Monday, April 30, 2007

Banging the Drums of War!

DAVAO CITY - Mainstream print media's coverage of recent events in Mindanao is manufacturing consent for war.

As Mindanao reels yet again on the brink of another all-out war, sections of mainstream print media may be helping push it closer to the edge.

A quick round-up of their coverage tells us what in their view has been happening: A rogue commander not supported by the rest of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and who is coddling "al-Qaeda linked" Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah members started it all by attacking the military. The military had no choice but to retaliate. Now things are spiraling out of control and it's all the terrorist-coddling rogue commander's fault.

Such a plot may well have been written by the public information office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). But it is precisely how the conflict is being passed off as truth to the public by certain sections of the press. The underlying message is hard to miss: the military are necessarily the "good guys" and they need our unconditional support.

Take for example veteran defense reporter Manny Mogato's dispatch for Reuters on April 17: "Fighting between government forces and rogue Muslim rebels is spreading in the southern Philippines, shattering hopes for peace and threatening local support for a U.S.-backed campaign to flush out militants."[1]

Note that the word "rogue" -- a value-laden adjective synonymous to "rascal" or "scoundrel" according to a thesaurus -- was not enclosed in quotation marks. Editors, usually allergic to the faintest hints of editorializing, apparently let it pass. The word "alleged," a convenient term for attributing a claim to a source, is missing. There is also no indication that the reporter was merely using a word used by the military to describe their adversaries.

The writer himself apparently believes -- and leads his readers to believe -- that the other actors in the conflict are indeed "rogue." In another paragraph, Mogato describes the leader of the "rogue" rebels, Ustadz Habier Malik, as a "renegade" commander -- again, without using quotation marks. The term "renegade" is likewise used without quotation marks by Anthony Vargas of the Manila Times and ABS-CBN's online news.

Reporting for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Michael Lim Ubac, Christine Avendano, and Julie Alipala wrote: "President Macapagal- Arroyo... yesterday gave free rein to the Armed Forces of the Philippines to pursue Moro terrorists on Jolo island..."[2] Note that the word "terrorist," a highly emotionally charged term, does not have quotation marks around it and there is nothing to suggest that the reporters were merely using Arroyo's word.

It was their own. The headline, "GMA tells AFP: Pursue MNLF rebel," proclaims who they are referring to. They also describe Malik as a commander of a "rogue faction" of the MNLF but without indicating that such a description was bestowed by the government, not something that they found out on their own. If such glaring editorializing was an oversight, there was no erratum the following day.

Alipala, in another Inquirer article published April 25, wrote: "Military clashes against Abu Sayyaf terrorists and their coddlers have triggered fresh evacuation of residents in nine towns on the island." Having reported that the AFP has been running after the MNLF's "rogue faction" because it is accused by the military of coddling the Abu Sayyaf, Alipala and her editors seem to have gone one step farther.

They explicitly accept the military's avowed rationale for the war and inform their readers that yes, indeed, without any doubt, the MNLF has been coddling the Abu Sayyaf and that this is truly the reason why the military is hunting them.

In this case, Alipala outdid even the AFP itself because as late as April 21, AFP Chief Hermogenes Esperon himself was quoted by the Inquirer as saying that they are still "validating" reports about the MNLF linking up with the Abu Sayyaf.[3] If Alipala had other sources of information to support her contention, she did not disclose them.

The above is, with few exceptions, typical: reporters have taken to appropriating the military's explanation in their narrative and to adopting the military's labels and adjectives as their own.[4] Journalists normally attribute claims to their sources and take pains to put quotation marks around their sentences or phrases.

For example, instead of saying, "fighting between government forces and rogue Muslim rebels," one could have, at the very least, said "fighting between government forces and Muslim rebels described as 'rogue' by the military." Or "Moro fighters described as 'terrorists' by the government" instead of "Moro terrorists." (To be fair, one must also ensure that the Moro fighters' own description of the military should also be included.)

But choices are rarely innocent: that attribution has been deemed unnecessary points to just how much the world-views of the military and the reporters covering them have melded.
Another basic journalistic practice, that of allowing the other party to air its side, was, in all of the articles above, casually abandoned. No one bothered to find out what Malik or anyone who could speak for his group had to say.

It was no secret, even then, that the MNLF and other independent sources from Sulu had, from the very beginning, maintained that it was the military's attack on an MNLF camp the previous week, the killing of a Moro youth and other unresolved abuses they blame on the military, and the postponement of the tripartite meeting seven times in a row that, they claim, provoked them to fire back.

There is also no mention that the MNLF has consistently denied allegations that they are sheltering the Abu Sayyaf nor is there any reference to the military's failure to present proof to support its allegation. There is not even a passing mention of the MNLF's claim that, contrary to the AFP's pronouncements, Malik has not been disowned by the group.

There was no mention of all these because those with the MNLF were not even asked. Article after article on the situation lacked the customary "other side". If it was because Malik or anyone who could speak for him couldn't be found -- an unlikely possibility -- there was no mention that "Malik or any other representative from his group could not be reached as of press time." Interestingly, there was a reference to MNLF chairman Nur Misuari supposedly distancing himself from Malik in an ABS-CBN article. But who was the source? Not Misuari himself but a police superintendent. The other side does have a voice; the media allows the military and the police to speak for them. [5]

This is not to say that the MNLF should be given the final word. Beyond presenting both sides, the media is also expected to verify their claims independently because two contradictory sides can't both be true at the same time. But how can the MNLF's claims even be scrutinized when they are not even given the chance to air their side? That reporters ignored the need for balance, an elementary requirement of any news article, not only betrays complete faith in one side's pronouncements and a lack of any interest in finding out the truth.

Such faith is confounding given the military's record of contradiction. That the military has in the past claimed to be pursuing "terrorists" only to backtrack later is documented. In February 2003, for instance, the military adamantly claimed that the target of their offensives was the Pentagon gang in central Mindanao only to publicly admit later that they were actually going after the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) all along.[6]

As early as 2001, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales had accused the MNLF of getting cozy with the Abu Sayyaf.[7] But up to November last year, when the AFP again claimed to be fighting the MNLF because it was coddling the ASG, Esperon contradicted his own superiors and subordinates by saying that they had no confirmation to back-up their allegation.[8]

When clashes broke out in the past, the military had repeatedly presented itself as the aggrieved party that was only provoked to fire back in response. Such was the case in February and November 2005. It turned out that, according to locals, the former began when a group of soldiers massacred an entire defenseless family in Kapuk Punggul and the latter started when the military knowingly attacked an MNLF camp.

A more systematic and more comprehensive content-analysis of media's reportage could yield interesting findings. But its coverage of recent developments in Mindanao's long-drawn out war is most likely not an aberration. This is not the first time, for example, that the media had adopted the military's labels.

When fighting broke out in November 2005, article after article reported that the military was going after a so-called "Misuari Breakaway Group" -- the name the military gave their enemies at that time -- even when those who were being chased claimed to be with the mainstream of the MNLF and even as no other faction within the MNLF contested their claim.[9] Question: if Juan wants to call himself Juan but Jose wants to call him Pedro, should the media follow Jose and call Juan not Juan but Pedro instead?

The media's coverage of the barbaric beheading of seven construction workers also raises a lot of issues. The Inquirer devoted its front- page banner article discussing the heart-breaking killing of innocent civilians with simple dreams and on how Muslim leaders roundly condemned the crime.[10]

Rightly so. But when was the last time the Inquirer -- or any newspaper for that matter -- devoted a banner article, or even one on the inside pages, on the beheading of innocent Moro youths blamed on the military? When was the last time reporters solicited the Catholic hierarchy's condemnation of Catholics who are accused of beheading Moros? Or are young Moros' dreams worth less in the calculus of newspaper lay-out? Is their religion irrelevant when the killers are Christian?

Interestingly, with the Abu Sayyaf probably mentioned in more news reports these days than any other group or individual, when was the last time a reporter bothered to interview someone from the group? Given that, in Sulu, the Abu Sayyaf seems to be whoever the military claims it to be and given that those who are labeled Abu Sayyaf, being buried six feet under, could no longer contest the military's claims, did the media have any other independent source of information on the beheadings apart from the military?

With all the speculation and the unresolved reports that the Abu Sayyaf is colluding with the military and local warlords, isn't it high time that someone in the media actually tried to find out who they are and what they have to say and why they do the things they reportedly do? Or shouldn't we talk to the "enemies" and just allow the military to be their spokespersons?

Speaking of the Abu Sayyaf, no mention of the group now seems to be complete without the phrase "al-Qaeda linked." News report after news report point out that the Abu Sayyaf is linked to Osama bin Laden's worldwide network and leave it at that -- as though such a claim has once-and-for-all been established and is not to be questioned any longer.[11] Except for the occasional reference to unnamed "intelligence officials," there is often no mention as to who makes the claim and no discussion as to the bases of their claims.

We are never told that such a claim -- which is central to the rationale for the "war on terror" -- is hardly undisputed. In fact, even the Arroyo government is on record as saying that such a connection has not been adequately proven and the US Congressional Research Service has pointed out that the government's claims are conflicting.[12] Other researchers have raised a lot of unanswered questions over the allegation.

If they are unable to go to the bottom of things, then, at the very least, reporters could add a cautionary line or two saying that the 'al-Qaeda-linked' claim is still the subject of an ongoing debate. Such a disclaimer is rarely found. The phrase "al-Qaeda-linked" has become a permanent, self-perpetuating fixture that is questioned by no one and repeated by everyone.

What explains reporters' cavalier abandonment of the basic tenets of journalism in covering the war? The pressures of the news-cycle? The perils of parachute journalism? What makes among the most skeptical of professions suddenly accept what they are told without any question? Is there an underlying "us versus them" jingoism and prejudice underlying the coverage? Is there a confluence of interests between the military and the reporters "embedded" with them? These issues could be exciting academic questions in the field of media studies.

But it is an academic question only if lives were not on the line. For just as the media played a large part in justifying and rallying public opinion in favor of the invasion of Iraq by their failure -- or refusal -- to look into Bush's claim regarding Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction -- and indeed the New York Times later apologized for this failure, the Philippine media's coverage of developments in the South has been fanning the flames of war.

The unchallenged story-line that the military is purveying and the media is uncritically reporting to the public -- i.e. that a "rogue" faction "coddling terrorists" started it all and that the military are necessarily the "good guys" who can do no wrong and who were left with no other choice -- is precisely what is required to draw public support for aggressive military solutions to the complex problems in the south.

The other possibilities -- that hawkish military commanders backed up by other interests with the material incentives to kill the peace agreement have taken over Arroyo's embattled government, that Moros are being driven to a corner because of the atrocities being committed against them -- will never be explored because they will not make it to the news.

It is not reporters who are dropping bombs in Sulu. But by uncritically covering the war from the perspective of the military, they may be cheering on those who do.

[1] Manny Mogato, "Fighting Spreads in southern Philippines," Reuters, April 17, 2007.
[2] Michael Lim Ubac, Christine O. Avendano, and Julie S. Alipala, "GMA tells AFP: Pursue MNLF rebel," Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 18, 2007.
[3] Juliet Labog-Javellana, "Beheadings Outrage GMA, Islamic Scholars," Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 21, 2007.
[4] "Palace defends Sulu offensive vs Moro rebels," abs-cbn.com, April 17, 2007; "Beheadings spur AFP to press hunt for Abu Sayyaf," The Manila Times, April 21, 2007; "Sulu fighting uproots more than 40,000: WFP," abs-cbn.com, April 19, 2007.
[5] "Sulu fighting uproots more than 40,000: WFP," abs-cbn.com, April 19, 2007.
[6] Dona Pazzibugan, "MILF, not Pentagon gang, real target, says military," Philippine Daily Inquirer, Feb 17 2003.
[7] "I didn't oust Nur, I was part of the process," Newsbreak, December 5, 2001.
[8] Roel Pareno, "2,000 Sulu folk flee fighting," Philippine Star, November 15, 2005.
[9] See for example Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Julie S. Alipala, Edwin O. Fernandez, Nash Maulana, "New fighting erupts in Jolo," Inquirer News Service, November 17, 2005, www.inq7.net, Sam Mediavilla, Al Jacinto and Anthony Vargas, "Jolo offensive to drag on until Christmas," abs- cbn.com, November 18, 2005.
[10] Julie S. Alipala and Cynthia D. Balana, "Dreams of 2 Zambo Teeners end in Jolo," Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 21, 2007.
[11] Julie S. Alipala, "9 soldiers, civilian slain in Army base shooting rampage," Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 8, 2007; Julie S. Alipala, "Military probes Sulu misencounter," Philippine Daily Inquirer, March 5, 2007; Andrew Marshall, "The Philippines' Unending Guerilla War," Time Magazine, Jan. 25, 2007.
[12] Larry Niksch, "Abu Sayyaf: Target of Philippine-US Anti- Terrorism Cooperation," CRS Report for Congress, Jan 25, 2002.(Contributed by Herbert Docena, a researcher with Focus on the Global South, an international policy research and advocacy institute, who has been following the war in Mindanao.)

Alagad Party List Coordinator Is Killed In South RP

DAVAO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 28 Apr) – Motorcycle gunmen killed a regional coordinator of the Alagad party list group in an attack in the southern Philippine city of Davao, police said.

Police said three gunmen were involved in the shooting of Josephine Buca just in front of the South Villa Apartelle in the village of Pampanga at dawn Sunday.

Buca was with her husband, Felix, in their mini-van when the gunmen attacked. Police said the husband tried to fight off the attackers, but was whipped with a pistol on the head.

The trio escaped after the shooting. The motive of the attack is still unknown, except that the woman was a coordinator for the Alagad party list. The party list was founded in November 1997. Its current representative to Philippine Congress is Rep. Rodante Marcoleta.

Dozens of people, mostly with police records, had been summarily executed in Davao City by so-called members of a vigilante group called Davao Death Squad , but relatives of those slain accused authorities as behind the extra-judicial killings. (With reports from Juan Magtanggol and Romy Bwaga)

Pulisya Duda Pa Rin Sa Killer Ni Julia Campbell

QUEZON CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 28 Apr) – Bagamat umamin na si Juan Dontugan na siyang pumatay kay United States Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell ay sisiyasatin pa umano ng pulisya ang naturang krimen.

Sinabi kanina ni Philippine National Police Chief Director General Oscar Calderon na kinakailangan pa ring siyasatin ang mga naging salaysay ni Dontugan sapagkat maaari rin umanong gumawa ng palusot ito upang makaiwas sa mas mabigat na kaparusahan.

Inaangkin ni Dontugan na aksidente lamang ang pagpatay nito kay Campbell na napagkamalang kanyang kaaway.

Ngunit, ayon kay Calderon, mahalaga ring makumpirma ang tunay na mga nangyari, batay sa mga ebidensyang nakalap ng pulisya at sa testimonya ng mga testigo.

Inuungkat na rin ng PNP kung sino ang sinasabing nakaaway ni Dontugan at kung saan nag-ugat kung kayat tila napraning ito at napagkamalan si Campbell.

Si Dontugan ay sinampahan na ng kasong pagpatay ng Ifugao Provincial Police Office.

"We do not take his statement hook, line, and sinker. It was a doubtful statement. We base our findings on investigation, physical evidence. Kaya nga murder. Otherwise it is a homicide case," ani Calderon.

Sa pagharap sa suspek sa mga mamamahayag, hindi napigilan ni Dontugan na maiyak ngunit nananatiling tikom ang bibig.

Sinabi ni Calderon na nakunsensya umano si Dontugan kung kayat minabuti nitong kusang sumuko sa mga awtoridad. Subalit ang pagsuko nito ay walang timbang sa anumang kaparusahan ipapataw sa kanya.

Sumailalim na rin sa drug test ang suspek para alamin kung gumagamit ng ipinagbabawal na gamot si Dontugan na maaring nakaimpluwensya sa pagsasakatuparan nito ng krimen, bukod pa sa eksaminasyon sa ibang ebidensya.

"Mr Dontugan's blood and urine specimen have been taken for laboratory analysis, as well as the bloodied shirt and ballcap, piece of firewood, and a bolo which the suspect claimed he used as tool to move soil to cover the victim's body. This examination will be useful in establishing our case," dagdag pa ni Calderon. (Juley Reyes)

MNLF On The War Path!

JOLO ISLAND (Mindanao Examiner / 28 Apr) – The Moro National Liberation Front rebels on Monday denied military allegations that it was sheltering members of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group and Jemaah Islamiya in the southern Filipino island of Jolo.

“We have no links whatsoever with the Jemaah Islamiya. We don’t even know who were behind this group. How can they link us with the Jemaah Islamiya or Abu Sayyaf?” said MNLF leader Ustadz Khabir Malik.

Troops were battling Malik’s forces accused of attacking a marine base and the town hall of Panamao town on April 13, killing three soldiers and a civilian, said Philippine military chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon.

The military said Malik’s group is sheltering Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya terrorists on the island, about 950 km south of Manila.

“We have ordered troops to pursue the terrorists and the fugitive Malik. Our operation is now called Oplan Ultimatum 2,” Esperon said.

But Malik accused the military of attacking MNLF forces and killed civilians in the guise of pursuing the Abu Sayyaf and the Jemaah Islamiya.

The military said it was targeting Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya hiding in the camp controlled by the MNLF. Last week, soldiers shelled a base of Khaid Ajibun, one of the most influential rebel leader allied with jailed MNLF chieftain Nur Misuari.

Misuari is facing rebellion charges after his forces attacked a major army headquarters in Jolo island in 2000. The MNLF signed a peace agreement with Manila in September 1996, but Misuari accused the Arroyo government of failing to honor the accord.

Malik said the military violated the peace agreement. “Since they have not respected the MNLF and the September 1996 peace agreement and with all those unprovoked attacks against us, it is now better to have no cease-fire at all.”

“Those who want to attack should attack now. They have been attacking the MNLF. So it is now up to them. We will take care of ourselves.”

Esperon said it was Malik’s group started the hostilities in Jolo.

“Malik attacked military and civilian targets without provocation. Malik attacked the marine base with mortars and also attacked the Panamao town hall, which is 31 kilometers away,” he said.

“Malik remains the subject of our hot pursuit. It is very clear that he committed homicide. We now consider him as a fugitive,” Esperon said.

Malik said: “Do not believe what the military say about the MNLF, we have not done anything wrong. It is the civilians who are suffering from these attacks of the military. There is no peace at all here. The blame should fall on the military and the Arroyo government, not us.”

The military said it killed and wounded dozens of rebels since the fighting broke out in Jolo, a claim strongly denied by the MNLF.

Some 8,000 soldiers are involved in the operation against about a thousand MNLF rebels and Abu Sayyaf members and a dozen Jemaah Islamiya militants, including Dulmatin and Umar Patek, who were both implicated in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people. (Mindanao Examiner)

Dahil sa Poll-Related Violence, AFP Magdadagdag Ng Checkpoints Sa Buong Bansa!

MANILA (Mindanao Examiner / 28 Apr) - Ipinag-utos ngayon ni Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. ang pagdaragdag ng mga checkpoints sa ibat-ibang bahagi ng bansa upang labanan ang krimen na nauugnay sa halalan.

Ayon kay Public Information Office Chief Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro, ito'y alinsunod na rin sa direktiba ng Pangulong Arroyo sa militar na tulungan ang Philippine National Police na tiyakin ang mapayapang halalan sa Mayo 14.

Gayunman, nilinaw ni Bacarro na kakailanganin ang opisyal na direktiba o basbas rin mula sa Commission on Elections (Comelec) bago ang deployment ng mga sundalo sa mga lugar na maituturing na hotspots.

Ito'y bunsod ng umiiral na memorandum of agreement sa pagitan ng Department of National Defense at Comelec na naglilimita na sa trabaho ng AFP tuwing halalan.

"The Chief of Staff has directed the chief of operations to direct all units to increase our checkpoints. Actually, these checkpoints can be done independently or in tandem, jointly with the PNP and the Comelec," ani Bacarro sa pahayagang Mindanao Examiner.

Sinabi pa ni Bacarro na matagal na ring pinaghandaan ng AFP ang posibleng deputization ng Comelec para tugunan ang mga seryosong armadong banta sa seguridad.

"The bottom line is we are ready to provide said assistance once we are deputized by the Commission on Elections based on the recommendation of the Philippine National Police," dagdag nito.

"We are ready and willing to do that, but of course, we will need the deputation coming from the Commission on Elections," hirit pa ng opisyal.

Maging ang PNP ay magpapatupad ng bente-kuwatro oras na checkpoints sa buong bansa, lalo na sa mga lugar na mainit ang pulitika.

Samantala, patuloy na tumataas ang bilang ng mga napapaslang o nasasaktan habang papalapit ang eleksyon.

Sa pinakahuling tala ng pulisya, umaabot na sa 31 ang napapatay habang 59 ang sugatan sa ibat-ibang insidente ng pananabotahe o paglikida sa mga kandidato.

Ngunit mas mababa pa rin umano ito kumpara noong 2004 at 2001 elections.

Sa gunban monitoring naman, umakyat na sa 1,999 ang na-neutralized o naaresto, 1,820 ang nakumpiskang mga armas, 182 mga eksplosibo at 302 iba pang deadly weapons.

Samantala, itinaas naman ng Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) National Capital Region Command (NCR Com) sa red alert ang puwersa nito kaugnay sa paggunita ng Araw ng Paggawa bukas.

Nabatid kay NCR Command Chief Major General Ben Dolorfino na epektibo alas-12 ng tanghali ay inilagay na sa pinakamataas na alerto ang Metro Manila sa harap na rin ng inaasahang dagsa ng mga kilos-protesta.

Kasabay nito, tinatayang 2,000 sundalo ang nakaantabay lamang bilang ayudang puwersa sakaling hindi kayanin ng Philippine National Police (PNP) na kontrolin ang mga raliyista.

"We will place on standby our CDM [civil disturbance management] units. In addition, our quick reaction units will also be placed on standby," ani Dolorfino sa hiwalay na panayam.

Ang Labor Day ang nagsisilbing rallying point ng mga anti-government forces partikular na ang madugong pagpapatalsik kay dating Pangulong Joseph Estrada noong 2001.

Gayunman, sinabi ni Dolorfino na malabo itong maulit sa ngayon at walang ispesipikong banta sa seguridad o kahit sa puwesto ni Pangulong Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. "We do not foresee such thing will happen again," dagdag ng heneral. (Juley Reyes)

Malinis Na Eleksyon, Sigaw Ng Militar Sa Metro!

QUEZON CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 30 Apr) - Tuloy pa rin si Armed Forces National Capital Region Command Chief Major General Mohammad Dolorfino sa kampanya nito para sa malinis na halalan bagamat pinagsabihan na ng liderato ng militar na maghinay-hinay.

Inaangkin ni Dolorfino na may basbas ni AFP Chief of Staff General Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. ang kanyang media advocacy laban sa dayaan sa eleksyon at responsableng pagboto.

Sa isang pulong balitaan, hinamon pa ni Dolorfino ang publiko na gamitin ang karapatan ng mga botante sa matalinong pagpili ng mga kandidato.

Noong nakaraang linggo ay inihayag ni Esperon, sa pamamagitan ng tagapagsalita nito, ang babala kay Dolorfino na magdahan-dahan sa media campaign at sa halip ay tumutok sa paghahanda sa posibleng deployment ng mga sundalo bilang deputy arm ng Commission on Elections (Comelec) sa May 14.

Gayunman, nakakuha aniya siya ng go-signal kay Esperon matapos tiyaking hindi ito makakaapekto sa operasyon ng NCR Command.

"It will not affect their [troops'] operational activities and preparedness. I took this up with the Chief of Staff… It will be just me to include other heads of organizations tha are parties to this covenant," ani Dolorfino.

Una nang umani ng pagbatikos ang nasabing kampanya ni Dolorfino sa paniniwalang magiging daan lamang ito upang mapulitika ang militar.

Ngunit, giit ni Dolorfino, walang masa sa kanyang hangarin dahil hindi naman ito nag-eendorso ng ispesipikong kandidato kundi naglalatag lamang ng mga kuwalipikasyong dapat iboto ng taumbayan.

"I call on our country men, the responsibility of promoting good governance starts in each one of us. Let us exercise our right to suffrage wisely. Let us not be part of efforts to influence the outcome of the election, let's not get involved in violence," dagdag ng heneral. (Juley Reyes)

Zamboanga Candidates' Forum To Discuss Peace, Ecology Issues

ZAMBOANGA CITY- With barely two weeks left before national and local elections, a local civil society group called the Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace (IRSMP), is staging a round-table forum for local politicians on Thursday in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines.

IRSMP lead convener Rev. Fr. Angel C. Calvo said the forum, which would be held at the Lotus Restaurant of the Grand Astoria Hotel, will focus on major, selected public issues relevant to the group's peace-building advocacy and as a voter's education exercise.

Filipinos are to elect their senators, congressmen and local officials on May 14 polls.
Calvo said the forum, which will start at 1:30 p.m., will center on two main issues: Peace-building, peace and security; and ecology and natural resources.

"May 14 is election day. The next set of mid-term elections that will mold our city's future will occur on that day. We would like to hear our local politicians and aspirant candidates' views and programs if ever they will be elected or re-elected," he said.

Invited guests are limited to candidates running for congressional and mayoralty seats.

The candidates will have two minutes to give an initial statement. They will also have the chance to speak more in response to questions during the open forum, which will be attended by IRMSP members, special guests and media.

IRMSP is a loose movement made up of Islam, Protestant and Roman Catholic religious leaders and lay people who regularly meet to discuss current public issues to foster a culture of dialogue and peace. It also implements small community development projects to promote inter-faith bonding.

"We hope that with this forum, we can learn about our candidates' plans and platforms," said Jaafar Kimpa.

Rev. Ronald Bilang also aired a similar statement. Both Kimpa and Bilang are conveners of Islam and Evangelicals, respectively. (Darwin Wee)

The Mindanao Examiner Newspaper April 30-May 6, 2007




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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Three Pieces of Cupcake

Jocelyn Lambac (center), 28, together with fellow recipients of General Santos City Youth Achievers Awards 2006, Donald Louie Monteclaro (left), 20, and Engineer Abdul Gafur Kudarat (right), 27, will be featured June on youth leadership on ABS-CBN television in General Santos City in southern Philippines.


GENERAL SANTOS CITY – The last bottles of soft drink had been drained, the plates of rice cleared, and only a leg of garlic chicken left.
“Each one of us must have knowledge of the Holy Qur’an,” said Jocelyn Lambac, 28, a government employee, clad in a seemingly tight black shirt, pair of black pants and a black headscarf. “I should have had good knowledge of the Holy Qur’an.”

“When he was still bedridden, I would repeatedly chant by his side the Al-Fatiha,” she said, referring to the first chapter of the Muslim Holy Scripture. “It’s all I know.”

Her eyes turned red but she braved crying. “Please, no crying,” she said turning her eyes to one corner of the room, refusing to look straight at the eyes of each person at the table.”

Silence.

“Gandhi and I have good news for you,” said Jovar Pantao, 24, a community organizer. “Remember what I told you before?”

“I was somewhat expecting for a wheelchair,” she said. “Not that one.”

“During my time, it wasn’t live. We did taping,” Jovar said.

“Shall I wear a headscarf that time? Oh, I should wear an outfit with videocam-friendly colors,” she said.

“You still have a time to go for foot spa, body scrub and diet,” he said. “Plus 10 pounds on TV, you know.”

“Gandhi, you should give me a copy of it,” she said, her voice somewhat excited, her eyes as if telling to herself: “I will be fine. I should be fine.”

“I will take a video of the TV while you’re live on air,” said Gandhi Kinjiyo, 33, her cousin.
“No, I want a copy of the video by the television station,” she replied.

Silence.

This coming June, she and her co-awardees of General Santos City Youth Achievers Awards (GSCYAA) for 2006 will be featured on a local television channel. GSCYAA is an annual distinction conferred by the local government of General Santos to young people in the city who have manifested sterling performance in their respective fields of endeavor.

In the middle of her acceptance speech in December 15, 2006, her voice cracked and tears trickled down her face. “My mom must be very happy for me. Wherever she is now, I know my mom is very proud of me.”

“I’m neither a perfect daughter nor a perfect sister, but deep inside me I’m trying to be one,” she said. She was wearing a colorful headscarf and a dress with long sleeve. A friend would tease her later as the Megawati Sukarnuputri of the Philippines.

She is vice president of Young Moro Professionals’ Council, a non-government youth-serving organization that operates in South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos.


Her engagements in myriad community services and volunteer works have convinced the GSCYAA board of adjudicators that she deserved the award.

During the 5th Regional Qur’an Reading Competition last April 16, she was supposed to introduce as keynote speaker Lieutenant Colonel Abubakar bin Abdmalek, the team leader of Headquarter Site 4 of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines ─ Moro Islamic Liberation Front - International Monitoring Team (GRP-MILF-MT), which overseas the implementation of the ceasefire agreement between the rebel group and the Filipino government.

She did not appear.

We didn’t know why. It was not the kind of occasion that she will take for granted. Another lady took her place to introduce the 47-year-old officer from the Royal Malaysian Navy.

A few hours later, a friend approached me and asked: “Will you join us to visit Jo?”
“Why?” I asked back.

“Her father died,” he replied. “I’ll go with you.”

Tears kept falling off her bulging red eyes when we saw her. Comforts of friends were to no avail.

Silence.

She stood to get some coffee and breads for us. Some days after her father passed away, she called me. “Do you want an ice cream, or you want to eat outside? My treat.”

At the restaurant, she appeared in all black. Together with her is Kim Limjap, 31, her best friend.

“It hurts inside,” she said. Tears wanted to fall from her eyes. She defied it. “But I’m already happy for Ama. When I talked to some ustadzes (Islamic scholars) on separate occasions and told them what happened, they have told me that all happened in good time. The Islamic rituals were all followed properly somehow.”

“I’m afraid of corpse,” she said, “but I still managed to kiss Ama while his body was at home. I couldn’t forgive myself if I wasn’t able to do so.”

She held her mobile phone. “I whispered to Ama how much I love him.”

Long silence.

“So with my dad,” Jennifer Andiam-Kamid, 30, her officemate said. Her voice cracked. She tried to hold back her tears but to no avail. “I’m also afraid of corpse but I braved the morgue when Dad died.”

“When Dad was still alive, we would always fight. I would chase him with bolo out of anger,” she said. “My husband Misuari even witnessed how Dad and I fought.”

“But when he died, I realized that I was the one closest to his heart than my other sibling in Mom and in Dad’s other families.”

Two friends bade goodbye first. Moreb Dalama, 24, has visitors at home. Jehanna Tin, 23, lives in a far off municipality in Sarangani province, an adjacent place.

“Bring home to your kids the left over chicken leg,” Kim told Jennifer.

While leaving the restaurant, Jocelyn handed me something she bought from the restaurant attendant. “Give this to your Ama,” she said.

Wrapped in brown thin paper bag. Three pieces of cupcake.

Jovar and I walked together to some distance to where we will move as under: I, to wait for a jeepney, and he, to walk alongside another streets leading to his rented place.

While we were walking, Jocelyn and Kim passed by our side, riding on a motorcycle.

“She has no other outlet, that’s why she talked to us,” Jovar said when the two were already about 10 meters away from us.

“She looks relieved, happy for her dad,” I said.

The first jeepney that stopped by happened to be the one I’m waiting for. It wasn’t a starry, starry night. The city was somber, the streets dusty. (Contributed by Norodin M. Makalay)

RP Police Foils Bomb Attack In Troubled South

COTABATO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 29 Apr) – Philippine soldiers detonated a homemade bomb Sunday in the restive North Cotabato province, south of Manila, officials said.

Officials said the bomb was left near a police post in Tacurong City, but had been discovered before it was to explode. “Soldiers detonated the bomb after police manning the post discovered the explosive,” Maj. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, told the independent regional newspaper, the Mindanao Examiner.

No group claimed responsibility for the foiled attack, said Col. Danny Garcia, the local army commander.

“We are still investigating who is behind this failed bombing attempt,” Garcia said in a separate interview. “At this point, we cannot pinpoint to any group, but we have tightened security around Tacurong.”

He said the bomb was made from C4 explosive and rigged to a timer. “It had steel pellets and some components taken from a mortar rocket that would trigger detonation,” Garcia said.

The discovery of the bomb came just a day after the United States warned its citizens against traveling to Mindanao island and the Sulu Archipelago in the southern Philippines because of heightened terror activities.

Aside from the United States, Canada an Australia also told their citizens not to travel to the troubled region, where security forces are battling members of the al-Qaeda affiliate Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya and Moro National Liberation Front rebels.

A grenade attack last week in North Cotabato’s Pikit town injured three people working for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Unidentified men tossed two grenades on the USAID field office and fled. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Another bomb attack last week in Midsayap town also in North Cotabato also injured one civilian. A man was also killed after a bomb he was transporting exploded in Cotabato City in Maguindanao province near North Cotabto.

Abu Sayyaf militants also beheaded six construction workers and a fisherman they kidnapped in Parang town in Jolo island in the Sulu Archipelago two weeks ago. (With a report from Mark Navales and Juan Magtanggol)

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Zamboanga Medical Center, Umani Na Naman Ng Batikos!

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 28 Apr) - Maluha-luhang dumulog kanina sa tanggapan ng Mindanao Examiner ang isang residente ng Barangay Cabatangan dito dahil diumano sa pagkadismaya sa naging gawi ng Zamboanga Medical Center sa mga pasyente nito.

Ayon kay Flor Delgado,maaga silang lumisan ng kanilang bahay upang ipatingin ang anak nitong ilang araw ng nakaratay dahil sa matinding ubo at paninikip ng dibdib. Nagtungo sila sa Out-Patient Department ng naturang ospital at pagdating doon ay walang tao sa medical room.

“Naghintay kami doon ng ilang minuto kasama ng iba pang mga pasyenteng naghihintay para magpatingin. Nang mainip kami ay nagtanong kami sa guwardya kung anong oras babalik ang doctor at ang sabi nito ay banding ala-una pa ng hapon babalik ang mga manggagamot,” salaysay pa ni Flor.

Dahil sa ayaw ng gumastos pa ng pamasahe ay nagtiyaga na lamang daw silang maghintay sa labas. “Tiniis na lang namin ang init ng araw,” ani Flor.

Matapos diumano ng higit sa apat na oras na paghihintay ay bumalik sila sa medical room at napag-alaman na half-day lang pala ito pag Sabado. “Wala man lang nagsabi o kahit na nakapaskil man lang sa pader na nagsasabing half-day lang pag Sabado ang mga doktor sa OPD.

Kung ganun naman pala eh dapat ay hindi na palabas-labas ang doktor,” galit na banggit ni Flor.

Sinadya namin ang naturang hospital at kinapanayam ang ibang naroon. “Worst na yata itong Zamboanga Medical Center. Ang daming mga nurse pero walang ibang ginagawa kundi ang magkuwentuhan. Dahil ba sa mahihirap lamang ang mga pasyente kung kaya’t halos kung sino kung makapag-trato sa amin,” ani ni Rolando Cervantes na naghihintay ng mag-aasikaso sa kasama nitong may sakit.

Marami na ring naiulat na mga reklamo ukol sa hindi magandang ugali at aroganteng turing ng mga nurse sa ospital. Bagay ng ipinagsasawalang bahala lamang ng lokal na pamahalaan.

Ang Zamboanga Medical Center ay isang government-owned institution na itinayo para sa mamamayan ng Zamboanga Peninsula. “Sana maisip nila na ang suweldong tinatanggap nila ay mula rin sa buwis na kinakaltas sa kakarampot naming sahod,” diin pa ni Flor. (Chris Navarra)

Copter Crash Kills 7 In Central Philippines

A female Philippine Air Force UH-1H crew inspects her helicopter. At least 7 people are dead after a Philippine Air Force UH-1H helicopter crashes in Cebu province in central Philippines 28 Apr 2007. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)


CEBU (Mindanao Examiner / 28 Apr) – At least seven people were killed when a Philippine Air Force helicopter crashed into a crowded place in Cebu province.

The UH-1H chopper slammed into two motorcycle taxis in Lapu-Lapu City on the island of Mactan in Cebu. The cause of the crash is still unknown, but radio reports said the chopper lost its engine power and spiraled to the ground shortly before 6 p.m.

The aircraft was on a routine training flight when it crashed near the Mactan Air Force Base. It was unknown if any of the chopper’s crew or passengers were killed.

The UH-1H is one of many old aircrafts used by the Philippine Air Force in transporting soldiers and anti-insurgency operations. (Mindanao Examiner)

Please Help!


LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Help Badly Needed!


April 26, 2007

The General Manager
PCSO Main Office
E. Rodriguez Sr. Avenue
Quezon City

Dear Sir/Madam,

Greeting of PEACE and LOVE as people and as Filipinos.

...of God’s Tests and Wisdom

We never lose hope and still are struggling to live harmoniously and face steadfastly the reality— the very essence of life. Indeed, human life is full of challenges, sacrifices and meanings that we called “test of life and faith”.

As human beings we are simply to experience those sorts of God’s tests that come in different degrees. And there’s that His wisdom in that every test. But we are told not to question His divine wisdom lest we will be cursed, instead to appreciate it. Yes, we can appreciate and be grateful to Him for all the praises and thanks are due to Him.

What counts most is that we don’t and won’t lose hope and faith in God, despite hard tests He inflicted upon us. We toil, we pain, we persevere— we never do complain for it’s but God measures our faith. We are faithful— we can survive. And if we die that is the ultimate destiny that every one of us has to prepare for.

We wish not die in vain or as useless individuals. That’s why we have to love all the God’s creations: all mankind, anything around us. We take care of our jobs that we serve enthusiastically our community, our country and the world. Almost we dedicate our temporary life for altruistic cause and deed, for peace and development for all….Yet the test has come.

My brother, 46, whom I fondly called Bro AL, has suffered from acute stroke attack; he has been confined and undergone brain and lung intensive medication at Ciudad Medical Zamboanga, one of the best hospital in City, since April 4 until today.

My brother, ALZY, his first name—married and blessed with two children, a girl and a boy age 7 and 6, respectively— is the concurrent municipal engineer of the Island-Municipality of Pata since June 2006. He undertakes engineering works and various infrastructure projects.

Among the flagship projects under the government of the incumbent Mayor Anton Burahan, the last termer, is the construction of Mosque in Barangay Saimbangon where the seat of municipal government is located. Several projects like school buildings and facilities, and bridges and roads my brother has started constructing within a few months still need funding assistance and allotment, while some projects are already established.

As far as his work ethic is concerned, he is by nature hardworking and patient with his works though he receives only underpay salary, spending some times doing construction and masonry tasks under the scorching sun while most of his staff are taking rest under the coconut trees and shanties. He is a leader by example, encouraging co-workers to double their efforts working.

This is what I observed about my brother’s sincerity and love to serve during the on-going construction of numerous bridges where he is designated as assistant manager in Sulu and other ARMM areas under the SALAM Bridge Program, a joint-venture of the Philippine and the British Governments from 2000 to 2003.

He also went abroad working as project engineer and surveyor in A-Rahman Al-Hindi’s Surveying Office in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for eight years starting 1991. A Field engineer for three years in 1988 to 1991 at the National Housing Authority in Manila City, and two years at JPL construction from a period 1987 to 1988. Before he transferred to Pata, he had been recommended as project engineer under the Tulay Ni Pangulo Program in Ilo-Ilo, Visayas in 2004 to 2006.

“Working in the Christian-dominated areas is a blessing from Allah; because, more than constructing them public facilities, I gained goodwill and respect of the Christian faithful by sharing our similar beliefs and common understanding that both the Christian and the Muslim followers believe in One God.”

My brother once told me, cherishing the hospitality of those people particularly of Barangay Igbaras and some remotest barangays in Ilo-Ilo, to whom he constructed bridges and roads. “You are the one Muslim engineer working here… and this the first time we have these bridges cemented.”

They lauded my brother. But when asked about the AbuSayyaf’s beheading of the innocent and helpless captives, he said: “They (ASG) are misled recruits intent to sabotage peace and development and demoralize Muslims and Islam.”

Now, as his close relatives, we are exploring possibilities, seeking more moneys to settle his medical and doctor bill amounting to about P500,000 as of last week, and we gathered only about P130,000 which his wife already deposited to said hospital as initial payment.

Ours is only a limited human intervention, meaning God is the super disposer and savior of all beings. So we are doing our best we can in order to save our brother’s dearest life. But it is too hard for us to find such big amounts to pay said remaining bill with our empty saving now, and considering that brother Alzy’s monthly meager salary below P15,000 he receives being a temporary employee in the local municipal government of Pata, and his wife is only a plain housewife.

Tipped with information regarding the Philippine Charity Sweepstake Office, we are then earnestly seeking your assistance hoping that the PCSO under its Samaritan program: Individual Medical Assistance Program (IMAP) may sponsor the shouldering of the medical bill.

And we are praying for your positive response to please help us in guaranteeing the medical expenses of our brother, Alzy Muhalli, who is still confined for proper medication and possible recovery of his health at Ciudad Medical Zamboanga.

MABUHAY and more power to you and your agency in extending charitable assistance to our countrymen.

Very truly yours,

(Signed) KARIB J. MUHALLIDTI-ARMM
Sulu Capitol Site, Jolo, Sulu

Celfone Nos. 0919-4411391; 0906-7289253; 0905-9280113
Contact Address: C/O MSCI Tel No. 085-3418911 plus Local No. 2383

C/O Ciudad Medical Zamboanga Tel. No.(062) 992-7330


EDITOR'S NOTE: We have verified from the Ciudad Medical Hospital that Alzy Mahalli is presently confined. Although he is already out of the Intensive Care Unit, his nurse, E.J. Marali, says the patient is still under watch. They feed him through tubes and has been transfered to the hospital's ward section.

Hospital staff also confirmed the financial problem of the patient's family.We are appealing to everyone for help to save this man's life. You can get in touch either with the hospital staff or the letter sender, Karib Muhalli.

This letter addressed to The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office in Manila was furnished us by this e-mail address: carxmoro@yahoo.com

Thank you.

Al Jacinto
mindanaoexaminer.com
mindanaoexaminer.net

RP Pushes For Halal Labels On Foods

A minaret of a mosque in southern Philippines. Manila is pushing for Halal labeling on food products and Halal corners in supermarkets. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)



ZAMBOANGA CITY - The Philippines’ effort to put in place the general guidelines or standards in the production, preparation, packaging, labeling and handling of “Halal” foods is expected to benefit Filipino consumers, particularly the country’s over 10 million Muslim population.

Regional trade chief Naz Manzur said this will also open new opportunities for food manufacturers, traders and exporters. They will now have access to the huge world trade for Halal food products estimated at over $580 billion annually today.

“The absence of standards on Halal food put the Muslim consumers in the country at a great disadvantage as it restricts their choices of food for their dietary requirement,” he said during a consultation of Halal foods Saturday in Zamboanga City.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in Western Mindanao has also urged operators and owners of major grocery stores and supermarkets in Zamboanga City to set up Halal lanes or corners in their stores to cater to the fast growing demand for Halal certified products in the domestic market.

Sitti Amina Jain, DTI assistant regional director, said that aside from food, there is also a huge market for non-food Halal products that include cosmetics, perfume, toiletries, body care pharmaceuticals, herbal and healthcare products. There are also many business opportunities for fashion accessories and apparel, food processing plants and abattoirs, in service industries and in many other industries, she said.

The concept of opening Halal lanes, aside offering new business opportunities, is in line with the DTI’s mandate under the Consumer Act of the Philippines to safeguard consumers against misrepresentation, mislabeling and the fraudulent use of the Halal logo in products sold in the market.

The Halal lane initiative was well-received by the representatives of the 13 grocery stores and supermarkets in the city who attended the meeting but asked that they be given time to set up the lanes as the work entails lots of logistical support.

If this initiative pushes through, Halal lanes or corners shall have been installed in major grocery stores and supermarkets in Zamboanga City by October, in time for the celebration of the National Consumers’ Month.

Halal is meat that has been slaughtered in the manner prescribed by the Shari’a. The method of slaughtering all animals excluding fish and most sea-life is known as dhabiĥa, meat prepared in this manner is then considered Halal.

The Qur’an provides certain guidelines for the Muslim believers to strictly adhere to products, especially food products that are produced and prepared following the tenets of the Muslim sacred scriptures. Muslims are to use and consume only Halal food - that which is permissible and lawful, and avoid anything that is considered Haram (forbidden) and Najis (unclean).

“Food products produced, prepared and handled following Halal standards are assured to be of the highest quality, thus benefiting not only the Muslims but also the non-Muslim consumers as well,” Manzur said.

The DTI said it will also organize a Halal Consumer Group to help the government in its advocacy for Halal and for networking purposes. (Lowell Vallecer)

Oplan Ultimatum 2, Inilunsad Sa Sulu!

Mga bala ng .50-caliber machine gun, automatic rifles, radio transceivers at satellite phone na nabawi ng mga sundalo mula sa nakubkob na kampo ng Moro National Liberation Front sa lalawigan ng Sulu. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)


SULU (Mindanao Examienr / 28 Apr) – Isinailalim na sa mahigpit na siguridad ang lalawigan ng Sulu matapos na maglunsad ang militar ng panibagong opensiba upang tugisin ang Abu Sayyaf at Moro National Liberation Front rebels.


Mismong si Armed Forces chief General Hermogenes Esperon ang nag-utos na habulin si MNLF leader Ustadz Khabir Malik, na siyang nasa likod ng atake sa isang marine base at municipal hall ng Panamao nuong Abril 13.


Binansagan ni Esperon na “Oplan: Ultimatum 2” ang nasabing opensiba kontra grupo ni Malik at Abu Sayyaf sa Sulu.


“We have ordered troops to pursue the terrorists and the fugitive Malik. Our operation is now called Oplan Ultimatum 2,” ani Esperon sa pahayagang Mindanao Examiner.


Nagtungo si Esperon kamakalawa sa Sulu at nakipagpulong sa mga commanders nito at binisita at pinarangalan ang mga tropang tumutugis sa mga armado.


“Malik remains the subject of our hot pursuit. It is very clear that he committed homicide. We now consider him as a fugitive,” dagdag pa ni Esperon.


Mahigit sa 8,000 sundalo ang naka-deploy ngayon sa Sulu, ngunit walang bagong ulat na nagkaroon ng sagupaan sa pagitan ng militar at grupo ni Malik o Abu Sayyaf.


Hinihinalang nasa bundok ng Mount Tumatangis si Malik. Wala na rin umanong suporta ito mula sa ibang mga MNLF commanders dahil sa ginawang atahe na ikinamatay ng 3 sundalo at isang teenager. (Mindanao Examiner)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Filipino Man Confessed Killing Julia Campbell

MANILA – The Filipino wood sculptor accused of murdering United States Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell has confessed Friday and said he is ready to face the consequences of his crime.

Police said the 25-year old Juan Dontugan surrendered peacefully with his mother at around 3.20 p.m. Friday and is now being investigated in connection with Campbell’s killing.

“It is not really my intention to kill her. It was so sudden,” Dontugan told the ABS-CBN television before his surrender.

Dontugan said he was walking on a mountain trail in the village of Batad in Ifugao’s Banaue town when somebody bumped him from behind. Thinking it was his enemy, Dontugan said he picked up a rock and hit Campbell several times.
“I was stunned and don’t know what to do. I hit her several times in the head and then dragged the body and buried her to hide the crime,” he said.

He said he has enemies in the village and mistook the woman as one of them, but later found out that she was a foreigner.

He denied raping or robbing Campbell. “I did not rape her. Just dragged her body, her clothes and pants were ripped off,” he said. “I have spent sleepless nights thinking about what I did. It is not really my intention to kill her. I was so scared that’s why I hid her body. I am ready to face my crime,” he said.

Dontugan’s surrender came after villagers, angered by the killing of Campbell, joined in the hunt for the suspect.

Many villagers blamed Dontugan for the decline of the tourism industry in the province, previously one of the most visited in northern Philippines because of its majestic rice terraces and ethnic culture.

Soldiers and policemen discovered the decomposing body of the 40-year old Campbell in a shallow grave in Batad village.

Police suspect that Campbell may have been raped and then robbed.

Campbell, a former journalist, was reported missing since April 8 in Ifugao province where she intended to hike alone.

There are currently 137 Peace Corps volunteers serving in the Philippines. More than 8,000 volunteers have served in the country since 1961, making it the second oldest Peace Corps program in the world.

Campbell, from Fairfax, Virginia, had served as a college teacher in Legazpi in southern Luzon since she began her Peace Corps service in the Philippines in March 2005. (With a report from Juley Reyes)

Celebrate Mother’s Day At Eden Nature Park In Davao City

DAVAO CITY - It’s a fun and activity packed Sunday on May 13 as Eden Nature Park and Resort celebrates “Mother’s Day”.

Treat your moms – and bring your dad and siblings, too! – for an overnight stay at the resort’s cozy mountain lodges and villas as you all together wander and savor nature’s splendor at the resort’s breathtaking expanse.

For every night of stay at the resort, pamper her with a free delectable breakfast especially prepared for this special occasion plus a free entrance to the Fishing Village and use of the Swimming Pool.

On Mother’s Day, spoil your mom with a lavish make-over indulgence at Eden Nature Park and Resort’s Mother’s Day Fair.

Make her day extra special with fun crafts and wellness activities at the Mary Kay, Bioessence, Bulak Shop, Aromacology Sensi, VR Halo-Halo and other exciting participating booths showcasing various beauty and wellness products for her to sample.

Truly a very special day for you to give back all the love and care to your mom only at Eden Nature Park and Resort…Naturally. Make your reservations now – call (082) 296-0791, 299-1020 and 299-0313 or visit the Sales Office at Matina Town Square, MacArthur Highway, Matina, Davao City.

Hailstones Rain In Southern Philippines

ZAMBOANGA CITY – A freak weather phenomenon rained hailstones on a remote town in the southern Philippine province of Zamboanga Sibugay, but there were no reports of injuries or damages to properties.

It was the second time in almost four decades that hail - the precipitation in the form of pellets composed of ice or of ice and snow, occurring at any time of the year, usually during the passage of a cold front or during a thunderstorm - struck the town of Imelda.

Villagers reported hailstones over the weekend following a heavy rain and thunder and lightning storms, according to the official Philippine Information Agency in Zamboanga City.

Guillermo Dulay, meteorological expert of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Administration, said hail can cause damage and injury to crops, livestock, property, and even airplanes.

Dulay said hailstorm was also reported in Baguio City in northern Philippines in 1990 and in South Cotabato and Lanao del Norte in 1999. “The increase in temperature is beyond doubt, as gradual temperature changes were detected as early as 1950’s. Cases of hailstorm in the country are manifestations of global warming.”

“In some case, the effects may already be occurring but difficult to attribute to global warming. But things like backyard tree planting and limiting the use of chlorine and air conditioners, are few of the things each one can do to minimize the global warming impact,” Dulay said.

Small hailstones have a soft center and a single outer coat of ice. They are formed when the surfaces of snow clumps melt and refreeze or become coated with water droplets that subsequently freeze. Large hailstones usually have alternate hard and soft layers.

There are various explanations of how these large stones form and grow. Some believe that they form in clouds when super cooled raindrops freeze on dust particles or snowflakes.

These tiny hailstones are then blown repeatedly up and down by the winds in a cloud. Each time they are blown downward to a region whose temperature is above freezing, the stones collect more moisture, and each time they are blown upward to a region below freezing, the moisture solidifies into ice, and some snow may collect.

The stones continue to grow, adding layer after layer, until they are too heavy to be supported by the winds and fall to the ground. In another explanation, it is suggested that hailstones continuously descend, gaining layers by passing through regions of the air that contain different amounts of water.

Hailstones are spherical or irregularly spherical and usually vary in diameter up to 1/2 in. (1.3 cm); in rare cases hailstones having diameters up to 5 in. (12.7 cm) have been observed.

Just last, during the Earth Day celebration, President Gloria Arroyo called for an action plan of several components to place the Philippines in the front line of the global effort to combat global warming, starting with the incorporation into the public school curriculum of subjects dealing with global warming and climate change. (Mimi Bern-Edaga)

Berdugo Ng Bata, Restricted Na Daw!

COMPOSTELA VALLEY (Mindanao Examiner / 27 Apr) - SUMASAILALIM ngayon sa mahigpit na seguridad ang isang grupo ng mga sundalong sangkot sa pagkakapaslang sa isang hinihinalang batang gerilya sa Compostela Valley.

Nabatid kay Armed Forces Public Information Office Chief Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro na kinailangang ilagay sa angkop na restriksyon ang mga dawit na sundalo upang masigurong mapapaharap ang mga ito sa imbestigasyon.

Ang grupo ay pinangunahan ni 2nd Lieutenant Francis John Gabawa, ang platoon leader, sa ilalim ng 1001st Infantry Brigade, na sumagupa sa mga rebelde at ikinasawi ni Grecil Buya, 9 anyos.

Mismong ang 10th Infantry Division ng Philippine Army na ang tumututok sa pagsisiyasat upang matukoy kung sadyang may pananagutan ang mga sundalo sa pagkakasawi ni Gelacio na sinasabing biktima ng cross-fire.

Una na ring sinabi ni 1001st Infantry Brigade Commander Brigadier General Carlos Holganza ang pagdududa na isang rebelde ang napatay na si Buya dahil sadyang napakabata umano nito upang maging mandirigma.

Mas naniniwala pa si Holganza na nasawi si Buya sa gitna ng sagupaan ng mga rebelde at militar kaysa sa sinasabing napatumba ito sa giyera.

Depensa ng heneral, maraming indikasyon na isa lamang ordinaryong residente na nadamay o natamaan sa barilan ng mga komunista at tropa ng pamahalaan ang naturang biktima.

Hindi rin niya mapapanagot ang tropa ng mga sundalo sa ganitong sitwasyon."Why should they be held accountable? Her death, at the very least, it was a crossfire incident. "There are indications that point towards crossfire. There are very, very strong indications," ani Holganza.

Kaliwa’t-kanan na batikos naman ang ibinabato kay Holganza dahil sa kanyang mga pahayag. Dapat umano ay humingi ito ng patawad sa pamilya ng biktima at sampahan ng kaso ang sundalong nasa likod ng pagpatay.

“Paano kaya kung anak ng isang heneral ng militar ang mabaril at mapatay ng mga sundalo at sabihing cross-fire ito. Ano kaya ang pakiramdam ng heneral?,” ani pa ni Ben Serantes, isang human rights activist sa bayan ng Monkayo sa lalawigan.

Unang nagbigay ng press release ang militar na nagsasabing napatay umano nito ang isang "child warrior" ng NPA, ngunit biglang bawi matapos na mapatunayang inosenteng sibilyan ito (May ulat nina Juley Reyes at Juan Magtanggol)

BREAKING REPORT! Julia Campbell Slay Suspect Surrenders!

MANILA – Philippine police on Friday said the chief suspect in the killing of a United States Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell has finally surrendered after weeks of a massive manhunt in Ifugao province, north of Manila.

Police said the man, Juan Dontugan, a 25-year old wood sculptor, surrendered peacefully with his mother at around 3.20 p.m. Friday and is now being investigated in connection with Campbell’s slay.

Regional police chief Joseph Adnol said Jane Dontugan, the man’s mother, has convinced the suspect to surrender and answer the accusations against him. Other reports said there could be more than one suspect in the killing of Campbell.

Dontugan’s surrender came after villagers, angered by the killing of Campbell, joined in the hunt for the suspect. Many villagers blamed Dontugan for the decline of the tourism industry in the province, previously one of the most visited in northern Philippines because of its majestic rice terraces and ethnic culture.

Police said Campbell may have been bludgeoned to death. Soldiers and policemen discovered the decomposing body of the 40-year old Virginia native in a shallow grave in the mountain village of Batad in Banaue town.

Police suspect that Campbell may have been raped and then robbed, but the suspect’s wife, denied all accusations against her husband, saying, he is innocent.

“He is innocent of all these charges,” the woman said. She has earlier appealed to her husband to surrender peacefully to authorities. “Please come home because we are all worried about you,” she said.

Campbell, a former journalist, was reported missing since April 8 in Ifugao province where she intended to hike alone.

There are currently 137 Peace Corps Volunteers serving in the Philippines. More than 8,000 volunteers have served in the country since 1961, making it the second oldest Peace Corps program in the world.

Campbell, from Fairfax, Virginia, had served as a college teacher in Legazpi in southern Luzon since she began her Peace Corps service in the Philippines in March 2005. (With a report from Juley Reyes)

Dinosaurs Return!

DAVAO CITY - DinoWorld Travelling Exhibition, the first and only traveling dinosaur exhibition in Southeast Asia, makes a resounding comeback this weekend at the NCCC Mall Convention Center following a week of a scheduled technical maintenance.

The re-opening of DinoWorld paves the way for more exciting addition to the exhibit, such as the Time Tunnel, a virtual passage in which guests can travel though time as they witness an interesting play of lights, sound and optical illusion resulting to a spellbinding “time travel” experience.

DinoWorld’s comeback also readies the exhibit area for new exhibit pieces including the arrival of authentic, life-size dinosaur skeletons which will be unveiled soon inside the mall’s spacious convention center.

Davao City holds the distinction of being the first Philippine city to host this one-of-a-kind exhibition that features an extensive display of life-like, life-size robotic dinosaurs, pre-historic fossils, 3D theater, among many others.

Dino World Exhibit promises to take its visitors back to time and teach them about dinosaurs and other the life and land before time through various state-of-the-art presentations and robotic models.

Dino World is operated by Fun Fair venture, Inc., with the support of foreign technical and scientific team. (Ian Garcia, Special for the Mindanao Examiner)

Kampanya Kontra Dayaan Sa Eleksyon, Barado Sa AFP Chief

QUEZON CITY - HINDI nakakuha ng buong suporta sa liderato ng Sandatahang Lakas ng Pilipinas ang diskarte ni National Capital Region Command Chief Major General Mohammad Ben Dolorfino para sa kampanya kontra dayaan sa eleksyon.

Kasunod ito ng pag-aatas ngayon ni AFP Chief of Staff General Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. na ilaglag sa prayoridad ng militar ang advocacy para sa malinis na halalan tulad ng isinasakatuparan ni Dolorfino.

Pinasimulan na ni Dolorfino ang paglilibot sa industriya ng pamamahayag upang ikampanya ang responsableng pagboto at matahimik at malinis na eleksyon.

Ayon kay AFP Public Information Office Chief Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro, bagamat walang masama sa hangarin ni Dolorfino, hindi nito ang prayoridad sa direktiba ni Esperon sa mga area commander ng militar.

"We will have less time for that (information campaign)," ani Bacarro.

Sa ngayon aniya, abala ang AFP sa paghahanda sa posibilidad na pakilusin ito ng Commission on Elections (Comelec) upang makatuwang ng Philippine National Police (PNP) sa pagbabantay ng halalan. (Juley Reyes)

Subanon Natives Celebrate Own Festival

Subanon natives celebrate their own cultural festival in Zamboanga del Norte province in southern Philippines. (Rene Patangan)
Podayunon og kotububu botad nog Subanon! (Long live the Subano Culture!)




ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE - The faces of members of this tribe were a picture of happiness and pride as they chanted and danced to their own music during the festive kickoff of the Subanon Cultural Night in Canatuan, the Subanon ancestral domain in Siocon town in Zamboanga del Norte province.

The area is host to the gold-copper operations of TVI Resource Development (Phils.), Inc. (TVIRD).

Purposely launched April 22 during this year’s International Earth Day celebration, the cultural presentation served to symbolize TVIRD’s commitment to protect and preserve both the environment in Canatuan as well as the culture and tradition of the people who live in it.

The Subanon Cultural Night, held at the clubhouse within the Company premises, will become a monthly celebration – and part of TVIRD’s growing list of cultural events in Canatuan.
“This activity underscores our respect for the traditional and cultural practices of our host indigenous community in Canatuan,” Felice Yeban, TVIRD Director for Community Relations and Development Office (CReDO), said.

“We believe that a full understanding and deeper knowledge of the Subano culture will further promote a harmonious relationship with our hosts. There can be no denying that the Subanon traditional practices are a true mark of their identity handed down from generation to generation,” Yeban said.

“We view the monthly cultural night, now an official Company activity, as an opportunity for the Subanons to express their talents on a regular basis and, at the same time, promote a better understanding of their culture.”

The celebration showcased different cultural numbers and environment-inspired performances from local Subanons and members of Tribung Dipag, a cultural group based in Dipolog City (Zamboanga del Norte’s provincial capital), and known for its use of indigenous musical instruments.

These instruments include the agong (a large gong), kutapi (a two-string wooden guitar), sigitan (a bamboo guitar), kulintang (eight small gongs) and budyong (a bamboo blade).

Perfectly complementing the native instruments during the celebration were bamboo flutes and a bamboo rain stick that produces the sound of raindrops. And if the reactions of those who participated in the launching of the celebration were to be gauge, it is clear that the Subanon Cultural Night will be a much-awaited event: “We are happy that TVIRD initiated the cultural presentation, which enabled us to show our talents,” said Lydia Dandana, a member of the Subanon Council of Elders.

“We would like activities like this to continue so our culture will be preserved. The presentation is timely. The new generation of Subanons no longer practice our culture,” she said.

Alberto Mais, also a member of the Council of Elders, could not contain his elation: “We are proud of our culture. We are proud to be Subanons. I am very happy that I was able to take part in the cultural presentation. My deepest thanks to TVIRD for respecting our culture.”

“It was a real treat for us to be playing for, and jamming with, true-blue Subanons,” Jerry Rivas of Tribung Dipag. “It’s our first time to perform with the real Subanons and it was a really memorable experience.”

“The presentation was undoubtedly a huge success! The Subanons beamed with happiness all throughout the show,” Theresa Limpin, TVIRD Canatuan CReDO manager, said. “It gave them pride, and they were grateful that we are doing something to preserve and promote their culture. We will be making bigger plans for the next Cultural Night…a bigger area and a bigger celebration.”

“The launching of the Subanon Cultural Night during the Earth Day celebration gave us in TVIRD the opportunity to show that we take good care not only of Mother Earth, but of her children as well,” said, CReDO’s Jose Dagala.

In the later part of the show, the Subanons, mostly members of the Council of Elders, and TVIRD personnel led by Limpin danced the night away to the tune of modified Subano music played by Tribung Dipag and pure Subanons.

The first foreign-financed mining company to reach production stage since the passage of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, TVIRD has endeavored to bring sustainable development to its host community through its various socio-economic development programs. The Company recognizes the need to be sensitive to the Subanon culture and to be ever mindful of their aspirations as a community.

Early this year, TVIRD initiated an Art Workshop for Subanon women, assisted by the Zamboanga del Norte Federation of Visual Artists. Participants to the workshop are planning to put up a display area or souvenir shop, even a Subanon museum in Canatuan to showcase the rich culture and tradition of their ancestors and of their men and women today. (Rene Patangan)

AFP, Sala Sa Lamig-Sala Sa Init Sa Metro Deployment

MANILA - WALANG kasiguruhan ngayon kung ibabalik pa sa kalakhang Maynila ang tropa ng Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) sa sandaling alisin ang mga ito bago ang eleksyon sa Mayo 14.

Kasunod ito ng direktiba ni AFP Chief of Staff General Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. na isailalim sa muling pag-aaral ang naging operasyon ng militar sa Metro Manila na kinabibilangan ng community services at engineering projects.

"Hindi pa definite kung may mga bagong troop deployment after elections," ani AFP Public Information Office Chief Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro.

Paliwanag ni Bacarro, mahalagang masuri kung saan nagkaroon ng kapalpakan o pagkukulang ang AFP sa kanilang pagpapatupad ng programa at training sa National Capital Region (NCR) matapos na ito ay ulanin ng pagbatikos.

Ikinukonsidera rin naman aniya ang posibleng pagkabitin ng mga napasimulang proyekto sa komunidad sakaling mapagpasyahan na tuluyan nang ipatigil ang civil military operations sa Maynila.

Ang direktibang ito ni Esperon ay simpleng pagbara sa paghahayag ni AFP National Capital Region Command Chief Major General Mohammad Ben Dolorfino na may 12 team ng mga sundalo ang nakakasa nang ipakalat makaraan ang May 14 elections.

"The deployment after elections will be subjected to review and approval of the AFP Chief of Staff," ani Bacarro.

Gayunman, wala pa ring ispesipikong araw ng planong pag-pull out ng tropa ng sundalo sa Metro. (Juley Reyes)

NGO Pushes For Clean Elections In South RP

ZAMBOANGA CITY - Elections Commissioner Rene Sarmiento and Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) chief Henrietta de Villa visited Jolo island Thursday to advocate for a clean, honest, accurate, meaningful and peaceful (CHAMP) polls in the southern province.
CHAMP is the election advocacy battle cry of PPCRV.
To erase doubts that cheating is massive in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), volunteers from 12 youth and women organizations in Jolo island will be tapped by PPCRV to monitor the election proceedings, according to the official Philippine Information Agency in Zamboanga City.
Regional Director Rey Sumalipao, of the Commission on Elections in the Autonomous Region, who assisted Sarmiento in the visit, is optimistic that families displaced by fighting between rebels and soldiers could return home before the May 14 polls, it said.

Many of the refugees are staying in temporary government shelters on the island. The United Nations said as many as 42,000 people have been affected by the hostilities that broke out April 13 after Moro National Liberation Front rebels under Ustadz Khabir Malik attacked a marine base in Panamao town.
The COMELEC will somehow be forced to put up makeshift shelters near school buildings housing dislocated families to serve as polling places, or use village and health centers and even police stations for the purpose, Sumalipao said.
In preparation for the mid-year elections, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has issued Proclamation No. 1279 declaring Monday, May 14, as a special public, non-working holiday nationwide "to give the people the fullest opportunity to exercise their right of suffrage" during the national and local elections on that day. (Mimi Bern-Edaga)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Photo: U.S. Troops In Southern Philippines

A US soldier mans his machine gun as his unit returns to a Philippine Army base Thursday 26 Apr 2007 in the southern Jolo island, where Filipino troops are battling Moro National Liberation Front rebels and Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya militants tied to al-Qaeda terror network. Washington is helping the Philippine military fight terrorism. Hundreds of US soldiers are deployed in the troubled southern region. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

MALIK, SALI, SUGATAN SA ENGKUWENTRO SA SULU

MANILA - NASUGATAN sa huling pakikipagsagupa sa militar si Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) breakaway group leader Ustadz Haber Malik kung kayat pansamantalang nanahimik ngayon sa mga pagsalakay sa Mindanao.

Nabatid kay AFP National Capital Region Command Chief Major General Mohammad Dolorfino na nagtamo ng sugat sa paa si Malik, base na rin sa impormasyon sa kanya ng isa ring MNLF member.

Mahigpit na tinutugis ngayon si Malik matapos ang inilunsad na terorismo sa ilang komunidad sa Sulu.

Isa pang lider ng MNLF ang malubhang nasugatan rin sa hiwalay na engkuwentro ng militar sa Parang, Sulu na nakilalang si Tahil Sali, vice chairman for military affairs ng rebeldeng grupo.

Samantala, hinamon ni Dolorfino si Malik na mapayapang resolbahin ang anumang hinanakit nito sa gobyerno kung kayat nagsagawa ng mga pag-atake.

Hindi naman aniya kailangang daanin sa dahas ang solusyon na lalo lamang makapagpapalala ng sitwasyon. “I think kung may peaceful way, why resort to force? Kung may hinanakit man siya sa gobyerno kung ano man ang dahilan n kanyang ginagawa ngayon, the best way to resolve that is to do it peacefully," ani Dolorfino.

Inamin ni Dolorfino na sinubok nitong makausap si Malik at ang iba pang lider ng MNLF subalit nabigo siya. Ayaw naman umanong makialam ni MNLF chairman Nur Misuari sa pakikipagpagnegosasyon kay Malik upang makumbinsing sumuko dahil maaaring makaapekto ito sa kanyang kinakaharap na kaso.

Sa halip, ayon kay Dolorfino, sinabi ni Misuari na may kinakausap na itong opisyal ng gobyerno at sa Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) upang pumagitna sa usapin. (Juley Reyes)

OPINION

Stuck in Sulu Quagmire by Patricio P. Diaz



Hostilities between Moro and military forces in Sulu flared up anew when the Moro National Liberation Front under Commander Habier Malik mortared the Marine camp last April 13. Fighting is still raging, 21 rebels and Marines have been killed, and 42,000 from six towns have evacuated.

This latest incident only shows how deeply the Philippine government is stuck in the Sulu quagmire. The Arroyo administration appears clueless on how to solve the problem that had been there long before it took over the government in 2001, optimism to the contrary.

Vs. Terrorism

The Sulu quagmire is as old as Philippine history. Until the MNLF rebellion in the 1970s, the military had warred against bandits; from the 1970s until the early 1990s, against rebels; from the emergence of the Abu Sayyaf until the present, against terrorists. Altogether, the unrests in Sulu are problems Manila and the military have long been mired in.

Since September 2001, the Arroyo government has tied the Sulu (including Basilan) campaigns to the global war against terrorism of the United States. U.S. President George W. Bush has praised President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as his closest ally in Asia. Since then the Sulu campaigns have been assisted by the U.S. Special Forces.

Under the cover of the RP-U.S. Visiting Forces Agreement, the U.S. Special Forces have been training Philippine military forces in anti-terrorism warfare, in intelligence work, and in the use of modern weapons. The Special Forces have also been engaging in civic action projects – lately, extending these to other parts of Muslim Mindanao.

Not so long ago, President Arroyo proclaimed the near-end of terrorism in Sulu. Almost all known top commanders of the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan and Sulu had been killed. Only a handful of Abu Sayyaf terrorists – less than 100 – have survived and are being mopped up by the military forces.

Contradictions

Either the President’s pronouncement was based on erroneous intelligence or the Abu Sayyaf, like the mythical bird phoenix, can rise from its ashes. More military battalions have been sent to Sulu. In today’s news (April 20), the Abus, now numbering 400, are as savage as ever – beheading seven captives and sending the heads to the military camp.

A few times in the earlier past, the military and the President had predicted the extinction of the Abu Sayyaf only to rise in bigger number in succeeding news reports. It seems that part of the quagmire, as the contradictions indicate, is faulty intelligence and reckless propaganda. Minds are won not by glowing words but by visible facts.

Reports from the Palace and the military intend to convince the nation of the successes in the fight against terrorism in Sulu. But the people of Sulu, obviously, are not. The fight can only be won in Sulu not in Manila or elsewhere in the country.

While beneficiaries appreciate civic action projects, they and the non-beneficiaries in greater number evidently continue supporting tacitly the Abu Sayyaf and other terrorists.

Evidently, too, most – if not all – people of Sulu do not see the Manila-labeled terrorists as terrorists but as champions of their historic grievances against the government.

Vs. MNLF, Too

The military campaign in Sulu is not just against the Abu Sayyaf but also against MNLF groups known to be loyal to detained Chairman Nur Misuari. Best known among these is Malik’s group. Prompted by Misuari’s protest against the ARMM election, his group attacked the military camp in Panamao, Sulu in November 2001.

For this and the simultaneous attacks of the Southern Command and the Cabatangan Complex in Zamboanga City, Misuari was detained and charged with rebellion. Since then, MNLF-Misuari loyalists have been labeled as Misuari break-away group to make it appear that the mainstream MNLF is true to the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.

But which MNLF faction is the mainstream? The Organization of Islamic Conference has always recognized Misuari as the MNLF chairman. In the review of the 1996 FPA, the OIC has asked the Philippine government to release Misuari so that he can lead the MNLF delegation to Jeddah.

Since November 2001, Malik has challenged the military more than twice. Each time, his camps were captured but later abandoned after negotiations to allow him to re-occupy them. His group would be called “rogue MNLF” each time he attacked the military.

After attacking the Marines last April 13, two of his camps were reported captured. A one million-peso bounty was offered for information leading to his capture. Again, his group was labeled “rogue MNLF”. Will the camps be returned to him again after another negotiation?

Calls for Ceasefire

The government has refused the call of the OIC for a ceasefire and negotiation. President Arroyo told the OIC her government is not fighting the MNLF but the Abu Sayyaf which Malik’s group has joined. In response, the OIC has urged its member states to press for the immediate end of the week-old clashes in Sulu.

Other groups are also calling for a ceasefire and negotiation. Among them are the Suara Bangsamoro Partylist and the Stop the War Coalition – Philippines whose April 17 manifesto was signed by 75 organizations and four individuals as members. The number of refugees is increasing; and so is the need for relief.

Will President Arroyo and the military continue ignoring the call of the OIC at the risk of sanctions which the Associated Press hinted in its report? Will they ignore the local and nationwide calls and the suffering of tens of thousands of civilians?

Will either another ceasefire and negotiation or continued military campaign be the way for the government to pull itself out of the Sulu quagmire? Has it any better alternative?

Roots of the Problem

Neither past ceasefires and negotiations nor escalated military campaigns solved the Sulu problem. In their calls, Suara Bangsamoro Partylist and Stop the War Coalition-Philippines have pointed the way: Address the roots of the problem. To the number of roots they enumerated, more could be added if sought from concerned groups in Sulu.

The heart of the Sulu quagmire is poor military and government intelligence – one that feeds their biases, ignoring the roots of the problems. Such intelligence is not conducive to fruitful dialogues.

Knowing well the roots of the problems despite biases for national interest, government will be ready to understand and grant legitimate, valid and reasonable demands. On the other hand, biased intelligence will tend to ignore and misunderstand such demands.

The historical roots of the Sulu problem must be understood and solved from the viewpoint of Sulu, not of Manila. Demands deemed excessive can be satisfactorily toned down according to conditions prevailing only in Sulu and the sentiments of its people.

Manila should be ready to compromise its biases for national interest with the social, economic and cultural welfare of Sulu to the satisfaction of its people. There is no better way out of the quagmire.

OPINION



Batbat ng dalamhati, pag-aalala at kalungkutan sa ngayon ang karamihan ng residente ng Sulu. Ito ay kaugnay ng patuloy na opensiba na inululunsad ng mga militar sa Moro National Liberation Front sa kabila ng panawagan ng iba’t ibang mga grupo, natibo, NGO, civic groups at maging ng Organization of Islamic Conference para sa ceasefire dahil na rin sa apektong dulot nito sa mga mamamayan ng Mindanao.

Matatandaang nitong mga nakaraang lingo ay kabi-kabilang opensiba ang isinagawa ng parehong kampo ng MNLF at AFP bagay na naglagay sa karamihan ng resident eng Sulu sa bingit ng kamatayan at nagbaon pa lalo sa kahirapan.

Ang pamahalaan sa kasalukuyan ay walang inilabas na preventive measures upang protektahan ang mga naapektuhan ng giyerang ito. Sa kasalukuyan ay tinatayang karamihan ng mga pamilyang nasa war dreaded areas ay nagsilisan na sa pangambang pati sila ay madamay sa walang habas na giriang ito.

Sila ngayon ay nagtitiis sa mga evacuation areas at maging mga waiting sheds ay naging pansamantalang tahanan ng mga kaawa-awang residente ng Parang,Indanan at Patikul sa Sulu.

Walang bahay na babalikan at maging ang sakahang tanging pinagkukuhanan ng pagkain sa araw-araw ay winasak na ng mga daan-daang mortar na walang tiyak na patutunguhan.

"No person shall be deprived of life…nor shall anyone be denied the equal protection of the laws," nakasaad sa pinakaunang artikulo ng Bill of Rights. Ito ang probisyong dapat sana ay poprotekta sa mga mamamayan ng Mindanao. Ang probisyon sa konstitusyon na sinumpaang itataguyod ng mga opisyal ng ating bayan.

Marami na ang nasawi at patuloy na dumarami at dahil dito ay nananawagan kami sa mga lokal na opisyal, militar at maging sa Commander-In-Chief ng AFP na gumawa ng kaukulang hakbang para maresolba ito sa agarang panahon.

Peace talks. Ito ang nagbigay pagkakataon sa Mindanao noon na makaahon sa ekonomiya mula sa dekadang giyera na kanilang dinanas. Kabuhayan, mga bagong inprastraktura at seguridad sa kanilang buhay ang ibinunga ng hakbang na ito taong 1996. Bagamat di gaanong nakitaan ng mabilis na resulta ay naging daan naman ito upang magbukas ng maraming oportunidad sa mga kapatid nating Muslim na magbagong- buhay.

Naniniwala kami na konkretong solusyon at di sa marahas na paraan mareresolba ang gulong ito. Walang ibang paraan kundi itaguyod, igalang at pagtibayin ang Peace Accord ng 1996 at maupo muli at pag-usapan ang dahilan ng paglabag sa mga ito ng mga nakaraang taon.

Dapat rin ay magkaroon ng mga hakbang o guidelines kung paano maiiwasan ang mga paglabag dito. Walang ibang pupuntahan ang giriang ito kundi ang mesa at bago mahuli ang lahat at maraming inosenteng buhay ang masawi ay hinihimok namin ang pamahalaan na umayon sa panawagang ito.