Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Suspended ARMM Guv Files Petition For Certiorari, TRO

MANILA, Philippines - A defense lawyer of detained Muslim autonomous region governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan filed a petition for certiorari and application for the issuance of temporary restraining order with the Court of Appeals in Manila to annul Justice Secretary Alberto Agra’s second resolution which reversed his earlier decision finding no probable cause against the offial of complicity in the gory massacre last year in Maguindanao province.

Lawyer Redemberto R. Villanueva, in his 65-page petition on Monday, said he raised Agra’s blatant error and grave abuse of discretion in hastily reversing his previous exclusion of Zaldy Ampatuan from the charges without giving his client’s constitutional right on due process as well as procedural right, to properly refute within reasonable period the affidavit of new alleged witness Abdul Talusan whose late testimony lacks legal requirements to be considered even as newly discovered evidence.

"The right way is not always the popular and easy way," Villanueva was quoted in his petition, as saying, to stress that Agra hastily overturned on May 5 his unpopular April 16 order acquitting Zaldy Ampatuan due to intense pressures from the media, families of victims and other groups which may have wrongly confused justice with revenge or vengeance, as he further emphasized that justice cannot be sweepingly done for one popular side alone, but must be for both, especially for his client whom he claimed to be not part of the conspiracy in the multiple murder case.

Villanueva said the prosecution’s Motion for Reconsideration based on Talusan’s new affidavit was filed only on April 30 this year as he stressed the clear violation of his client’s right and opportunity to controvert affidavit which he claimed was speedily resolved by Agra only within five days with a May 5 reversal order. (April 30 was Friday. The following day (May 1) was Saturday and May 2 Sunday. May 3 was declared a holiday - for the May 1 Labor Day celebration.) The 2nd resolution was released on May 5.

In the petition which also asked the appellate court for the issuance of a temporary restraining order, Villanueva stated that Agra, who earlier upheld Zaldy Ampatuan's substantiated alibi, as proven by evidence of receipts of cellular phone calls, affidavit of a phone caller, and plane tickets that he was not present at the time of the November 22, 2009 alleged planning and the November 23 execution of multiple killings, which negated major prosecution witness Kenny Dalandag’s allegation that Zaldy was involved as a co-conspirator, erred and committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in finding probable cause on his 2nd Resolution dated May 5 against the petitioner based on the belated inadmissible evidence of Abdul Talusan due to blatant disregard of DOJ’s own rules on Appeal which states: "Evidence submitted for the first time on appeal shall not be admitted. If submitted, the reviewing prosecutor shall disregard it."

He also stated that the admission of new evidence with undue haste violated his client’s right on constitutional guarantees on due process to react on the new evidence against him.

"What the Justice Secretary did was to trivialize the Petitioner’s right to substantive and procedural due process and make them work for his benefit and not for the noble ends of justice. He has put a greater premium on the pressures of public opinion than on his duty as a fair and impartial instrument in the dispensation of justice...Sadly, he has opted to listen to the unintelligible voices of the mob, rather than of his own clear conscience."

Villanueva further clarified in the petition that prosecution’s presentation of new evidence was even “false and misleading” and contradicts the only other prosecution’s affidavit on record. Contrary to the prosecution’s claim, the new piece of alleged evidence "belatedly introduced or presented in the Supplemental MR does not in any way corroborate or validate but, in truth and in fact, contradict the previous testimony of witness Dalandag on material points, viz: Dalandag said that he allegedly saw Petitioner at the house of Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr., in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao at around 7 p.m. on November 22, while Talusan stated that he allegedly saw the petitioner arrived at the said place only around 11 p.m."

"And Dalandag said that petitioner allegedly attended the meeting that transpired at 7 p.m., but Talusan said that petitioner was not present during the purported meeting at 7 p.m., precisely because the latter allegedly arrived only at about 11 p.m. The prosecution, by its own act, even impeached or discredited the credibility of Kenny Dalandag. In effect, the two affidavits contradict each other on very material points."

Zaldy Ampatuan’s father, Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr., and his brother, Datu Unsay town mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., and others accused in the killings have also been charged as principals by inducement and by direct participation in the grisly murders.

Zaldy Ampatuan and Akhmad Ampatuan were previously excluded in the multiple murder case. Due to Agra’s May 5 reversal order on the basis of Talusan’s new affidavit, the Justice Secretary ordered the inclusion of Zaldy Ampatuan and Akhmad Ampatuan as principals in the charge sheet.

Villanueva’s petition, however, noted: "…Agra’s opinion as to the insufficiency and weakness of Kenny Dalandag’s testimony remained unperturbed,” as he stated that the same opinion was “strengthened when he maintained that it was only on the basis of the new affidavit that he even reconsidered his earlier resolution as to Zaldy Ampatuan and Akhmad Ampatuan"

But Villanueva stressed that the belated affidavit of Talusan could not be admitted or considered by Secretary Agra in his second resolution for obvious violations of other constitutional due process as well as procedural requirements.

Dalandag and Talusan had reportedly recanted their statements against the former ARMM governor Zaldy Ampatuan, as reported and broadcast on June 23, by radio network dzRH.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Students march for environment protection in Mindanao

More than 500 students from different Catholic schools marched on Monday, June 28, 2010 in Davao City in Mindanao and called for environmental protection, particularly against mining and logging which coincided in the celebration of Environment Month. (Mindanao Examiner Photo - Karlos Manlupig)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 28, 2010) – Hundreds of students marched on Monday in the southern Filipino city of Davao and joined mounting calls from environmentalists and various groups for more environment protection, particularly against mining and logging in the country.

The march, participated by some 500 students from different Catholic schools, coincided with the celebration of the Environment Month.

According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the United Nations Environment Program reported that a total of 17,291 species known to be threatened with extinction and that many species are still disappearing before they are even discovered.

Such extinctions alarmingly occur at up to 1,000 times the natural rate due to human activities. As a consequence, humans are taking the enormous risk of losing biodiversity. Hence, this year’s environment month celebration’s theme: “Many Species. One Planet. One Future.” echoes the urgent call to conserve the diversity of life on our planet. (With reports from Karlos Manlupig, Geo Solmerano and Arlene Ranara)

Negros farmers hold protest outside Agri office

Photos released by the Task Force Mapalad to the Mindanao Examiner show poor Filipino farmers from the Arroyo-owned Hacienda Bacan in Negros Occidental province gather in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform central office in Quezon City on Monday, June 28, 2010 and urge on the agency to dismiss the application for the conversion of the hacienda from agricultural to industrial use. The farmers say the move is aimed at preventing the distribution to peasants through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program the 157-hectare hacienda.

MANILA, Philippines – Farmers from Hacienda Bacan in Negros Occidental’s Isabela town and their supporters gathered in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) central office in Quezon City to ask for the dismissal of the application for conversion of the hacienda from agricultural to industrial use.

Jose Rodito Angeles, president of the peasant federation Task Force Mapalad (TFM), said the application for conversion, filed two weeks ago at DAR by the family of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, is an 11th-hour attempt to evade the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and prevent the distribution of the 157-hectare hacienda to 67 farmer-beneficiaries.

“We want DAR Secretary Nasser Pangandaman to immediately dismiss the petition because there is no legal basis for conversion of Hacienda Bacan. It is already a government property, having been acquired under CARP through compulsory acquisition and already paid for by the government in the amount of P42.3 million,” Angeles said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

Angeles said the farmers will hold camp outside DAR until after the application for conversion is dismissed and the property is formally awarded to the farmer-beneficiaries.

“Secretary Pangandaman has until tomorrow - June 30 - to decide on the petition, but if he defers any decision, we will bring our case to the next administration,” he said.

The farmers said the application for conversion was filed by Ruy Rondain, lawyer of Mr. Arroyo, on behalf of Rivulet Agro-Industrial Corporation, the registered corporate owner of Hacienda Bacan.

“We decided to stakeout at DAR because anything can happen between now and until President Arroyo steps down at noon of June 30. We have information that DAR is under pressure from the family of Mr. Arroyo to approve the application,” said Angeles.

He said the farmer-beneficiaries, led by Rogelio Salva, have filed before DAR a motion opposing the application for conversion.

In the opposition motion, Salva said that Rivulet Corporation had no more juridical personality to apply for conversion since Bacan had been acquired and paid for by the government, that the application for conversion was meant to evade CARP, and that it violated DAR rules on conversion under Administrative Order No. 1, Series of 2002.

Under AO No. 1 Series of 2002, irrigated agricultural lands such as Hacienda Bacan is non-negotiable for conversion (Section 4), and lands already under land valuation and acquisition are highly restricted from conversion (Section 5).

Angeles said Hacienda Bacan was placed under CARP coverage in 2001 through voluntary offer to sell, but was later acquired through compulsory acquisition after the Arroyos sought to convert the property for ethanol production following the passage of the Biofuels Act in 2006.

He said that in July 2008, the property was valued for P42.3 million and the Land Bank had issued the corresponding payment to Rivulet.

The payment covered 148 hectares of the hacienda’s total area of 157 hectares.

Consequently, DAR twice ordered the Register of Deeds of Negros Occidental to issue a new title for the hacienda in the name of the Republic of the Philippines, but so far nothing has been done.

Angeles said President Arroyo had promised to distribute the hacienda to the 67 farmer-beneficiaries, but she had not kept the promise.

Kidnappers ni Nuraldin Yusoph, humingi ng ransom!

ILIGAN CITY (Mindanao Examiner / June 28, 2010) – Humihingi umano ng malaking ransom ang mga kidnappers ni Nuraldin Yusoph, ang dinukot na anak ni Commission on Elections Commissioner Elias Yusoph.

Si Nuraldin ay dinukot ng mga armado sa labas ng isang mosque sa Marawi City sa Lanao del Sur nuong Hunyo 20 at hiniling ng mga kidnappers sa matandang Yusoph na ibasura ng Comelec ang resulta ng nakaraang halalan sa apat na bayan sa naturang lalawigan kapalit ng kalayaan ng biktima.

Ngunit ibinasura naman ito ng Comelec ang hiling ng mga kidnappers at sinabing walang kapangyarihan ang ama ni Nuraldin na desisyonan ang kanilang kahilingin. Unang inilutang ng pulisya sa Lanao del Sur na posibleng mga kamag-anakan lamang ng mga Yusoph ang nasa likod ng pagdukot, ngunit ngayon Lunes ay inulat ng ABS-CBN na humihingi na ng ransom ang mga kidnappers kapalit ng kaligtasan ni Nuraldin.

Sa nasabing ulat ay kinumpirma umano ni Secy. Jesus Dureza, ang hepe ng Mindanao Development Authority, na may ransom na hinihingi ang mga kidnappers. Subalit hindi naman sinabi ni Dureza kung magkano ito maliban lamang na malaking halaga ng salapi ang kinapapalooban nito.

May no-ransom policy ang pamahalaang, ngunit hindi naman ito nasusunod at maraming kaso na ng kidnappings na kinasasangkutan ng mga kilalang tao ang napalaya dahil sa pagbabayad ng salapi sa mga kidnappers.

At kalimitan dito ay pinalalabas lamang ng pamahalaang na walang naganap na bayaran at na-rescue ang kalimitan dahilan ng mga paglaya ng mga dinukot sa Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner)

Foreign Affairs Chief Reappointment Means Unequal Ties Are Here To Stay - KMU

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Simeon Aquino III's reappointment of Alberto Romulo to the Department of Foreign Affairs sends a dangerous signal that the incoming administration wants to retain the highly unequal foreign relations that the Arroyo administration nurtured in the past years, the labor group called Kilusang Mayo Uno said.

"DFA Secretary Romulo has actively defended a number of highly controversial agreements including the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement or JPEPA. Retaining him sends an unequivocal sign that unequal foreign relations are here to stay beyond June 30, 2010," KMU chairperson Elmer Labog said in a statement.

For years, the VFA has allowed the free entry of US troops in the country and has spawned human rights violations, displacement of many people from their homes and livelihoods, and abuse of Filipino women, including Subic rape victim Nicole.

Since VFA's implementation in year 2000, 1,600 to 6,000 US soldiers were 'coming and going' to the Philippines yearly, not considering all the clandestine operations they have withheld from the public.

JPEPA, meanwhile, has licensed the dumping of toxic wastes from Japan and the unfettered entry of huge Japanese fishing vessels in Philippine waters.

Both treaties have licensed foreign exploitation of our resources, markets, and manpower.

KMU added that Aquino's decision to recycle Romulo hints that the US sees the DFA secretary as a reliable ally in securing its interests in the country.

"His reappoinment to the DFA could mean that he received a thumbs-up mark from the US government and governments of other imperialist countries for his good record of defending one-sided agreements under Arroyo," the labor leader said.

Karagdagang 4 milyong mahihirap, legasiya ng rehimeng Arroyo-De Castro

MAYNILA (Hunyo 28, 2010) - Apat na milyong Pilipino - sa pinakamababa - na idinagdag sa hanay ng mga mahihirap at wala na umanong mas sisimple pang pagsusuma sa iiwang legasiya ng papaalis na rehimeng Gloria Arroyo, ayon sa pahayag ng grupong Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay).

Kaya't ang anila'y una at pinakamahalagang tagubilin na dapat pakatandaan ni President-elect Noynoy Aquino, na sa makalawa ay manunumpa na sa tungkulin, ay huwag sana itong magiging "bagong GMA."

Isang 'lapida para sa rehimeng Arroyo' ang hinatid ng grupo sa Mendiola sa isang malakihang pagkilos ngayon, upang anila'y "itatak sa pang-habampanahon" ang pinal na hatol ng maralitang-lungsod sa kinamumuhiang panguluhan, matapos dumaan sa tirahan ni Aquino sa Times St. upang ihatid naman ang kanilang mensahe dito.

Ayon lamang sa datos ng gubyerno (at gamit ang napakababang poverty line), 2.1 milyong Pilipino ang nadagdag sa bilang ng mga mahihirap mula 2000 hanggang 2006. Sinundan naman ng ito ng di-bababa sa dalawa pang milyon sa huling apat na taon, ayon sa pag-aaral na kinomisyon ng United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Ang itinurong dahilan ng naturang pag-aaral, na inilabas lamang nitong nakaraang linggo: ang pagtaas ng presyo ng pagkain mula 2007 hanggang 2008, ang global financial and economic crisis ng 2008-09, at ang sunod-sunod na hagupit ng mga bagyong Ondoy, Pepeng at Santi.

Subalit sa kabila ng krisis, ang karagdagang 2 milyong mahihirap sa huling apat na taon ay hindi na umano katanggap-tanggap ('simply unacceptable'), ayon na rin kay UNDP country director for the Philippines Renaud Meyer.

Itinala ng gubyernong Arroyo ang pinakamahabang panahon ng sustained high unemployment sa kasaysayan ng bansa. Sa halip na masawata ang disempleyo, gaya ng ipinangako ni Arroyo sa kanyang SONA noong 2001, tumaas pa ng 621,000 ang bilang ng mga walang trabaho (unemployed) at 1.9 M naman sa mga kulang sa trabaho (underemployed), mula 2001-2009.

Malaki rin ang pananagutan dito ni Vice President Noli de Castro, ayon sa grupo, bunga ng papel nito sa malawakang demolisyon at pagsusulong ng anila'y 'negosyong pabahay'.

Kaya't payo ng grupo sa bagong Pangulo, pinakamainam na simula ang pagtitiyak lamang na hindi ito susunod sa yapak ni Arroyo. "Tignan lamang ni Noynoy ang 'road map' na tinahak ni GMA, at pumunta siya sa kabilang direksyon," ani Carlito Badion, pangalawang pangulo ng Kadamay,"kung ayaw niyang magkaroon ng lapidang kagaya nito pag nagtapos na ang kanyang termino."

Tampok din sa ginanap na pagkilos ang usapin ng proyektong Quezon City-Central Business District (QC-CBD), isa sa mga proyektong isinulong ng administrasyong Arroyo na ipinababasura ng grupo kay Aquino, dahilan sa malawakang demolisyon na idudulot nito sa may 25,000 pamilyang maralita.

Zamboanga Finally Installs Security Cameras

Workers install security cameras Monday, June 28, 2010 at an overpass in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines. The spate of gun attacks and killings in Zamboanga have alarmed many citizens. More than 100 shooting incidents have been recorded in Zamboanga since January this year and most of these cases are still unresolved. Police blame the killings, mostly carried out by hired guns, to feud. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

GABRIELA: Free political prisoners, jail Arroyo

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 28, 2010) - A Filipino women's group called GABRIELA urged President-elect Benigno Simeon Aquino III to free all political prisoners and prosecute outgoing leader Gloria Arroyo for her alleged crimes.

Activists trooped to Aquino's residence in Quezon City where they presented their demands.

“Aquino used as his campaign platform the promise that he will go after Arroyo and her minions, that justice will not be compromised and it will be served to the people. We take him to task on that promise, and like the rest of the country we expect no less from him,” said Joms Salvador, the group's Deputy Secretary-General.

GABRIELA cited that there are 61 women out of the 344 political prisoners under the Arroyo administration. “These women political prisoners suffered from the hands of their captors and many of them were sexually abused. They are also in a most detrimental condition where they are continually made vulnerable to all forms of harassment, be these sexual, physical or emotional,” Salvador said.

Recently, Myrna Abraham, a teacher by profession, was abducted allegedly by state agents and is now incarcerated in a jail in Tuguegarao town in Cagayan Valley in northern Philippines.

Like fellow political prisoner Angie Ipong held by the police in Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur in Mindanao, Abraham, including other women held in various jails, face numerous charges the state fabricated against her, GABRIELA said.

“For opposing and actively criticizing Arroyo’s anti-people policies and politics, these dissenters were trumped up with charges fit for common criminals. Political prisoners are Arroyo’s victims,” Salvador said.

“If Aquino would be truthful to his promise of leading the people to ‘daang matuwid’, he should jail the culprit and free the innocents. He should work for Arroyo’s imprisonment and free women and all political prisoners,” Salvador added.

GABRIELA also went on to tell Aquino that if there is one legacy of her mother and the late president Corazon Aquino that he ought to follow, it is the granting of freedom for all political prisoners.

“Martial law robbed the people of their democratic rights and granting freedom to political prisoners was the late president’s gesture of restoring them. Arroyo’s regime is no different with its bloody record of victimizing the people, so it is only imperative that Aquino do the restoration as well,” Salvador said.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Writ of amparo granted to kin of interpreter found dead among US troops: GMA News

The Supreme Court has granted extra protection to the family of an interpreter for US troops who died under mysterious circumstances in Marawi City, after they claimed receiving threats for pursuing the case.

The high court issued the writ of amparo to 28 relatives of Gregan Cardeño, led by Gregan’s wife Myrna, sister Carivel and sister-in-law Lorraine, who filed the petition.

Contained in an SC resolution dated June 15 but sent out on June 22, the writ of amparo enjoins government officials to protect Cardeño’s relatives against threats from and acts of surveillance by military officials, who they suspect to be involved in events that led to Gregan’s death and are attempting to cover up the incident.

The SC likewise granted the family’s petition for writ of habeas data, which obliges the police and military to transmit to either the Court of Appeals (CA) or to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) all reports and evidence on the deaths of Cardeño and Maj. Javier Ignacio.

Ignacio, commanding officer of the Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom)’s Military Police, was helping the family conduct its own investigation when he was himself killed.

The SC resolution further directed the CA to hear on July 1 the petitioners’ requests, which include permission to inspect Gregan’s room in Camp Ranao.

The respondents are outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Visiting Forces Agreement Commission, the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines, Wesmincom Commander Lt. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino, Philippine National Police director general Jesus Verzosa, and 12 other officers of the local police and military, and of the US soldiers stationed at Camp Ranao in Marawi City.

The respondents were ordered to comment on the petition within five days from receipt of the resolution.

Dead inside a US camp

Gregan, 33, was supposed to be assigned as a security guard at Camp Siongco in Maguindanao province, but on February 1 was allegedly brought instead by a US helicopter to Camp Ranao in Marawi, which is also the headquarters of the 103rd Brigade of the Philippine Army.

Barely three days after, however, Gregan’s family received a call from a local police official telling them that he committed suicide by hanging himself midnight of February 2.

The family, however, suspected there was foul play as Gregan was still able to call them before he allegedly killed himself, saying he was not doing an interpreter’s work and that what he was being asked to do was “very difficult."

He added that those with him are “all Americans."

A subsequent autopsy report by the National Bureau of Investigation indicated there were five deep and burnt puncture wounds on Gregan’s feet, on the left inner part of both legs and on the upper right arm.

A Mindanao-based human rights group from which Gregan’s family sought help, however, said the autopsy did not state other injuries that the family earlier noted when they saw Gregan’s cadaver at a Zamboanga City funeral home.

These other injuries, the human rights group claimed, included an enlarged scrotum, the enlarged opening of his anus, a deep wound on the upper right part of his neck and three injuries on his head.

Local police and military officials earlier maintained that Gregan indeed committed suicide based on evidence gathered, including a supposed suicide note he left behind.

Family friend killed

Meanwhile, Ignacio, a close friend of Gregan’s family and Wesmincom’s Military Police chief, reportedly started getting death threats for assisting the family in securing more information on Gregan’s death.

On March 26, just hours after attending the re-autopsy of Gregan’s body conducted by the Commission on Human Rights, Ignacio was gunned down by still unidentified suspects astride two motorcycles in Zamboanga City.

Ignacio sustained gunshot wounds in his back and head, and died on the spot.

To date, local police have yet to determine the motives or suspects behind Ignacio’s death, saying the area where he was shot was experiencing a blackout

Gregan’s family, however, maintained in their petition that Ignacio’s death was part of the attempt to “cover up" Gregan’s death.

Gregan, who was also a Christian pastor, left behind a wife and three children. (Jerrie m. Abella, JV, GMANews.TV)

Link: http://www.gmanews.tv/story/194572/writ-of-amparo-granted-to-kin-of-interpreter-found-dead-among-us-troops

2 NPA rebels killed in new clashes in Mindanao

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 27, 2010) - Government troops killed two communist rebels in a clash Sunday in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said soldiers also overran a rebel camp and recovered four improvised explosives following the fighting in Davao Oriental’s Cateel town. One soldier was wounded in the firefight, said Captain Emmanuel Garcia, a spokesman for the Army’s 10th Infantry Division.

He said troops clashed with about 50 New People’s Army rebels in the village of Aliwagwag after military forces raided the camp. He said troops also recovered six automatic rifles.

“Troops overran the encampment with 40 wooden bunkers and recovered four improvised explosive devices, four M-16 assault rifles and two carbine rifles,” he Garcia said.

The raid, he said, was part of an operation aimed at rescuing a soldier - Staff Sergeant Bienvenido Arguilles, of the 25th Infantry Battalion, and a government militia, Job Latiban – who are being held by rebels, but there were no signs of the two prisoners.

Garcia said the two hostages were seized June 19 in the village of Uper Ulip in Compostela Valley’s Monkayo town near the town of Cateel.

The rebels are fighting for decades now for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country. (Mindanao Examiner)

MILF dumistansya sa isyu ng napatay na Maguindanao massacre witness

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 27, 2010) – Mariing Itinanggi kahapon ng Moro Islamic Liberation Front na nasa poder nito ang start witness sa binansagang “Maguindanao massacre” bago ito napatay sa bayan ng Parang sa lalawigan ng Maguindanao.

Ito ay matapos na lumabas sa pahayagan na si Suwaib Upham ay nasa pangangalaga ng rebeldeng grupo bago ito pinatay nitong buwan lamang. Si Upham ay kabilang sa mga pumatay sa 57 katao at 32 dito ay pawang mga journalists na sumama lamang sa political caravan ni Esmael Mangudadatu, na ngayon ay gobernador ng Maguindanao.

Isinabit ni Upham ang dating gobernador na si Andal Ampatuan Sr., at ang anak nitong si Andal Jr., ang mayor ng bayan ng Datu Unsay; at ilang pang mga miyembro ng Ampatuan clan.

Ngunit sa dami ng nalalaman ni Upham ukol sa massacre ay nagpasya itong bumaligtad sa takot na ipapatay ng mga Ampatuan matapos na isa-isang ang kanyang mga kasamahan.

Hindi naman mabatid kung bakit sinabi ng pulisya sa Maguindanao na nasa pangangangalaga ng MILF si Upham, subalit unang idiniin ni Andal Jr., ang rebeldeng grupo na siyang umanong nasa likod ng massacre.

“This is grossly unfair; how we could take care of someone who owed blood debt to the people?” tanong pa ni Bon Al-Haq, ang spokesman ng MILF.

Sinabi ni Al-Haq na malaki ang kasalanan ni Upham sa batas dahil sa massacre. Kaaway rin ng MILF ang mga Ampatuan dahil sa diumano’y pagnakaw ng mga ito sa lupain ng mga Muslim sa kanilang mga nasasakupang lugar at sa maraming krimen na umano'y kinasangkutan ng ankan. Itinanggi naman ng mga Ampatuan ang lahat ng paratang sa kanila. (Mindanao Examiner)

Friday, June 25, 2010

New Kidapawan City Officials Take Oath

Kidapawan City Mayor-elect Rodolfo Gantungco and Vice Mayor Joseph Evangelista and members of the City Council take their oath from Judge Rogelio Narisma at the Kidapawan City Hall of Justice. The oath-taking was witnessed by their families. The newly elected officials vowed to work hard for peace and progress in Kidapawan City in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner Photo – Arlene Solmerano)

US condemns murder of key witness in Maguindanao massacre

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 25, 2010) – The United States on Friday condemned the murder of a key witness in last year’s brutal slaying of 57 people in the southern Philippines.

Assassin had shot Suwaib Upham last week in the town of Parang in Maguindanao province whose governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his sons were linked by authorities to the November 23 killings.

Among those killed were at least 32 journalists accompanying the political caravan of Esmael Mangudadatu, a political foe of the Ampatuan clan. His wife and sisters and supporters were also murdered.

Upham was one of those accused in the grisly slayings, but he turned against the powerful Ampatuan clan for fear that he would also be killed after some of those involved were murdered one after the other.

“I deplore the murder of Mr. Suwaib Upham, who bravely came forward to testify about the tragic Maguindanao massacre. I urge the Philippine authorities to conduct a swift investigation into his death and bring those responsible to justice,” said US Ambassador Harry Thomas, Jr.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for Upham’s murder, but Thomas urged Manila to investigate the killing.

“This murder adds additional urgency to the need for swift investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the brutal massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao in November 2009. Too many families still wait justice, and now the Upham family joins them,” Thomas said.

Nearly 200 people had been charged in the murders, including Datu Unsay town mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., one of the prime suspects; and his elder brother, Zaldy Ampatuan, the governor of the Muslim autonomous region, among other clan members.

About one-third of those accused are now locked- up in jail, including the clan’s patriarch and his sons, but they still enjoy special treatment in prisons because of their immense wealth and influence.

Just recently, another witness to the murders, Lakmodin Saliao, an aide of the clan’s patriarch, surfaced and implicated the Ampatuans. (Mindanao Examiner)

Implement CARP in Mindanao, Aquino urged

After he takes oath on June 30, the commitment to alleviate poverty of President-elect Benigno Aquino III will be put to a test as nearly a hundred thousand hectares await distribution to landless farmers in Mindanao.

Land acquisition and distribution (LAD), the lifeblood of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), has only four years left, yet there are still 89,590 hectares all over Mindanao that should be distributed to qualified farmer beneficiaries out of the total 1.2 million hectares backlog for CARP coverage.

This is the 2010 target for distribution, according to records from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Central- Field Operations Office.

Oscar Maniego, chairperson of the peasant federation Task Force Mapalad - Alyansa Bukidnon said that the success of CARP is linked to ending poverty in the countryside and would be a long-lasting legacy of Aquino to poor Filipino farmers.

If DAR under Aquino’s administration shall achieve its target before this year ends, Maniego will be one of the beneficiaries in Bukidnon province which has pending LAD balance of 7,761 hectares based on TFM data.

Maniego said that the new appointee for agrarian secretary must be keen on speeding up land distribution, especially in Mindanao where DAR confronts dramatic statistics of remaining backlog.

“It is our hope that the new appointed DAR secretary will never compromise our future to the interest of corporations and big landowners who will always find ways to circumvent agrarian laws,” Maniego said in a statement.

He and the other TFM- Mindanao farmers also urged the new Aquino presidency to possess the political will to stop violence in the process of CARP implementation as cited in the case of the 29-hectare Arcal Estate in Gov. Generoso, Davao Oriental where alleged goons of landowner reportedly harassed farmer-beneficiaries during their installation. This Arcal estate is one of the 2,624 hectares pending for CARP distribution in Davao Oriental.

They also proposed to the Aquino administration to abolish CARP exemption policies that hinder its implementation.

The farmers were referring to DAR Administrative Order No. 7 which exempts CARP coverage for lands devoted to cattle ranches that is being capitalized by the politically influential Fortich family of Bukidnon on the 857-hectare landholding in Valencia City of this province.

In 1992, the Fortich family received a CARP exemption order from DAR Office of the Secretary on grounds that they are using the land for livestock. However, the Fortich Farm Landless Farmer-Beneficiaries Association which appealed for its revocation at the Office of the President said that this land has been leased to agri-business plantations.

In another agrarian problem in Negros Occidental, TFM has slammed the family of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for its last-minute move to convert from agricultural to industrial use the family-owned Hacienda Bacan in Barangay Guintubhan, Isabela, Negros Occidental.

The 157-hectare sugarcane hacienda, placed under CARP coverage in 2001, was promised by President Arroyo for distribution to 67 farmer-beneficiaries.

TFM president Jose Rodito Angeles said they have learned from a report Wednesday by Vera Files that Ruy Rondain, lawyer of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, had filed an application for conversion of Hacienda Bacan last June 15 before the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

The application for conversion was filed on behalf of Rivulet Agro-Industrial Corporation, the registered corporate owner of the hacienda.

“The filing of the application is dubious and devious. Hacienda Bacan is already government property since the Land Bank had already issued payment for it two years ago in the amount of P42.3 million,” said Angeles.

Angeles added that under the agrarian law, lands under CARP coverage cannot be subject to conversion.

He said DAR had twice ordered the register of deeds (ROD) of Negros Occidental to issue a new title for the hacienda in favor of the government but the ROD had not done so up to now, reportedly due to pressure from Arroyo.

“We have also conducted protest actions to compel the ROD and even the Land Registration Authority in Quezon City to register a new title for Bacan so that DAR could already issue the CLOA (certificate of landownership award) of the farmer-beneficiaries, but we have been ignored,” said Angeles.

Rogelio Salva, leader of the farmer-beneficiaries in Bacan, said they have filed before DAR a motion opposing the application for conversion.

In the opposition motion, Salva said that Rivulet Corporation had no more juridical personality to apply for conversion since Badan had been acquired and paid for by the government, that the application for conversion was meant to evade CARP, and that it violated DAR rules on conversion under Administrative Order No. 1, Series of 2002.

Under AO No. 1 Series of 2002, irrigated agricultural lands such as Hacienda Bacan is non-negotiable for conversion (Section 4), and lands already under land valuation and acquisition are highly restricted from conversion (Section 5).

Salva said they are going to undertake active forms of protests to press for the dismissal or denial of the application for conversion of Hacienda Bacan.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Maguindanao Massacre Witness Killed: AFP

MANILA, Philippines (Agence France-Presse) – A key witness in the trial of a powerful Muslim clan accused of orchestrating the worst political massacre in the Philippines has been shot dead, a prosecutor said Thursday.

The witness, Suwaib Upham, claimed to have taken part in the November killings of 57 people in a crime allegedly planned by his former employers, the Ampatuan clan.

"He was supposed to be one of our strongest witnesses," prosecutor Harry Roque told Agence France-Presse. "He saw, and participated in, the killings and could have directly named in court those involved."

Roque warned that Upham's killing, which he was told occurred last week in the southern province of Maguindanao, could potentially weaken the case against the Ampatuan family.

US-based Human Rights Watch also said the killing raised doubts about the government's resolve in seeing justice done in the case.

"Massacre witnesses are dying while the government sits on its hands," the group's Asia director Elaine Pearson said in a statement. "This sends the worst possible message to other witnesses thinking of coming forward."

His death comes two months after an uncle of another witness was also shot and killed, in what authorities said was part of a plan to intimidate those speaking out against the Ampatuan clan.

The clan had ruled Maguindanao with brutal efficiency for a decade prior to the massacre. They also enjoyed political ties with outgoing President Gloria Arroyo, who used the family's huge private army as a force against separatist rebels.

Six clan members are among 196 people charged over the murders, allegedly carried out to prevent a member of a rival clan from running as governor of the province. (AFP)

Peasant group slams Arroyo on land conversion

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines - The peasant federation Task Force Mapalad has slammed the family of President Gloria Arroyo for its last-minute move to convert the family-owned Hacienda Bacan from agricultural to industrial use in Negros Occidental province.

It said the 157-hectare sugarcane haciendaB in the village of Guintubhan in Isabela topwn, placed under coverage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program in 2001, was previously promised by Arroyo for distribution to 67 farmer-beneficiaries.

TFM president Jose Rodito Angeles said a report Wednesday by Vera Files that Ruy Rondain, lawyer of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, filed an application for conversion of Hacienda Bacan last June 15 before the Department of Agrarian Reform.

The application for conversion was filed on behalf of Rivulet Agro-Industrial Corporation, the registered corporate owner of the hacienda.

“The filing of the application is dubious and devious. Hacienda Bacan is already government property since the Land Bank had already issued payment for it two years ago in the amount of P42.3 million,” Angeles said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

Angeles said that under the agrarian law, lands under CARP coverage cannot be subject to conversion.

He said DAR had twice ordered the register of deeds of Negros Occidental to issue a new title for the hacienda in favor of the government but the ROD had not done so up to now, reportedly due to pressure from Arroyo.

“We have also conducted protest actions to compel the ROD and even the Land Registration Authority in Quezon City to register a new title for Bacan so that DAR could already issue the CLOA (certificate of landownership award) of the farmer-beneficiaries, but we have been ignored,” Angeles said.

Rogelio Salva, leader of the farmer-beneficiaries in Bacan, said they have filed before DAR a motion opposing the application for conversion.

In the opposition motion, Salva said that Rivulet Corporation had no more juridical personality to apply for conversion since Badan had been acquired and paid for by the government, that the application for conversion was meant to evade CARP, and that it violated DAR rules on conversion under Administrative Order No. 1, Series of 2002.

Under AO No. 1 Series of 2002, irrigated agricultural lands such as Hacienda Bacan is non-negotiable for conversion (Section 4), and lands already under land valuation and acquisition are highly restricted from conversion (Section 5).

Salva said they are going to undertake active forms of protests to press for the dismissal or denial of the application for conversion of Hacienda Bacan.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Justice For Maguindanao Massacre Victims; 7 Months Had Passed!

It is 7 months now since the Maguindanao massacre where at least 32 journalists were among 57 people brutally murdered.

Troops arrest rogue soldier accused of killing civilian in Mindanao

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 23, 2010) – Philippine Army soldiers on Wednesday captured an infantryman - accused of killing a civilian and wounding of six others - after a firefight in the southern province of Compostela Valley, a military spokesman said.

Captain Emmanuel Garcia, of the 10th Infantry Division, said troops exchange gunfire with Sergeant Fredo Argueles after he fought soldiers sent to arrest him in connection to the Tuesday killing of a 49-year old man, Freddie Neri, in the village of Iloco Nuevo in Mawab town.

Argueles was wounded in the fighting and rushed to hospital.

He said Argueles, who was drank at the time of the shooting, fired his rifle indiscriminately in the village and killing Neri, after a heated argument with his wife late Tuesday.

He escaped after the shooting and was tracked down by soldiers the next day hiding at a banana plantation.

“Reports showed that at about 11:50 p.m. of June 22, a drunken Argueles and his wife were having heated arguments and in the course of the dispute, Argueles took his M14 rifle, walked out of their hut and fired his weapon directed outside while walking out of the (army) detachment,” Garcia told the Mindanao Examiner.

Lieutenant Colonel Norman Zuniega, commander of the 72nd Infantry Battalion, whose unit ordered to hunt down Argueles, said they have tried to convince the infantryman to surrender peacefully, but it failed.

“We had tried everything to make him surrender peacefully. We encouraged him to lay down his weapon so that he can face his case in the proper court, but he fired at the troops. We want him to surrender peacefully, but we are also prepared to use force to subdue and arrest him so that he can face justice and put him in jail if found guilty,” he said.

Major General Carlos Holganza, the regional army commander, sent a team of soldiers and accompanied by village officials and religious leaders to Neri’s family and other victims of the shootings and offered help.

“We are deeply saddened by the turn of events and we condole with the victim’s family. We understand that any help extended will not bring back the life of the victim but we will make necessary arrangements to alleviate the sufferings of the family of Neri and of other victims. Our troops have arrested the suspect and we will make sure that he will face the full force of the law. We will not tolerate crimes perpetrated by anyone, even one of our own. Rest assured that justice will be served.”

“The swift action of the troops shows that we are serious in our task to put criminals behind bars. We will see to it that justice prevails even if the perpetrators were our own men; and especially if they were our own men.” Holganza said. (Mindanao Examiner)

4 killed in Basilan ambush

BASILAN, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 23, 2010) – Four people were killed and six others injured when gunmen opened fire on a public transport on Wednesday in the restive province of Basilan, police told the Mindanao Examiner.

Police said military forces were sent to track down more than two dozen hooded gunmen who were behind the ambush in Maluso town. “We still don’t know who were behind the attack, but military forces were sent to pursue the ambushers,” said Senior Superintendent Antonio Mendoza, the provincial police chief.

He said the gunmen fled after the ambush and no group claimed responsibility for the attack. The town, he said, is a known lair of Abu Sayyaf and Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels blamed for past attacks on civilian and military targets.

“Most of those killed and wounded are civilians,” Mendoza said.
Just early this month, Abu Sayyaf militants killed three men they kidnapped in Basilan’s Sumisip town after their families failed to pay P3 million ransoms.

The trio - Claudio Mananita, Rolando Francisco and Dariel Quintella – were kidnapped on May 27 by Abu Sayyaf gunmen headed by Puruji Indama. Their bodies were discovered by civilians on June 5 in Sukaten village.

Indama’s group was also behind many kidnappings in Zamboanga City and Basilan last year and tagged as behind the series of attacks on government troops in the province.

In April, two government soldiers were wounded in a clash with the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan’s Sumisip town after militants detonated bombs in Isabela City, the provincial capital, and sprayed automatic gunfire on fleeing villagers that left dozens of people dead and wounded. (Mindanao Examiner)

2 MNLF men killed in new fighting in Southern Philippines

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 23, 2010) – Two Moro rebels were killed and four government soldiers wounded in a series of fighting in the southern Filipino province of Sulu, officials said Wednesday.
Officials said the fighting which began on Tuesday had killed two members of the Moro National Liberation Front in Talipao town where security forces captured a rebel encampment.

The fighting broke out after MNLF rebels and Abu Sayyaf militants attacked soldiers sent to work on a road project in the village of Tuyang. The Western Mindanao Command blamed MNLF leader Khabir Malik and Abu Sayyaf commander Yasser Igasan for the fighting.

“The operation was triggered when some combined partisan armed groups, rogue MNLF under Khabir Malik and ASG under Yasser Igasan resisted government-initiated development projects in southern Talipao,” it said in a statement released on Wednesday.

It said Malik also harassed military and government surveyors last month in Talipao town where a road project is underway to connect several villages to the town of Maimbung.

“Malik was previously reported by civilians on his opposition to road projects, and further warned construction workers not to pursue with these development plans,” the Western Mindanao Command said.

In Sulu, Brigadier General Rustico Guerrero, the local military chief, said fighting began at around 10 a.m. and erupted again later in the day after troops intercepted rebel forces headed by MNLF commanders Nidzmi Jabar, Maas Ejan and Jahid Susukan, and Abu Sayyaf militants.

“We cannot afford to delay progress that is already long overdue. The standpoint of these lawless elements in resisting government-initiated socio-economic and humanitarian projects is anti-people and counter progressive. Unless we will remove this perspective from the equation, hope for peace and development in Sulu is futile,” Rustico said.

He said troops also clashed with followers of a local politician who mistook security forces as their enemies, but there were no reports of casualties in the fighting.

The Western Mindanao Command under General Benjamin Dolorfino said Malik has a string of warrants of arrest and that the government put up a P1 million bounty for his capture.

Malik’s group had previously held hostage Dolorfino and Defense Undersecretary Ramon Santos, including more than a dozen soldiers in February 2007 while visiting Sulu province. Malik then demanded the release of jailed MNLF chieftain Nur Misuari in exchange for the hostages. The rebels wanted Misuari, who was then facing rebellion charges, freed so he can attend an important conference between the Organization of Islamic Conference, the Philippines and the MNLF in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

Misuari had signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996 ending more than 20 years of bloody fighting in the southern Philippines. After the peace agreement was signed, Misuari became the governor of the Muslim autonomous region.

But many former rebels were disgruntled with the accord, saying, the government failed to comply with some of its provisions and uplift their standards of living. They accused the government of failing to develop the war-torn areas in the south, which remain in mired in poverty, heavily militarized and dependent financially on Manila.

Some of the disgruntled former rebels have either joined the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country's largest separatist rebel group, and the smaller and ruthless Abu Sayyaf group.

In November 2001, on the eve of the regional elections, Misuari accused the government of reneging on the peace agreement, and launched a new rebellion in Sulu and Zamboanga City, where more than 100 people were killed. Misuari escaped by boat to Malaysia, but was arrested there and deported to the Philippines.

Under the peace agreement, Manila would provide a mini-Marshal Plan to spur economic development in Muslim areas in the south and livelihood and housing assistance to tens of thousands of former rebels to uplift their poor living standards. And Muslims in the South are most likely to fight for or support an armed separatist front when they perceive no alternative means to overcome discrimination and improve their living conditions.

Misuari was eventually released in 2008 after Manila dropped all charges against him in return for his political support to President Gloria Arroyo. (Mindanao Examiner)

Filipino journalists remember murdered colleagues

Filipino journalists in the southern city of Kidapawan held a unity run on Wednesday to commemorate the brutal murders of at least 32 media workers in Maguindanao province last year. (Mindanao Examiner Photo – Arlene Solmerano)

KIDAPAWAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 23, 2010 – Filipino journalists in the southern city of Kidapawan held a unity run on Wednesday to commemorate the brutal murders of at least 32 media workers in Maguindanao province last year.

The journalists, mostly members of the Mindanao Press Corps, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the People’s Movement against Impunity and Extrajudicial Killings, demanded justice and urged authorities to end the culture of violence and extrajudicial killings in the country.

At least 32 journalists who were accompanying a political caravan in Maguindanao province had been killed by gunmen in the town of Ampatuan.

Authorities linked the murders to the powerful Ampatuan clan whose patriarch and sons implicated by the police and military in the November 23 attack were arrested and jailed. (Geo Solmerano and Arlene Solmerano)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ex-Pinay workers denounce welfare officer in Saudi Arabia

MANILA, Philippines - Former Filipino caregivers trooped to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration in Manila to file formal charges against a welfare officer in Saudi Arabia who allegedly advised another worker to jump from the 3rd floor of their accommodation to get away from her abusive employer.

The women who were former caregivers of Annasban Company joined Merlinda Aquino, who arrived recently, in filing formal charges against the accused, Nestor Burayag, for grave misconduct and neglect of duties.

“Tinawagan ko si Mr. Burayag para magpasaklolo dahil hindi ko na matagalan ang pang-aabuso ng employer ko sa akin. Pero sinabihan niya lang ako na tumalon mula sa 3rd floor ng aming building para daw may dahilan para matulungan niya ako,” said Aquino.

(I phoned Mr. Burayag to seek help because I cannot stand anymore the abuses of my employer. But instead of helping me, he told me to jump from the 3rd floor of our building so I may have a reason for him to help me.)

Merlinda said jumping from the building can kill her.

Aquino said she was physically abused by her site manager since January this year and that her mobile phone and bank cards were also confiscated. She reported the offenses to the company, but there had been no action to protect her from her manager.

She said she was hoping to be rescued from her plight upon informing Filipino welfare officials of her condition, but nothing was done.

Aquino said she originally planned to join a protest of other abused Filipino workers as she was also a victim of the company’s gross contract violations.

Her wages were also cut and made to work for long hours without pay, she said. But because of fear and hopelessness due to the government’s inaction, she decided to keep a distance.

Earlier this month, the workers had called on OWWA officials to recall Burayag for neglecting his duty to secure with the Annasban management the exit visas for their release and forced them to pay a huge amount for repatriation.

Up to now, she said, no action has been taken by Administrator Carmelita Dimzon, adding, Burayag remains in his post while more than 30 women workers are still locked up in the company’s barracks.

“Burayag’s attitude reflects the Arroyo administration’s general mis-conduct toward overseas Filipino workers. They really do not pay attention to the well-being of our fellow Filipinos working abroad. In truth, many of them connive with foreign employers such as Annasban in subjecting Filipino workers in dire conditions. Kalakal ang turing sa OFWs, hindi tao. Habol lang nila ang kita na makukuha mula sa pagsasamantala sa aming lakas-paggawa,” said Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International.

(They treat us like trade and not human beings. They are only after their own interests.)

Migrante, an international alliance of Filipino migrant organizations, challenged the new regime under President-elect Benigno Simeon Aquino III to probe and sack erring officials and reorient the OWWA to be a genuine service institution.

The group also urged Aquino to scrap the OWWA Omnibus Policies, which it branded as an “anti-migrant” policy unilaterally imposed by the Arroyo administration.

Negosasyon sa paglaya ng dinukot na anak ng Comelec brass, nagsimula na!

ILIGAN CITY (Mindanao Examiner / June 22, 2010) – Isa umanong negosasyon ang nagaganap upang mapalaya sa lalong madaling panahon ang dinukot na anak ni Commission on Elections Commissioner Elias Yusoph sa Lanao del Sur.

Hindi naman makunan ng detalye si Yusoph o ang Crisis Management Committee ukol sa paguusap, subalit kinumpirma ng pulisya na may negosasyon na nga sa paglaya ni Nuraldin Yusoph, 22.

Si Nuraldin ay dinukot ng mga armado kalalakihan kamakalawa sa mosque sa Marawi City at agad na tinawagan ng mga ito ang ama ng biktima upang sabihing nasa kanila ang anak. Hiling ng mga kidnappers ay ibasura ni Yusoph ang resulta ng nakaraang halalan sa apat na bayan sa lalawigan.

Kinumpirma naman ito ng pulisya at sinabi ni Senior Superintendent Bienvenido Latag, ang hepe ng pulisya sa Muslim autonomous region, na ang Crisis Management Committee sa pangunguna ng mga opisyal ng Lanao del Sur ang siyang inatasang lumutas sa pagdukot.

Sinabi pa ni Latag na hinihingi nga ng mga kidnappers na ibasura ang resulta ng eleksyon sa bayan ng Malabang, Taraka, Pikong at Masiu kapalit ng paglaya ni Nuraldin.

May hinala naman ang pulisya na kamag-anakan rin ni Yusoph ang nasa likod ng pagdukot sa akalang may kapangyarihan ito na i-annul ang resulta ng halalan sa nasabing mga bayan.

Tikom rin ang bibig ni Yusoph ukol sa kaso, ngunit may komunikasyon umano ito sa mga kidnappers. Isa lamang si Nuraldin sa 10 anak ni Yusop.

Talamak sa dayaan at vote-buying ang halalan nuong Mayo 10 sa Lanao kung kaya't ilang lugar dito ay napostpone ang botohan at itinuloy nitong buwan lamang. Walang umako sa pagdukot kay Nuraldin, ayon sa pulisya. (Mindanao Examiner)

Kaguluhan sa Cotabato, patuloy pa rin!

Nakaabang ang mga motorboat na ito sa pasaherong galing sa palengke sa Cotabato City sa Mindanao. (Kuha ng Mindanao Examiner).

COTABATO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / June 22, 2010) – Mistulang Afghanistan na ang lungsod ng Cotabato sa Mindanao dahil sa walang humpay na patayan at pambobomba doon at tila inutil ang pulisya at militar na mapigil ang krimen at terorismo.

Ito’y matapos na isang bomba na naman ang sumabog sa isang sangay Mercury Drugstore nuong Lunes, ngunit masuwerteng walang nasawi sa atake.

Pinaniniwalaang konektado sa extortion ang nasabing pagsabog.

Hiling naman ng mga negosyante doon na paigtingin ang intelligence at patrulya ng mga sundalo at parak upang mapigilan ang kaguluhan. Sinisisi naman ng iba ang ilang mga opisyal ng Cotabato dahil sa hindi nito maisaayos ang lungsod.

Minsan ng binansagan ng US Embassy na “doormat to terrorism” ang lungsod ng Cotabato.

Mismong si US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone ang nagbansag nito sa Cotabato ilang taon na ang nakaraan dahil sa matinding kaguluhan.

Ilang ulit na rin binomba ang lungsod na ikinasawi ng maraming sibilyan at talamak rin ang patayan at dukutin sa Cotabato. (Mindanao Examiner)

Monday, June 21, 2010

George and Macel Vigo remembered in Kidapawan City

Relatives and friends of slain couple and journalists George and Macel Vigo remember murder of the duo four years ago. (Mindanao Examiner Photo – Geo Solmerano)

George and Macel Vigo before they are murdered. (Photos courtesy of georgeandmaricel.blogspot.com)

KIDAPAWAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 21, 2010) – Relatives and friends of slain Filipino couple and broadcasters George and Macel Vigo have trooped to the local cemetery to offer prayers as they commemorated the twin murders which occurred four years ago.

They still cried for justice.

The duo was returning home on their motorcycle when ambushed on June 19, 2006 in Kidapawan City. Before they were killed, George told his friends that suspected military intelligence agents were tailing him and this after he showed local officials a propaganda video mailed to him by communist rebels, according to the blog http://georgeandmaricel.blogspot.com.

It said their assailants followed them on two motorcycles, and the killer, riding pillion, fired on them point blank.

“Two days after the killings, the police declared they had 70 percent of the case solved. The couple was communists, the national chief of the police concluded, and their killer was also a communist whom the New People’s Army sent to kill them for spying for the military,” it said.

“The police then had Maricel's mother sign what they called a "routine affidavit." She was in fact giving her approval to go ahead with a lawsuit against the NPA. The document was in English, a language she neither reads nor speaks.”

It added: “Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblo, a member of the Melo Commission that was created in 2006 to investigate extrajudicial killings, suggested that the Vigos’ death was politically motivated, ordered by powerful people in the community.” (With a report from Geo Solmerano)

German tourist abducted in South RP

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 21, 2010) – A German tourist who was to see his Filipino fiancée was reported to have been abducted in Davao City in the southern Philippines, authorities said Monday.

Authorities said Fier Medricat, whose father is living with another Filipino woman in Davao City, was taken on Sunday by two men in Toril, a village where communist rebels are actively operating.

Medricat’s girlfriend told police that the foreigner sent her an SMS to say that he was taken by two men who said they were members of the communist New People’s Army rebels. He said the men also took his money worth over P400,000.

The woman, niece of the Filipino wife of Medricat’s father, reported the matter to the authorities.

She said Medricat was supposed to meet her on Saturday in the village, but the foreigner told her that he was lost in Toril and stayed with a woman in the village whom he identified only as Mama.

Government troops also launched an operation to help the police in their investigation into the reported abduction.

“Soldiers from the 69th Infantry Battalion mounted a complimentary operation in Toril to help police investigating the reported abduction of Fier Medricat,” said Army Captain Emmanuel Garcia, a spokesman for the 10th Infantry Division.

Garcia would not say if rebels were really involved in the abduction, although the New People’s Army is not known to target foreigners for ransom, but had warned it would attack US troops deployed in the restive region to help local soldiers defeat communist insurgents.

Gangsters and criminals had in the past posed as communist rebels to extort money from traders in the southern Philippines. The NPA is the armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines which is waging a secessionist war the past four decades. (Mindanao Examiner)

Poll official's son abducted in Southern Philippines

An undated photo of Commissioner Elias Yusop, whose son Nuraldin Yusoph, 22, was abducted in Marawi City in the southern Philippines on Sunday, June 20, 2010. (Mindanao Examiner)

ILIGAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 21, 2010) – A son of a Filipino poll commissioner was abducted in the southern Philippines and his abductors were demanding the annulment of recent elections in at least 3 towns in the restive region, police said Monday.

Police said Nuraldin Yusoph, 22, was seized late Sunday in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.

Senior Superintendent Bienvenido Latag, the regional police chief, said the victim is a son of Elias Yusoph, one of seven members of the Commission on Elections.

“Nuraldin Yusoph failed to return home after praying at mosque in Marawi City on Sunday evening and an unidentified person contacted Commission Elias to say that they got his son and demanded the annulment of election results in Malabang, Taraka, Pikong and Masiu in exchange for the release of the young Yusoph,” Latag said in an interview.

He a crisis management committee was formed Monday to tackle the situation. “We are investigating this case,” he said.

James Jimenez, the spokesman for the Commission on Election, confirmed the abduction and said the abductors were communicating with the elder Yusop who had spoken to his son on the phone. Yusoph’s son said he is okay and being treated well. The victim is one of 10 children of Yusoph.

General elections were held in the country on May 10, but some areas in Lanao province had been marred with violence and vote-buying that polls had been postponed and continued only this month. (With a report from Becky de Asis)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Filipino journalist killed

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 20, 2010) – An unidentified gunman shot dead a Filipino journalist in an attack in the southern Philippines, police and media reports said.

Police said Nestor Bedolido, who wrote for the newspaper “Kastigador” was shot on Saturday night in Digos City. He was the third journalist killed in recent weeks.

The motive of the attack was unknown and police said it launched an investigation to the murder of Bedolido.

Last week, broadcasters Jovelito Agustin and Desiderio Camangyan were killed in separate attacks. Agustin was fatally shot in Laoag City in northern Philippines while Camangyan had beekn killed in Davao Oriental province.

More than 100 journalists had been killed in the Philippines since President Gloria Arroyo came into power in 2001. (Mindanao Examiner)

NPA rebels seize soldier, militia in Mindanao

Communist rebels release photos of four prisoners - Army Corporals Marcial Bawagan, Ariel Asumo, Eduardo Alcala and Victor Pitogo - shortly before they are freed in Mindanao. The four were taken prisoners in the town of Mawab on May 12, 2010.

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 20, 2010) – Communist rebels held a government soldier and a militiaman after stopping public vehicles at a checkpoint in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said the two hostages - Staff Sergeant Bienvenido Arguilles, of the 25th Infantry Battalion, and Job Latiban - were seized Saturday in the village of Uper Ulip in Compostela Valley’s Monkayo town.

“The two were just passing by the village when dissident-terrorists collared them,” said Army Captain Emmanuel Garcia, a spokesman for the 10th Infantry Division.

He said some 30 New People’s Army set up the checkpoint and inspected passing vehicles for soldiers. Civilian passengers were also forced to attend a lecture by rebels about their cause and later freed.

Garcia did not give other details about the abduction, but said troops were sent to track down the rebels and rescue the duo.

The latest strike by rebels came days after they freed three soldiers and a government militia after almost a month in captivity in Compostela Valley.

The four - Army Corporals Marcial Bawagan, Ariel Asumo, Eduardo Alcala and Victor Pitogo - were taken prisoners in the town of Mawab on May 12.

Anvil Guinto, a spokesman for the rebel’s Crucifino Uballas command, said the release of the prisoners came after their families appealed to the NPA to free the four men who are being accused of violating human rights of civilians in the province.

“The release is in recognition of the appeals made by the families, religious groups and personalities, well-meaning individuals and progressive groups on their behalf,” he said. ”The NPA accords the released POWs the chance to conduct themselves in a manner respectful of the people's rights and the international laws of war. Their arrest and subsequent detention should also serve as a warning to officers and elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and their intelligence and paramilitary units.”

On Friday, rebels also attacked a group of policemen and wounding three of them in Davao Oriental’s Cateel town. Security officials said as many as five rebels were either killed or wounded in the fighting after a failed raid on a police station in the town.

The NPA is the military wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines which have been fighting for decades for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country. (Mindanao Examiner)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Police eyeing politician's role in radio journalist's killing: ABS-CBN

LAOAG City, Philippines - Police investigators are eyeing the possible role of a local politician in the murder of radio journalist Joselito Agustin in Ilocos Norte on Tuesday night.

Chief Superintendent Constante Azures, Ilocos regional police director, said intelligence operatives have been deployed around Manila to monitor the movements of the politician.

"The individual I'm referring to is in Manila. There are many intelligence [agents] spread all over Manila," Azures said.

He, however, clarified that he could not yet name the politician or have him arrested because police investigators were still gathering strong evidence to pin the politician to Agustin's killing.

"Apparently right now I cannot just mention the name of that [politician] because we have to firm up all the evidence," he said.

Shooter named

Azures said that the politician's possible role in the killing cropped up after Agustin's surviving nephew, Joseph, positively identified one of their shooters.

Agustin and his nephew were on board a motorcycle when they were ambushed by 2 motorcycle-riding gunmen along the national highway in Barangay Barit, Laoag City on Tuesday night.

The radio journalist died in hospital at 1:15 a.m. Wednesday.

The regional police director said the nephew identified one of the 2 motorcycle-riding gunmen as Mark Leonardo Banaag Jr.

"He is being tracked right now. He went here in Vigan. He cannot move anymore. He better surrender, all police agents are on his track," Azures told reporters.

He said charges are also being prepared against Banaag, who is a close aide of the local politician.

Azures said they are also checking if Banaag is a member of a private army or of a gun-for-hire syndicate operating in the region.

'Partially' closed case

The regional police chief said they are now considering the Agustin case as "partially closed" with the pending filing of charges against Banaag.

He said police are working round-the-clock to determine if the local politician has the motive to order Agustin's killing.

"Nobody has slept yet," he said, adding that police investigators are reviewing records of Agustin's commentaries in the last 3 weeks.

Philippine National Police chief Director-General Jesus Verzosa has ordered Task Force Usig, a police group formed to focus on media and extra-judicial killings, to relentlessly pursue the case "until solved."

Verzosa also wants police units to continue pursuing cases of media killings until the gunmen and masterminds are charged and convicted in court.

Agustin's killing happened less than 24 hours after the murder of 52-year-old radio commentator Desiderio "Jessie" Camangyan of Sunrise FM radio station in Manay town, Davao Oriental.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said Agustin is the 139th journalist killed since the late President Corazon Aquino came into power in 1986, and the 102nd under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

International media groups have labeled the Philippines as the "deadliest country" for journalists in 2009, accounting for 37 of 132 journalists and support staff killed or died while working around the world.

The deaths include at least 30 local journalists in a politically motivated massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao province last November 23, 2009. (With a report from Randy Menor, ABS-CBN Laoag)


Friday, June 18, 2010

3 cops wounded in rebel attack in South RP

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 18, 2010) – Communist rebels attacked a group of policemen Friday and wounding three in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said as many as five New People’s Army rebels were either killed or wounded in the fighting after a failed raid on a police station in Davao Oriental’s Cateel town.

Army Captain Emmanuel Garcia, a spokesman for the 10th Infantry Division, said at least 40 rebels were involved in the fighting.

“The NPAs were seen dragging at least five of their companions who might be dead or wounded as they fled for safety,” he said, adding, security forces recovered one of two trucks the rebels used in escaping.
He said the trucks were earlier stolen by rebels.

The NPA is the military wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines which have been fighting for decades for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country. (Mindanao Examiner)

'Erasing Iraq' — and the Philippine situation

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - Recently, a book hit the press in New York describing what American award-winning journalist Dahr Jamail described as “a comprehensive overview of the situation in Iraq today, and the decades of US-backed policy it took to create this nightmare scenario.”

The book discusses in detail the physical, psychological, and cultural destruction of the invasion of the U.S. military in Iraq, known in the ancient times as Mesopotamia, once seat of ancient civilization.

Penned by award-winning freelance journalist and human rights consultant Michael Otterman and Richard Hil, with Paul Wilson, Erasing Iraq (The Human Costs of Carnage) is a poignant story of unheard voices of refugees, surviving Iraqis, and non-Iraqi eyewitnesses who continue to “wonder why many innocent endlessly suffer needlessly.”

The destruction in Iraq goes beyond the arrest and death of Saddam Hussein who was not very much loved by the majority of his own people, but is nestled in what Otterman and Hil suggest as the Iraqi sociocide.

An excerpt of the book says: “What has the US left behind in Iraq? Our interviews with Iraqis, along with the reporting of human rights organizations, bloggers and enterprising journalists, foretell an uncertain road ahead. Iraq’s women and children—always the most vulnerable in times of unrest - remain at risk, while Iraqi homosexuals and the country’s ethnic and religious minorities continue to face violent death in the new (Itals. provided) Iraq.

Furthermore, the decimated remains of Iraq’s rich cultural heritage—once safeguarded in museums, libraries, and secure archaeological sites—continue to be sold off abroad to the highest bidder. While the worst of the post-invasion violence seems to have subsided, a legacy of sociocide—the total assault upon Iraqi lives, culture and national identity—remains.”

The impact of these US-initiated destruction in the early years of the millennium may have been made immediately visible via destruction of roads, infrastructure, heightened social problems, which the authors cited to include “malnutrition, disease, and interrupted education” among Iraqi children who are to be the next generation of leaders in Iraq.

“Iraqi children are paying far too high a price,” UNICEF’s special representative for Iraq, Roger Wright is quoted by the authors.

The situation in this Asian country, or the picture and story vividly told by Otterman and Hil in Erasing Iraq (The Human Costs of Carnage) may not be too keenly interesting to Filipinos, especially Mindanaoans where a contingent of about five hundred are annually occupying certain areas (particularly Zamboanga City, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Marawi City, Pagadian City, and Cotabato City), and a contingent of four to five thousands arrive on a special mission for the annual joint military exercise with the Philippine Armed Forces. After all, the Philippine mission is a different war.

The Philippines, being an ally, may probably not suffer an eventual societal erasure as Iraq may be going through. The intention and interests of the United States in Iraq may not be as serious as that in the Philippines. The book Erasing Iraq (The Human Costs of Carnage) suggests a never-ending raison d’etre, which could be a common denominator for Iraq and the Philippines, and this is the oily—the greasy---threads of terrorism.

The thrust of the US military is dubbed “winning hearts and minds one country at a time.”

This is in reference to a “service” program to local residents of whatever country the US is operating on, usually managed by the deployed Civil Affairs Team and Military Information Support Team.

An officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, requesting not to be named, elaborated, saying that these teams have been working their way around Mindanao, and employing the soft military strategy of low intensity warfare, covering overt and covert politico-military operations—hence, winning the battle of the minds and hearts vis-à-vis dole-outs, community services, grants, and the like.

The US military is waging this battle as well in Iraq and Afghanistan, post-invasion, and in a very subtle way, in the Philippines sans an invasion. It can be well-argued though that there is no need for the US to invade the Philippines because, since it took us from the bondage of a 300-year Spanish rule after a good buy at a measly $20 million, America has never left the Philippines.

The Philippine situation may not be as serious, but the Iraq scenario provides insights.

Erasing Iraq (The Human Costs of Carnage) is a good read, ushering enlightening though-far-from-novel truth from voices that have been unheard. In the stretch of its 248 pages, the authors deliver the message that the root of the conflict for world power is oil.

It is time that the Philippine Department of Energy, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines do more than the service they have afforded to the Filipino people.(Frencie L. Carreon)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Two provincial radio presenters gunned down in space of 24 hours

Reporters Without Borders on Thursday urged President Gloria Arroyo and President-elect Benigno Aquino 3rd to react firmly to the murders of two provincial radio presenters in the past two days.

Two weeks before Aquino’s swearing-in, there are clearly people in positions of influence who think they can still hire hit-men to silence critical journalists with impunity.

“These two murders signal President Arroyo’s failure as regards the safety of journalists,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Combating impunity and violence against the media must now be a priority for Aquino. The whole country’s credibility is at stake.”

The press freedom organization added: “Post-electoral violence against the media is not new, but these two murders in close succession are alarming. We call on the police and judicial authorities to assign additional personnel to the investigations and, in both cases, to seriously examine the possibility that the motive was linked to the victim’s work as a journalist.”

Desidario Camangyan, 52, the host of a discussion program on Sunshine FM, was gunned down while on the stage of a singing contest in Manay, in the southeastern province of Davao Oriental, on the evening of 14 June.

Police office Ariel Nueva said Camangyan was sitting on the stage when a gunman fired a single shot to his head and then left on foot. A police spokesman told Reporters Without Borders that a team had been formed to investigate the case and that they were looking closely at the possibility of a link to Camangyan’s journalistic work.

Colleagues at Sunshine FM, which is part of the Kalayaan Broadcasting Network, told journalists’ organizations that Camangyan was often critical in his program of local politicians and those responsible for deforestation. He leaves a widow and a six-year-old son.

Joselito Agustin of dzJC Aksyon Radyo, a local station, was riding a motorcycle with his nephew in Laoag City, in the northern province of Ilocos Norte when he was shot four times by two men on another motorcycle. His nephew was wounded. Aged 37, Agustin died last night in hospital.

A colleague, Nick Malasig, said Agustin had receiving threatening SMS messages. “Joselito suspected that a local politician had him in his sights, a politician he had accused of corruption in his program.” Sterling Blanco, the police officer in charge of the investigation, said shots were also fired at Agustin’s home last month.

A total of four journalists have been killed in the Philippines since the start of the month.

Zamboanga trader abducted at sea

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 17, 2010) – Gunmen seized a local trader Thursday while traveling at sea in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines where security forces are pursuing kidnappers a Filipino-Swiss.

Police said the victim, Vicente Barrios, was abducted by gunmen after he was intercepted at sea. Barrios was with several companions aboard a motorboat when gunmen on a speedboat intercepted them and seized the trader.

“We still don’t know the motive of this incident. We have dispatched forces to locate the victim,” Chief Inspector Ricardo Garcia told reporters.

The abduction occurred a day after police commandos, backed by soldiers killed one of three gunmen tagged as behind the April 4 kidnapping of Charlie Reith, 72, who was rescued early Wednesday in the coastal village of Labuan.

Police said the slain gunman, Habir Ibno Kais, was with two others who managed to escape, but security forces were pursuing them.

Senior Superintendent Edwin de Ocampo, the city police chief, said security forces tracked down the trio in the neighboring village of San Ramon and clashed with them.

“It was part of our operation and Kais was killed in the firefight. There is pursuit operation going on to track down the other kidnappers of Reith,” he said.

De Ocampo did not say whether Moro rebels were involved in the kidnapping, but three photos of Reith’s captors the police previously made public showed one of them was involved in the kidnapping of Irish missioner Michael Sinnott in Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur province in October last year.

Sinnott, 80, was freed two months later in the village of Sangali in Zamboanga City after private negotiators paid huge ransom to the kidnappers, believed to be Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels who originally demanded two million dollars for the priest’s safe release.

Authorities said at least 8 armed men stormed Reith’s beach house in Zamboanga City’s Patalon village and seized him. His friend, German national Karl Reichling, managed to fight off the raiders. The kidnappers later demanded P20 million for Reith’s safe release and at one time threatened to cut off his finger if his family does not pay up.

No group or individual claimed responsibility for Reith’s kidnapping. But the military tagged MILF sub-leader Malista Malanca and Abu Sayyaf commander Khair Mundos as responsible for Reith’s kidnapping. Authorities have linked both groups to previous kidnappings and terrorism in Zamboanga.

Kidnappings-for-ransom in Zamboanga City were not uncommon. Many foreigners and wealthy traders had been kidnapped in the past and released after their family paid ransom. (Mindanao Examiner)