded in the attack. There is an operation going on. We are tracking down the ambushers,” Macapantar told the Mindanao Examiner.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Macapantar said either the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group or Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels could be behind it.

“We still do not know who were behind the attack – it could be the Abu Sayyaf or Moro rebels,” he said.

On Saturday, unidentified gunmen also killed two soldiers in an attack just outside an army camp in Tipo-Tipo town near Sumisip.

The two had just bought a cigarette from a store outside their camp when gunmen attacked them. The soldiers were members of the 55th Engineering Brigade deployed in Basilan to repair dilapidated schools. (Mindanao Examiner)

2 soldiers killed outside army base in Basilan province

ISABELA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 28, 2009) – Unidentified gunmen killed two soldiers in an attack just outside an army camp in the restive province Basilan in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said two had just bought a cigarette from a store outside their camp in Tipo-Tipo town when gunmen attacked them late Saturday.

“We are still investigating the attack. We don’t know who were behind the attack,” First Lieutenant Steffani Cacho, a regional military spokeswoman, told the Mindanao Examiner.

Cacho did not release the soldiers’ names or say if they were armed or not at the time of the attack. She said the victims were members of the 55th Engineering Brigade deployed in Basilan to repair dilapidated schools.

But police identified the slain soldiers as Technical Sergeant Luciano Abcede and Private First Class Danny Salian.

“We have sent police forces to hunt down the attackers. We don’t know the motive of the killings. Investigation is going on,” said Senior Superintendent Salik Macapantar, the provincial police chief.

Tipo-Tipo is a known lair of Moro rebels blamed for many attacks on security forces. US troops are also deployed in Basilan and helping local soldiers in various humanitarian missions. It was not immediately known whether American forces are also deployed in Tipo-Tipo.

Basilan is one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao and a stronghold of various rebel groups, including the most violent al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf and the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front. (Mindanao Examiner)

Reds vow justice for abducted Filipino activist

Photos of victims of extra-judicial killings and abducted political activists during an interfaith rally in the Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 28, 2009) – Communist rebels vowed to exact justice against government soldiers tagged as behind the abduction of a peasant activist Jonas Burgos in the Philippines.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) also condemned Filipino leader Gloria Arroyo for promoting three military officials allegedly involved in the disappearance of Burgos in April 2007.

“Arroyo's promotion of lieutenant colonels Noel Clement, Melquiades Feliciano and Edison Caga to full colonel only shows how she rewards fascist scoundrels who carry out with impunity her policy of state terrorism. She has demonstrated her complete disdain of human rights.”

“The promotion of these three military officers is in outright contempt of the aggrieved family, friends and advocates to the cause of Jonas Burgos,” the CPP said in a statement.

It said the three officials belong to the Philippine Army's 56th Infantry Battalion based in Bulacan’s Norzagaray town.

“They have been directly named as respondents in the habeas corpus case filed by the Burgos family. The pieces of evidence against the three include the license plate TAB 194 of a jeep impounded at their headquarters in Norzagaray. The license plate was seen attached to the van used in the abduction of Burgos,” the CPP said.

“The revolutionary forces will not tire in their efforts to achieve justice. Sooner or later, these fascists will pay for their crimes,” the CPP said.

The NPA is fighting the past four decades for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country. (Mindanao Examiner)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Badjaos build replica of Balangay, embark on epic voyage

Replica of the Balangay and some members of the Badjao team. (Courtesy: Agatep Associates Inc.)

TAWI-TAWI, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 27, 2009) - A group of Badjaos from the southern Filipino province of Tawi-Tawi have painstakingly built a replica of one of the oldest seafaring vessels in human history to sail around the world.

The boat builders are led by a professor at the Mindanao State University Jubail Muyong, who hails from the town of Sibutu and a retired school teacher, Hadji Musa Malabong from the island of Sitangkai. They constructed a 15 by 3-meter sized replica of the historic Balangay, a boat excavated in Agusan del Norte’s Butuan City in 1978.

The Balangay was carbon dated and is said to be somewhere around 320 AD.

The construction of the replica took a total of 41 days which started in April this year at the harbor side of the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Pasay City.

Former Transportation Undersecretary Art Valdez, who initiated the idea of building the replica of the Balangay, is also the same man who spearheaded the endeavor that put Filipino climbers on top of Mount Everest in 2006.

Valdez and his team - the Kaya ng Pinoy Inc. - envision sailing the oceans using pre-colonial navigation by following the positions of the sun, the stars, and cloud formations, patterns of the waves, the directions of the wind and the migrations of birds.

During the construction of the Balangay, the team also considered the weather and the shape of the moon in their navigation, saying it will bring good luck and good voyage.

The boat builders also used tools and materials that were made from wood.

Valdez first thought that not too many people knew what a Balangay was. So he decided to find people who could help him trace the story behind the Balangay and look for people who could execute and construct the boat basing from the original one.

Valdez’s determination led him to the islands of Sibutu and Sitangkai in Tawi-Tawi, where the ancient technique of building boats is still alive.

The Badjaos, who played a big part in the ambitious sea adventure, used the same ancient building technique and method of construction as the Balangay of the 4th, 13th and 14th century A. D. - plank built, lashed lug, edge pegged and shell-first construction.

Along with Muyong and Malabong were Ibrahin Abdula, Mohammad Nur Usman, Abdul Gammar Abdula, Sukrie Jauhal and Asgali Murah Jr. who are all skilled boat builders and native of Sibutu and Sitangkai.

Valdez said the Badjaos’participation in the project will put things into its right perspective - shaping the image of the Badjaos as great shipbuilders with rich and colorful tradition and culture.

The members of the Philippine Everest team - Leo Oracion, Erwin Emata, Noelle Wenceslao, Carina Dayondon, Janet Belarmino-Sardena, Dr Ted Esguerra, Fred Jamili and Dr Voltaire Velasco also comprised the core group of the Balangay expedition. The rest of the team will be composed of master sailors, academicians and scientists.

Balangay had its maiden launch Saturday and another plan is to sail it through the Pasig River to support a clean-up project. After which, the Balangay will sail thru 67 ports from Manila to the tip of Mindanao in a voyage that will take about 8 months. Sailing mostly during daytime with a speed between 4-6 knots depending on prevailing wind conditions, the boat will travel along the coast with an alternating crew of 18 personnel.

Team Balangay will also conduct medical missions and visits schools and hold lectures and forums, video showing, visits to archeological, cultural, and tourism sites while on port. After sailing the Philippine Archipelago, the Balangay will have its navigation around Southeast Asia this year and to Polynesia and Madagascar in 2011 and across the Atlantic and onward to the Pacific in 2012 and returning home in 2013.

Valdez stressed that the Balangay voyage will showcase and challenge Filipino ingenuity and native survival skills in this modern age by using natural seafaring technology.

“The Balangay will become the catalyst to stir up historical consciousness among Filipinos today, a sine qua non in transporting our people to our cherished goals. Without that keen knowledge of history, our people will continue to suffer as our national hero, Dr Jose Rizal, aptly described, “Ang taong hindi lumilingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa patutunguhan,” said Valdez. (By Amilbahar S. Mawallil and with additional information from Agatep Associates Inc.)

Sulu on its way to peace and progress

Sulu's Tourism Campaign Poster

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 27, 2009) – Provincial governor Sakur Tan said more development and infrastructure projects have been lined up for different areas in Sulu, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.

Tan also urged farmers and fishermen in different municipalities in the province to form themselves into cooperatives so they can avail of government loans and more support to fisheries and agricultural programs.

He said although many groups have already formed into cooperatives, there are still more opportunity for the locals to start their own and eventually become self-sustaining.

“We are strongly advocating and promoting cooperatives throughout Sulu. We want everybody to enjoy the benefits of having cooperatives and pursue a sustainable livelihood programs,” Tan told reporters.

He also encouraged local women to organize cooperatives in their localities and help in nation building. “We have equal rights in Sulu. Our women are hardworking and intelligent and they can become good leaders too, just like our hardworking Vice Governor Lady Ann Sahidulla and the others in the private and business sectors,” Tan said. "We are on our way to peace and progress and all we need is to sustain our gains."

Tan said the provincial government is also pursuing more programs and projects on agricultural, education and health, community development and people empowerment, as part of Sulu’s peace and development agenda. Infrastructure and other humanitarian projects are also continuing in Sulu, he said.

Many local farmers have also resorted to planting coffee beans from the traditional cassava because of its competitive prices and high market demands. Tan said the demand for Sulu’s Arabica and Robusta coffee beans is high because of its good quality and distinct aroma.

Aside from coffee beans, Sulu is a supplier of abaca ropes, marine products, rubber and copra. The province is also abundant in fruits such as durian and mangosteen berries, among others. (Mindanao Examiner)

Mindanao bombing leaves 9 wounded

KIDAPAWAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao / June 27, 2009) – At least 9 people were injured Saturday in a fresh attack blamed by the Philippine military to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels in the restive region of Mindanao.

Colonel Jonathan Ponce, a spokesman for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said rebels detonated an improvised explosive planted at a commuter bus depot in Tacurong City.

“Nine people were injured in the blast and two of them are in critical condition,” he said.

Ponce quickly blamed the MILF and tagged a rebel leader Abdul Basit Usman as behind the attack, even as police is still investigating the blast. “The special operations group of the MILF under Basit Usman is behind this bombing,” he said.

The MILF strongly denied the accusations and urged police authorities to investigate the latest bombing.

“We have nothing to do with the bombing of the bus terminal. Police should investigate whether this (attack) was connected to extortion or business rivalry,” said Eid Kabalu, a senior MILF leader.

No group or individual claimed responsibility for the explosion, but previous attacks on bus terminals had been largely blamed by the police to extortion syndicate called the Al-Khobar gang.

In April, a powerful bomb explosion also ripped through a commuter bus in Koronadal City and wounding at least 6 people. Scores of people were also killed and wounded in bus depot bombings in Mindanao in recent years. (With a report from Geo Solmerano)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Filipinos mourn death of 'Pop King' Michael Jackson

A newspaper editor, Jung Francisco, in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines, gets updates Friday, June 26, 2009 on news of Michael Jackson’s death. The “King of Pop” died in Los Angeles after a massive heart attack Thursday. Local fans mourn Jackson’s death.
MANILA, Philippines - House Speaker Prospero Nograles on Friday joined the world in mourning the death of “King of Pop” Michael Jackson.

“Today, I join the world in mourning the passing of Michael Jackson who left behind a legacy that made this world a better place to live in. He was one of my Concert King idols who transcended race and color and united the world of music. His sudden death is indeed shocking and saddening,” said Nograles.

Nograles said Jackson’s legions of fans around the world will miss thepop icon and his music.

“We extend our love and sympathy to the family of Michael Jackson and join his fans and supporters in praying for his eternal repose. He will always be remembered for his contributions and legacy.”

Nograles said Filipinos had the privilege of watching the pop icon perform in Manila in 1996 which was part of Jackson’s History World Tour. “Filipinos are lucky enough to have a glimpse of him during his world tour.”

Nograles said the great admiration of Filipinos on Jackson have not ceased over the years and this became evident when 1,500 inmates of the Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in Cebu danced to the tune of his song "Thriller," which became an instant hit on Youtube.

“We are grateful for the great music and exceptional performances Michael shared with us during his lifetime. These will always inspire us in the years to come,” said Nograles. (Gil Bugaoisan)

Officials 'in denial' over Davao executions: CHR

MANILA, Philippines (ABS-CBN / June 26, 2009) - Top national and local government executives remain in denial over summary executions perpetrated by the alleged Davao Death Squads, the chief of the Commission on Human Rights said Friday.

CHR Chairwoman Leila de Lima said the vigilante-style murders of alleged criminals, drug dealers and even street children in Davao City is a rights issue that should be examined by the country's highest governing bodies.

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report earlier recorded 124 vigilante-style killings in Davao last year with an additional 33 killings reported in January 2009.

“Apparently, concerned officials are still in the state of denial on what’s really happening in Davao. It is of course understandable at this point. For one, the ‘goings on’ there is already a `public knowledge’ especially to the residents. But who is brave enough to expose himself knowing that his and his family’s life is on the line?" she said during a briefing of an inter-agency group formed to investigate the killings.

De Lima said the idea of forming DDS Task Force came from Philippine National Police chief Director General Jesus Verzosa when he appeared in the first of the CHR public hearings in Davao City last March.

Presided by De Lima herself, the DDS Task Force includes representatives from the Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Philippine Drugs Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), Department of National Defense (DND), Human Rights Affairs Office of both the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

De Lima said the CHR has achieved several breakthroughs after interviewing witnesses and informants in the last three public inquiries it conducted in Davao City. She said the commission will conduct two more public hearings in Davao City and a final one at the CHR Central Office before it issues a resolution on the murders.

“DDS is no laughing matter and we maintain that it exits. Our priority now is witness protection for those who have cooperated and still to cooperate,” she said.

A 103-page report, "You Can Die Anytime," by the New York-based international group Human Rights Watch (HRW) earlier said the killings are not due to gang wars and that the death squad members are targeting even non-petty criminals.

The report belies the claim of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and other local government officials that the killings may be due to gang wars. Davao Death Squad exists and it is a structured organization of about 500 members, the report said.

“Death squads exist in spite of the denials. This report should lay to rest the myth that somehow the killings are committed by gang wars. Nobody can credibly deny the existence of a death squad,” HRW executive director Kenneth Roth said in a press conference in Manila. (ABS-CBN)

Link: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/regions/06/26/09/officials-denial-over-davao-executions-chr

Philippine military awards P5.75 million to informants

Marine Colonel Andre Costales hands over Friday, June 26, 2009 reward money to one of four masked informants who helped the military capture five al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf and New People’s Army rebel leaders during a brief ceremony at the Western Mindanao Command headquarters in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines. Costales awarded P5.75 million to the four informants. Manila has offered P100 million in reward money for the capture of known Abu Sayyaf commanders and the United States, which is helping the Philippine military defeat terrorism, also offered as much as $10 million for the capture of Abu Sayyaf leaders. Both Abu Sayyaf and the New People’s Army are in the US list of foreign terrorist organizations. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Jung Francisco)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 26, 2009) - The Philippine military on Friday awarded more than five million pesos reward to four men who helped security forces capture or killing of six Filipino terrorists in Mindanao.

Marine Colonel Andre Costales handed some P5.75 million to masked informants at the Western Mindanao Command headquarters in Zamboanga City. The informants did not speak to journalists and were whisked away by their military escorts after getting the bounties.

Costales said the rewards given to the informants for the capture of Abu Sayyaf terrorists Jul Asbi Julmaani, Ustadz Wahab Upao, Ting Adil, Ronnei Ahadjaji, Mubin Hayudini and Wenefredo Ramirez, of the communist rebel group New People’s Army.

“This activity is part of the government’s continuing efforts to bring about peace and development to the country through the direct participation of the community,” he said.

Upao, a sub-leader of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group, was tagged as among those who killed a kidnapped US citizen Guillermo Sobero in 2001 in Basilan province and the murder of a Filipino Catholic priest Rey Roda in Tawi-Tawi province in 2008. And also the kidnapping of dozens of students and teachers in Basilan also in 2001.

Upao, a founding member of the Abu Sayyaf, was captured in his hideout in Zamboanga City in 2001, but jumped bail until he was tracked down and eventually killed by soldiers in a firefight last year in Tawi-Tawi.

The military also said that Ahadjadi, Hayudini, Julmaani and Adil were involved in many bombings in Mindanao and kidnappings, including American missionary Charles Walton in Sulu province in 1993 and the 21 Asian and European holidaymakers who were taken from the Malaysian island resort of Sipadan and US missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham and Sobero at a Filipino resort in Palawan province.

While Julmaani was linked to the kidnappings in January this year of three Red Cross workers in Sulu province – Swiss national Andreas Notter, Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba and Italian Eugenio Vagni. Both Notter and Lacaba had been freed by the Abu Sayyaf, but it continues to hold Vagni and would only release him in exchange for a huge ransom.

And Adil, an explosives expert, is also a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, had fought in Afghanistan in 1987 and later trained in Pakistan and finished a four-year course in Arabic Jurisprudence at the Al-Farouk University in Islamabad. Adil, who was involved in many bombing activities in central Mindanao, had also been arrested in Zamboanga City in January this year. (With a report from Jung Francisco)

Military links MILF to mortar attacks in Mindanao province; ties NGO to rebel group

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 26, 2009) – The Philippine Army on Friday has linked Moro rebels on a mortar attack that killed a civilian in Maguindanao province the troubled Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao.

One woman was also injured in the attack late Wednesday in the village of Binangga, said Colonel Jonathan Ponce, a spokesman for the 6th Infantry Division.

A report by television network ABS-CBN said the mortar shell landed in a house near the town of Guindulungan where security forces are battling Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels.

The victim, Guiarria Enoc, was killed and her sister Vanessa blamed the military for the attack.

Ponce insisted the attack was launched by rebels to discredit the military ahead of a scheduled fact-finding mission by a group of journalists from June 29-July 2. The mission was organized by various nongovernmental and media organizations for journalists to see the situation and plight of war refugees in Mindanao.

“The mortar round came from the rogue MILF (members) as preparation for the upcoming fact-finding mission of the invited Manila-based journalists to put the blame on the military in order to destroy its image and credibility,” Ponce told the Mindanao Examiner.

The victim’s sister said another mortar shell exploded about four meters away from their house. She said civilians were often victims of human rights violations by government soldiers.

ABS-CBN also said troops prevented their news team from going to other villages where military shelling had been reported.

Ponce said the rebels also launched mortar attacks on the headquarters of the 64th Infantry Battalion in the village of Kabingi in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town, also in Maguindanao, but there were no military casualties.

“At the same night, at about 242230, the battalion headquarters of 64 IB …was subjected by enemy mortar fires and 8 rounds coming from 81mm mortar exploded in the camp perimeter with negative casualty and damage of property on the government side,” he said.

Ponce also linked the organizer of the media fact-finding mission to the MILF

“The mortar round that exploded in the village of Binangga was deliberately done by the rogue MILF. An NGO identified with the MILF invited media from Manila paying all expenses and pocket money,” Ponce said.

Ponce did not identify the NGO, but the mission was organized by independent and credible groups - the Mindanao ComStrat and Policy Alternatives, MindaNews, Center for Community Journalism and Development, National Union of Journalists in the Philippines, Peace and Conflict Journalism Network, the Institute of War and Peace Reporting and the Oblate Media’s I –Watch.

The MILF has previously accused the military of shelling civilian targets on suspicion rebels were hiding in the area. It also charged army of widespread human rights violations in the Muslim autonomous region where soldiers looted and torched civilian houses.

Some 31,000 people are in different refugee shelters in Maguindanao’s Datu Piang town alone and that at least 95 civilians, many of them children, had been killed since fighting between military and rebel forces began last year.

“The world's largest new displacement last year happened when 600,000 people fled fighting between the Army and rebel groups in the southern region of Maguindanao,” reported the Oslo-based Norwegian Refugee Council.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines also reported that representatives of nongovernmental and humanitarian organizations were being prohibited by the military from going to evacuation centers in the guise of protecting humanitarian workers from being caught in the crossfire.

Ponce denied all the accusations against the army and branded them as propaganda.
(Mindanao Examiner)

Boy abducted in Cotabato City

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 26, 2009) – Unidentified gunmen men seized a four-year old boy in Cotabato City in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said the boy, John Kyle Chiongson, was snatched at around 4.30 p.m. near his house. No group claimed responsibility for the abduction.

“He was abducted by four armed men who fled on a black get-away car towards Sultan Kudarat town. We have ordered check points and police and military are tracking down the abductors,” said Colonel Jonathan Ponce, a spokesman for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division.

Ponce said the gunmen could be members of a kidnap-for-ransom gang. “The abductors are believed members of a kidnap-for-ransom group,” he said.
Two previous kidnappings in Cotabato City this year had been largely blamed to the Pentagon Gang. (Mindanao Examiner)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mortar attack sa Maguindanao, ibinintang ng Army sa mga rebelde; NGO iniugnay sa MILF

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 25, 2009) – Mariing itinanggi ngayon ng militar na may kinalaman ito sa pagsabog ng mortar na ikinasawi ng isang sibilyan at pagkasugat ng isa pa sa lalawigan ng Maguindanao.

Ibinato naman ni Colonel Jonathan Ponce, tagapagsalita ng 6th Infantry Division, ang bintang sa Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) ang sala at sinabing mga rebelde ang nasa likod ng atake upang siraan ang militar dahil sa umano’y paparating na fact-finding mission ng mga media mula sa Maynila.

“The mortar round came from the rogue MILF (members) as preparation for the upcoming fact-finding mission of the invited Manila-based journalists to put the blame on the military in order to destroy its image and credibility,” pahayag pa ni Ponce.

Naunang inulat ng ABS-CBN na napatay sa pagsabog ng mortar si Guiarria Enoc ng Barangay Binangga sa bayan ng Guindulungan. Naganap umano ang pagsabog nuong Miyerkoles ng gabi ng tamaan ng mortar mula sa army ang bahay nito, ayon sa kapatid na si Vanesaa Enoc.

Isa pang mortar ang sumabog halos apat na metro lamang ang layo sa naturang bahay.

"Sinasabi nila na calculated nila ang pagapaputok ng mortar. Hindi na kami naniniwala," ani Vanessa sa panayam ng ABS-CBN news team. "Kaya kami tumira dito kasi alam naming ligtas kami dito. Walang rebels dito sa aming barangay."

Isinumbong rin ni Vanessa ang pagumit ng militar sa mga inosenteng sibilyan sa operasyon nito laban sa MILF.

Inulat naman ng ABS-CBN na hindi pinayagan ng mga sundalo ang kanilang team na magtungo sa ibang mga barangay sa nasabing bayan matapos na makarining ng malalakas ng pagsabog mula sa air strikes ng mga eroplano ng Philippine Air Force.

Pinigil umano ng 46th Infantry Battalion ang news team dahil diumano sa siguridad sa lugar.

Ilang beses na rin inakusahan ng MILF ang militar ng pambobomba sa mga lugar ng sibilyan at sa pagsunog ng maraming kabahay ng mga Muslim sa Maguindanao.

Itinanggi rin ito ni Ponce at sinabing ng sumabog ang mortar na ikinamatay ng sibilyan ay pinaulanan naman ng mga rebelde ang kampo ng 64th Infantry Battalion sa Barangay Kabingi sa Datu Saudi Ampatuan. Wala naman inulat an sugatan o nasawi sa atake.

“At the same night, at about 242230, the battalion headquarters of 64 IB …was subjected by enemy mortar fires and 8 rounds coming from 81mm mortar exploded in the camp perimeter with negative casualty and damage of property on the government side.”

“The mortar round that exploded in the village of Binangga was deliberately done by the rogue MILF. An NGO (nongovernmental organization) identified with the MILF invited media from Manila paying all expenses and pocket money,” ani Ponce.

Hindi naman pinangalanan ni Ponce ang NGO, subalit ibat-ibang grupo ng mga media organizations ang nakatakdang magtungo sa Maguindanao upang siyasatin ang sitwasyon ng mga war affected communities sa lalawigan mula Hunyo 29-Hulyo 2.

Ang nasabing aktibidad ay binuo ng mga kilalang organisasyon tulad ng Maguindanao ComStrat and Policy Alternatives, ang MindaNews, Center for Community Journalism and Development, National Union of Journalist in the Philippines, Peace and Conflict Journalism Network, at ng Institute of War and Peace Reporting.

Tinatayang aabot sa mahigit 6,200 pamilya o halos 31,000 evacuees ang nasa bayan ng Datu Piang sa Maguindanao dahil sa kaguluhan at may inulat ng 95 sibilyan ang nasawi, kabilang ang 40 mga bata.

“The world's largest new displacement last year happened when 600,000 people fled fighting between the Army and rebel groups in the southern region of Maguindanao,” ayon naman sa ulat ng Oslo-based Norwegian Refugee Council.

Talamak rin ang human rights violation at maging mga food aid sa refugees ay hinaharang rin sa Maguindanao. At hindi pinapayagan ng militar ang mga NGOs na magtungo sa mga lugar na kung saan ay may mga refugee shelters sa di-pa malinaw na kadahilanan. (Mindanao Examiner)

Sibilyan, patay sa pagsabog ng mortar sa Maguindanao

COTABATO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / June 25, 2009) – Isang sibilyan na naman ang nasawi sa pambobomba diumano ng militar sa magulong lalawigan ng Maguindanao na kung saan ay patuloy ang opensiba ng pamahalaan kontra Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Nakilala ang biktima na si Guiarria Enoc ng Barangay Binangga sa bayan ng Guindulungan. Naganap umano ang pagsabog nuong Miyerkoles ng gabi ng tamaan ng mortar mula sa army ang bahay nito, ayon sa kapatid na si Vanesaa Enoc.

Isa pang mortar ang sumabog halos apat na metro lamang ang layo sa naturang bahay.

"Sinasabi nila na calculated nila ang pagapaputok ng mortar. Hindi na kami naniniwala," ani Vanessa sa panayam ng ABS-CBN news team. "Kaya kami tumira dito kasi alam naming ligtas kami dito. Walang rebels dito sa aming barangay."

Isinumbong rin ni Vanessa ang pagumit ng militar sa mga inosenteng sibilyan sa Operasyon nito laban sa MILF.

Inulat naman ng ABS-CBN na hindi pinayagan ng mga sundalo ang kanilang team na magtungo sa ibang mga barangay sa nasabing bayan matapos na makarining ng malalakas ng pagsabog mula sa air strikes ng mga eroplano ng Philippine Air Force.

Pinigil umano ng 46th Infantry Battalion ang news team dahil diumano sa siguridad sa lugar.

Ilang beses na rin inakusahan ng MILF ang militar ng pambobomba sa mga lugar ng sibilyan at sa pagsunog ng maraming kabahay ng mga Muslim sa Maguindanao. Itinanggi naman ito ng 6th Infantry Division. (Mindanao Examiner)

Gunmen kill senior health official in Mindanao

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 25, 2009) – A senior Filipino health official was gunned down and his daughter injured in an attack in Davao City in the southern Philippines, police said on Thursday.

Police said Dr. Rogelio Penera and his 15-year old daughter were in a car and on their way home from work when two motorcycle gunmen chased them and shot the victims near their house at around 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Police said Penera, the head of the Department of Health’s Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit in southern Mindanao, rammed his car on a wall while trying to elude the gunmen.

“Doctor Penera and his daughter were chased by the gunmen who caught up with them after his car rammed a wall near their house in Countryville Executive Homes. We still don’t know the motives of the attack,” Senior Superintendent Ramon Apolinario, chief of the Davao City police, said in an interview Thursday with radio network dzRH.

“Doctor Penera’s daughter was slightly wounded,” he said, adding the gunmen escaped after the shooting.

The attack occurred near a police precinct, but cops were not able to immediately respond to the shootings. Apolinario said he would investigate the policemen assigned at the precinct.

Davao is one of the most dangerous places in Mindanao with hundreds of unresolved summary executions and extrajudicial killings in recent years. But authorities blamed gang war as behind the murders mostly of ex-convicts and petty criminals. (Mindanao Examiner)

AHRC joins International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission on the occasion of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on June 26, 2009.

ASIA: Working against torture fundamental to human rights work. The practice of torture is endemic in Asia, and the region’s governments show no political will to eliminate it.

In fact, states treat torture as a necessary aspect of social control, directly or indirectly approving the practice. The clearest indication of the states’ unwillingness to eliminate torture is the refusal to criminalise the practice, as well as the inadequate implementation of laws against torture.

In most Asian countries, civil society has also not shown sufficient interest or commitment to press for the elimination of torture. The International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, June 26, should be an occasion to seriously reflect on the failures in Asia to eliminate this unacceptable and cruel practice.

Since its inception, the Asian Human rights Commission (AHRC) -- a regional human rights organisation committed to the promotion and protection of human rights--has focussed its attention on the issue of torture prevention in Asia.

In the coming years, particularly the next one year, the AHRC will campaign for the criminalisation of torture in Asian states. The campaign will be formally launched on June 26. The following reflections on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture are based on the information gathered by the AHRC over several years of work.

Torture is practiced by law enforcement agencies in the region as a crude shortcut for criminal investigation. Law enforcement agencies function with the belief that the deterrence quotient against a crime is the possibility of being tortured, rather than the crime being detected and punished in the legal process. Custodial torture and other forms of violence are used by the state for social control, with torture as one of the most common forms of punishment.

Torture neither promotes democracy nor supports the rule of law. On the contrary, torture and its open or clandestine use undermine the fundamentals of democratic governance. States in the region allow law enforcement agencies, particularly the police, to practice torture.

The police being one of the most visible presences of the state, its directives are permeated into society through fear. In some countries this fear is so immense that obtaining a confession does not require torture; a suspect in custody admits anything and everything required by the police in fear for his life. Criminal investigation in most Asian countries begins and ends with a confession. Fair trial has no place in such an environment.

The practice of torture is not limited to policing. Paramilitary and military units and other agencies around the region also resort to torture, often brutal. Whether torture is practised by a military detachment or by the local police, the possibility for a victim of torture to complain does not exist in many Asian states.

The absence of witness protection laws, proper investigation mechanisms including medico-legal facilities, and prosecution mechanisms, render complaint making suicidal for a victim. This allows torture to also be used for blackmailing, as a form of revenge and for monetary gain.

In the past four years, there have been attempts by countries inside and outside the region to form alliances to engage in torture. Countries where torture is criminalised have entered into clandestine pacts with countries where the practice is a routine phenomenon, to detain and question individuals using torture. Of particular relevance are torture cells run by military dictatorships or governments subjugated by the military in Asia, to detain and question individuals of foreign as well as domestic origin.

Prolonged periods of detention and extreme forms of torture are the unique characteristics of these torture centres. Often such centres are manned by foreign troops or run under the supervision of foreign states. Some of these non-Asian entities have in the past been champions of anti-torture campaigns.

Their engagement in torturing suspects and often outsourcing torture cells to certain Asian states has made a severe dent in international efforts to condemn and campaign against torture.

The trend of condoning torture in the name of national security has encouraged many Asian states to consciously refuse to recognise that torture is a crime against humanity, or to have a legal framework against torture.

On the contrary, Asian states are increasingly providing statutory protection and impunity for state agents to engage in torture. States are fielding criticisms by juxtaposing critiques with fake nationalism.

The practice of torture remains the central defect in protecting, promoting and fulfilling human rights in the region. From the standpoint of state responsibility to protect, promote and fulfil human rights, the fight against torture is an important component of human rights work. In essence, human rights work is engaging in a dialogue with the state, reminding the state of its responsibility to serve the people and identifying its failures in meeting people's demands.

In most of Asia, states notoriously attempt to reduce the space for this dialogue by instilling fear, largely through law enforcement agencies. By using law enforcement agencies as a tool in this way, the state engages in a counter dialogue with citizens, reminding them it has the means to silence dissent and enforce its writ.

Enforced silence nurtures resistance. In the absence of a democratic framework where common humanity and equality are the key principles, resistance movements look to other elements for cohesion and identity. In many Asian states these elements have been religion or political ideology rooted in violence.

For a silenced community, violence becomes the liberator, with individuals finding commonness in the fight against the oppressor. The state then resorts to impunity for its agents using torture and other means of violence to fight back. This cycle of violence only reduces the space for peaceful dialogue.

Working against torture is thus crucial to enlarging the space for democratic dialogue. Human rights work in the region and globally has yet to appreciate this fact. In fact, the challenges of campaigning against torture -- including individual activists confronting omnipresent state agencies -- often prevent human rights groups from working on this key issue.

Fighting torture involves walking with the victim, encouraging the victim to speak and finding means for their speech to be heard, often in an environment where redress is remote. In most Asian countries, attempts to speak or amplify the voice of the victim face stiff opposition.

The work against torture in Asia has thus been reduced to advocating international norms and standards, while ignoring the reality that these norms and standards have no meaning in countries where even minimum human rights protection does not exist. In countries where laws addressing torture exist, they may not cover the universally accepted definition of torture.

Or, the victims do not have safe mechanisms through which to complain or obtain witness protection. In other countries, the possibility of impartial investigations, prompt prosecutions and proportionate punishments are limited or non-existent.

As a result, the few attempts by domestic mechanisms to address torture are easily subjugated and court decisions not followed. The open dismissal of judicial directives in this manner creates the perception that the state and its agencies are above the law.

By criminalising torture and bringing a torture perpetrator within the realm of accountability and punishment, the biting teeth of the state are blunted, enlarging the space for dialogue. In fact, the governments of Asia are fully aware of the potential of an anti-torture framework. Such a framework will however, be detrimental to those in power as well as vested interest groups.

The prevention of torture and its consequent reform of law enforcement agencies have far-reaching effects. It is for this reason that most states are resistant to the implementation of any robust law concerning torture.

Twenty-two years since the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into force, most Asian states are yet to ratify the convention or have a functioning domestic legal framework to combat torture.

Their abstention in combating this brutal crime against humanity has reduced the space for democracy and the rule of law in their respective countries. By not attaching adequate importance to the work against torture, domestic and international human rights organisations have also failed to play their part in addressing this fundamental issue.

To begin a strong and serious campaign to eliminate torture in Asia, the AHRC makes the following recommendations:

1. Asian states should urgently consider eliminating torture and to therein carryout necessary reforms to their respective justice institutions. This should be reflected in legal frameworks, as well as the allocation of human and material resources;

2. The AHRC urges countries that have not yet ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and its Optional Protocol, to do so as a matter of priority. Upon ratification, governments must enact corresponding domestic legislation to guarantee that torture in all its manifest forms is recognised as a serious, punishable crime. Legislation should also provide victims with the possibility to obtain adequate compensation. Countries where domestic laws already exist should review and streamline the laws in accordance with the principles of the Convention;

3. Torture is directly linked to the policing systems in Asian states. To prevent police from relying on torture for criminal investigations, governments need to undertake thorough police reforms. These reforms should be geared towards creating credible civilian policing systems suitable for modern societies. Adequate budgetary allocations must be made to these ends;

4. All states are obligated to eliminate impunity. This means ensuring accessible complaint mechanisms, effective investigations by competent, independent and impartial investigators, and the prosecution of all offenders, particularly on complaints concerning torture. The funds necessary for investigation must be provided. Another important aspect in eliminating impunity is the application of command responsibility;

5. Training for law enforcement officers, the military and the judiciary must include information about the Convention and the states' treaty obligations. Superior courts should develop jurisprudence and guidelines relating to the elimination of torture as a priority. Subordinate courts need to be effectively guided and supervised on their obligation to punish the crime of torture;

6. Fair trial and torture cannot coexist. Legal professionals in Asia however, often condone torture or see it as the mere use of force, the reasonability of which is to be decided in a court of law. They need to be more informed of torture as a grave crime attracting universal jurisdiction;

7. Finally, the AHRC encourages civil society organisations throughout Asia to make the elimination of torture as their priority, irrespective of their current focus. A more visible role must be played by civil society, particularly human rights groups, in promoting the Convention regionally, as well as developing awareness on torture prevention as a key prerequisite to rule of law and democracy.