Quote for the Week..

"Why are the country’s political leaders quick to act on amending the Constitution to change nationalistic provisions for the benefit of foreigners or to extend their terms of office but are allergic to amending the Constitution to address the people’s aspirations for self-determination?" - Marvic Leonen,Dean of the UP College of Law, in a keynote address delivered at the 1st International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao; March 16-18, 2009 in Davao City, Philippines.


Monday, March 31, 2008

Muslims more numerous than Catholics based on latest population data

Associated Press

VATICAN CITY - Islam has surpassed Roman Catholicism as the world's largest religion, the Vatican newspaper said Sunday. "For the first time in history, we are no longer at the top: Muslims have overtaken us," Monsignor Vittorio Formenti said in an interview with the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano. Formenti compiles the Vatican's yearbook.He said that Catholics accounted for 17.4 percent of the world population — a stable percentage — while Muslims were at 19.2 percent.

"It is true that while Muslim families, as is well known, continue to make a lot of children, Christian ones on the contrary tend to have fewer and fewer," the monsignor said.Formenti said that the data refer to 2006. The figures on Muslims were put together by Muslim countries and then provided to the United Nations, he said, adding that the Vatican could only vouch for its own data.

When considering all Christians and not just Catholics, Christians make up 33 percent of the world population, Formenti said.Spokesmen for the Vatican and the United Nations did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment Sunday.

(Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080330/ap_on_re_eu/vatican_muslims)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

World Food Programme Reaches Out to Remote Villages

Occasional armed conflict aggravates poverty in the countryside

PIKIT, NORTH COTABATO, Philippines -- Hiding under the shade of makeshift stage, 13-year-old Denilda Abdul finishes the last spoonful of her corn-soya porridge and quickly lines up for another serving.

Her traditional Muslim headscarf does not hide her emaciated frame and slightly bulging eyes, signs of early malnutrition common among children in remote villages of Mindanao.

"This is very good," she says between spoonfuls of the brown, sticky mixture distributed by the UN's World Food Program (WFP) in the small farming village of Kalakacan in Pikit, North Cotabato.

"It's not chicken or fish, but it fills me up just the same."

She is just one of more than one million people who rely daily on food from the WFP in Mindanao, the southern Philippine island which has been ravaged for more than 30 years by a Muslim separatist rebellion and inter-clan feuding.

Other students silently eat their porridge, sweat trickling down their faces despite a gentle breeze blowing across from empty corn and rice fields nearby.

Mothers mingle in the background and talk of fighting between the Philippine military and separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that has wrought havoc on hundreds of farming communities like this and forced thousands of families into squalid refugee camps.

"Hunger is a nagging concern for the people in Mindanao," WFP country chief Valerie Guanieri told Agence France-Presse.

Despite a five-year ceasefire between the government and the MILF, clashes erupt randomly and deadly feuding between rival families and militant Muslim groups remain a problem.

It also disrupts farming and other jobs, and prevents children attending school, Guarnieri said.

The conflict has led to malnutrition levels that are "quite alarming in a country of the economic status of the Philippines," she said.

"Nothing in Mindanao can be divorced from the conflict because there's an area that should be the breadbasket of the Philippines, that should be the economic lifebuoy for the country and yet because of the conflict, it doesn't get the sort of investment, either public or private that would allow it to fulfill its potential," Guarnieri said.

"They are living day to day and they are trying to supplement their farming. These activities are clearly disrupted when they are forced to move to another area. It makes what's already quite a difficult life all the harder," she said.

Various efforts have been made by government and UN agencies to document the exact number of displaced, but because the camps are often temporary and villagers often return to their homes to retrieve belongings no actual figure has been established.

For sure, Guarneri says, the figure runs in the hundreds of thousands, with her agency alone delivering between 2,000 and 3,000 tons of food every month last year to 1.1 million of Mindanao's 16 million residents.

In December 2007 alone, more than 3,000 villagers from this town were displaced by days of fighting before ceasefire monitors stepped in, according to local officials.

These refugees would continue to depend on foreign aid to fend off starvation, Guarneri said.

Guarnieri said millions of dollars are now pouring into Mindanao to support the peace process, "but very little of that assistance goes directly to conflict-affected households".

Jesus Sacdalan, the local governor, says large-scale fighting has stopped, although armed conflict among local political warlords and Muslim clans persists.

"It has become relatively peaceful. And our children are slowly returning to schools and normal life," he said. "We have local problems though about clan fighting."

Clan wars are more pertinent in daily life here, with a recent study by the Asia Foundation recording more than 3,800 deaths in recent years related to what are know here as "rido."

But this number is also likely to fall if the government signs a peace deal with the MILF and subsequently curbs unlicensed gun ownership, Sacdalan said.

"It's critical that the government and the MILF conclude a peace agreement as soon as possible," Guarnerie said.

That is expected to take a few more years, with MILF chief Murad Ebrahim in a recent meeting with his senior commanders in Mindanao saying he doubted a final peace pact would be achieved before the end of President Gloria Arroyo's term in 2010.

"I don't know [until] when the food supplies will last. What I know is that we can't rely on dole-outs forever," says mother of six Merlinda Apostol, 42, as she grasps a bright red food bowl.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

1,289 pass the 2007 bar exams

(This was not datelined in Cotabato but we decided to reprint this one for its importance and signifcance to the bar examiness from the South-Central Mindanao region.. Dr. Mosaid)

By Tetch Torres

MANILA, Philippines -- A total of 1,289 have passed the 2007 bar examinations, the Supreme Court announced on Saturday afternoon.

Ateneo de Manila University law graduate Mercedita L. Ona topped the tests with an average score of 83.55 percent. Jennifer Ong of the University of the Philippines in Diliman followed at 83.35 percent.

A total of 5,626 law graduates from 109 law schools took the bar examinations for four consecutive Sundays in September last 2007.

The number of examinees last year is smaller than the 6,345 who took the tests in 2006.

Under the Rules of Court, a bar examinee is deemed to have passed if he obtains a general average of 75 percent in all subjects without falling below 50 percent in any subject.

The subjects and their corresponding weights are as follows: Remedial Law, 20 percent; Political and International Law, 15 percent; Mercantile Law, 15 percent; Civil Law, 15 percent; Labor and Social Legislation, 10 percent; Taxation, 10 percent; Criminal Law, 10 percent; and Legal Ethics and Practical Exercises, 5 percent.

Since 2000, the highest percentage of bar passers was seen in 2001, where the passing rate was 32.89 percent. This corresponded to 1,266 passers out of 3,849 examinees.

But the biggest number of actual passers since 2000 was recorded in 2006, when 1,893 out of 6,187 passed, or 30.60 percent of the total.

The lowest percentage of passers since 2000 was recorded in 2002, when only 19.68 percent passed.

University of the Cordilleras law graduate Noel Neil Q. Malimban topped the 2006 bar examinations with a score of 87.60 percent.

Last year, the high court began implementing the "five-strike" rule, which disqualifies five-time flunkers from taking future bar exams.

The chair of the 2007 Committee on Bar Examinations is Justice Adolf Azcuna.

(Reprinted from INQUIRER.net)

Bar topnotcher is also a CPA

By Jerome Aning

The 2007 bar topnotcher Mercedita Ona of Ateneo de Manila University said she was so happy for passing but was no nervous she did not bother to go to the Supreme Court to view the results for herself.

Ona, 27, told the Inquirer in a phone interview this was the first time she took the bar examinations. She is a certified public accountant working for the Sycip law firm.

“It [exam] was very difficult… that’s why I did not go to the Supreme Court in Manila and just viewed the results online,” Ona said.

The top 10 who passed the 2007 bar examinations are the following:

1 Mercedita L. Ona, Ateneo De Manila University, 83.55
2 Jennifer Ong, University of the Philippines-Diliman, 83.35
3 Yvanna BL Maalat, Ateneo, 82.75
4 Jennie C. Aclan, University of San Carlos, 82.10
5 John Michael F. Galauran, University of Nueva Caceres, 81.60
6 Karen S. Canullas, San Sebastian College, 81.40
7 Cecille L. Mejia, Ateneo De Manila University, 81.35
Sheryl Ann D. Tizon, University of the Philippines-Diliman, 81.35
8 Marforth T. Fua, San Beda College, 81.20
9 Ruby M. Luy, Ateneo De Davao University, 81.15
10 Christian B. Llido, University of Cebu, 80.90
Vivian S. Tan, University of the Philippines-Diliman, 80.90

Retired Supreme Court justice Florenz Regalado's score of 96.7 percent is still unsurpassed in Philippine bar exams history

Retired Supreme Court justice Florenz Regalado obtained in 1954 the highest score so far of 96.7 percent in the history of bar examinations in the Philippines, but it was former senator Tecla San Andres-Ziga who became the first woman to top the bar, scoring 89.4 percent in 1930.

Pre-war results of bar topnotchers placed Manuel Roxas as having made history in 1913 by getting an average of 92 percent. A year later, Manuel Goyena beat the record at 93 percent.

The feat of San Andres-Ziga, senator from 1963-1969, was unsurpassed until Cecilia Munoz-Palma, who later became an SC magistrate, obtained 92.6 percent in 1937.

In 1936, Diosdado Macapagal, who became the 9th president of the Philippines, topped the bar exams with a mark of 89.85 percent.

In 1939, Ferdinand Marcos got the highest score of 92.35 percent. He reviewed for the bar exams while facing indictments for the murder of his father’s political enemy. In 1965, Marcos joined the presidential race and defeated the reelectionist father of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In 1944, former Senate President Jovito R. Salonga and former senator Jose W. Diokno both obtained the highest score of 95.3 percent.

Last year, University of the Cordilleras law graduate Noel Neil Q. Malimban topped the examinations with a score of 87.60 percent.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Bus Company plans to cut short Davao-Cotabato route

COTABATO CITY, Philippines -- The lone bus firm servicing the Davao-Cotabato route is stopping its trip to North Cotabato on April 1, a company official said.

"Mulcting, extortion and the increasing number of non-paying passengers ... prompted the bus management to stop servicing almost one half of the franchise routes," said Eddie Soledad, Cotabato area manager of Weena Bus Company.

Soledad said the firm loses at least P7,000 a day per bus to people who refuse to pay fare.

"When asked to pay, these passengers would threaten our bus conductors and drivers," Soledad said.

He said Weena is planning to service the Davao to Kabacan, North Cotabato route only and would stop servicing the Kabacan to Cotabato City route "unless the local government units of the towns serviced by Weena would help us address the problem."

"This is to protect the lives not only of our drivers and conductors but (of) the riding public as well," he said in a radio interview.

Extortion gangs with terror links have launched bomb attacks on the bus firm.

The Weena management has already informed the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board in Central and Southern Mindanao about the "temporary trip cut."

Babylen Mangelen, LTFRB Central Mindanao administrative officer, said her office was working with the bus management to find solutions.

Cotabato Mayor Muslimin Sema said he doesn’t see any problem if Weena stops servicing the route to his city since there are other public utility vehicles available for commuters.

But Mayor Loreto Cabaya of Aleosan, North Cotabato was saddened by the firm's plan.

"The bus firm had been part of our lives," he said.

Move to Install Sema as MNLF Chairman Questioned

COTABATO CITY, Philippines -- An official of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) denied any move to oust their chairman, Nur Misuari.

Hatimil Hassan, MNLF interim vice chair, earlier told the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net) that the central committee was planning to replace Misuari with MNLF secretary general Muslimin Sema.

Sema is mayor of this city and was one of the members of the MNLF Council of 15, the group that ousted Misuari as chair after his arrest on rebellion charges in 2001.

But Emmanuel Fontanilla, MNLF legal counsel and spokesperson for Mindanao, said Hassan has no legal personality to speak on behalf of the organization, adding that the MNLF faction led by Misuari is the one recognized by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

He also said Sema could not be MNLF chair considering he is no longer an independent member of the movement.

"He's already working with the government. How can he represent the true sentiment and aspirations of the Christians, lumad [indigenous people] and Muslims?" Fontanilla asked.

He accused the government of using divide-and-rule tactics to weaken the MNLF’s struggle.

According to him, the MNLF is set to hold its congress in Marawi City on April 5.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

FBI to train cops, troops in counterterrorism

By Ed General

JOLO, Sulu -- Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrived here to train policemen and soldiers in counterterrorism, the provincial police director of Sulu said Wednesday.

But Senior Superintendent Julasirim Kasim did not say how many FBI agents are here or when they arrived.

However, he did say the participants of the training are policemen and soldiers involved in intelligence gathering.

"The 35 members of the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] and PNP [Philippine National Police] will be trained on intelligence gathering and investigation and other matters, including counterintelligence," Kasim said.

He said the training will run for six months and will be held at the headquarters of the 3rd Marine Brigade in Barangay (village) Busbus here.

The United States government considers Sulu as one of the areas of concern in the global fight against terror because of the supposed link between the homegrown Abu Sayyaf group and the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), Southeast Asian arm of the Al Qaeda.

A number of JI leaders, including suspected Bali bombers Omar Patek and Dulmatin, have reportedly been hiding in Sulu and are being protected by Abu Sayyaf gunmen.

For the past six years or so, US military forces have also trained Filipino soldiers on counterterrorism tactics here.

Aside from training their Filipino counterparts, US forces are also implementing civic projects aimed at winning the hearts of the locals and reducing support for the Abu Sayyaf and their JI allies.

Father Bossi is Back to Zamboanga

By Julie Alipala

PAYAO, Zamboanga Sibugay, Philippines -- Italian missionary Giancarlo Bossi, who was abducted and subsequently freed by unidentified armed men last year, quietly arrived in Zamboanga City on Tuesday.

But it was not immediately clear if Bossi would return to this town and resume his missionary work.

Claretian Father Angel Calvo, a close friend of Bossi, confirmed the Italian priest's arrival at the convent of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (Pime) in Zamboanga City on Tuesday.

But Calvo said he could not give further details about Bossi's return and instead suggested that the Philippine Daily Inquirer contact the Pime leadership.

The Inquirer repeatedly tried but failed to reach Father Gianni Sandalo, Bossi's regional superior.

Bossi's Pime colleague, Father Sebastiano D' Ambra, confirmed Calvo's information.

"I suggest you get more information from Father Sandalo," he said.

When news of Bossi's arrival in Zamboanga City reached his former parishioners here, they immediately celebrated.

Residents of this town have long waited for the return of the priest, who is popularly known here as "Father Giant."

Bossi's simplicity according to his parishioners was the main reason he captured the hearts of the people of Payao, including children.

During his release, Bossi repeatedly assured the people of Payao that he would return one day and live among them again.

Father Roberto Brillantes, the priest who replaced Bossi at the San Pablo Parish, said he was informed that the Italian missionary would be coming here this week.

He said Bossi was expected to attend the fiesta of Bayog town before coming here.

But Brillantes said contrary to expectations, Bossi would not be staying long.

"It will just be a short visit to retrieve his personal items, the longest could be a day or two," he said.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"ARMM has 18,983 double registrants" - COMELEC

COTABATO CITY, Philippines -- The Commission on Elections said 18,983 voters have registered twice in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the double registrants were discovered through Automated Fingerprint Identification System matching.

Jimenez said in order to have a clean computerized voters list, Comelec directed the deletion of the names with double/multiple registrants, he said.

“We’re removing all registrations subsequent to the first,” Jimenez told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Saturday.

He said there would be a continuing registration on April 1, when they open the bids for automation of Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi Tawi and Shariff Kabunsuan.

The Comelec earlier announced that the sole bidder for the optical mark-reader (OMR) technology was disqualified.

The automation of elections in ARMM requires the use of direct recording electronic (DRE) technology in Maguindanao and the OMR technology in other five provinces of the ARMM.

The DRE uses touch-screen or touch-pad technology for voting, while OMR requires voters to fill up a paper-based ballot which is fed to a specially designed machine, similar to a scanner.

On the other hand, the OMR technology involves the use of paper ballots which are then fed to an automated counting machine.

The Department of Budget and Management has allocated P867 million for the automation of the elections in ARMM in August.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Marquez: "I’ll fight Pacquiao in any weight class"

By Roy Luarca

HOLLYWOOD— Juan Manuel Marquez, beaten but unbowed, will follow tormentor Manny Pacquiao in any weight division just to forge a Pacquiao-Marquez III.

“I’ll fight him (Pacquiao) in whatever weight he wants to fight,” Marquez told the Mexican sports daily Esto upon his arrival in Mexico City Sunday night.

Marquez’s comments came on the heels of a statement from American trainer Freddie Roach that the Mexican’s best shot at a rematch —and another world title— will be at the lightweight ranks.

“He (Pacquiao) told me he’s having problems making 130 and he wants to move up to 135,” Roach told GMA 7 on Monday. “We’d like to win the title at 135 and if he (Marquez) wants to challenge us at 135 then let’s do it that way.”

No problem, Marquez says, adding that he’ll follow Pacquiao in any weight class.

Insisting that he won their rematch, Marquez said he deserves another crack at the Filipino ring superstar who wrested his World Boxing Council super featherweight crown by split decision in Las Vegas Saturday (Sunday in Manila).

“In the first fight he knocked me down three times and they (judges) gave me a tie,” said Marquez. “Now he downed me only once and they made me lose.”

The 34-year-old Marquez, sporting dark shades to hide an ugly cut that required eight stitches to close, said he will rest for two months then resume training and probably fight in September or October.

If Pacquiao is still unavailable, then a rematch with fellow Mexican Marco Antonio Barrera will be an option for Marquez.

In their first showdown in March 2007, Marquez beat Barrera, a two-time world champion, by unanimous decision to win the WBC super feather title.

Pacquiao, on the other hand, had beaten Barrera twice. The first was an 11th round knockout in San Antonio in 2003 and the other by unanimous decision last October in Las Vegas.

“I am going to rest for a couple of months and in September or October I can return to fight,” said Marquez, who recovered from three first round knockdowns to salvage a draw with Pacquiao on May 8, 2004.

Marquez’s handlers, Golden Boy Promotions, tendered a $6-million offer to Top Rank chief honcho and Pacquiao handler Bob Arum for an immediate rematch during the post-fight press conference of Pacquiao-Marquez II.

Arum, however, rejected the offer saying that Pacquiao intends to move up and challenge WBC lightweight titlist David Diaz for the crown on June 28.

Even if it pushes through, however, the fight is likely to be moved to a later date as Pacquiao’s nasty cut on the lower right eye brow, which required 10 stitches to close, needs 6-8 weeks to fully heal.

The 76-year-old Arum said he is willing to give Marquez another crack at Pacquiao, but not right away.

For his part, Pacquiao indicated that he’s also open to another fight with Marquez.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

GenSan Prepares Red Carpet Welcome for Pacquiao

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Setting aside politics, the city government has announced a red carpet welcome for Asian boxing sensation Manny Pacquiao.

Pacquiao, who grabbed the World Boxing Council Super featherweight title from Juan Miguel Marquez, is a political opponent of Mayor Pedro Acharon.

The boxer ran and lost in the 2007 congressional elections against Acharon party mate Darlene Custodio. Acharon and Pacquiao used to be close friends.

Ernesto Quisay, Acharon’s chief of staff, said on Wednesday that the city government was preparing for Pacquiao’s expected homecoming on March 24.

He said like the rest of the nation, officials and residents here were also excited to see Pacquiao home after his bout with Marquez.

Quisay said compared with previous homecoming events for Pacquiao, this would be “bigger” because he was now a world title-holder.

He said the Filipino ring idol would be met at the airport by a welcoming party led by city officials.

“There will be activities and presentations at the airport before (the) motorcade,” he said.

Based on the plan, the motorcade will wind up at the Oval Plaza covered court here, where a welcome program and a press conference will be held.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

2 cops shot dead in Shariff Kabunsuan

PARANG, Shariff Kabunsuan, Philippines -- Suspected hired killers shot dead two policemen in Sultan Kudarat, Shariff Kabunsuan on Friday evening, the police said Saturday.

Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao, chief of police in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said PO2 Edgar Reyes Espra and PO1 Prang Andig were in a passenger van on their way to Cotabato City when attacked.

The gunmen, numbering three, were in the same van and repeatedly shot the victims when the vehicle reached Dalumangcob village, a few kilometers away from the town center, Goltiao said, witnesses.

Goltiao said investigation was still being conducted on the possible motive.
Andig, he said, was the son-in-law of Mayor Talib Abo.

1 killed, 5 injured in Tawi-Tawi market shooting

Three gunmen opened fire inside the public market of Bongao, Tawi-Tawi around noon Saturday, killing one person and injuring five others.

Senior Superintendent Winright Taup, Tawi-Tawi police chief, said the gunmen had apparently targeted the fatality, identified only as Gulam Sahil.

"It could have been personal grudge," he said.

Taup said the five injured victims, one of them a vacationing soldier, were caught in the crossfire but it was not immediately clear if it was Sahil who engaged the gunmen in a firefight.

Senior Inspector Byron Allatog, Bongao police chief, said witnesses managed to identify one of the gunmen and that a hunt has been launched against him and his companions.

Alleged terrorist nabbed;

Jolo, Sulu. A suspected bomber with links to the Jemaah Islamiyah was arrested by government security forces here, the police announced Saturday.

Senior Inspector Usman Ali Pingay, Jolo police chief, said Rening Kamlon Sabdani alias Rening Asmaruddin was the main suspect in the March 1 explosion near the military headquarters here that wounded six people, two of them soldiers.

Pingay said Sabdani, 39, was arrested during a raid by police and military personnel on a house in Barangay (village) Bus-bus on March 8.

"He was having a drink with another companion when we came around 3 p.m. His companion managed to escape," Pingay said.

He said Pingay said Sabdani's arrest was not immediately publicized because he was under tactical interrogation.

He described the suspect as a member of the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group. "We have already filed charges against him," Pingay said.

Soldiers foil bomb attack

In Datu Odin Sinsuat, Shariff Kabunsuan province, soldiers reportedly foiled a bomb attack after they seized an explosive and arrested a suspected terrorist on Tuesday.

Lieutenant Colonel Julieto Ando, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division based in the that province, said the soldiers were manning a checkpoint in Makar village when they discovered a powerful improvised bomb while inspecting a passenger vehicle from nearby a town around noon.

He said the checkpoint was set up after the military received information that a bomb attack was to be carried out in one of the province's towns.

Ando said the explosive, fashioned out of a 60-millimeter live mortar shell, was placed in a traveling bag inside the baggage compartment of the passenger van that was being inspected.

Ando said the bomb had a blasting cap and was packed with about a kilo of three-inch concrete nails and explosive powder.

"It was fitted with a cellphone as detonator and a timer powered by a nine-volts battery," he said.

Ando said the suspected bomber, Saudi Abdul Ibrahim of Sultan Kudarat town, also in Shariff Kabunsuan, was arrested.

He said the make of the bomb was similar to the ones exploded by terrorists affiliated with the Jemaah Islamiyah in Central Mindanao but he could not say if the suspect was a member of any of the JI-affiliated groups operating in the region and other parts of Mindanao.

Ando said the suspect was immediately turned over to the local police for further investigation.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Quake hits Davao Sur, N. Cotabato

A medium intensity earthquake was felt in the provinces of Davao del Sur and North Cotabato at about 7:03 last night.

The quake measured 4.2 on the Richter scale near the epicenter located about 26 kms. south-west of Digos City. The tremor was also felt in the towns of Sta. Cruz, Padada, Sulop, Malalag and Bansalan in Davao del Sur and in the towns of Makilala, Kidapawan, Mlang, Matalam, Kabacan and Pikit in North Cotabato.

PhiVolcS said the quake was tectonic in origin caused by the slight plate adjustments in the Davao trench along the Davao Gulf extending up until Sarangani Gulf. PhiVolcS did not raise any alarm for possible tsunami surge due to said earthquake.

No damage to lives and properties were noted by the authorities.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

MILF, GRP urged to study successful world conflict resolution models

March 12, 2008 (reprinted from luwaran.com)

A non-government organization (NGO) has urged both the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) to undertake serious look at current models of conflict resolution by sending representatives to conduct an actual study of these models and how are they faring after the signing. Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga, chairperson of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies (IBS), has called on the MILF and GRP particularly their peace negotiators to send observers to South Sudan, Kosovo, Northern Ireland, and Bougainville, and have a serious look at these models.

He said it is people’s way of thinking that they are phobic of the unknown or uncharted ways but when they are there fear gradually eases and self-confidence comes in. “There are many lessons these models can give to the government and the MILF which they creatively apply in the current peace talks. Why not try.”

Abhoud, a well-travelled man, is currently in Thailand on a speaking engagement about peace-making. In a related development, Khaled Musa, deputy chairman of the MILF committee on information, told Luwaran that the best model that the MILF and GRP could study seriously is the South Sudan model. He said there are very similarities between the conflicts in Mindanao and South Sudan, although in the inverted order.

Animists and Christians are fighting a Muslim government in Khartoum, while in Mindanao, Moros or Muslims are battling a Christian government in Manila. “If a Muslim government can give genuine self-rule to Christians with option to secede, why can’t a Christian government extend that to Muslims?” he asked.

He said the Sudan and Mindanao are test cases how far these two world religions can accommodate each other’s faithful.

Al-Qaeda-linked suspect nabbed by soldiers

By Jeoffrey Maitem & Edwin FernandezMindanao

CAMP SIONGCO, Shariff Kabunsuan -– Government security forces Tuesday claimed to have foiled what could have been a terror attack and arrested what they suspected to be an Al-Qaeda-affiliated militant, a military official said Wednesday.
Lieutenant Colonel Julieto Ando, regional civil military affairs chief, said that soldiers manning a checkpoint along the national highway in Makir village in Datu Odin Sinsuat town discovered a powerful improvised bomb when they inspected a passenger vehicle from a nearby town around 12 noon.

Ando said the explosive, assembled from a 60 mm mortar projectile attached to a nine-volt battery, an electric blasting cap, a kilo of nails, two kilos of explosive powder, and a Nokia cell phone, was placed in a bag inside a Town Ace van.

A suspect was held by soldiers for questioning before being turned over to Shariff Kabunsuan police for further investigation, Ando said.

ARMM cops fail to arrest alleged brains in Esperat slay

COTABATO CITY – Police authorities in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) have failed to serve the warrants of arrest against the alleged masterminds in the 2005 murder of journalist Marlene Esperat.

Judge Simeon Dumdum of the Regional Trial Court Branch in Cebu had ordered the arrest of Osmeña Montanier, former finance officer of the Department of Agriculture in Central Mindanao and Estrella Sabay, the agency’s accountant.

The two agriculture officials were implicated by one of the four gunmen convicted in the Esperat murder.

ARMM police chief Chief Supt. Joel Goltiao Wednesday said police tried to serve the arrest warrants on Montanier and Sabay but the two could no longer be found.

“Our policemen based in Malabang, Lanao del Sur tried to serve Montanier’s arrest warrant there but he was not around,” Goltiao said.

He said relatives of the suspects told arresting officers that they had no idea where they were.
“Montanier and Sabay’s relatives have no idea if they are hiding abroad or still in the country. But in our area of jurisdiction, we cannot find them,” he said.

The suspects had earlier questioned the issuance of the arrest warrants, citing that their case with the Tacurong RTC for the same incident was already dismissed on Aug. 31, 2005.
However, Dumdum upheld the issuance of the warrants, saying his court had assumed jurisdiction when the Supreme Court directed the transfer of the venue from Tacurong to Cebu.
Lawyer Nena Santos, the private prosecutor in the Esperat case, said she had already expressed apprehension about the delay in the serving of the warrants.

“I am afraid we will end up prosecuting the case without the masterminds,” Santos said.
Esperat, a journalist for the weekly Midland Review, was gunned down inside her house in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat while having dinner with her family on March 24, 2005.
She was believed killed because of her exposes about alleged corruption in the agriculture department, including the fertilizer scam.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Bb. Pilipinas 2008 Winners!

The Mis-judgement!!

(How on earth did Janina San Miguel win the Bb. Pilipinas World title?? The best choice could have been Candidate No. 8, Danielle Castano. She has the brain, the body and the face.. Could it be that we have in the judges Mr. Dennis Trillo and Ms. Marian Rivera who may have contributed largely to this kind of silly thing?? Yes, they can act, but judge?.. I really doubt them!!) ..

And to prove that Ms. San Miguel does not deserve to win, here is her Q&A portion:
Click this link to watch video..

Paolo Bediones: Janina, how are you?
Janina San Miguel: Fine.
Paolo Bediones: Alright, so you won two of the major awards - Best in Long Gown, Best in Swimsuit, do you feel any pressure right now?
Janina San Miguel: No, I don’t feel any pressure right now.
Paolo Bediones: Confident! Alright! Please choose a name of the judge.
Paolo Bediones: We have Miss Vivian Tan.
Vivian Tan: Good Evening.
Janina San Miguel: Good Evening.
Vivian Tan: The question is, what role did your family play to you as candidate to Binibining Pilipinas?

Janina San Miguel: Well, my family’s role for me is so important b’coz there was the wa- they’re, they was the one who’s… very… Hahahaha… Oh I’m so sorry, Ahhmm… My pamily… My family… Oh my god.. I’m… Ok, I’m so sorry… I… I told you that I’m so confident… Eto, Ahhmm, Wait… Hahahaha, Ahmmm, Sorry guys because this was really my first pageant ever b’coz I’m only 17 years old and ahahaha I, I did not expect that I came from, I came from one of the top 10.. Hmmm, so… but I said that my family is the most important persons in my life. Thank you.

And the rest is history.. as usual, the judges' judgement cannot be judged and therefore it is always FINAL!!

Janina San Miguel (center) cries as she is crowned Binibining Pilipinas-World during the coronation night of the Binibining Pilipinas Beauty Pageant held at the Araneta Coliseum on the evening of March 8, 2008.

Janina San Miguel, Bb. Pilipinas World

Age: 17 years old

Mass Communications student at University of the East

Why did you join? “To gain a lot of experiences, new friends and opportunities” “Bata pa talaga ako, dream ko na ito talaga. Nakikita ko sa TV and I think it’s a nice experience. I knew then that I would try it.”

What makes you stand out from the rest? “My confidence and my personality, even if this is my first time in a big pageant. I was first runner-up in Miss UE.”

Jennifer Barrientos, Bb. Pilipinas Universe

Age: 22 years old

Took up Tourism in the University of Sto. Tomas, from San Mateo Rizal, previously worked in Holiday Inn and Macau Star World Hotel

Why did you join? “It was my mother’s dream and now it’s mine.” “This will also help me achieve my other dreams such as being a model for high fashion magazines and fashion shows.”

What makes you stand out from the rest? “I always do my best. I know how to stay calm in a tight situation. My looks are also different. Many think I’m Indian but I am pure Filipino.” “I come from a Christian family so I really value my relationship with God.”

Patricia Fernandez, Bb. Pilipinas International

Age: 22 years old

Speech communication graduate

Why did you join? “In 2006, a local pageant was the subject of my thesis. It opened my eyes to this industry. Now I really want to get the chance to represent the country.”

What makes you stand out from the rest? “I am very determined, and in this setting, I know that someone with great determination will really make good. I am also a fun and exciting person with a very colorful and versatile personality.”

Danielle Castano, 1st Runner-up

Age: 18 years old

Plans to take up nursing next year, from Quezon City
Why did you join? “It has been my dream since I was a kid. My parents were initially against any form of publicity or modeling but they are supporting now. I also dream to help those who are ill and less fortunate.”

What makes you stand out from the rest? “I’m bubbly and I’m into sports. I was in the track and field varsity team in Hoover High School in the US and I also play volleyball. I’d like to think that I am versatile and have a lot of things to offer. I’m not scared of expressing myself fully because I admit that I do love the attention.”

Hobbies: boxing, running around the village, going to the gym

Elizabeth Jacqueline Nacuspag, 2nd Runner-up

Age: 24 years old

Graduate of Tourism in Centro Escolar University, part-time model, plans to enroll in flight school after the pageant

Why did you join? “Since I was a kid, I’ve been watching the pageant and I am so elated to see that I’m finally here. This is every girl’s childhood dream. It would also be very nice to look back and be able to share significant and remarkable experiences with my future kids. Besides, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so why not?” “I get strength from the people who believe in me and believe that I can be somebody. I’m just living my dream right now.” “If I win, I want to help provide better education to everyone. I really believe that it’s not just for the privileged few. I think this will really help our country.”

What makes you stand out from the rest?

“I don’t want to think that it is what’s physical. It’s the support from those who love and believe in me. You feel their love and it radiates from inside you. And if you love what you are doing, it really shows.”

Hobbies: Having coffee and chatting with friends, going to the gym, boxing, going to the movies

ARMM polls to push through in August this year - COMELEC

The Commission on Elections said the ARMM polls "will push through" in August, as it has been preparing to hold the first computerized election with the release last January by the Department of Budget and Management the needed funds for the computerization project.
Shariff Kabunsuan poll chairman Kasan Usi said the computerized ARMM elections would serve as a "pilot project" for the coming 2010 presidential and local polls.

"We are unanimous in our support for the reelection bid of the incumbents," said Mayor Roderick Furigay of Lamitan, a newly created city in Basilan province that was made possible through regional and congressional legislation.

Lamitan City Vice Mayor Arleigh Eisma said Mayor Furigay welcomed "with open arms" a recently passed resolution of the city legislative council that adopted similar endorsements by 45 barangay (village) chairmen manifesting their "all-out support" for ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and Vice Gov. Ansaruddin Adiong.

He said endorsing the Ampatuan-Adiong tandem and other administration incumbents in the RLA was Lamitan's show of gratitude for transforming their municipality into a city, apart from the various socio-economic and infrastructure project support that these officials provided them.
As early as 2007, governors and town mayors of Maguindanao, Shariff Kabunsuan, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi already signified their support to the present regional leadership through the passage of their own respective resolutions, the elated 40-year old regional governor told the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net).
Ampatuan, who is the regional Lakas-CMD chairman, said despite the overwhelming endorsements from local government units, his candidacy would still depend on a presidential decision.

There are reports on the possibility that Arroyo might do a Fidel Ramos, referring to the time when Ramos, as president, anointed Nur Misuari of the Moro national Liberation Front, instead of reelectionist ARMM Gov. Liningding Pangandaman, in what was seen as a political concession agreed upon shortly before the signing of the final GRP-MNLF peace accord in 1996.

"The President has the final say, but I hope she will consider the endorsements of my people," Ampatuan said, referring to a political scenario where Malacañang would anoint a Moro Islamic Liberation Front gubernatorial contender instead of his bid for a second term.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

ARMM Bans Lozada Tour in Public Schools

It is another story, however, in public schools in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

ARMM Education Secretary Udtog Kawit said they would not allow a campus tour by Lozada in the region. But he clarified that “if the rallies are to be held outside school campuses, then there’s no problem with us.”

Lapus made the clarification after his statement drew protests from various sectors, particularly students and teachers. But he pointed out that it was the mandate of the DepEd to look after the safety and well-being of students.

“There are long existing orders on the holding of austere and simple graduation ceremonies in elementary and high schools…This special event is for the parents, students, and teachers,” Lapus said in a statement.

He explained “the policy has been in effect over the years and was not a knee-jerk reaction or related to ZTE star witness Rodolfo Lozada Jr.’s campus tour” -- or the possibility that he would be invited by some schools as commencement speaker.

Lozada has been going around various campuses in Metro Manila to discuss corruption in government and to rally the students against the Arroyo administration. He planned to do the same in the Visayas and Mindanao.

On Saturday, militant students lashed out at Kawit for banning Lozada’s campus tour.

“While the DepEd has backtracked on its statement, the Palace would still prevent by all means Jun Lozada from speaking the truth... Anakbayan’s chapters nationwide will continue to sponsor campus tours for truth and social change and hold protests calling for the ouster of (President Macapagal-Arroyo),” said Anakbayan chair Eleanor de Guzman.

Stressing that “schools are truth zones,” League of Filipino Students chair Vencer Crisostomo asked students and teachers “not to submit to the liars and crooks in the government, including the DepEd.”

“Banning Lozada’s campus tour will only ignite more protests by students,” said Anakbayan spokesperson Katrina Sarah Maramag.

Mt. Apo breeding program brings hope to eagles

Mt. Apo, Phil. -- Chick Number 22 chirps in delight as a feeder thrusts a talon-shaped puppet through a hole in a blind and offers it a full-grown mashed quail complete with bones and feathers.

Still in its birthday suit of fluffy white down the 44-day-old Philippine eagle is already bigger than a rooster, weighing 3.55 kilograms (7.8 pounds).

The Philippine eagle which once ruled the skies over most of the Philippine islands is today close to extinction.

Chief breeder Domingo Tadena, 60, is hoping his 30 years of captive breeding here on the lower slopes of the country's tallest mountain will soon be crowned with the first successful release of the king predator into the wild.

"The goal is to eventually release all birds that are hatched here," the breeder said as he hand-fed the chick, the 22nd hatched at the Philippine Eagle Foundation.

Drawing on lessons learned from the condor and harpy eagle conservation programs in the United States, the foundation's goal is to set free one captive-bred bird each year.

"In the next five years I am confident that we can do this," said Dennis Salvador, the foundation's director.

A test release ended in tragedy in 2005 when a two-year-old male named Kabayan was electrocuted on a power transmission wire on Mount Apo's foothills, just nine months after being freed with radio and satellite tracking equipment.

Standing one meter (3.28 feet) tall with a two-meter (6.56-feet) wingspan and weighing 7.5 kilograms (16.5 pounds), the eagle with the massive hooked beak and hackles spreading out like a crown behind its head is found only here on Mindanao island.

It pairs for life and the female lays one egg every two years. Each eagle needs 17 square kilometers (6.56 square miles) of tropical rainforest to survive.

With old growth tropical rainforest being cut down at the rate of 100 hectares (247 acres) a day, only about 500 breeding pairs remain as prey and nesting sites vanish and the bird itself is pursued by trophy hunters.

Similar eagles are also found in far smaller numbers in forests on Luzon, Samar and Leyte islands, though lack of funds has meant little research has been done on their genetic make-up.
Salvador says that because their prey is different and the islands have been separated for eons, it is possible that the Mindanao eagle is genetically distinct from the eagles found on the three other major Philippine islands.

Launched in 1978, the center made a breakthrough in 1992 with its first hatchling, a male called Pag-asa, which means hope.

Having been raised for a life in captivity, Pag-asa would not survive in the wild. Instead, he remains at the foundation and is the main draw for the quarter of a million visitors who come each year.

The process of getting captive-bred eagles to pair, mate and lay an egg to supply the release program could take up to four years, said Tadena, adding that sometimes the bigger female ends up killing the smaller male.

Trained at the Peregrine Fund, a Boise, Idaho-based center for birds of prey that is also a key benefactor of the eagle foundation here, Tadena said the newer hatchlings are now raised without human contact so they do not come to rely on people for food.

They are put in large enclosures strategically placed on mountain slopes, where trainers release rabbits to hone the birds' hunting skills and roll meat down chutes to supplement their diet.

"Kabayan was already honing its hunting skills and relying less on supplemental feeding," Tadena said of the bird that was electrocuted. "The bird would steal chicks from nests on the hollows of trees and track ground mice and snakes."

Salvador said the center was refining its eagle release protocol, training the birds to avoid high-tension power lines.

Preparing a captive-bred eagle for release costs around $37,000 -- excluding the monitoring costs that require satellite tracking equipment.

Each bird must be monitored for at least three years in the wild. In its early years the program was caught in the crossfire of communist guerrillas and government forces, forcing the breeding center to relocate.

"The rebels were angry because we fed the eagles chickens. They told us, 'Why do the animals get chicken when Filipinos are dying of hunger?'" Tadena said.

The center also rescues stricken eagles in the wild and since 1998, has saved 15 wounded birds. Thirteen survived and three were eventually released back to the wild. One other bird is due for release within two months after being nursed back to health.

"A lot of our retrievals over the past 10 years involved birds with lead pellets in them," said Salvador.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Army official changes tune on Sulu killings report

By Julie Alipala

The military Sunday said the report about the deaths of eight people, including two children and a pregnant woman in Maimbung, Sulu that it released last month was not yet final.

In a hastily conducted press conference here, Lt. Gen. Nelson Allaga, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said the report only covered the initial investigation and that the military had never cleared those involved.

The eight victims, one of them a vacationing soldier, were rounded up by the soldiers and deliberately killed, according to residents.

In its report, the military’s Inspector General (IG) said the operation conducted by the Navy’s special forces and the US-trained Light Reaction Co. in Barangay Ipil in Maimbung was legitimate.

“[The] ensuing gunbattle was a legitimate encounter between the enemies of the state and the government troops,” the IG said.

Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan said the findings had acquitted the soldiers involved in the massacre.
“The reports coming out were inaccurate,” Allaga said, stressing they never cleared the soldiers.
The report triggered outrage among officials and human rights groups.

A Moro human rights group based in Cotabato City said it was submitting the issue before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Tan said the big number of civilian casualties during the raid was unacceptable.

But Allaga said the soldiers took so much care when they conducted the operation against the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group in the area.

“The military operation was selective and deliberate and our troops were highly trained and properly equipped. There could have been more civilian casualties had [the] troops failed to follow the rules of engagement during the encounter,” he said.

Allaga also said two of the supposed civilians killed were actually Abu Sayyaf members Abu Baying and Abu Dyango. Baying was Ipil village councilor Eldisin Lahim.

Octavio Dinampo of the Tulong Lupah Sug said he had received reports that the military was trying to bribe the families of some of the victims to corroborate its claim about the encounter.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Moro group to take 'massacre' complaint to UN

A militant Moro group said it will bring to the attention of the United Nations the case of eight civilians killed by soldiers last Feb. 4 in a remote island village in Maimbung, Sulu.

Two children and a pregnant woman were among those killed in what the military said was an encounter with Abu Sayyaf rebels. Town officials, however, branded it a "massacre." Amira Lidasan, national president of Suara Bangsamoro (Voice of the Moro People), a militant party-list group representing Filipino Muslims, described as "one-sided" the military's investigation into the alleged massacre that quickly cleared soldiers involved in the raid.

The military report was upheld by the military’s Judge Advocate General's Office (JAGO), which said that the soldiers were tracking down members of the Abu Sayyaf terror group that had engaged them in a fire fight earlier.

"How can it be a legitimate operation when four of the eight fatalities were women and children and they were not Abu Sayyaf combatants?" Lidasan asked.

She said the victims were trying to evade the military attack on their village by taking a banca to a nearby islet when they were fired on by soldiers aboard a rubber boat.

The soldiers also killed Ibs Nowahib, a Moro National Liberation Front member who had been integrated into the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

"We expected this kind of findings under the Arroyo administration. That's why we will bring the case before the United Nations," Lidasan said.

Lidasan, however, was elated to find an ally in the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). Jose Mamauag, CHR director for Western Mindanao, had rejected the JAGO findings, saying not one of those killed was an Abu Sayyaf member

Lone GenSan blast fatality not suicide bomber, says sister

The man who died in an explosion at the height of festivities here Wednesday night is not a suicide bomber, a relative of the suspect said Friday.

Kris Octaviano, younger sister of 27-year-old Glenn Octaviano, told reporters that her brother was a street vendor and not a terrorist contrary to the police's suspicion.

Octaviano’s sister narrated between sobs how her brother worked doubly hard to save enough money needed in buying a motorcycle.

"He really wanted to buy a motorcycle. This is the reason why he traveled to other places during special occasions just to earn money and save enough to buy what he wanted," the younger sister said.

Her statement statement was supported by some street vendors who knew the victim.
Based on the results of the crime laboratory test, the explosion was caused by a fragmentation grenade.

The police are still investigating where Octaviano got the grenade.