Friday, July 31, 2009

Sulu police capture 4 men linked to murder of civilian

Sulu police chief, Senior Superintendent Muhimuddin Ismail, and his forces surround four men who were implicated in the killing a civilian in the southern Philippine province on Thursday, July 30, 2009. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Nickee Butlangan)
SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 31, 2009) – Police captured four people who killed a man and stole his motorcycle in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, officials said.

Officials said the four – Nasser Asiri, Hajad Namli, Musimar Ismael and Umra Jawadi – were captured after police forces raided their hideout in the town of Maimbung on Thursday.

Police said the four men admitted killing Willie Mar Ajijul, 40, after stealing his motorcycle in Indanan town. The town’s police chief, Inspector Amil Baanan, also joined in the operation that led to the capture of the four.

“We are still investigating the four men and whether they have links with the Abu Sayyaf or plain criminals,” said Sulu police chief, Senior Superintendent Muhimuddin Ismail, who led the operations in Maimbung, after citizens tipped off the authorities about the suspects.

The Abu Sayyaf has previously used motorcycles rigged with explosives in its reign of terror in Sulu and Zamboanga City. (With a report from Nickee Butlangan)

State worker killed in North Cotabato ambush

NORTH COTABATO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 31, 2009) – Unidentified gunmen attacked and killed a worker of the state-owned irrigation project in the town of Carmen in North Cotabato province in the southern Philippines.

At least two gunmen were involved in the attack the killed the 44-year old worker of the Malitubog-Maridagao Irrigation Project of the National Irrigation Administration.

The victim was on his way home on a motorcycle when gunmen ambushed him Thursday evening in the village of Ugalingan. The victim came from Cotabato City where he followed up his salary loan.

Police said the man sustained gunshot wounds in the body. (Taher Solaiman)

Obama hails Philippine peace moves

President Gloria Arroyo during a meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington. (Photo by Jerry Carual)
The US president has praised the Philippine government for trying to restore peace in its volatile southern region.

Barack Obama made the comments when he hosted his Philippine counterpart Glorio Arroyo at the White House on Thursday.

Obama said Arroyo's move to begin a reconciliation process in Mindanao was essential to stop a conflict "that we think has the potential to bring peace and stability to a part of the Philippines that has been wracked by unrest for too long".

Obama also welcomed the Philippines' "strong voice" on other regional issues such as human rights abuses in Myanmar and North Korea's nuclear programme.
Military help

For her part, Arroyo, the first Southeast Asian leader to visit the US since Obama took office, thanked the US for economic assistance and its help with the Philippine armed forces.

"We are very thankful for the US as an important ally in helping to professionalise our military and making it more effective," she said.

"Just as important, we are thankful to the US for being such a good ally ... working on soft power, by helping us build bridges, roads, schools, not only in Mindanao, but across the nation."

Arroyo said that US help has enabled Manila to make progress in efforts towards a negotiated peace in Mindanao, where fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Abu Sayyaf hold bases.

"This assistance of the US has gone a long way in helping us to achieve what we have been able to achieve in the peace process in Mindanao, in southern Philippines, and also in our fight against terrorism," she said.

Arroyo also praised the Obama administration's stance on climate change. (Al Jazeera)


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Civilian wounded in Zamboanga grenade attack

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 30, 2009) – A grenade explosion injured a civilian in the southern Filipino port city of Zamboanga, police said.

Police said the attack occurred at around 9 p.m. on Wednesday in the coastal village called Mampang.

“This is a grenade throwing incident perpetrated by two men on a motorcycle,” said Senior Superintendent Amador Corpuz, the local police chief.

Corpuz said a 15-year old villager was wounded in the explosion. The motive of the attack was unknown, but police said the grenade was hurled at a house in the village.

No group or individual claimed responsibility for the attack, police said. (Mindanao Examiner)

Security forces capture bomber in southern Philippines

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 30, 2009) – Security forces captured Thursday a suspected bomber tagged as behind the spate of attacks in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said Mohammad Jaafar Maguid was captured after soldiers and policemen raided his hideout in the village of Daliao in Sarangani’s Maasim town at around 1 p.m.

“The arrested terrorist is a member of the lawless MILF group and is reportedly the mastermind of the blast in Maasim a month ago that killed one civilian and wounded 32 others,” said Captain Rose Maria Cristina Manuel, a spokeswoman for the Army’s 10th Infantry Division.

“Maguid is also being tagged as one of those who carried out the series of bombings in Maasim, Kiamba and Maitum towns that killed several civilians and wounded many others,” she added.

She said Maguid is also facing charges of murder, arson and robbery in the province.

Manuel said troops seized from Maguid one anti-tank rocket launcher, an M79 grenade launcher, a carbine rifle and magazine, a rocket-propelled grenade, a fragmentation grenade and a pair of binoculars, including materials and black powder used for the manufacture of improvised explosive devices.

She said security forces also recovered a cell phone which could be used as detonator to trigger explosion of homemade bombs, two cell phone charges, a radio transceiver and two pieces of 9-volt batteries.

Lieutenant Colonel Edgardo de Leon, who led the raid, said Maguid was a follower of wanted MILF leader Ameril Kato, who was behind a deadly attack in the province last year.

“With his arrest, the province would have relative peace and his victims will finally get justice,” he said.

Major General Reynaldo Mapagu, a regional army commander, praised the capture of Maguid and he appealed to citizens to help authorities fight terrorism by providing intelligence about lawless elements.

“The crusade against terrorism does not end here. We must unite as one nation and fight all threats to our national development. We call on our people, Muslims, Lumads (indigenous peoples) and Christians alike to join hands in making our community a safe place to live.”

“There is no better way to fight terrorism than understanding and communicating peacefully with each other. Together, let us create an atmosphere of mutual respect and sympathy so that we may journey towards lasting peace in our country,” Mapagu said.

There was no immediate statement from the MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group which is fighting the past three decades for self-determination. Manila has reopened peace talks with the MILF in an effort to end the bloody hostilities in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner)

Philippine Army hunt vs. MILF rebels continue

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

North Cotabato villages under water

Submerged villages of North Cotabato province in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Geo Solmerano)

NORTH COTABATO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 29, 2009) – Flash floods brought about by heavy rains since last week have submerged many areas in North Cotabato province in Mindanao.

More than 2,000 families were affected by the flooding in the towns of Pigcawayan, Libungan and Midsayap. Roads were impassable and rice paddies destroyed by rampaging flood water, although there had been no reports of casualties.

Weather experts said southwest monsoon are affecting Southern Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration on Wednesday said Southern Luzon and Visayas and Mindanao will continue to have rain showers and thunderstorms becoming widespread rains over the western sections of those areas which may trigger flash floods and landslides.

It also warned fishing boats and small sea crafts not to sail out because of huge waves and strong winds. (Geo Solmerano)

Philippines, MILF rebels back on negotiating table again

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Mindanao Examiner TV Week In Review July 19-25, 2009

Mindanao Examiner TV Week In Review July 19-25, 2009




Philippine Army says 152 rebels surrender in Mindanao

A photo released by the Philippine Army shows Major General Reynaldo Mapagu, commander of the 10th Infantry Division in Mindanao, hands over cheques to New People's Army rebels who surrendered Tuesday, July 28, 2009 to the military after a series of negotiations. The army says a total of 152 NPA rebels have surrendered the past six months in southern Mindanao region. (Mindanao Examiner)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 29, 2009) – Some 152 communist rebels have surrendered to the military in the southern Philippines the past six months after a series of negotiations, officials said Wednesday.

Army Captain Rosa Maria Cristina Manuel, a spokeswoman for the 10th Infantry Division, said the rebels, who were members of the New People’s Army, had also surrendered 32 assorted weapons, mostly rifles, and were provided livelihood aid as part of the government’s amnesty program.

“The former rebels who availed the government’s Social Integration Program ensures them of livelihood benefits that aims to help them return into the mainstream of the society and live with their families,” Manuel told the Mindanao Examiner.

Under the program, NPA rebels who surrender to the government will receive P20,000 each on top of P50,000 paid for their M16 rifle. Rebels are also given livelihood skills training and aid worth P50,000 for them to start their own business.

Major General Reynaldo Mapagu, aA regional army commander, urged rebels to surrender peacefully and avail of the government offer of amnesty for them to start a new life.

“We are moving forward towards peace and progress. This is the first step to the healing process and I am sure we are getting closer to achieving our goal of getting our brothers back into the folds of the law so that as one nation, we can jointly step forward to development.”

“We call on our brothers still on the mountains to go back into the folds of the law and give peace a chance. Our government is sincere in reaching out to them and we are waiting to give them the care and necessary help they need in order for them to enjoy a peaceful life with their families. We are all Filipinos and the only way for us to gain progress is to have lasting peace,” Mapagu said.

But Fidel Agcaoli, chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, has branded the Social Integration Program as a money-making scheme for corrupt military commanders.

“The so-called Social Integration Program is nothing but a money-making scheme for Armed Forces of the Philippines field commanders to buy their loyalty to the Gloria Arroyo regime and project through press releases the image of making strides in the regime's much vaunted objective of wiping out or rendering irrelevant the New People's Army by 2010,” Agcaoili said.

“These rebel returnees are actually local AFP agents and assets or civilians forcibly conscripted and coerced by the AFP to take part in elaborate surrender ceremonies and SIP graduation rites presided over sometimes by the fake president herself,” he added.

Agcaoili said the government allegedly spent P18.8 million last year for the bogus program. “In truth, the fake surrenderors retain only a little amount of that money while the huge chunk of the bounty goes to the pocket of field commanders and AFP officials," Agcaoili said.

The army spokeswoman denied Agcaoili’s accusation and branded them as propaganda to cover the truth about the surrender of many rebels to the government.

“There are a lot of process and safety measures in the granting of livelihood aid and assistance to the rebels who surrender to the military. We make sure that those who surrender are genuine members of the New People’s Army. All the funding released by the government for the Social Integration Program undergoes strict and regular audit procedures,” Manuel said.

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines is the political wing of the New People’s Army and the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines. The rebels have been fighting the past for decades for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country. (Mindanao Examiner)

Environment agencies tackle marine wildlife sanctuary issues in 2-day Tawi-Tawi meeting

A woman sells turtle eggs inside a ferry in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Jung Francisco)

TAWI-TAWI, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 29, 2009) – The Protected Area Management Board held a meeting in the Island of Baguan on the municipality of Turtle Islands in Tawi-Tawi province to asses and evaluate its programs and policies on the condition of marine wildlife sanctuary in the country.

The PAMB is a multi-sectoral body created to administer and manage protected areas. It is composed of representatives from various departments and agencies like the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Local Government Unit, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the World Wildlife Fund and tribal groups.

It also decides on the allocations of budget, approve proposals for funding and decide matters relating to planning, peripheral protection and general administration of the protected area.

Regional Director Maximo Dichoso, of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said the meeting held from July 23-25 tackled almost all issues and concerns, including the selling of lands that are covered by the National Integrated Protected Areas System Law.

The NIPAS law was enacted in June 1992 and provides for the establishment and management of protected areas in the Philippines.

The act serves as the legal basis for the "In Situ" conservation of biological diversity through the appropriate management of ecologically important areas for conservation and sustainable development.

The NIPAS law also serves to protect outstandingly remarkable areas and biologically important public lands that are habitats of rare and endangered species of plants and animals representative of biogeographic zones and related ecosystems.

There were four major activities that highlighted the two-day meeting - the tree planting activities spearheaded by the Taganak National High School, PAMB officials, residents and some officials of the Tubbataha Reef from Palawan; and the release of more than 500 hatchlings, that environmentalists say only 40 percent survives and the remaining 60 percent are secretly sold to neighboring countries like Malaysia; The Write-Shop; and the launching of the Natural Resources Management Program by the Tawi-Tawi Provincial Government.

A project proposal submitted by Turtle Islands’ Mayor Omarkhan Aripin is also at the wait-list. The project targets the establishment of a Fish Port Complex and Fishing Processing Plant that will create livelihood not only to the residents of Turtle Islands but also to the whole province of Tawi-Tawi.

Turtle Islands is located at the southwestern tip of Tawi-Tawi in the southern Philippines, about 1,000 km southwest of Manila.

Turtle Islands is on the edge of the international treaty limits separating the Philippines and Malaysia. It is composed of the islands of Boan, Lihiman, Langaan, Great Bakkungan, Taganak, and Baguan, which is situated south of Palawan, northwest of the Tawi-Tawi and northeast of Sabah, Malaysia.

Taganak, the largest island, has the highest point of land, which is approximately 148 meters above sea level. Langaan, the smallest island, is relatively flat and nested on an extensive coral reef platform.

Except for Langaan, the terrain of the islands is generally undulating to rolling, particularly at the northern end. A unique feature is the presence of "mud volcanoes," the most prominent of which is on Lihiman, where violent mud extrusions have formed a 20-meter crater on the hill at the northeast portion. Mud extrusions or volcanoes are also present on Bakkungan and Boan.

Five of the six islands have permanent residents, and on them the land cover in large areas is dominated by houses. Typical of other rural areas in the Philippines, human settlements are mixed with agriculture.

The relative dominance of the settlements is mainly due to the limited land area and the resulting high population density level, which is more than four times the national average. Natural land cover types are classified as wooded, mangrove, brush, grass and bare. Most of the areas used for agriculture are planted with coconut.

The seaweed and seagrass populations of the islands appear to be at their seral stages of development. Almost all species have some known economic value. Only those food species, when developed, are likely to be of immediate economic benefit to the local populations. (Amilbahar Mawallil and Dayang Babylyn Kano Omar)

ERAP: Takot Lang 'Yan Makulong!

MAYNILA - Tinawanan lang kahapon ni dating Pangulong Joseph Estrada ang pasaring na binitiwan kamakalawa ni Pangulong Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo laban sa kanya at pabiro pang sumagot na kabado lamang umanong makulong ang huli oras na matapos ang termino sa MalacaƱang.

“Malinaw na takot makulong ‘yan (Arroyo) kaya puro kasinungalingan ang kanyang SONA. Kahit sinong mamamayang Filipino ay ramdam ang kahirapan sa ilang taong kanyang panunungkulan dahil mas inuna ng adminsitrasyong ito ang pangungurakot kaysa ibigay ang nararapat sa mga nagdaraop na masa,” ani Estrada.

Ganito rin ang pananaw ni dating senador at tagapagsalita ng United Opposition (UNO) na si Ernesto Maceda.

“Apparently, GMA is admitting that she is afraid that she will be jailed,” ani Maceda, bilang reaksyon nito sa patutsada ni Arroyo kay Estrada na namuhay nang marangya habang nasa kulungan.

Si Estrada ang nabilanggo matapos mahatulan sa kasong plunder. Ito rin ang dahilan kaya’t napaaga ang alsa-balutan nito sa MalacaƱang sa kasagsagan noon ng EDSA Dos.

Sinabi pa ni Estrada na pinaikot-ikot lamang ni Arroyo ang mga pahayag sa binitiwang State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) gayong ang kailangan at gusto lang namang marinig ng sambayanan ay ang pamamaalam nito.

Maging ang pagbira sa kanila sa oposisyon ay pang-cover lang umano ni Arroyo sa mga tunay na isyung nakakulapol sa kanyang administrasyon.

“Hindi ko maintindihan. Sa lahat ng nabasa ko sa sinabi niya, dapat ideklara niya ang kanyang SONA na araw ng kasinungalingan. Hindi lang naman ako at ang oposisyon ang nagsasalita laban sa kanya ngunit ang ibang panig ng mundo halimbawa ang Transparency International, World Bank, United Nations at Reporters without Borders”, pahayag ng dating pangulo.

Simple naman ang naging pahayag ng anak ni Estrada na si San Juan Mayor JV Ejercito, “She can speak of whatever she believes in, but she needs to step down in 2010.”

Sa kanyang privilege speech naman sa Senado ay tinumbok din ni Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada ang matinding takot ni Arroyo na makulong pagbaba sa puwesto.

“Karagdagan dito ay ang kanyang inaakalang pananakot sa kanya ng pagkakakulong matapos ang kanyang panunungkulan. Bakit? Inaanim ba niya na siya ay may nagawang kasalanan sa taong bayan at kanyang winika ito kahapon (Lunes),” anang senador.

Sa halip naman na magalit ay ikinatuwa pa ni Sen. Mar Roxas ang pagkakapitik sa kanya ng Pangulo sa binitiwang SONA.

“Malaking karangalan ito na maging tinig, na maging mukha ng galit ng milyun-milyon nating kababayan, galit na hindi nila ginagawa ‘yung dapat nilang gawin,” diin ng senador.

Naniniwala naman si Anakpawis partylist Rep. Rafael Mariano na ginamit lang ni Arroyo na panakip-butas ang mga inatakeng taga-oposisyon para mailipat dito ang atensyon ng sambayanan at para idiin sa iba’t ibang kasalanan ang mga kritiko sa halip na aminin ang sariling mga pagkakamali at kasalanan sa bayan. (Abante / Nina JB Salarzon, Nonnie Ferriol, Rey Marfil, Boyet Jadulco at Bernard Taguinod)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Poverty situation in the Philippines

A family of scavengers search for plastic bottles and tin cans and the plight of street children remains the same the past years in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines. The Second Quarter 2009 Social Weather Survey, fielded over June 19-22, 2009, found the proportion of families experiencing involuntary hunger at least once in the past three months rising to 20.3% or an estimated 3.7 million families, from 15.5% or an estimated 2.9 million families in the previous quarter.

The new Hunger figure is just 3 points lower than the record-high 23.7% (or estimated 4.3 million families) in December 2008, and is 8 points above the ten-year average of 12.8%.

Hunger has consistently been in double-digits for five years, since June 2004.

The SWS measure of Hunger refers to involuntary suffering because the respondents answer a survey question that specifies hunger due to lack of anything to eat. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

Arrest killers of Filipino broadcaster, media watchdog urges RP authorities

Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities deploy all the resources needed to identify, arrest and punish the perpetrators and instigators of radio journalist Godofredo Linao’s murder.

Linao was gunned down yesterday in Barobo, in Surigao del Sur province, on the southern island of Mindanao.

“Linao is the fourth journalist to be killed in less than two months in the Philippines, in what was the third murder of this kind,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Many of these murders have taken place in Mindanao, which has become one of the most dangerous regions in the world for radio journalists.”

The press freedom organization added: “The government must react by assigning more resources to the special Task Force for crimes of violence against the press and must stop balking at the arrest of those who mastermind these murders.”

Linao, 49, was shot four times in the back as he was about to set off on his motorcycle at night yesterday.

Radyo Natin manager Mar Alvizo said Linao hosted a programme on controversial subjects that was called “Tinitira niya talaga” (With Comment) and a program called “Kapamilya Walang Iwanan” on Magic Love FM.

He was also provincial deputy governor Librado Navarro’s spokesman and hoped to be candidate in the next local elections.

The police are investigating the circumstances and motive, which was probably political.

Broadcaster killed in Mindanao

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 28, 2009) – Media groups have condemned the killing of a Filipino radio broadcaster in Surigao del Sur province in Mindanao region, south of the Philippines.

Police said Godofredo Linao Jr., 49, was shot at close range on Monday in the town of Barobo. Linao, a commentator for the Radyo Natin, was the sixth journalist killed in the country this year.

The motive of the attack was unknown, but police suspects the killing was connected to his work. Linao was a known hard-hitting journalist who had criticized politicians.

The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines condemned the murder.
The Philippines has been tagged as one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists. Dozens of journalists have been killed since 2001 in the country under President Gloria Arroyo’s watch, according to NUJP. (Mindanao Examiner)

Boy abducted in Basilan province

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 28, 2009) – Unidentified gunmen abducted a five-year old boy in Basilan province in the southern Philippines, security officials said on Tuesday.

Army First Lieutenant Steffani Cacho said the abductors seized Joven Aries dela Cruz at around 7 p.m. in front of their house in the village of Colonia in Lamitan City. “Two men on motorcycle abducted the boy in front of their house. Marines were tracking down the abductors,” she told the Mindanao Examiner.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the latest abduction, but previous kidnappings in the troubled province were largely blamed to Abu Sayyaf militants whose group has links with the Indonesian terrorist Jemaah Islamiya.

Early this month, security forces rescued two abducted fishermen after a firefight with suspected Moro rebels in Basilan, just several nautical south of Zamboanga City.

The two - Ronnie Nabi and Renante Saquien – were rescued in Akbar town after policemen, backed by soldiers stormed the village of Semut and clashed with the kidnappers.

The fishermen were abducted off Basilan in March after gunmen attacked their trawler and killed three of its crew.

In January, Abu Sayyaf gunmen also intercepted a small boat carrying state teachers off Zamboanga City and seized the trio and brought them by boat to Basilan and freed in May after private negotiators allegedly paid huge ransoms for their liberty.

More than two dozen civilians, including a Sri Lankan peace worker, were kidnapped for ransom and eventually freed in Basilan since early this year. (Mindanao Examiner)

Monday, July 27, 2009

2 soldiers killed, 6 others wounded in rebel ambush in Davao City

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 27, 2009) – Communist rebels ambushed a group of government soldiers on Monday and, killing two of them and wounding six more in Davao City in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said the rebels detonated a landmine as the soldiers were passing by the village of Lumiad in Paquibato district, a known stronghold of the New People’s Army.

Captain Rosa Maria Cristina Manuel, a spokeswoman for the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, said the soldiers were members of the 5th Scout Ranger Company who exhumed the remains of a rebel executed by the NPA’s Pulang Bagani Command under Leoncio Pitao.

“The cadaver was exhumed so we can give it a proper and descent burial on the request of the slain rebel’s family,” she said.

The ambush coincided with the President Gloria Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address and ahead of a schedule peace talks next month. The NPA, the armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines, is fighting the past four decades for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country.

The NPA said it would intensify attacks against government and military targets despite the resumption of the peace talks. Manila has no cease-fire agreement with the rebels. (Mindanao Examiner)

Philippine leader lashes out at critics during state of the nation address

Anti-Arroyo protesters hold a rally Monday, July 27, 2009 during President Gloria Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address. (AKP Images / Buck Photo)

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 27, 2009) – President Gloria Arroyo lashed out at her critics Monday as she delivered her last state of the nation address before a cheering crowd of allied lawmakers in Manila.

“I am accused of mis-governance. Many of those who accuse me of it left me the problem of their mis-governance to solve. And we did it. I am falsely accused, without proof, of using my office for personal profit. Many of those who accuse me of it have lifestyles and spending habits that make them walking proofs of that crime.”
”We can read their frustrations. They had the chance to serve this good country and they blew it by serving themselves. Those who live in glass houses should cast no stones. Those who should be in jail should not threaten it, especially if they have been there,” Arroyo said, referring to the opposition politicians led by ousted President Joseph Estrada.

Arroyo, who took over Estrada during a military-led revolution in 2001, boasted of her accomplishments, among them the country’s economy.

“Our administration, with the highest average rate of growth, recording multiple increases in investments, with the largest job creation in history, and which gets a credit upgrade at the height of a world recession, must be doing something right, even if some of those cocooned in corporate privilege refuse to recognize it,” she said.

She said in 2008 up to the first quarter of 2009, the Philippines stood among only a few economies in Asia-Pacific that did not shrink. “Compare this in 2001, when some of my current critics were driven out by people power, Asia was then surging but our country was on the brink of bankruptcy,” she said, adding the economy has posted uninterrupted growth for 33 quarters; more than doubled its size from $76 billion to $186 billion.

Arroyo said the average Gross Domestic Product growth from 2001 to the first quarter of 2009 is the highest in 43 years.

GDP is commonly used as an indicator of the economic health of a country, as well as to gauge a country's standard of living.

“Today the Philippines is weathering well the storm that is raging around the world. It is growing stronger with the challenge. When the weather clears, as it will, there is no telling how much farther forward it can go. Believe in it. I believe,” Arroyo further said.

She also mentioned about the government peace process in Mindanao and the prospects of resuming peace negotiations with the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the communist New People’s Army rebels.

“There is now a good prospect for peace talks both with both the Communist Party of the Philippines and the MILF, with whom we are now on ceasefire. We inherited an age-old conflict in Mindanao, exacerbated by a politically popular but near-sighted policy of massive retaliation. This only provoked the other side to continue the war.”

“There is nothing more that I would wish for than peace in Mindanao. It will be a blessing for all its people, Muslim, Christian and lumads (indigenous peoples). It will show other religiously divided communities that there can be common ground on which to live together in peace, harmony and cooperation that respects each other’s religious beliefs,” Arroyo said.

Arroyo also praised Saudi Arabia and King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud for granting clemency to hundreds of Filipino prisoners. And so were Sheikh Khalifa, the Prime Minister of Bahrain; and the Emir al-Sabah of Kuwait who commuted death the sentences of many Filipinos.

“We thank all the world leaders who have shown compassion to our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers),” she said.

She also said she would step down when her term ends in 2010. Arroyo was applauded by lawmakers.

But militant groups and indigenous people’s organizations also held simultaneous rallies and protest in Manila and some areas in Mindanao. They accused Arroyo of corruption and failing to uplift the living standards of the poor.

“We have heard Arroyo before make the SONA, and we have not heard her tell the truth about the situation of the Indigenous Peoples,” said Peter Duyapat, an Ifugao leader.

The protesters also held their own state of the indigenous peoples address in Manila.

“Under her administration, our lives have become harsher, as she has allowed foreign mining companies come and take our lands,” said Duyapat, who is opposing mining operations of the Oceania Gold, an Australian mining corporation in Nueva Vizcaya province.

“For the indigenous peoples, Arroyo leaves behind continued discrimination, rising human rights violations and legitimized land grabbing in the name of illusory development. This is her real legacy,” said Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, a legal and policy advocacy institution, closely working with the indigenous peoples.

In Mindanao, anti-Arroyo protesters led by the group called People’s Movement against Charter Change also held street rallies. Street rallies were also held in Zamboanga and Davao cities.

“No amount of rhetoric can mask what is truly happening in the country. Arroyo can go on and lie about accomplishments but the people are wise enough to know that the contrary is true,” said Michael Dumamba, spokesman for the Liga ng Kabataang Moro and a convener of the People’s Movement against Charter Change in Cotabato City.
Dumamba said Arroyo’s involvement in corruption charges and countless human rights violations best sum up her 9 years of presidency, adding that the people will always be appalled by her deceits and lust for power.

“It is a grave human rights violation yet we see no sign that the government will finally be heeding their plight,” he said. (Mindanao Examiner)

President Gloria Arroyo's State of the Nation Address

President Gloria Arroyo during her State of the Nation Address on Monday, July 27, 2009.
(Photos by Rey Baniquet)
President Gloria Arroyo's State of the Nation Address, Monday, July 27, 2009.

Thank you, Speaker Nograles, Senate President Enrile, Senators, Representatives, Vice President de Castro, President Ramos, Chief Justice Puno, Ambassadors, friends.

The past twelve months have been a year for the history books. Financial meltdown in the West spread throughout the world.

Tens of millions lost their jobs; billions across the globe have been hurt—the poor always harder than the rich. No one was spared..

It has affected us already. But the story of the Philippines in 2008 is that the country weathered a succession of global crises in fuel, in food, then in finance and finally the economy in a global recession, never losing focus and with economic fundamentals intact.

A few days ago, Moody’s has just announced the upgrade of our credit rating, citing the resilience of our economy. The state of our nation is a strong economy. Good news for our people, bad news for our critics.

I did not become President to be popular. To work, to lead, to protect and preserve our country, our people, that is why I became President. When my father left the Presidency, we were second to Japan. I want our Republic to be ready for the first world in 20 years.

Towards that vision, we made key reforms. Our economic plan centers on putting people first. Higit sa lahat ang layunin ng ating mga patakaran ay tulungan ang masipag na karaniwang Pilipino. New tax revenues were put in place to help pay for better healthcare, more roads, a strong education system. Housing policies were designed to lift up our poorest citizens so they can live and raise a family with dignity. Ang ating mga puhunan sa agrikultura ay naglalayong kilalanin ang ating mga magsasaka bilang backbone ng ating bansa, at bigyan sila ng mga modernong kagamitan to feed our nation and feed their own family..

Had we listened to the critics of those policies, had we not braced ourselves for the crisis that came, had we taken the easy road much preferred by politicians eyeing elections, this country would be flat on its back. It would take twice the effort just to get it back again on its feet—to where we are now because we took the responsibility and paid the political price of doing the right thing. For standing with me and doing the right thing, thank you, Congress.

The strong, bitter and unpopular revenue measures of the past few years have spared our country the worst of the global financial shocks. They gave us the resources to stimulate the economy. Nabigyan nila ang pinakamalaking pagtaas ng IRA ng mga LGU na P40 billion itong taon, imparting strength throughout the country and at every level of government.

Compared to the past, we have built more and better infrastructure, including those started by others but left unfinished. The Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway is a prime example of building better roads. It creates wealth as the flagship of the Subic-Clark corridor.

We have built airports of international standard, upgraded domestic airports, built seaports and the RORO system. I ask Congress for a Philippine Transport Security Authority Law..

Some say that after this SONA, it will be all politics. Sorry, but there’s more work..

Sa telecommunications naman, inatasan ko ang Telecommunications Commission na kumilos na tungkol sa mga sumbong na dropped calls at mga nawawalang load sa cellphone. We need to amend the Commonwealth-era Public Service Law. And we need to do it now..

Kung noong nakaraan, lumakas ang electronics, today we are creating wealth by developing the BPO and tourism sectors as additional engines of growth. Electronics and other manufactured exports rise and fall in accordance with the state of the world economy. But BPO remains resilient. With earnings of $6 billion and employment of 600,000, the BPO phenomenon speaks eloquently of our competitiveness and productivity. Let us have a Department of ICT..

In the last four years tourism almost doubled. It is now a $5 billion industry.

Our reforms gave us the resources to protect our people, our financial system and our economy from the worst of shocks that the best in the west failed to anticipate..

They gave us the resources to do reforms para palawakin ang suportang panlipunan and enhance spending power. For helping me raise salaries through joint resolution, thank you Congress.

Cash handouts give the most immediate relief and produce the widest stimulating effect. Nakikinabang ang 700,000 na pinakamahihirap na pamilya sa programang Pantawid Pamilya.

Our preference is to invest in projects with the same stimulus effects but also with long-term contributions to national progress..

Sa pagpapamahagi ng milyun-milyong ektaryang lupa, 700,000 na katutubo at mahigit isang milyong benepisyaryo ng CARP ay taas-noong may-ari na ng sariling lupa. Hinihiling ko sa Kongreso na ipasa agad ang pagpapalawig ng CARP, at dapat ma-condone ang P42 billion na land reform liabilities dahil 18% lamang ang nabayaran mula 1972. Napapanahon dahil it will unfreeze the rural property market. Ang mahal kong ama ang nag-emancipate ng mga magsasaka. Ii-mancipate naman natin ngayon ang titulo..

Nakinabang ang pitong milyong entrepreneurs sa P165 billion na microfinance. Nakinabang ang 1,000 sa economic resiliency plan. Kasama natin ngayon ang isa sa kanila, si Gigi Gabiola. Dating household service worker sa Dubai, ngayon siya ay nagtatrabaho sa DOLE. Good luck, Gigi.

Nakinabang ang isang milyong pamilya sa programang pabahay at palupa, mula sa PAG-IBIG, NHA, community mortgage program, certificates of lot awards, at saka yung inyong Loan Condonation and Restructuring Act..

Our average inflation is the lowest since 1966. Last June, it dropped to 1.5%. Paano nakamit ito? Proper policies lowered interest rates, which lowered costs to business and consumers.

Dahil sa ating mga reporma, nakaya nating ibenta ang bigas NFA sa P18.25 per kilo kahit tumaas ang presyo sa labas mula P17.50 hanggang P30 dahil sa kakulangan ng supply sa mundo. Habang, sa unang pagkakataon, naitaas ang pamimili ng palay sa mga magsasaka, P17 mula sa P11.

Dahil sa ating mga reporma, nakaya nating mamuhunan sa pagkain—anticipating an unexpected global food crisis. Nakagawa tayo ng libu-libong kilometro ng farm-to-market roads at kasama ng pribadong sector, natubigan ang dalawang milyong ektarya. Mga Badjao gaya ni Tarnati Dannawi ay tinuruan ng modernong mariculture. Umabot na sa P180,000 ang kinita niya mula noong nakaraang taon. Congratulations, Tarnati. We will help more fisherfolk shift to fish farming with a budget of P1 billion.

Dahi dumarami na naman daw ang pamilyang nagugutom, mamumuhunan tayo ng bago sa Hunger Mitgation program na nakitang mabisa. Tulungan nito ako dito Kongreso.

Mula noong 2001, Nanawagan tayo ng mas murang gamot. Nagbebenta na tayo ng mga gamot na kalahating presyo sa libu-libong Botika ng Bayan at Botika ng Barangay sa maraming dako ng bansa. Our efforts prodded the pharmaceutical companies to come up with low-cost generics and brands like RiteMed. I supported the tough version of the House of the Cheaper Medicine Law. I supported it over the weak version of my critics. The result: the drug companies volunteered to bring down drug prices, slashing by half the prices of 16 drugs. Thank you, Congressman Cua, Alvarez, Biron and Locsin..

Pursuant to law, I am placing other drugs under a maximum retail price. To those who want to be President, this advice: If you want something done, do it hard, do it well. Don’t pussyfoot. Just do it. Don't say bad words in public.

Sa health insurance, sakop na ang 86% ng ating populasyon.

Sa Rent Control Law ng 2005 hanggang 2008, hanggang sampung porsyento lang maaaring itaas taon-taon ang upa. Iyong kakapirma nating batas naglagay ng isang taong moratorium, tapos pitong porsyento lang ang maaaring itaas. Salamat, Kongreso..

Noong isang taon, nabiyayaan ng tig-P500 ang mahigit pitong milyong tahanan bilang Katas ng Pantawid Koryente para sa mga small electricity users..
Iyong power rates, ang EPIRA natin ang pangmatagalang sagot. EPIRA dismantled monopoly. But minana natin iyong power purchase agreements under preceding administrations, so hindi pa natin makuha iyong buong intended effect. Pero happy na rin tayo, dahil isang taon na lamang iyan. The next generation will benefit from low prices from our EPIRA. Thank you.

Samantala, umabot na sa halos lahat ng barangay ang elektrisidad. We increased indigenous energy from 48% to 58%. Nakatipid tayo sa dollars tapos malaki pa ang na-reduce pa iyong oil consumption. The huge reduction in fossil fuel is the biggest proof of energy independence and environmental responsibility. Further reduction will come with the implementation of the Renewable Energy Act.and the Biofuels Act..again, thank you.

The next generation will also benefit from our lower public debt to GDP ratio. It declined from 78% in 2000 to 55% in 2008. We cut in half the debt of government corporations from 15% to 7. Likewise foreign debt from 73% to 32%. Kung meron man tayong malaking kaaway na tinalo, walang iba kundi ang utang, iyong foreign debt. Past administrations conjured the demon of foreign debt. We exorcised it..

The market grows economies. A free market, not a free-for-all.

To that end, we improved our banking system to complement its inherent conservatism. The Bangko Sentral has been prudent. Thank you, Governor Tetangco, for being so effective. The BSP will be even more effective if Congress will amend its Charter..

We worked on the Special Purpose Vehicle Act, reducing non-performing loans from 18% to 4% and improving loan-deposit ratios..

Our new Securitization Law did not encourage the recklessness that brought down giant banks and insurance companies elsewhere and laid their economies to waste. In fact, it monitors and regulates the new-fangled financial schemes. Thank you, Congress..

We will work to increase tax effort through improved collections and new sin taxes to further our capacity to reduce poverty and pursue growth. Revenue enhancement must come from the Department of Finance plugging leaks and catching tax and customs cheats. I call on tax-paying citizens and tax-paying businesses: help the BIR and Customs spot those cheats…

Taxes should come from alcohol and tobacco and not from books. Tax hazards to lungs and livers, do not tax minds. Ang kita mula sa buwis sa alak at sigarilyo ay dapat pumunta sa kalusugan at edukasyon. Sa kalusugan, pondohan ang Philhealth premiums ng pinakamahihirap. Ponhodhan ang mas maraming classroom at computers...

Pardon my partiality for the teaching profession. I was a teacher..

Kaya namuhunan tayo ng malaki sa edukasyon at skills training..

Ang magandang edukasyon ay susi sa mas mabuting buhay, the great equalizer that allows every young Filipino a chance to realize their dreams.

Nagtayo tayo ng 95,000 na silid-aralan, nagdagdag ng 60,000 na guro, naglaan ng P1.5 billion para sa teacher training, especially for 100,000 English teachers. Isa sa pinakamahirap na Millennium Development Goals ay iyong Edukasyon para sa Lahat pagdating ng 2015, na nangunguhulugang lahat ng nasa edad ay nasa grade school. Halos walang bansang nakakatupad nito. Ngunit nagsisikap tayo. Binaba natin ang gastos ng pagpasok. Nagtayo tayo ng mga eskwela sa higit isang libong barangay na dati walang eskwelahan, upang makatipid ng gastos ng pasahe ang mga bata. Tinanggal natin ang miscellaneous fees para sa primary school.

Hindi na kailangan ang uniporme sa mga estudyante sa public schools.

We assist financially half of all students in private high schools..

We have provided 600,000 college and post-graduate scholarships. One of them Mylene Amerol-Macumbal, finished Accounting at MSU-IIT, went to law school, and placed second in the last bar exams--the first Muslim woman bar topnotcher. Congratulations.

In technical education and skills training, we have invested three times that of three previous administrations combined. Narito si Jennifer Silbor, isa sa sampung milyong trainee. Natuto siya ng medical transcription. Now, as an independent contractor and lecturer for transcriptions in Davao, kumikita siya ng P18,000 bawat buwan. Good job.

The Presidential Task Force on Education headed by Jesuit educator Father Bienvenido Nebres has come out with the Main Education Highway towards a Knowledge-Based Economy. It envisions seamless education from basic to vocational school or college..

It seeks to mainstream early childhood development in basic education. Our children are our most cherished possession. In their early years we must make sure they get a healthy start in life. They must receive the right food for a healthy body, the right education for a bright and inquiring mind—and the equal opportunity for a meaningful job..

For college admission, the Task Force recommends mandatory Scholastic Aptitude Tests. It also recommends that private higher education institutions and state universities and colleges should be harmonized. It also recommends that CHED will oversee of local universities and colleges. For professions seeking international recognition—engineering, architecture, accountancy, pharmacy and physical therapy—it recommends radical reform: 10 years of basic education, two years of pre-university, three years of university.

Our educational system should make the Filipino fit not just for whatever jobs happen to be on offer today, but also for whatever economic challenge life will throw in their way..

Sa hirap at ginhawa, ang ating overseas Filipinos ay pinapatatag ang ating bansa. Iyong padala nilang $16 billion noong isang taon ay record. Itong taon, mas mataas pa..

I know that this is not a sacrifice joyfully borne. This is work where it can be found—in faraway places, among strangers with different cultures. It is lonely work, it is very hard work..

Kaya nagsisikap tayong lumikha ng mga trabahong maganda ang bayad dito sa atin so that overseas work will just be a career choice, not the only option for a hardworking Filipino in search of a better life.

Meanwhile, we should make their sacrifices worthwhile. Dapat gumawa tayo ng mga mas malakas na paraan upang proteksyonan at palawak ang halaga ng kanilang pinagsikapang sweldo. That means stronger consumer protection for OFWs investing in property and products back home. Para sa kanila, pinapakilos natin ang Investors Protection Task Force.

Hindi ako nag-aatubiling bisitahin ang ating taong bayan at ang kanilang mga hosts sa buong mundo – mula Hapon.hanggang Brazil, mula Europa at Middle East hanggang sa American Midwest, nakikinig sa kanilang mga problema at pangangailangan, inaalam kung paano matulungan sila n gating pamahalaan—-by working out better policies on migrant labor, or by saving lives and restoring liberty.

Pagpunta ko sa Saudi, pinatawad ni Haring Abdullah ang pitong daang OFW na nasa preso. Pinuno nila ang isang buong eroplano at umuwi kasama ko.

Mula sa ating State Visit to Spain, it has become our biggest European donor. At si Haring Juan Carlos ay nakikipag-usap sa ibang mga bansa para sa ating mga namomoblemang OFW. Ganoon di si Sheikh Khalifa, ang Prime Minister ng Bahrain.

Pagpunta ko sa Kuwait, Emir al-Sabah commuted death sentences.

We thank all the world leaders who have shown compassion to our OFWs, Maraming salamat po.

Our vigorous international engagement has helped bring in foreign investment. Net foreign direct investments multiplied 15 times during our administration.

Our vigorous international engagement has helped bring in foreign investment. Net foreign direct investments multiplied 15 times during our administration. Kasama ng ating mga OFWs, they more than doubled our foreign exchange reserves. Pinalakas ang ating piso at naiwasan ang lubhang pagtaas ng presyo. They upgraded our credit because while the reserves of our peers shrunk our reserves grew by $3 billion.

Our international engagement has also corrected historical injustice. The day we visited Washington, Senator Daniel Inouye successfully sponsored benefits for our veterans as part of America’s fiscal stimulus package.

I have accepted the invitation of President Obama to be the first Southeast Asian leader to meet him at the White House, this week.

That he sought us the Philippines testifies to our strong and deep ties.

High on our agenda will be peace and security issues. Terrorism: how to meet it, how to end it, how to address its roots in injustice and prejudice—and most and always how to protect lives.

We will also discuss nuclear non-proliferation. The Philippines will chair the review of the nuclear weapons non-proliferation Treaty in New York in May 2010. The success of the talks will be a major diplomatic achievement for us.

There is a range of other issues we will discuss, including the global challenge of climate change, especially the threat to countries with long coastlines. And there is the global recession, its worse impact on poor people, and the options that can spare them from the worst.

In 2008 up to the first quarter of 2009 we stood among only a few economies in Asia-Pacific that did not shrink. Compare this in 2001, when some of my current critics were driven out by people power, Asia was then surging but our country was on the brink of bankruptcy.

Since then, our economy has posted uninterrupted growth for 33 quarters; more than doubled its size from $76 billion to $186 billion. The average GDP growth from 2001 to the first quarter of 2009 is the highest in 43 years.

Bumaba ang bilang ng nagsasabing mahihirap sila, mula 59% sa 47%. Kahit na lumaki ang ating populasyon, nabawasan ng dalawang milyon ang bilang ng mahihirap. GNP per capita rose from a Third World $967 to $2,051. Lumikha tayo ng walong milyong trabaho, an average of a million per year, much, much more than at any other time.

In sum:

1. We have a strong economy in a strong fiscal position to withstand political shocks.
2. We built new modern infrastructure and completed unfinished ones.
3. The economy is more fair to the poor than ever before.
4. We are building a sound base for the next generation.
5. International authorities have taken notice that we are safer from environmental degradation and man-made disasters.

As a country in the path of typhoons and in the Pacific Rim of Fire, we must be as prepared as the latest technology permits to anticipate natural calamities when that is possible; to extend immediate and effective relief when it is not….The mapping of flood- and landslide-prone areas is almost complete. Early warning, forecasting and monitoring systems have been improved, with weather tracking facilities in Subic, Tagaytay, Mactan, Mindanao, Pampanga.

We have worked on flood control infrastructure like those for Pinatubo, Agno, Laoag, and Abucay, which will pump the run off waters from Quezon City and Tondo flooding Sampaloc. This will help relieve hundreds of hectares in this old city of its age-old woe.

Patuloy naman iyong sa Camanava, dagdag sa Pinatubo, Iloilo, Pasig-Marikina, Bicol River Basin, at mga river basin ng Mindanao.

The victims of typhoon Frank in Panay should receive their long-overdue assistance package. I ask Congress to pass the SNITS Law.

Namana natin ang pinakamatagal ng rebelyon ng Komunista sa buong mundo.

Si Leah de la Cruz isa sa labindalawang libong rebel returnee. Sixteen pa lang siya nang sumali sa NPA. Naging kasapi sa regional White Area Committee, napromote sa Leyte Party Committee Secretary. Nahuli noong 2006. She is now involved in an LGU-supported handicraft livelihood training of former rebels. We love you, Leah!

There is now a good prospect for peace talks both with both the Communist Party of the Philippines and the MILF, with whom we are now on ceasefire.

We inherited an age-old conflict in Mindanao, exacerbated by a politically popular but near-sighted policy of massive retaliation. This only provoked the other side to continue the war.

In these two internal conflicts, ang tanong ay hindi, “Sino ang mananalo?” kundi, bakit ba kailangang mag-away ang kapwa Pilipino tungkol sa mga isyu na alam ng dalawang panig over issues na malulutas naman sa paraang demokratiko.

There is nothing more that I would wish for than peace in Mindanao. It will be a blessing for all its people, Muslim, Christian and lumads. It will show other religiously divided communities that there can be common ground on which to live together in peace, harmony and cooperation that respects each other’s religious beliefs.

At sa lahat ng dako ng bansa, kailangan nating protektahan an gating mamamayan kontra sa krimen -- in their homes, in their neighborhoods, in their communities. How shall crime be fought? Through the five pillars of justice. We call on Congress to fund more policemen on the streets.

Real government is about looking beyond the vested to the national interest, setting up the necessary conditions to enable the next, more enabled and more empowered generation to achieve a country as prosperous, a people as content, as ours deserve to be.

The noisiest critics of constitutional reform tirelessly and shamelessly attempted Cha-Cha when they thought they could take advantage of a shift in the form of government. Now that they feel they cannot benefit from it, they oppose it.

As the process of fundamental political reform begins, let us address the highest exercise of!

In 2001, I said we would finance fully automated elections. We got it, thanks to Congress.

At the end of this speech I shall step down from this stage, but not from the Presidency. My term does not end until next year. Until then, I will fight for the ordinary Filipino. The nation comes first. There is much to do as head of state—to the very last day.

A year is a long time. Patuloy ang pamumuhunan sa tinatawag na three E’s ng ekonomiya, environment at edukasyon. There are many perils that we must still guard against.

A man-made calamity is already upon us, global in scale. As I said earlier, so far we have been spared its worst effects but we cannot be complacent. We only know that we have generated more resources on which to draw, and thereby created options we could take. Thank God we did not let our critics stop us.

As the campaign unfolds and the candidates take to the airwaves, I ask them to talk more about how they will build up the nation rather than tear down their opponents. Our candidates must understand the complexities of our government and what it takes to move the country forward. Give the electorate real choices and not just sweet talk.

Meanwhile, I will keep a steady hand on the tiller, keeping the ship of state away from the shallows some prefer, and steering it straight on the course I set in 2001.

Ang ating taong bayan ay masipag at maka-Diyos. These qualities are epitomized in someone like Manny Pacquiao.Manny trained tirelessly, by the book, with iron discipline, with the certain knowledge that he had to fight himself, his weaknesses first, before he could beat his opponent. That was the way to clinch his victories and his ultimate title: ang pinakadakilang boksingero sa kasaysayan.Mabuhay ka, Manny!

However much a President wishes it, a national problem cannot be knocked out with a single punch. A president must work with the problem as much as against it, and turn it into a solution if I can.

There isn’t a day I do not work at my job or a waking moment when I do not think through a work-related problem. Even my critics cannot begrudge the long hours I put in. Our people deserve-a-government that works just as hard as they do.

A President must be on the job 24/7, ready for any contingency, any crisis, anywhere, anytime.

Everything right can be undone by even a single wrong. Every step forward must be taken in the teeth of political pressures and economic constraints that could push you two steps back-if-you flinch and falter. I have not flinched, I have not faltered. Hindi ako umaatras sa hamon.

And I have never done any of the things that have scared my worst critics so much. They are frightened by their own shadows.

In the face of attempted coups, I issued emergency proclamations just in case. But I was able to resolve these military crises with the ordinary powers of my office. My critics call it dictatorship. I call it determination. We know it as strong government.

But I never declared martial law, though they are running scared as if I did. In truth, what they are really afraid of is their weakness in the face of this self-imagined threat.

I say to them: do not tell us what we all know, that democracy can be threatened. Tell us what you will do when it is attacked.

I know what to do.

I know what to do, as I have shown, I will defend democracy with arms when it is threatened by violence; with firmness when it is weakened by division; with law and order where it is subverted by anarchy; and always, I will try to sustain it by wise policies of economic progress, so that a democracy means not just an empty liberty but a full life for all.

I never expressed the desire to extend myself beyond my term. Many of those who accuse me of it tried to cling like nails to their posts.

I am accused of misgovernance. Many of those who accuse me of it left me the problem of their misgovernance to solve. And we did it.

I am falsely accused, without proof, of using my office for personal profit. Many of those who accuse me of it have lifestyles and spending habits that make them walking proofs of that crime.

We can read their frustrations. They had the chance to serve this good country and they blew it by serving themselves.

Those who live in glass houses should cast no stones. Those who should be in jail should not threaten it, especially if they have been there.

Our administration, with the highest average rate of growth, recording multiple increases in investments, with the largest job creation in history, and which gets a credit upgrade at the height of a world recession, must be doing something right, even if some of those cocooned in corporate privilege refuse to recognize it.

Governance, however, is not about looking back and getting even. It is about looking forward and giving more—to the people who gave us the greatest, hardest gift of all: the care of a country.

From Bonifacio at Balintawak to Cory Aquino at EDSA and up to today, we have struggled to bring power to the people, and this country to the eminence it deserves.

Today the Philippines is weathering well the storm that is raging around the world. It is growing stronger with the challenge. When the weather clears, as it will, there is no telling how much farther forward it can go. Believe in it. I believe.

We can and we must-march-forward-with-hope, optimism and determination.

We must come together, work together and walk together toward the future.

Bagamat malaking hamon ang nasa ating harapan, nasa kamay natin ang malaking kakayahan. Halina’t pagtulungan nating tiyakin ang karapat-dapat na kinabukasan ng ating Inang Bayan.

And to the people of our good country, for allowing me to serve as your President, maraming salamat.

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas.


Somebody at the National Security Council dropped the ball. On Thursday, President Obama is welcoming Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to the White House for his presidency's first visit by a Southeast Asian leader. The choice of Mrs. Arroyo for this honor was a mistake because Mr. Obama is being used to give political cover for the Philippine president's troubles back home.

Mrs. Arroyo's domestic political position is precarious. A poll released June 8 by the Pulse Asia polling firm pegged Mrs. Arroyo's public approval at only 26 percent. Street demonstrations against her are routine and growing in size. These protests are in response to a dubious mandate following a dirty 2004 election and numerous allegations of corruption against her family and administration. Her husband, Mike Arroyo, has left the country and used doctors' notes to say he is too ill to obey court summons related to corruption charges.

The Philippines has become less free during Mrs. Arroyo's 10-year presidency. According to Freedom House, "Corruption is extensive throughout the Philippine state apparatus, from the lowest to the highest levels. Bribes and extortion seem to be a regular element of the complex connections among bureaucrats, politicians, businessmen, the press and the public." In Transparency International's 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index, the Philippines ranked 141st out of 180 nations on a list in which No. 1 is the least corrupt. The level of Philippine corruption is tied with Iran and Yemen and worse than in dodgy places such as Libya and Nigeria.

The corruption problem is affecting Manila's relationship with other allies. A senior Philippine official told The Washington Times that German Chancellor Angela Merkel sent Mrs. Arroyo an ultimatum last month that Berlin-Manila ties are at risk if the Philippines doesn't pay $60 million owed to the German government for Manila's new international airport. The Philippine government seized the airport and refused to pay a German company -- which is partly owned by the German state -- for its construction after revelations that the contract allegedly was laden with millions in bribes and kickbacks.

There are also serious human-rights abuses in the archipelago. According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, "The Philippines ranks sixth worldwide among countries that fail to prosecute cases of journalists killed for their work." Between 1992 and 2008, at least 34 journalists were murdered in the Philippines; there were convictions in only three of these cases. Four more members of the press were killed this June alone. Opposition voices regularly disappear as well.

On top of all this are machinations by Mrs. Arroyo to cling to power by setting aside next May's presidential election. The president and her allies are pushing to amend the Philippine constitution to change the current U.S.-style presidential system into a parliamentary system whereby Mrs. Arroyo could serve as prime minister. This would allow her to circumvent the presidential term limit which prevents her from staying in office. This move, incidentally, is similar to the strategy strongman Ferdinand Marcos used to stay in power after declaring martial law in 1972.

The relationship between Washington and Manila is an old and important one. After the U.S. victory in the Spanish-American war in 1898, the Philippine islands were a U.S. colony for half a century and have remained a close ally in the six decades since independence was granted in 1946. The current Visiting Forces Agreement between the two countries allows U.S. troops on Philippine soil to help in the war on terrorism and to assist the Philippines with its fight against Islamic insurrection in the southern islands.

But the nation should be differentiated from its lame-duck leader. Welcoming Mrs. Arroyo to the White House only validates her troubled rule. (Washington Times)


OIC praises truce in South RP

Army soldiers read the Mindanao Examiner newspaper in the southern Philippines. Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have forged a truce recently and would revive stalled peace talks in Mindanao. The Organization of the Islamic Conference praised the cease-fire and urged both sides to resume peace negotiations. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Mark Navales)

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 27, 2009) – The influential Organization of the Islamic Conference has praised Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for the cessation of hostilities in the troubled region of Mindanao.

President Gloria Arroyo has ordered the military to halt offensives against the Muslim rebels in an effort to revive the stalled peace talks with the MILF.

The MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, has reciprocated Arroyo’s gesture and also declared a truce. But the MILF said it would resume peace talks only if Arroyo honors the Muslim homeland deal which the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional.

Peace talks collapsed in August last year both sides failed to sign the homeland deal that Christian politicians had opposed.

Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the OIC Secretary General, also called on the Arroyo government and the MILF to exert efforts in resuming stalled peace talks and realize security, peace and development in the southern Philippines.

He said OIC is ready and willing to make all-out efforts to assist in the peace process.

Foreign ministers of the OIC member states have previously expressed concern over the deteriorating situation in the southern Philippines because of the fighting that displaced more than 600,000 mostly Muslim civilians in Mindanao.

The MILF has welcomed Ihsanoglu statement, but said the OIC has to be more active in helping put an end to more than three decades of hostilities in the southern Philippines.

“We welcome the statement of Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, but the Bangsamoro people need more concrete actions from the OIC to help in putting an end to the conflict in Mindanao that has affected more than half a million people,” Eid Kabalu, a senior MILF leader, told the Mindanao Examiner.

Malaysia, a member of the OIC, is brokering the peace talks between the Philippines and the MILF.

Kabalu also has sought aid from the OIC to help starving Muslim refugees in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner)

Floods submerged Maguindanao villages

Days of heavy rains since Sunday, July 26, 2009 have flooded many villages in Maguindanao province in the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Mark Navales)

SULTAN KUDARAT, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 27, 2009) – Heavy rains the past days have flooded many areas in the Muslim province of Maguindanao in the southern Philippines.

Thousands of families have been affected by flash floods in Maguindanao, one of the poorest provinces in the country; and also in Cotabato City.

Roads in Sultan Kudarat were impassable and many residents were spotted on roof of their houses. Others evacuated to safer areas.
Villagers complained of lack of food and have appealed for government food aid. (With a report from Mark Navales)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Kidapawan Students Hold Concert, Protest Vs. Charter Change

Members of the National Union of Students of the Philippines hold a concert-rally Sunday, July 26, 2009 against Charter change in the southern Filipino city of Kidapawan. President Gloria Arroyo’s allies in Congress are pushing for amendments in the Constitution that could prolong her into power beyond 2010. Arroyo is to hold her state of the nation address on Monday, but militant and progressive groups vow to hold a nationwide rally to protest Charter change. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Geo Solmerano)

Gunmen kill Zamboanga town mayor

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 26, 2009) – A mayor in Zamboanga Sibugay province was killed in an attack Sunday in Pagadian City, reports said.

Reports said Abdul Ayon, the mayor of Malangas town, was shot by motorcycle gunmen who escaped after the shooting. The motive of the attack was unknown and police suspect the killing could be connected to politics.

ABS-CBN television reported that Ayon was shot outside a mall. It was not immediately known if Ayon was alone or not.

In 2001, two gunmen also killed the mayor of Malangas, Denia Tapodoc, and injured 7 other town officials. The gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons on the officials during a festivity.
Filipinos are to elect their new leaders in May 2010 and politicians are expected to file their candidacy on November.

Elections in the Philippines are traditionally bloody. Many politicians maintain private armed goons to harass their opponents and intimidate voters. (Mindanao Examiner)

The Media Under Arroyo: A Legacy of Bloodshed and Repression

President Gloria Arroyo during a meeting Sunday, July 26, 2009 with the Education Task Force at Malakanyan.(Val Escalera)

MANILA, Philippines - On July 27, when President Gloria Arroyo delivers what is supposed to be her final state of the nation address before the constitutionally mandated end of her term in June next year, we expect her, of course, to give a glowing account of her nine years in power.

We have no intention of disputing her claims. But for the Philippine media, the Arroyo administration will be remembered for a legacy of bloodshed and repression, its acts of omission and commission nurturing the impunity with which the enemies of press freedom have operated.

By the time she steps down, Arroyo’s watch will have seen a death toll accounting for more than 60 percent of the journalists murdered since the supposed democratic restoration of 1986 and almost twice that under the 14-year Marcos dictatorship.

Only in three cases have we seen convictions under her term, but only of the gunmen, none of the masterminds.

As for repression, it can be argued that no administration has shown such open contempt and hostility toward media or been so cavalier with the constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of the press and of expression than this one.

How else would one interpret then Justice secretary Raul Gonzalez’s quip that most of the slain journalists were either womanizers or involved in drunken revelry, or First Gentleman Mike Arroyo’s making the then dying Dipolog broadcaster Klein Cantoneros an example of what befalls supposedly irresponsible media practitioners during a speech before the Negros Press Club a few years back?

No government since the dictatorship has attempted a wholesale clampdown on the media as Arroyo’s did during the short-lived state of national emergency she declared in 2006.

Not only did her storm troopers raid the Tribune and tramp threateningly through the parking lots of the two major broadcast networks, Cabinet Secretary Ricardo Saludo even had the temerity to threaten the takeover of a network that was interviewing live because it had allowed a military mutineer to say his piece.

And who can forget the sight of some 50 journalists marched off to a police camp in the aftermath of the Manila Peninsula takeover, their sole crime the performance of their duties; or the brief detention of as many journalists covering the humanitarian crisis in central Mindanao by Army soldiers in Maguindanao province?

It has also been under this administration that security forces have openly branded media organizations as “enemies of the state,” as the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines did in its infamous “Knowing the Enemy” PowerPoint presentation in 2005, and the Army’s 10th Infantry Division with its recently discovered order of battle.

We would like to stress here that we have received reliable reports that, notwithstanding the military’s promise that it would pull the “Knowing the Enemy” presentation, it has continued to be shown in schools and urban poor communities in Metro Manila.

Neither did Arroyo lift a hand when her husband wielded the antiquated libel law like a bludgeon, filing multiple suits against 46 journalists in what was a clear abuse of his powers and privileges.

Nor did Arroyo rein in House Speaker Prospero Nograles from using the same law to torment broadcaster Alex Adonis.

Neither has she shown any inclination to exercise her influence over her congressional allies to stop them from further pushing the right of reply bill, which would place control of media content in the hands of politicians hungry for power and fame.

This administration’s animosity toward freedom of the press and of free expression takes other forms as well, such as the censorship and prior restraint exercised by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board in requiring public affairs programs to submit their tapes for review before these can be aired, or slapping “X” ratings on films critical of government.

It should also be stressed that under the nearly nine years of the Arroyo administration, no measure has been passed to improve the living and working conditions of journalists and media workers. Most of them suffer low wages and lack of job security and benefits amid the growing risks of attacks and killings, especially in the provinces.

If the Philippine media remain free, it is no thanks to this administration’s lip service professions of respect for the freedoms of the press and free expression but rather to the tenacity with which Filipino journalists have resisted all attempts to cow them into submission and silence.

It is a tenacity that will see the independent Philippine media remain so on the very day Arroyo steps down from power and beyond.

Signed by the NUJP National Directorate, 2008-2010:

Nestor Burgos (Philippine Daily Inquirer), chairperson
Nonoy Espina (freelance), vice chairperson
Sonny Fernandez (ABS-CBN), secretary-general
Alwyn Alburo (GMA7), deputy secretary-general
Rowena Paraan (PCIJ), treasurer
Marlon Ramos (Philippine Daily Inquirer), auditor
Julie Alipala (Philippine Daily Inquirer), director
Day Caluza (Philippine Daily Inquirer), director
Cheryl Fiel (, director
Jun Godoy (dxOC), director
John Heredia (Abri Gana Productions, Capiz), director
Danny Lucas (ABS-CBN), director
Ilang-Ilang Quijano (Pinoy Weekly), director
Arnell Ozaeta (dzMM), director
May Rodriguez (freelance), director