Thursday, November 27, 2014
DAVAO CITY—Reacting to Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s appeal to stop the spate of bombings in Mindanao, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) on Wednesday denied they plan to bomb Davao city.
“It’s a hoax. There’s no truth to that report. The BIFF has no involvement in the series of bombings in North Cotabato and elsewhere in Mindanao,” said BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama in a phone interview with DavaoToday Wednesday.
“Please stop these attacks. You have to consider the lives of civilians,” Duterte reportedly said.
But Mama denied all allegations that BIFF were involved in the twin bombings in Kabacan and M’lang towns recently which claimed the lives of innocent civilians and wounded others whom majority of the victims are teenagers.
“We don’t attack civilians. We only target the military,” stressed Mama.
Mama said that Duterte should, instead, appeal to the Armed Forces of the Philippines to “stop their terroristic acts in Mindanao” as he recalled in 2003 that it was the military who conducted a series of bomb attacks to sow terror in Mindanao.
Mama was referring to Oplan Greenbase, a top-secret government operation of then Arroyo administration to sow terror in Mindanao by staging series of bomb attacks in an attempt to draw funds from anti-terrorist organizations and pin the blame to Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
“So before they will point their finger to us, they should check their facts first. It’s easy to pin the blame to BIFF but the public should never forget the history of the past,” said Mama.
Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesperson of the Philippine Army ‘s 6th Infantry Division said the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used in Kabacan bombing came from the BIFF.
CPP/NPA: Matagumpay na mga taktikal na opensiba ng BHB-Masbate sa ilalim ng Jose Rapsing Command(JRC)
Public Information Officer
NPA Masbate Provincial Operations Command (Jose Rapsing Command)
Ang nasabing taktikal na opensiba ay nakapagsamsam ng mahigit 22 iba’t-ibang uri ng baril, mga magasin ng bala, at mga kagamitang militar.
Nob. 9, 2014 – Burias Is. – reyd sa mga kabahayan ng pamilya Ballesteros sa Brgy. Mabiton, Claveria. Nakuha dito ang 1 M16, 4 na cal.45, 1 SAS12, isang Shotgun, 2 cal.38, 1 cal.22 long barrel, isang 32 cal. at 2 cal.22 short. Ang mga baril na ito ay ginagamit laban sa mga tao at kilusan.
Nob.19, 2014, 6:30 ng umaga – raid sa bahay ni Brgy. Capt. Benny Capinig ng Brgy. Boca Engano, Claveria. Nasamsam dito ang 1 Shotgun at cal. 45. Ginagamit ni Brgy. Capt. Capinig ang mga baril sa kanyang mga iligal na negosyo, partikular na ang illegal drugs.
Nov. 22, 2014, alas 8:30 ng umaga – hinaras ng isang team ng Jose Rapsing Command, JRC,BHB ang 60 kataong 93rd DRC at 9th IB,PA na halos isang buwan nang nag-ookupa at nag-ooperasyon sa So. Guiwanon, Brgy. Danao, San Jacinto, Masbate at mga karatig barangay. Ang grupong ito ang bumaril at nakasugat sa tatlong katao na kinabibilangan ni Brgy. Kgwd. Maritess Espenilla ng Danao, San Jacinto, Masbate.
Ang haras na ito ay nagresulta sa pagkamatay ng tatlong militar at pagkasugat ng 3 pa na sadyang itinatago ng militar.
Nob. 24, 2014, alas 5:15 ng umaga – raid sa compound ni Nonie Jimenez sa Brgy. Macahoy, San Pascual, Burias Is. Si Jimenez na isang despotikong rantsero sa lugar ay nag-aalaga ng mga armadong grupo na siyang ginagamit laban sa mga tao at kilusan.
Tumagal ng halos 10 minuto ang barilan ng manlaban ang isang tauhan nito habang sumuko naman sa mga kasama ang mga kasamahan nito.
Nakasamsam ang mga kasama ng 1 M16 na may scope, bandolier na may 11 long magasin at mga bala nito, isang M14 na may scope at bandolier na naglalaman ng 15 magasin na puno ng bala, 1 Shotgun at 25 bala, 3 handheld radios, isang cal.22 long barrel na may scope at dalawang magasin at mga bala, 1 cal.38, 1 hammock, 1 backpack, 2 pares ng combat shoes at 2 pares na uniporme ng militar.
Ang lahat ng mga nasamsam ay ginagamit ng grupo ni Nonie Jimenez laban sa mga magsasaka sa paligid ng kanyang rancho at sa kilusan.
Nananawagan ang JRC,BHB-Masbate sa mga Masbatenyo na magkaisa at magtulongan upang labanan ang mga masasamang elemento at mga pang-aabusong militar sa lalawigan ng Masbate na bumibiktima sa mga Masbatenyo. Sa mga may baril naman ay huwag niyong gamitin sa masasamang gawain at lalong huwag niyong gamitin laban sa kilusan, at kung handa naman kayo ay ibigay niyo na lang sa kilusan para magamit sa pagtatanggol sa mga inaapi at pinagsasamantalahang mga Masbatenyo laban sa mapang-api at mapagsamantalang uri sa lipunan.
CPP/NDF: Kundenahin ang pananalasa ng 93rd DRC at 9th IBPA sa mga mamamayan sa isla ng Ticao, Masbate
Public Information Officer
NDFP Masbate Chapter
Ang tuloy-tuloy na okopasyon at operasyong militar ay nagresulta sa malawakang pagkatakot ng mga tao sa lugar at dislokasyon sa kanilang pang araw-araw na pagsasaka at iba pang hanapbuhay. Tumataas na rin ang bilang ng mga biktima ng paglabag sa karapatan pantao na mga militar ang may kagagawan sa ilalim ng pamumuno nila Col Alden Juan Masagca at Major Armando Benito ng Task Force Masbate.
Ang ganitong hakbang ng mga militar ay nagdudulot ng kaguluhan at tuloy-tuloy na pang-aabuso sa mga residente partikular sa So. Guiwanon, Brgy. Danao, San Jacinto, at sa pito pang nakapaligid na mga baryo.
Sa katunayan, ang pinakahuling naging biktima ng mga berdugong sundalo ay ng walang awa nilang pagbabarilin ang isang opisyal sa baryo ng Danao na si Kgwd.Maritess Espenilla at dalawang pang katao na sina Michael Lignes at may apelyidong Domenguiano. Ang tatlo ay nagtamo ng mga sugat sa iba’t-ibang parte ng kanilang katawan.
Maging sa paglulubid ng kasinungalingan sa medya ay nagiging eksperto na rin ang mga opisyal ng 93rd DRC at 9th IB,PA matapos ituro na mga kasapi ng Bagong Hukbong Bayan-Masbate ang gumawa ng pamamaril. Para sa kaalaman ng mamamayang masbatenyo, hindi mga kasapi ng BHB-Masbate ang namaril sa tatlong sibilyan, at ang totoong bumaril sa tatlong biktima ay mga kasapi ng 93rd DRC at 9th IB,PA.
Ang mga hakbang na ito ng 93rd DRC at 9th IB,PA ay malinaw na paglabag sa Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
Samantala, pinapabulaanan din ng NDF-Masbate ang napabalita sa Bombo Radyo-Legaspi na isa di umanong mataas na opisyal ng BHB Masbate ang nahuli ng PNP San Jacinto malapit sa kanilang istasyon sa Poblacion, San Jacinto.
Si Ybonni Victor na taga Brgy. Amutag, Aroroy, Masbate ay di kailanman naging kasapi ng BHB Masbate, bagkus kabilang ito sa mga grupong impostor na binuo at pinopondohan ng mga ahente sa paniktik ng AFP at PNP para sirain sa publiko ang imahe ng BHB Masbate na sa esenya ay bigo silang siraan dahil alam na ng mga Masbatenyo kung sino ang nagsisinungaling.
The United Youth for Peace and Development, Inc. (UNYPAD) held One-day Consultation Forum on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) on November 24, 2014 at Iligan City for various sectors from six municipalities and contiguous barangays in other municipalities of Lanao Del Norte that may participate during the plebiscite for the proposed Bangsamoro Government.
Thirty Five (35) individuals comprising traditional and religious leaders, representatives from local government units (LGUs), civil society organizations, women and members of the Higaonon tribe (IP) attended the forum.
Mr. Ansary A. Diamoden presented the overview of the program while updates and inputs on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) were discussed by Mr. Camilo M. Bangcola, Provincial Chairman of the UNYPAD-Lanao Del Sur Chapter.
Highlights of the discussions during the open forum that ensued pertain to the rights of the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) particularly the Higaonon, including issues and concerns of the LGUs in the affected areas.
Mr. Adinola l. Tomarompong, Sangunian Bayan (council) member of Munai town said that he is assuring his full support for the ratification of the BBL. “I believed that if the BBL is ratified by 2015, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) that will replace the ARMM will install good governance, maintain the peace and order in the areas within its jurisdiction.
Bae Wilma W. Bado, President of Higaonon Organization in Coastal areas, who is an IP from Barangay Upper Hinaplanon and Kabaro, Iligan City manifested the support of her tribe to the BBL.
The consultation was led by the UNYPAD’s newly appointed Vice President for External Affairs Mr. Diamoden.
Mr. Diamaoden has been serving as the Provincial Chairman of UNYPAD Ranao Chapter for several years and involved in peacebuilding works here and abroad. He is one of the outstanding senior leaders of the UNYPAD.
As executive director, he also established the UNYPAD- Relief Assistance Network and Organization, Inc.
operating in Lanao areas.
These series of consultation programs being embark on by UNYPAD all over Mindanao are intended for people in the grassroots level to have a better understanding of the GPH-MILF Peace Process and the BBL.
Unperturbed by Zamboanga City local officials that recently manifested once again their strong objection to the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) on the issue of contiguity and the city’s inclusion for the proposed plebiscite, Moro community leaders are tripling their advocacy programs in the city’s various villages.
There were 172 individuals who attended the activity comprising community leaders from various barangays, representatives of women’s organizations and youth. The MILF Provincial Political Committee in Zamboanga City and Moro community leaders and other groups organized and sponsored the program.
The program was aimed to enhance the knowledge of people in grass-root level regardless of tribal affiliations on BBL, the GPH-MILF Peace process and public governance. They were lectured on basic organizing and on how to conduct advocacy using their native dialect to be easily understood when reaching out to their respective communities.
Mr. Tirso S. Tahir, a native of Tawi-Tawi and member of the BLMI Steering Committee and its Research Officer lectured on Bangsamoro Governance as stipulated in the BBL, the Fundamentals of Basic Organizing and Advocacy. He emphasized that the BBL were translated into local dialect to enable the participants understand and internalize the 18 Articles of BBL and its corresponding provisions.
“These are your rights as guaranteed by the 1987 Philippines Constitution under Article III- Bill of Rights, Section 8 and Article XIII- Social Justice and Human Rights, Section 15 and 16”, Tahir emphasized.
Mr. Tahir cited the fundamental articles in the Philippines Constitution after some participants expressed apprehension that they may not be able to participate for the ratification of the BBL due to interference by some city officials who are opposed to the BBL and the Bangsamoro.
Brother Zulfhikar Samsaraji, Chairman of UNYPAD-Zamboanga City chapter and Regional Coordinator in Western Mindanao lectured on community organizing by underlining its significance. Some religious leaders presented Islamic point of view on the issue of struggle (Jihad) that every Muslim must be in defensive position when their inherent rights and faith are threatened.
The participants as a result vowed to uphold their rights under the law and shall allow no one to dictate them from making legitimate decisions.
Zamboanga City has a large number of Moros than other contiguous areas in Mindanao; dominant in 38 coastal barangays, mostly inhabiting the region much ahead than the Chavacanos/settlers.
The massive influx of people and capitalists from Luzon and Visayas relegated the Moros to a minority and is suppressed in their own native land, hoping that such a situation shall be reverse in their favor under the Bangsamoro Region, where Mindanao will no longer be an exploited land but with a new dawn of hope for those who were neglected and oppressed.
The House Ad Hoc Committee’s public hearing on House Bill No. 4994 or the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law held at Sand-Bar Lepa Convention Center in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi on November 13, 2014 elicits positive responses from various sectors that attended.
It can be remembered that Rep. Lobregat was one of those who strongly opposed the aborted MOA-AD in 2008 that the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional. What amused the mostly Sama and Tau Sug participants were the presence of two (2) former protagonists Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, who was once the Brigade Commander of the Philippine Marines at the height of the MNLF Rebellion in early 70’s and Congressman Tupay Loong of Sulu, then MNLF Brigade Commander in the province.
Their men fought with each other in the battlefields, but for the sake of peace, they sat side by side, a unique bonding, bewilderment, for the sake of finding peace in Mindanao.
Rep. Biazon saying, “Those that got killed in the battlegrounds were sons of poor farmers and fishermen on the government side, the same was true on the side of the rebels, and worsts he continued, those who were killed in the cross-fires were innocent civilians”.
“That was very tragic experience”, he said further.
“That is why we are here to look for a solution for the Mindanao Question”. Joining the party of the 16 Representatives, were OPAPP representatives headed by Atty. Joe Lorena, Atty. Akmad Sakkam and Atty. Asani Tammang from the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and Atty. Datu Antonio Kinoc, member of the MILF Peace Panel.
Former Provincial Governor Hji. Sadikul Sahali, father of Congresswoman Hja. Ruby Sahali and father of Governor Nurbert Sahali told the participants, “Now is your time to voice out your opinions and views, if you feel that BBL is a way of uplifting your general welfare, is it you to decide”
“I gave you the freedom to choose”, he stressed further. “The people of Tawi-Tawi can decide for themselves”, he emphasized.
Regional Assemblyman Sulay Halipa of the Regional Legislative Assembly (RLA) of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) voiced out his sentiments with regard to the fate of 33,000 officials and personnel of ARMM, saying that once BBL is ratified, ARMM is deemed abolished.
He said that, “That massive dislocations and lay-offs are inevitable.
Chairman Rufus clarified and cited Article XVI, Section 9 of the BBL that the BTA shall schedule a gradual phasing out of offices, that officials holding appointive positions shall continue to perform their functions in accordance with the schedule.
Basilan Rep. Jim Salliman-Hataman reiterated the stand of his brother ARMM Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman that he will turn over smoothly the governance and all its assets of ARMM once BBL is ratified by the people.
Mayor Ahmad-Nasiff Abdurahman of Simunul Municipality said that he feared that the MILF will replace them once BBL is ratified.
Chairman Rodriguez responded, that is premature and mere speculations; assured him that as elected official, you will continue to serve and can run in 2016 local elections if you are still qualified. He cited Article VI, Section 7 of the BBL, to state among others that the privileges already enjoyed by the Local Government Units under existing laws shall not be diminished unless otherwise altered, modified or reformed for good governance in accordance with a law enacted by the Bangsamoro Parliament.
Former RLA Speaker Pochong Abubakar suggested that Zamboanga City be included in the plebiscite but Rep. Lobregat reacted saying that “The Zamboangeños voted twice for exclusion of the City, with that, I have to respect the decision of my people. Nevertheless, I am in favor of the Bangsamoro, because this is an opportunity to restore lasting peace in Mindanao”.
Sajid Adil of Bongao voiced out his opinion in high tone voice, saying “The BBL is not the solution to resolve the conflict in Mindanao”. He said, “Once Bangsamoro is in place, the Maguindanaons or the Maranaos will dominate the Tausugs”. “Given this scenario, infighting among ethnic tribes is unavoidable”.
Rep. Loong stood up, spoke in Tausug dialect and asked and explained to Adil the content of the BBL on electoral process, “What do you want? Congressman Loong clarified that once Bangsamoro is established a ministerial form of government will follow. Each province will elect their district representatives in the parliament. The Chief Minister will be elected by members of the parliament. So, where is the dominance there?, Rep. Loong said.
Prof. Said Alih of Mindanao State University-Tawi-Tawi said that the government is employing a “double-standard policy, citing the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the Jakarta accord of 1996 in contrast with the BBL that is favorable to the MILF. “It is unfair and unjust to the MNLF”.
Atty, Lorena of OPAP said, “If there is anyone so close to MNLF, it is me”. He presented facts to elaborate his points which humbled Prof. Alih to sit down rather than continue reacting.
Atty. Sakkam representing the BTC and Atty. Tony Kinok from the MILF Peace Panel supported the statement of Att. Lorena.
Other speakers from the settlers and the Badjaos aired some of their sentiments but were responded well by members of the committee.
This writer was the last to speak. “As President of the Bangsamoro Intellectuals for Reforms, I manifest our strong support to the BBL. The BBL contains substantive and comprehensive provisions which uplift the people from underdevelopment, marginalization, etc. and not the Organic act that created ARMM.
“I was one of the commissioners appointed by then President Corazon Aquino in 1988 to draft the Organic Act. Much of our desire to incorporate substantive powers, we failed, to be honest. In the BBL you find 58 Exclusive Powers transferred by the National Government to the Bangsamoro Government, which cannot be replicated to the non-Bangsamoro areas, with only 9 Reserved Powers retained by the National Government, with another 14 Shared-Powers between the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government”, this writer said.
“The Power –sharing scheme, the Addendum of the Bangsamoro Waters, the Block Grants, the Social Development Funds, the ODA, assistance or grant-in-aids from foreign and from local source are something we foresee and happy about. The Shari’ah Justice System is enhanced under the BBL”, this writer further said.
“The Ministerial form of government that is being given to us under the basic law; asymmetric relationship with the national government is a unique model.”
“Along with this context, this writer appealed to the Honorable Congressmen to give the Bangsamoro a chance to reign so that we can prove our strong adherence to the principle of doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong”.
As this writer was speaking he sensed that the congressmen were listening attentively and while making his elaborations, someone whispered presumably saying, “This man knows his assignments”.
The consultation ended at around 7:00 PM; the speakers and participants parted ways satisfied and contented, with smiling faces.
The House Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) headed by Rep. Rufus Rodriguez held public hearing at the Zamboanga Sibugay Provincial Capitol in Ipil town on November 22, 2014.
Wilter Palma, Zamboanga Sibugay Provincial Governor delivered the opening remarks and expressed his appreciation for the conduct of the consultation in his province. He appealed to the members of the Ad Hoc Committee to fast track the consultations and the passage of the BBL.
Rep. Tupay Loong of Sulu, erstwhile MNLF Commander in his opening statement mentioned the purpose and importance of the consultation on BBL. “It is a way of knowing people’s concerns and positions on the basic law that will entrench the new political entity called Bangsamoro”.
Sectors that attended the public hearing submitted 15 position papers to the secretariat of the committee.
The local government of Zamboanga Sibugay expressed support for the enactment of the bill on Bangsamoro law to finally put an end to the decades of conflict in Mindanao.
In her closing message, Prof. Miriam Coronel- Ferrer, GPH Chief Negotiator expressed her appreciations for the strong support accorded to the committee by officials of Zamboanga Sibugay that she considered a ‘model’ province in terms of public support to the quest for peace in Mindanao.
She was elated on how the participants shared their opinions and concerns on the proposed law and cooperated well during the entire duration of consultation.
TROOPS belonging to the Philippine Army's 10th Infantry Division clashed anew Thursday with suspected members of the New People's Army (NPA) in the village of Manurigao in New Bataan, Compostela Valley.
First Lieutenant Vergel Lacambra, 10th Infantry Division spokesperson, said the Army's 66th Infantry Battalion was conducting a medical mission in the area when its personnel encountered the rebels around 9 a.m. Thursday.
Lacambra said the firefight lasted for about five minutes before the NPA rebels withdrew.
"Fortunately, no casualty was reported on the government side and all the medical teams are already safe," Lacambra said.
He added that despite the incident, the medical outreach program, spearheaded by the Compostela Valley Provincial Health Office and other local agencies, pushed through with the medical mission.
The Barangay Manurigao in New Bataan is a geographically isolated and depressed area (Gida), which is also home to the Indigenous People community of the Mandaya Tribe, Lacambra said.
He also said that a series of meetings and coordination between the same battalion and tribal leaders of the town led to the collaboration of various stakeholders in bringing basic services to the community.
Last Tuesday, an improvised explosive device exploded along the road in Barangay Bantacan of the same municipality just hours before the medical outreach program started.
"Rest assured that the troops are now in pursuit of the rebels whose clear intent was to prevent these badly needed services from reaching the community," Lacambra said.
CAGAYAN DE ORO. On November 27, Bishop Calang of Iglesia Filipina Independiente talks to the kin of the two soldiers being held captive by one of the units the New People’s Army based in Bukidnon. The relatives are pleading for the safe release of their loved ones. Finally, the military softens and agrees to a four-day stand down to pave the way of the release of its two soldiers captured by the Maoist guerillas. (Joey P. Nacalaban)
THE military is considering on extending its temporary ceasefire from three to four days, but it has maintained its “stand down” policy to allow the New People’s Army (NPA) to release its captive soldiers in areas in Bukidnon, an Army official said.
In his November 24 letter to Bukidnon Governor Jose Maria Zubiri, Colonel Jesse Alvarez, commander of the Philippine Army’s 403rd Infantry Brigade, said they are amenable to a four-day stand down, a term the military used instead of suspension of military operation (Somo).
Zubiri is the head of the local crisis committee and one of the government officials, who’s working with church leaders, to ensure the safe release of the captured soldiers.
“… on the three days duration of the STAND DOWN, we are flexible as possible, so we are considering four days duration,” Alvarez said in his letter, which was provided by the third-party peace negotiators to the media Thursday.
On the usage of terms, Alvarez has clarified the definition of stand down.
“We define ['stand down'] as temporary cessation of hostilities and as such, when a stand order is given to our troops in the field, they will remain in their present location,” he said.
Dictionary.com defines stand down as a temporary cessation of offensive actions.
No pulling out of troops
“Definitely, there will be no pulling out of troops from our operational area except on the areas that will be directly affected by the [release] of the two kidnapped soldiers,” he added.
It can be recalled that Private First Class Marnel Cinches and Private First Class Jerrel Yorong were captured by NPA members in a village in Impasug-ong, Bukidnon on August 22, a few weeks after the town’s mayor, Mario Okinlay, was killed by the Maoist fighters.
In a previous interview, Major General Oscar Lactao, commander of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID), said Cinches and Yorong should not have been taken by force by the insurgents in the first place since at the time of the abduction, they were not armed and were not on combat mode.
Alvarez added the other concern of the military is on the area that the captive soldiers may be freed by the NPA.
“On the cluster of barangays, these are barangays that are directly near the vicinity of the possible area where the release of our kidnapped soldiers will happen. This cluster of barangays may be part of one or two municipalities and will not cover wide range of area,” he said.
Alvarez added: “We prefer that if ever they (NPA) will release our kidnapped soldiers, they will do it in Bukidnon since the kidnapping was done here.”
NPA amenable with reduction of area of coverage
In its November 5 letter to Zubiri, Cesar Renerio, spokesman for the National Democratic Front-North Central Mindanao (NDF-NCM), said the NPA has agreed to reduce the area of coverage where the temporary military operations will take place.
These areas include the clusters of barangays in Cabanglasan, Malaybalay City, Impasug-ong and Manolo Fortich in Bukidnon, and the adjoining clusters of barangays in Gingoog City and Claveria in Misamis Oriental.
Renerio’s letter was also sent to Bishop Felixberto Calang, of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) and Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, of the Roman Catholic Church, officials of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (Pepp) and representatives of the local third-party facilitators, Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, Misamis Oriental Governor Yevgeny Vincente Emano, and Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno.
Calang said there was no reply yet from both Zubiri and the NPA as of Thursday, November 27.
Meanwhile, the relatives of Cinches and Yorong went to see Bishop Calang to get some updates of the negotiations on Thursday, November 27.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Caraga region is not ruling out an intense tactical offense by the New People’s Army (NPA) to mark the 45th anniversary celebration of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on December 26, this year.
Col. Gregory Cayetano, commander of the Army 401st Brigade, also expressed belief that the armed group might likewise mount any terror attack to show to new leaderships of both the army and police that they are yet a force to reckon with.
It can be recalled that on September 10, 2014, Major General Oscar Lactao assumed post as new 4th Infantry Division (4ID) commander while on November 4, 2014, PCSupt David Yalong Ombao took over as Caraga PNP chief.
However, Cayetano said that it is already “routine” on their part to keep an eye always on any possible terroristic activities that the armed group might carry out especially this time of the year, saying on the other hand, he still hopes for a peaceful Yuletide celebration.
Meanwhile, he pointed out that while he agree that Surigao del Sur remains to be at the top three of insurgency-laden areas in the country as bared by Governor Johnny Pimentel during the new Caraga PNP chief’s courtesy call on Monday, PCSupt David Yalong Ombao, but said that the situation has continuously been improving.
THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has admitted that the visit of Pope Francis in January will be fraught with security concerns and that an assassination attempt is always a possibility.
“We cannot ignore that somebody might be interested [in killing the pope] or sow chaos,” AFP Public Affairs Office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said on Thursday.
Cabunoc said that as the head of the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope, who will be in the Philippines from January 15 to 19, is more than just a very important person (VIP) and his security and safety remains a “big challenge” to authorities.
“That is why we are appealing to the public to help us in monitoring and information sharing because it is the responsibility of everybody. We must help each other because the Pope’s coming visit is a great honor to our country,” he said.
Cabunoc said there are no specific reports of threats against the Pope, but that does not mean the military is not letting its guard down.
AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang has ordered the Filipino peacekeepers who were assigned to the Golan Heights to form part of the pope’s security ring.
Catapang said the peacekeepers’ exposure and experience in Golan will be an asset during the Pope’s visit.
A military intelligence source has said that even if the AFP is not the lead agency in the security preparations, “we should be ready if the President taps us. So all information, all intelligence services of the AFP are ready because if the President taps the [AFP] chief of staff we have to answer the call.”
The source, who requested not to be identified for lack of authority to speak, said it would be embarrassing for the Philippine government if something happened to the Pope while he is in the country.
In 1995, there was a plot to kill Pope John Paul II when he visited the country.
“Oplan Bojinka” was a plot hatched by al-Qaeda operatives Ramzi Yousef and Kahlid Shaikh Mohammed to blow up 12 airlines and to assassinate John Paul.
The plan was disrupted after a fire broke out at the apartment along Quirino Avenue in Malate, Manila, where Yousef and Mohammed were preparing explosive devices.
The al-Qaeda, founded by Osama Bin Laden, supports the Asian-based terrorist cell Jemaah Islamiya, which has links with the terrorist Abu Sayyaf.
The jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has threatened to kill the pontiff during one of his trips overseas.
In a media briefing on Thursday, Undersecretary for Media Relations Anthony Jess Yu said the government will not take the threats on Pope Francis lightly.
Yu said the AFP, Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Presidential Security Group (PSG) have been alerted about the threats.
He said the Catholic Church was coordinating with law enforcement agencies in determining the number of enforcers to be deployed at the venues where the pope will attend a public gathering.
“We will have sequence and coordination meetings before we conduct another meeting together with the Church regarding that matter,” Yu said.
Pope Francis will be going to Tacloban City on January 17 and dine with some victims of Typhoon Yolanda and the survivors of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Bohol.
Former Ambassador to Israel Mariano Paynor appealed to the public not to be overeager in trying to get near the Pope during his public Masses.
On January 18, the Pope will meet with religious leaders at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) and then mingle with students.
On the afternoon of the same day, he will say Mass at the Rizal Park in Manila.
Paynor said the people can still feel the presence of the pontiff even if they are not able to touch him.
Tacloban police chief Sr. Supt. Domingo Cabillan said that up to 5,000 policemen might reinforce the 2,000 police officers assigned to the papal visit.
Cabillan said they are also training civilian volunteers from different parishes, members of peace organizations and college students to be “force multipliers” in providing security for the pope.
“We do not leave this to the PNP alone. Even media and the public could help. They are the force multipliers who can help secure our Pope especially during the motorcade from the airport to Palo which is more or less 12 kilometers [from Tacloban] if we will secure both sides of the road,” he said.
Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago yesterday warned that President Aquino has opened himself up to impeachment when his administration signed the controversial Philippine-US Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) without the concurrence of the Senate.
She said that the impeachable offenses that the President allegedly committed when the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) signed the EDCA for the Philippine government are “culpable violations of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust, for allowing a foreign government to maintain military bases without Senate concurrence,” she said.
Santiago pointed these out after announcing yesterday that her Senate Foreign Relations Committee will conduct a public hearing on Monday “to pass upon whether the Senate should concur with the agreement.”
She said the hearing will address four topics: Does the EDCA need to be concurred in by the Senate?; is it necessary?; is it beneficial?; and is it practical?
But Malacañang is confident that President Aquino will not be removed from office via impeachment over the counter-signing of the enhanced defense agreement with the United States.
Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. stood firm that the EDCA forged by the Philippines and the United States is above board.
“We have done what is needed to ensure compliance with the Constitution and relevant laws,” Coloma said in a text message to the Manila Bulletin.
An impeachment complaint was filed recently against the President over EDCA but was eventually dismissed by a House panel.
Santiago said that her public hearing would also tackle the constitutional ban on foreign military bases, troops or facilities in the country, except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate.
While Malacañang maintained that the EDCA is an executive agreement, thus it does not require Senate concurrence, there is a contrary view in the Upper Chamber that the EDCA is a treaty and as such, it needs Senate ratification.
“The Constitution is categorical. It requires Senate concurrence whether the document is called a treaty or any other international agreement,” Santiago stressed.
Santiago clarified that the EDCA cannot be viewed as an implementing agreement of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) signed in 1998 during the Estrada administration.
“In international law, there is no such thing as an implementing treaty especially in our Constitution. Every treaty has to be on the basis on constitutional requirement, whether implementing or not,” she added.
The concurrence requirement for the EDCA is different from the requirements of the MDT and “the EDCA is for the purpose of saving the treaty from the prohibition in the Constitution,” she explained.
Contrary to claims that the EDCA does not involve the establishment of military bases, the EDCA gives the United States rights of possession, control, and use of areas of Philippine territory described as “agreed locations,” she said.
“These rights amount to the maintenance of military bases in the ‘Agreed Locations,’” she explained.
Although there is a suit pending before the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionally of the EDCA, Santiago, a constitutionalist, maintained that this does not prevent the Senate from conducting its own public hearing.
She cited Senate rules which state that “no proceeding before any government can inhibit the Senate from conducting its own proceedings.”
Santiago also chided Solicitor General Florin Hilbay for stating that the “Senate’s silence (on the suit pending before the Supreme Court) is a nuanced affirmation of the powers of the President.”
She took exception to Hilbay’s alleged statement that the fact that no senator joined the petitioners in having the Supreme Court declare the EDCA unconstitutional might be a sign that the Senate has agreed with the agreement.
Santiago said there is no law requiring any senator to intervene in any hearing before any tribunal in the country.
“We initially desisted conducting hearings out of inter-departmental comity with the Supreme Court. We did not signify consent to the EDCA. We merely signified courtesy and respect,’’ she added.
What will transpire in the public hearing might assist the Supreme Court in suggesting some approaches what the High Court has indicated as its dilemma, she explained.
Coloma, meantime, said they respect the prerogative of the Senate to review the defense agreement.
But he maintained that the Department of National Defense (DND) will continue negotiating the implementing rules and regulations of EDCA with its US counterparts unless restricted by the court.
Photos from Father Angel Calvo and Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar show the thousands of people that joined the celebration of the Week of Peace in Zamboanga City on November 28, 2014. (Mindanao Examiner)
This southern Philippine port city of Zamboanga has joined the weeklong celebration of peace with thousands of residents parading as a show of unity – a year after a deadly siege left hundreds of people dead and wounded.
Father Angel Calvo, a known peace advocate here, joined the five-kilometer parade from Centro Pastoral to Pasonanca Park. Mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar also participated in the event and spoke to the huge crowd.
“Walking with the victims of last year’s war in Zamboanga City is the best way to cure their wounds and to heal social conflicts in local communities,” said Father Calvo in his welcome remarks at the opening program of the Week of Peace held at the Boy Scout Campsite.
The Week of Peace celebration, the 18th held annually here, is “our collective commitment to the struggle for peace despite the daily challenges and problems.”
The celebration was spearheaded by Interreligious Solidarity for Peace that Father Calvo convened. He said peace is a gift from God given in small sizes, which everyone should cultivate to grow and spread.
He said the trek to the Pasonanca Park symbolized the need to walk with the victims of the war to help them rehabilitate and recover the lives they lost by the violence of the attack.
“The Week of Peace 2014 serves to highlight the peace-making challenges before us: psycho-social healing not only of individual victims but also affected social segments, the need to repair our divisiveness and overcome apathy and negativism, the need to redress the immediate victims of all acts violence of the past, the need for peace education among the youth, the need for good governance to reduce poverty and so foster peace in families and communities,” Father Calvo said.
Young wards of Akay Kalinga, a shelter for homeless children also ran by Father Calvo’s Katilingban para sa Kalambuan, Inc., presented a dance and mime number. The ceremony ended with the release of doves and balloons.
Lake Lanao, the second largest lake in the country, became the center of discussion during the congressional public hearing on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) held at the Lanao del Sur provincial gymnasium here on Thursday.
Driza Liningding, of the Bangsa Moro Peace and Development Council, said the divisions of economic revenues from Lake Lanao do not favor the Maranaos and the Lanao del Sur local government.
“Lanao del Sur and the Maranaos are the losers while the national government and private corporations reap the profits,” Liningding said.
The state-run National Power Corporation, which operates six hydro plants along the Agus River, the main tributary of Lake Lanao, pays the local government units one percent of their gross sales or receipts every year as stipulated by Section 291 of the Local Government Code of 1991.
Liningding said Saguiaran town in Lanao del Sur, where Agus Hydro 2 plant is located, receives P2 million per quarter; while Marawi City with its Agus 1 receives P800,000.
“The problem is what is the basis of the one percent?” Liningding said, adding that the LGUs and the Maranaos want an “equitable share” from the revenues generated by the hydro plants.
Rep. Maximo Rodriguez (partylist, Abamin) said the proposed Bangsamoro parliament can correct all the complaints of the Maranaos.
He said this is the time for them to pass laws in the Bangsamoro parliament to correct the problems.
“The national government and the private corporations are using the waters of the lake for their economic benefits. Now the Bangsamoro government is following suit. What benefits are in store for the Maranaos?” Liningding asked.
He said they also want Section 22 of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law that gives jurisdiction of all inland waters, lakes, rivers, marshes and tributaries to the Bangsamoro government to be specific on Lake Lanao.
He said this would protect Lake Lanao from over utilization of its water resources.
Thousands of people participate in the celebration of the Sulu Week of Peace which begins on November 27, 2014. (Photos by Franzie Sali)
SULU – Thousands of people participated in the celebration of the Sulu Week of Peace as provincial government leaders urged citizens to continue supporting peace and development efforts to sustain the economic progress here.
The celebration, which began with a walk from the capital town of Jolo to the Provincial Capitol in Patikul town, was led by Hajja Nurunisah Tan, who is the chairwoman of the Sulu Provincial Women’s Council (SPWC); and Vice Governor Sakur Tan.
Sulu Governor Totoh Tan supported the weeklong peace celebration which was participated by provincial government employees and civil workers from different government agencies, and various sectors from the academe to the Muslim and Christian religious groups and organizations, to the local municipal governments, the business and police and military and civil society groups and students from local schools.
The celebration also coincided with the observance of the SPWC’s 18-day Campaign to End Violence Against Women. Vice Governor Tan also gave an impromptu speech and talked about the importance of having peace in Sulu, and urged the locals to support it.
Hajja Nurunisah also thanked all those who attended the march and called on every resident continue supporting the government’s efforts to sustain peace and development in Sulu.
In her speech, she urged the public to help in raising awareness on violence against women and children. “I am delighted to have the opportunity to address you today on this very important occasion, trying to raise awareness on violence against women and children. I cannot overstate the importance of this initiative. Violence against women and children is a terrible reality that affects the lives of thousands, if not millions, all over.”
“Although violence is a threat to everyone, women and children are particularly susceptible to victimization because they often have fewer rights or lack appropriate means of protection. Ang malala pa dito, mga kaibigan, ang nambibiktima o nananakit sa ating mga kababaihan at mga bata ay yaong mga taong malapit at kilala nila,” she said.
She said everyone has a responsibility to act and emphasizing that violence against women and children in any form, in any circumstance, and in any community, is unacceptable.
“Tackling violence against women, at home and even outside, is one of the priorities and advocacies of the Sulu Provincial Women’s Council. Our actions are founded on firmly held principles. We believe that where women live free of violence, have equal access to education, healthcare, political and economic opportunities, societies are healthier, more prosperous and more peaceful.”
“SPWC commits itself to helping end and prevent violence against women and children from happening, holding perpetrators to account for their actions and providing support to women and children who experience violence,” she added.
Hajja Tan said the people’s support is important in pursuing the advocacy and for it to succeed in Sulu. She appealed to everyone to support the advocacy by reporting abuses on women and children, and even domestic violence.
“Alam namin, sa tulong ninyo, sa tulong ng lahat ng sektor ng ating lipunan, tayo ay magtatagumpay sa adhikaing ito. We need your support in order to educate and engage our community to positively change attitudes and behaviors. Schools, the media, our workplace and local community should help promote respectful and non-violent relationships and equality,” she said.
“Let me say that this peace celebration is doubly significant for us. We are not just trying to promote awareness at ending violence against women and children; we are also promoting peace and so I say to you now that peace in Sulu will not reign unless our homes, our families and our communities, particularly our women and children, are free from violence,” she added.
Ang larawan ng mga miyembro ng Abu Sayyaf sa lalawigan ng Sulu na siyang bumihag sa dalawang German hostages. Mismong Abu Sayyaf rin ang naglagay ng litarong ito sa Internet upang ipakita ang kanilang puwersa.
Nananatiling tahimik ang tagapagsalita ng Abu Sayyaf na si Aboo Rami kaugnay sa pagsasampa ng pulisya ng kasong kriminal laban sa kanya matapos itong isabit sa dalawang pambobomba sa karaoke at massage parlor sa Zamboanga City na ikinasugat ng isang parak.
Ayon kay Supt. Ariel Huesca, ang commander ng Zamboanga City Public Safety Company, ay naghain na sila ng kaso laban kay Muammar Askali (na inulat pang Askalani at Askalni) alias Aboo Rami na siyang nagsilbing tagapagsalita ng Abu Sayyaf sa kasagsagan ng negosasyon sa paglaya ng dalawang German hostages noon nakaraang buwan.
Sa kabila ng pagsampa ng kaso laban kay Aboo Rami ay nananatili pa rin ang mahigpit na siguridad sa Zamboanga, ayon kay Huesca. “The police are still directed to maintain their stance on alertness and vigilance,” ani pa ng opisyal sa inilabas na pahayag ng City Hall.
Sinabi ni Huesca na ang pagsasampa ng kaso kay Aboo Rami ay base sa ibinigay na deskripsyon ng mga saksi ukol sa bomber na siyang namataan diumano sa Deluxe Karaoke and Massage Parlor sa downtown Zamboanga bago sumabog ang mga bomba nitong Nobyembre 9.
Ngunit marami ang nagduda na sabit si Aboo Rami sa atake dahil hindi naman ito maglalakas loob na umalis ng Sulu at magpunta sa Zamboanga upang pasabugin lamang ang bomba sa karaoke bar. At naganap ito ilang lingo lamang matapos na matanggap ni Aboo Rami ang P250 milyon ransom kapalit nina Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, at Henrike Diesen, 55 na pinalaya noon Oktubre 17.
Mismong si Aboo Rami ang nagkumpirma sa Radio Mindanao Network saZamboanga City na pinakawalan nito ang mga bihag kapalit ng P250 milyon ransom.
Naunang sinabi ng Western Mindanao Command na isang tauhan ni Basilan-based Abu Sayyaf leader Puruji Indama ang nasa likod ng pambobomba. Magkaiba rin ang dalawang larawan na inilabas ng pulisya na umano’y si Aboo Rami. At malayo rin ito sa mukha ni Aboo Rami na inilabas ng Abu Sayyaf sa Youtube ng matanggap nila ang ransom para sa German hostages.
MNLF leader Usong Ugong and his followers and assorted weapons seized by the police in Zamboanga City in September 2013. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)
More than 50 arrested members of the Moro National Liberation Front who were implicated in a deadly attack in Zamboanga City last year may be freed after the Department of Justice recommended the dismissal of the criminal charges against them, television giant GMA reported Thursday.
It said 59 of over 270 people arrested and charged in connection with the attack are likely to be released. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the DOJ came up with the recommendation after the Pasig court handling the rebellion case ordered the prosecution to undertake a re-investigation.
"Sa tingin ng court, may mga akusado na hindi na-establish ang role," De Lima told reporters in Manila, adding, it is up to the court whether or not to approve the prosecution panel's recommendation.
De Lima also clarified that MNLF chairman Nur Misuari is still among those facing charges of rebellion and violation of the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity were filed in two batches in October and December 2013 against MNLF chairman Nur Misuari and more than 270 others for the assault on Zamboanga City, according to the report.
GMA said some of Misuari’s commanders, including his top leader Ustadz Khabir Malik, have been charged on October 7 at the Zamboanga City Regional Trial Court. But Misuari, Malik, and two others are still at large while 57 of those charged are being held at the San Ramon Prison and Penal Farm in Zamboanga City.
The DOJ said the attack on Zamboanga resulted in several casualties and extensive damage within the city, particularly in the villages of Mariki, Rio Hondo, Santa Barbara, Santa Catalina, Kasanyangan, Talon-Talon and Mampang.
The report said Misuari and his men were charged with rebellion for taking up arms and attacking government security forces and civilians, and by committing “acts of murder, pillage, disorder, looting, arson, and destruction of private and public properties."
They were also charged for their acts of violence against residents who did not take an active part in the armed hostilities, and for taking non-combatant civilians as hostages during the fighting.
Commander Usong Ugong
It was unknown whether among those who would be freed included the 23 MNLF gunmen led by Commander Usong Ugong that yielded to the police during the rebel siege.
Ugong’s group surrendered to Senior Superintendent Jose Chiquito Malayo, then the local police chief, in the village of Mampang in exchange for a safe passage back to Basilan province. Ugong claimed that Misuari misled them into believing they would attend a peace rally in Zamboanga, but ended up hiding in the village when fighting erupted.
Malayo was initially reported to have been taken hostage by Ugong’s group, but this had been denied by the police officer who admitted he went to the village to negotiate for the surrender of the rebels.
But other reports claimed Ugong’s group was allegedly paid or working for a politician who sent the gunmen to Zamboanga to pose as surrenderees to demoralize the ranks of the rebel group and as a media propaganda. Assorted weapons were also seized by the police from Ugong’s group.
More than 400 people were killed and wounded in the fighting that lasted three weeks and displaced over 120,000 residents. Zamboanga Mayor Maria Isabella Salazar said she will not allow the rebels to go unpunished.
Rebel forces led Malik stormed several villages in Zamboanga on September 9 and took over 200 people hostage and used them as shield against pursuing soldiers and authorities said almost all captives had been freed or rescued.
Misuari, who signed a peace accord with Manila in 1996, accused the Aquino government of reneging on the peal deal and launched a new rebellion, the second in more than a decade. In 2001, loyal forces of Misuari also attacked military bases in Zamboanga City and Jolo town in Sulu province and the clashes killed over 100 people.
PETALING JAYA, Malaysia - Malaysian militants returning from fighting for the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq pose a clear danger to the country, warned a White Paper on terrorism.
The Paper, that was presented in parliament on Wednesday by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, also said that there was a risk that Malaysia could become a hub to finance terror activities if there were no proper laws in place.
The Paper said that the returning militants had the potential to continue their terrorist activities by establishing cells and carrying out attacks in the country.
"They can influence and recruit individuals especially the youth. Police investigations reveal that youth are the easiest target of IS. This has to be stopped to prevent Malaysia from becoming a terrorism hub," said the Paper.
The document also said that militants who'd gone overseas to fight with Islamic State could build networks that could be continued over social networks.
"They have the potential to conduct terror attacks on their own or in groups," said the Paper.
It further raised the issue of Sabah's east coast that is currently under threat from Abu-Sayyaf militants who have pledged allegiance to IS and warned that there was a possibility that the IS network in Sabah could spread to Sarawak.
The Paper added that the release of 250-300 former Jemaah Islamiyah members from prisons in Indonesia from next year could have an impact on security in Malaysia. This was because some of those in custody and ex-JI leader Abu Bakar Bashir had pledged allegiance to the IS.
"After being released, there is a big worry that they will link up with other JI members in Malaysia to form an IS network. There were reports that the Malaysian and Indonesian militants in Syria formed the Katibah Nusantara Lid-Daulah Islamiah," it said.
Photos released by the Western Mindanao Command show the casket of slain army soldier Corporal Glenn John Barcelona being escorted to a waiting cargo plane in
The body of the soldier who died in a clash with Abu Sayyaf rebels arrived Wednesday in Manila on a military cargo plane from Zamboanga City in southern Philippines.
Troops in Zamboanga City led by Brigadier General Orlando De Leon, deputy chief of the Western Mindanao Command, and Brigadier General Anselmo Junsay III, commander of the 530th Air Base Wing, also honored Corporal Glenn John Barcelona before transporting his cadaver here.
Barcelona was killed on November 22 in Sulu’s Parang town. His unit also killed Sihata Asmad, an Abu Sayyaf sub-leader.
Authorities blamed the Abu Sayyaf for the spate of ransom kidnappings and terrorism in the restive South.
Muslim, Christian and lumad school children prepare to fly their kites at the 32-hectare compound of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in Cotabato City. John Unson
Some 50,000 children across the five provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao flew colorful kites on Tuesday afternoon as a symbolic call for an end to secessionist conflicts in the region.
Maguindanao province registered the most number of elementary pupils that participated in the event, led by Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, who also flew a kite, along with hundreds of children in Buluan, the provincial capital.
Besides ARMM regional officials, only local executives in Maguindanao, from among ARMM's five provinces, have openly been supporting the government's peace overture with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The governor of Maguindanao and his 36 constituent-mayors had even unanimously endorsed recently the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, the enabling measure for the replacement of ARMM with an MILF-led, more politically empowered Bangsamoro self-governing entity. The bill is now in Congress, expected to be enacted into law by first quarter of 2015.
The kite-flying activity, organized by ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, Regional Executive Secretary Laisa Alamia and representatives of the education department, was part of the observance by local folks of the “Mindanao Week of Peace.”
It was also one of the highlights of the continuing month-long celebration of the region’s 25th founding anniversary, which started on November 17.
Hundreds of school children from nearby towns in the first district of Maguindanao flew colorful kites inside the ARMM’s 32-hectare compound in Cotabato City at exactly 2 p.m. Tuesday.
The event at the ARMM compound was witnessed by representatives of different peace-advocacy organizations, among them the vaunted Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG), a partner of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung of Germany.
Fr. Eliseo Mercado, Jr., director of IAG, said he was amazed with how Christian, Muslim and lumad school children enthusiastically participated in the kite-flying activity to dramatize their desire for lasting peace and development in their respective communities.
Mercado belong to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate congregation (OMI), which is operating schools in Central Mindanao and the island provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
These OMI schools pioneered in the 1990s various “peace education” subjects that are focused on propagation of Muslim-Christian solidarity and meant to inculcate among children the importance of resolving peace and security issues via traditional and religious conflict resolution practices.
Alamia said the Hataman administration was elated with how public and private schools in the autonomous region, which covers Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, both in mainland Mindanao, and the scattered island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, participated in the kite-flying activity.
Karim, a sixth grade pupil in Maguindanao’s Datu Odin Sinsuat town, said he used a white Japanese paper for his handcrafted kite to symbolize purity of his intention in participating in the event.
He said his family was originally from Datu Piang town in the second district of Maguindanao, but was forced to relocate to Datu Odin Sinsuat by internecine conflicts in 2003.
“I wish to return to my hometown and live there peacefully. I'm sure this dream will come,” Karim said.
Hundreds of non-Muslim ethnic Teduray school children also flew colorful kites in their school campuses in Maguindanao’s adjoining North and South Upi towns.
Edmund, a grade four Teduray pupil, told reporters he and his classmates want the fragile peace now in Maguindanao, as a result of the government-MILF ceasefire accord, to continue for school children to pursue their studies undisrupted.
“We don’t want conflicts. We want to live in peace with our Muslim and Christian neighbors forever,” the 10-year-old Edmund said.
Government prosecutors have recommended the dismissal of rebellion and genocide charges against 60 of the more than 200 persons charged in connection with the September 2013 siege of the city as they showed no signs of having fired weapons and no witnesses had linked them to the month-long violence.
Regional state prosecutor Peter Medalle said Wednesday that the recommendation to a court in Pasig City where the charges have been lodged, was reached after the panel of prosecutors, headed by Richard Fadullon, conducted a re-investigation of the charges against the accused.
“Resulting from the investigation is the recommendation for the dismissal of accusations against 60 of the accused respondents, principally on the basis of the absence of gunpowder residue,” Medalle said.
He said also that no witness had testified that the 60 had taken part in the rampage by followers of Moro leader Nur Misuari.
The names of those cleared of charges were not immediately available but Commissioner Edilwasif Baddiri of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos said they were aware the charges against them would eventually be dismissed.
Of those detained and charged, 10 were minors and five were females, one of them pregnant, but it could not be immediately ascertained if they were among the 60.
“This move is a big step to freedom,” Baddiri said, adding that it was on Nov. 10 when they knew the 60 accused would be cleared.
A total of 278 individuals were arrested and detained in connection with the siege, in which more than more than 100 were killed. They were later charged, along with Misuari and other Moro National Liberation Front leaders, with murder and crimes against humanity.
With the dropping of the charges against 60 of the accused, the number of alleged MNLF fighters to go on trial will be reduced to 218, Baddiri said.
A member of the Manobo tribe performs a ritual of sacrificing a wild boar at Don Chino Roces Bridge in Mendiola during a rally on Monday, November 24. The lumads are in Manila to protest against large-scale mining operations on their ancestral land in Mindanao and military encampments in their communities. Leo Esclanda
Members of indigenous groups from Mindanao and Southern Luzon on Wednesday vandalized the walls of Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.
An AFP civil disturbance unit confronts indigenous people from Mindanao who picketed Camp Aguinaldo to demand the pullout of troops they accuse of human rights abuses in the south. (photo by Jaime Sinapit, InterAksyon.com)
Close to a hundred leaders and members of indigenous peoples from Mindanao staged a picket Wednesday at Camp Aquinaldo, headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to demand the pullout of troops from the southern Philippines they accuse of human rights abuses.
They had come to Metro Manila as part of the “Manilakbayan,” a 15-day journey that saw them reach the National Capital Region on November 21.
The picket was peaceful although a military civil disturbance group was deployed to confront them.
The lumad, supported by progressive groups such as Karapatan, Bagong Alysansang Makabayan and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, among others, said rights abuses remained the “name of the game” by the military, this time cloaked in the guise of "offering peace and development" through Internal Peace and Security Plan "Bayanihan."
They said the military continues to carry out extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances to silence dissent and those fighting the encroachment of large local and foreign mining and logging firms into their ancestral lands.
"Military operations are among the reasons why peasants and indigenous people from Mindanao traversed the long roads from Mindanao to Metro Manila. They call for justice for all their comrades, colleagues, friends and relatives, tribesmen who became victims of Oplan Bayanihan," said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said, who accused the military of murdering 83 persons in Mindanao.
Aside from extrajudicial murders, Palabay also said military units set up camp in lumad schools and indiscriminately bomb villages, displacing communities.
File photo of the Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc in Zambales province.
A book about the disputed Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal, which strengthens the Philippines' long-standing claim over the area, was launched on Wednesday.
A collaboration between the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea (UP IMLOS) and the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA), the book "Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal): Maps and Documents" is a compilation of documents that prove the Shoal has always been a part of the Philippine national territory.
"It's very timely because we're trying to convince the world especially the people in China that Bajo de Masinloc has been historically part of the Philippines since 1636 and there is not a single official map, ancient documents or ancient artficact showing China has ever set foot on Bajo de Masinloc," Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said during the book launch.
China claims that the Scarborough Shoal is a part of its territory based on the nine-dash lines in the South China Sea. The Shoal is located 124 nautical miles west of Zambales and is within the 200 nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Carpio earlier noted that China's argument in its territorial claim over the West Philippines Sea has no legal basis under international law.
READ: ‘No basis in China’s historical right over West Phl Sea’ | China bares first book on 9-dash line
UP IMLOS director Jay Batongbacal said that the United States recognizes that the Scarborough Shoal is part of the territory of the Philippines, as signed by the US and Spain in the Treaty of Washington.
The treaty read, "Spain relinquishes to the United States all title and claim of title, which she may have had at the time of the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace of Paris, to any and all islands belonging to the Philippine Archipelago."
Batongbacal added that the maps included in the book dates back to the 1660s which support the country's territorial claims.
"If our books were rockets launched at China, China would have been conquered," UP College of Law Dean Danilo Concepcion said.
The book is not just for lawyers and policy makers, but for the general public as well to show the documentary evidences of the country's exercise of jurisdiction and sovereignty over the Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc.
"Bajo de Masinloc has always been a part of Philippine territory and subject to exclusive jurisdiction," the UP Law Dean concluded.