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.


Saturday, May 31, 2008

US assisting RP in Zambo blast probe

United States Ambassador Kristie Kenney Friday said her government was helping Philippine authorities in the investigation of Thursday's explosion here that killed two people and wounded more than 20 others.

Police authorities tagged Moro rebels as responsible for the blast.

"Certainly, (we are extending help). For us, we share any information (we gathered) and our experts could help look at the crime scene," she said.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer on Friday saw some US soldiers frequenting the building of the Air Materiel Wing Savings and Loan Association (AMWSLAI) in the village of Sta. Maria here, where an improvised explosive device ripped through the office of the US-funded Alliance for Mindanao Off-Grid Renewable Energy (AMORE) and that of Representative Ma. Isabel Climaco.

The building is across the Edwin Andrews Air Base, where most of the victims were waiting to hitch a ride aboard a military C-130 transport plane for Manila.

Asked whether the target was the AMORE office, Kenney said she could not issue statements yet.

"I don't know, it's impossible to speculate, (but the act) it's inconceivable. I don't know the motive or any more about the details," she said.

Kenney said the US government was hopeful that Philippine authorities would be able to identify the culprits and bring them before the bar of justice.

"I am hopeful again that very quickly the long arm of the authorities will find those responsible so that we will be able to get on with our work," she said.

Chief Superintendent Jaime Caringal, Western Mindanao police director, said the help of the US forces sped up their post-blast investigation.

"That's why we were able to gather many data from the blast site," Caringal said.

Caringal also said they suspected that the target of the attack was the AMORE office or "personnel in uniform waiting for a free lift on the C-130 aircraft."

"AMORE is a US government project and they are helping in developing some areas particularly conflict-affected areas and we know that some groups are rejecting the presence and projects of AMORE for reasons that these are encroaching on their places," Caringal said.

But he admitted that the fact that the bomb was placed among the baggage of those waiting to hitch a ride on the military transport plane also made them suspect that it was aimed at soldiers milling around the base.

He said it might even be possible that the bomb was meant for the C-130 itself.

"One clear statement here is that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Special Operations Group that merged with the Abu Sayyaf Group in Basilan was making a strong, powerful and loud statement," Caringal said.

He identified those allegedly behind the explosion as MILF leader Malista Malangka and Abu Sayyaf leader Puruji Indama.

He did not say how the police came up with the conclusion but added that the bomb was made of TNT.

"It was the same type of explosive used in previous bombings here including the simultaneous attack at the Mega Cathedral and the office of the Department of Foreign Affairs (in April)," he said.

Caringal also said they were still investigating the man arrested shortly after the blast. He did not release the man's identity.

Khaled Musa, MILF deputy information chief, denounced Caringal for linking them to the explosion.

"This is a serious allegation against the MILF. This is an irresponsible statement. The MILF is a partner of the government in the search for genuine peace in Mindanao," Musa said.

Eid Kabalu, MILF civil military affairs chief, called on the military and the police to conduct a deeper probe of Thursday's bomb explosion "instead of issuing baseless allegations."

Kabalu also branded Caringal's statement as the "height of irresponsibility."

"What he could have done is to wait for the result of the investigation," he said.

Kabalu said the police and the military have barely started their investigation but they already have a fixed suspect.

"How come they determined that so soon?" he said.

Kabalu said the latest incident could be part of the plot of a third-party, which do not want the peace process to resume.

"We have been warning the government about this," he said.

The peace talks between the government and the MILF hit a snag over the issue of territory in December.

The government has been insisting that the future of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) will be determined by a plebiscite to be held for the purpose.

The MILF has resented that position and decided to pull out of the negotiating table.

Lately, Kuala Lumpur pulled out of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) because of dismay over the progress of the talks.(Julie Alipala, Allan Nawal, Aquiles Zonio; INQ.net)

Friday, May 30, 2008

Zambo Bombing Kills 2, Wounds 23

PAGADIAN CITY—A bomb went off in a building across from Edwin Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga City at around 10 a.m. Thursday, just as President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was on her way to Tawi-Tawi province and US Ambassador Kristie Kenney was visiting this city in Zamboanga del Sur province.

City information officer Shiela Covarrubias said a man and a woman were confirmed dead and 23 others injured in the explosion that ripped through the first floor of the Air Materiel Wing Savings and Loan Association (AMWSLAI) building in Barangay Sta. Maria. The building houses the offices of the Alliance for Mindanao Off-Grid Renewable Energy (AMORE) and of Zamboanga Rep. Ma. Isabel Climaco.

Police authorities linked Moro rebels to the bomb attack and announced that a man had been arrested. The man’s identity was withheld.

Covarrubias identified those killed as Eduardo Taliti of Cabatangan District in Zamboanga City and Ayesha Bosniot of Margosatubig, Zamboanga del Sur.

Among those hurt were two members of Climaco’s staff and four AMORE engineers, all Filipinos.

The others were civilian relatives of soldiers waiting in front of the AMWSLAI building to hitch a ride on a Manila-bound Air Force C-130 cargo plane that was to take off from the base, Col. Darwin Guerra, commander of Task Force Zamboanga, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in Manila by phone. He belied reports that there were three fatalities.

He said one of the wounded has been confined to the intensive care unit of a local hospital.

Despite the bomb attack, Ms Arroyo pushed ahead with her trip to Bongao town in Tawi-Tawi, where she launched a modified “mariculture” development project, visited a school, witnessed the repacking of rice for the Food for School program, and led the groundbreaking of the Tawi-Tawi bridge road partnership project.

When informed of the bomb attack, Kenney said: “We are horror-stricken.” She was attending an activity of the AMORE, a solar power project that was funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), in Tigbao, Zamboanga del Sur.

“It’s horrifying that anyone would do this. It’s appalling, and I hope law enforcement agencies find those responsible, hold them, and subject them to the rule of law.”

The ambassador said it was ironic that “our colleagues injured are the very ones who worked on this project in AMORE.”

She added: “The very moment we’re seeing the fruits of their labor, they are in the hospital. It’s very tragic. I feel devastated. These are friends and colleagues. I visit Zamboanga City often; I feel like I know half the city.

Condemnable act

“It’s hard not to take it personally when people you love are involved.”

Kenney, however, said the attack on the building that housed the AMORE office would “definitely” not deter the US government from pursuing its development programs in Southern Philippines.

“We strongly condemn this act, and authorities are now investigating it,” Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said in Malacañang.

Chief Supt. Jaime Caringal, Western Mindanao police director, described the bomb as “an improvised explosive (device) with a cellular phone as triggering device.”

It was wrapped in a package that was placed near the AMWSLAI office and was apparently concealed in one of several bags of the civilian commuters, Caringal said.

“It was manually operated by the bomber and exploded at 10 a.m.,” he told the Inquirer.

Caringal said nobody had claimed responsibility for the powerful blast, which also damaged three parked cars.

Guerra also said the attack was an “act of terrorism.”

Earlier in the day, Senior Supt. Lurimer Detran, acting police chief of Zamboanga City, was mum when asked if the attack had something to do with the visits of Ms Arroyo and the American envoy.

Detran said police investigators were still trying to determine the explosive used and the motive behind the attack. He said two children were among the injured.

Last month, the US and Australian governments issued an advisory warning its citizens against traveling to Mindanao, particularly the Zamboanga peninsula.

Not Abu Sayyaf

Investigators were looking at the possibility that Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militants were involved in the attack. The militants have clashed in recent days with Philippine marines on nearby Basilan island-province.

"One possibility is that this is an Abu Sayyaf diversionary attack or a retaliation," Caringal said.

The Abu Sayyaf has targeted Zamboanga city, a predominantly Roman Catholic trading city, in the past. They were blamed by military and police authorities for two nearly simultaneous bombings that damaged a cathedral and a commercial building last April.

US troops have been helping the Philippine military in the campaign to stamp out the Abu Sayyaf, which is on the US government’s list of terror organizations.

But Caringal said police investigators were “looking at the Special Operations Group of the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) as being responsible for this blast.”

Caringal said the heavy losses suffered by the MILF in Basilan during this week’s skirmishes with Marines might have been the reason for the attack.

He said the man arrested in connection with the explosion was being questioned.

The MILF, which is engaged in peace talks with the government, has repeatedly denied the existence of a Special Operations Group. It has also accused the military and the police of derailing the peace negotiations.

Congresswoman Climaco described the explosion as “very powerful.”

“The first floor [of the AMWSLAI building], the main wing that houses the AMORE office, was really wrecked, with all the walls torn down. My office was also damaged, but not the same as the AMORE office,” Climaco told the Inquirer.

No damage to base

“We are saddened by this blast, especially because those hurt were innocent people, civilians, and we still don’t have an idea about the motive and reason,” she said.

"The blast was so powerful I fell to the floor from my seat in the office," Voltaire Mahatol, one of Climaco’s injured employees, told The Associated Press by telephone.

On the phone with the Inquirer in Manila, Lt. Gen. Pedrito Cadungog, commanding general of the Philippine Air Force, said the explosion caused no damage to Edwin Andrews Air Base.

“The entire air base is safe,” he said, adding that the area had been put under tight security according to standard operating procedures.

Cadungog belied reports that Ms Arroyo was to have used the air base in flying to Tawi-Tawi.

“Whoever said that gave an irresponsible statement. Why would the President use the air base when her aircraft can go straight to Tawi-Tawi?” he said.

Cadungog said a C-130 and a Fokker F-27 were only on standby at the air base, waiting to pick up Ms Arroyo’s party, particularly members of the Presidential Security Group.

Briefing reporters in Manila, Chief Supt. Nicanor Bartolome said the Philippine National Police in Western Mindanao had been put on heightened alert as a result of the explosion.

Bartolome refused to disclose details on the explosive device.

“All possible motives are being explored. Let’s give our investigators some time,” the PNP spokesperson said. (Nikko Dizon, Christine O. Avendaño and Alcuin Papa, INQ.net)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Comelec, military and police prepare for ARMM polls

More than a million registered voters are expected to participate in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) elections in August, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) announced Wednesday.

Comelec officials declared in a command conference at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) General Headquarters that the first-ever automated electoral exercise in the country would play a significant role toward achieving a fully automated system of elections in 2010.

New schools built by US, Filipino soldiers await Sulu kids

JOLO, SULU—New school buildings await pupils of some villages of Talipao and Panglima Estino towns when they go back to school in June, while residents of another Talipao village have been given a new health clinic.
Maj. Gen. Juancho Sabban, commander of the military-led Task Force Comet, said all the projects were inaugurated on Thursday.

“These are all military-initiated development projects funded by the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines (JSOTFP),” Sabban said Tuesday, referring to the body supervising the deployment of US troops here and in other parts of Mindanao.
He said US soldiers also helped construct the school buildings in barangays Bandang and Mauboh in Talipao, and Punay in Panglima Estino.

They also built the health clinic in Barangay Bilaan in Talipao, Sabban said.

The soldiers have been involved in various engineering works in Sulu under the humanitarian component of the US global war on terror.

“The military recognizes the importance of education and well-being in the attainment of its peace objective,” Sabban said.

He said the military was hoping that “we would be able to help in addressing the problem [of lack of school buildings] here in Sulu.”

“Investing in education is the key to peace and development, which is a long term solution,” Sabban added.

Maj. Eric Walker, JSOTFP commander, said they were ready to help bring projects to Sulu villages to improve the lives of the people.

US Help

Gov. Abdusakur Tan said the projects being built through the help of the US government have really helped the provincial government in delivering basic services to the people of Sulu.

He said that because people were seeing many projects nowadays, “peace and order in Sulu is getting better every day.”

Sulu is identified as one of the lairs of the Abu Sayyaf, which is being linked with the Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiya.

Both the government and the military have acknowledged that poverty had contributed to the sympathy gained by the Abu Sayyaf from the locals. (Ed General, INQ.net)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

DND to MILF: ‘Discipline your ranks’

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. dared the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Tuesday to "discipline" its ranks amid allegations separatist rebels banded with the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf in attacks on Marine forces in Basilan province over the weekend.

At the same time, Teodoro said he hoped the alleged collusion between the rebels and the extremists would be resolved at the level of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), before which the military has filed a protest over the Sunday morning attacks in Ungkaya Pukan town.

On Monday, the AFP Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) filed a protest before the CCCH the joint ceasefire monitoring body of the government and the MILF over the Sunday encounters.

"In so far as the ceasefire is concerned, they [MILF] should discipline their ranks," Teodoro told a news conference in Camp Aguinaldo.

Teodoro said he saw no reason for a "credible" organization to be in cahoots with the Abu Sayyaf, which he described as "terrorists, bandits and criminals."

"We have long been receiving reports [of collusion], especially in Basilan. If they [MILF] don't know [about it], this means their command and control over their fighters is weak," he said.
"We leave it up to the CCCH to bring this to their [MILF's] attention and I hope the issue can be resolved on that level," he added.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres Jr. issued a similar call to the rebels in a separate interview with reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

"If the top [MILF] leadership has a hold [on ground troops], we hope they could solve their internal problem. We hope that the leaders would also control the actuations, the decisions of their sub-leaders," Torres said.

The AFP has demanded that two MILF commanders who led the attacks on the Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT) 8 detachment in Tongabto village and a reinforcement convoy in Matarling village, both in Ungkaya Pukan, be stricken off their rolls.

The military also asked the CCCH to determine the motive for the attack, identify who were behind it, and restrict the MILF to its designated areas in the southern island province.
"That's why we filed the protest is because we believe there was a collusion between the MILF and the Abu Sayyaf group," Torres said.

"Preventing such things from happening would all depend on the sincerity of both sides in pursuing the peace process. That [sincerity] is very important," he added.

When pressed if the alleged collusion reflected on the MILF's sincerity in pursuing the peace talks, Torres said, "I just don't want to comment on that yet because the collusion has to be declared by a third party."

The Sunday attack came as formal peace negotiations are deadlocked on the ancestral domain issues, with the rebels blaming the government's inaction for the delay.

The MILF has dodged persistent allegations that its fighters were aiding the Abu Sayyaf.
On July 10, 2007, a combined force of MILF and Abu Sayyaf members ambushed a Marine convoy in Ginanta village, Al-Barkah town, Basilan, killing 14 Marines, 10 of whom were also beheaded. (Joel Guinto, INQ.net)

Monday, May 26, 2008

AFP files protest vs MILF over Basilan attack

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has filed a protest against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) over Sunday's attack on a Marine detachment in Basilan province that left two rebels dead and 17 soldiers wounded, a military spokesman said.

Lieutenant General Nelson Allaga, chief of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), filed the complaint on Monday before the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), which is jointly chaired by the government and the MILF, Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres Jr. said.

In the protest, the AFP demanded that two MILF commanders, Malista Malangka and Hamsa Sapanton, be "de-listed" from the rebels' rolls, Torres told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

The military also asked that the MILF be limited to their designated areas in Basilan and sought to establish the motive for the attack, as well as who else were behind it, Torres said.

Members of the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf allegedly aided the MILF in the attack on the Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT) 8 detachment in Tongbato village, Ungkaya Pukan town.

Government reinforcements were also attacked in nearby Matarling village.

"One clear indication that we are respecting the primacy of the peace process is we asked the CCCH to intervene during the skirmishes, and this led to the de-escalation of tension," Torres said.

Asked if the de-listing of the two MILF commanders would pave the way for pursuit operations against them, Torres said: "We will see."

Three of the 17 wounded soldiers were airlifted to the AFP Medical Center in Quezon City for further treatment, while the rest remained at the Camp Navarro station hospital at the Westmincom headquarters in Zamboanga City, he said.

They were also awarded with wounded personnel medals by AFP chief of staff Lieutenant General Alexander Yano, who visited them in Zamboanga City on Sunday, he said. (Joel Guinto, INQ.net)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

ARMM voters can learn system in 3 mos. – Comelec

The Commission on Elections said three months of intensive education would be “substantial compliance” with the requirement in the election automation law that voters must be versed on poll automation in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez told reporters the technologies to be used in the Aug. 11 polls—the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) and Optical Mark Reader (OMR) systems—were “complex but not alien.”

Like using ATM or betting on lotto

He described the DRE system as akin to using a bank automated teller machine (ATM), and compared the OMR to betting on a lotto game or taking government standardized testing.
“They [the voters] do not have to be taught the binary codes and other parts of the system. They only need to be taught how to use the system,” he said.

Jimenez pointed out that if the technical requirements of the election automation law were strictly adhered to, the preparations for the ARMM polls would not be completed until 2010. The law requires a six-month period to educate the voters.


He admitted, however, there could be complications in Maguindanao province, which will be using the DRE system, because the technology is something new to the people of the province.“But I am sure they have seen an ATM so it might not be too difficult to educate them on the technology,” he said.

As for the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Shariff Kabunsuan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi—which will use the OMR—Jimenez said voters in those provinces should be familiar with the technology. “They have taken government standardized tests before and for those of the older set, I am sure they have placed bets on the lotto draws,” he said. Touch-screen technology

The DRE utilizes touch-screen technology, while in the OMR system, voters are given ballots that list the candidates, beside whose names a space is provided which the voter may shade. The ballots are then brought to canvassing centers where specially designed counting machines will tally the votes.

Jimenez said the election body was doing fine without the “legal cover” that the joint congressional committee on elections had promised but which it had not so far delivered. The committee said it would waive the procurement law’s coverage of the bidding for the supply of automation machines.

“We were able to execute the process. We think we are okay without the legal cover,” said Jimenez. Failed biddings

He explained that in the case of the two failed biddings for the OMR, the election automation law allows the Comelec to enter into a negotiated contract, which it did. There was one failed bidding for the DRE, but the Comelec granted the bidder’s motion for reconsideration.

Jimenez said the Comelec will meet with officials of the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police to iron out the security preparations for the elections, including how many men would be needed to secure the ARMM before, during and after the polls. He said the poll body might seek the deployment of the military to address “general disturbances” in the region. (Jeannette Andrade, INQ.net)

Election officer Bedol, in hiding, contacts ex-boss

COTABATO CITY, Philippines -- Missing Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol has sent text messages to his superior, just to keep in touch and ask how things are with his former boss.

Rey Sumalipao, election director for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said on Wednesday the text message exchange between him and Bedol took place "some weeks" ago.
Bedol has been in hiding since the Commission on Elections (Comelec) issued a warrant for his arrest after he repeatedly failed to show up during an investigation into the controversial 2007 election results in Maguindanao.

The controversy worsened after Senator Aquilino Pimentel III questioned the proclamation of Juan Miguel Zubiri as senator after the votes in Maguindanao were tallied.

Asked what they discussed during the exchanges of text messages, which came as the six-province ARMM region was preparing for the August local polls, Sumalipao said they basically exchanged pleasantries.

"He texted to say hello, and of course, we answered," he said.

Sumalipao said later that he told Bedol to come out so that the election controversy fueled by his disappearance could be resolved.

"I told him that he should let justice take its course so that we will know the truth," Sumalipao added.

Sumalipao said Bedol’s reply was: "I will do that in due time."

He said Bedol also repeated his claim that his life was in danger but did not specify where the threat was from.

The ARMM election chief maintained that even as they exchanged text messages, he did not know where Bedol was.

"I don't really know if the former Maguindanao election supervisor is in the country or outside the country," Sumalipao said.

But he indicated he continued to have access to the elusive poll officer, at least via text messaging.

But even if Bedol eventually surrendered, Sumalipao said, it was unlikely he could resume his duties as Maguindanao election supervisor.

Sumalipao said under civil service rules, a government employee or official who fails to report for 30 consecutive days without justifiable reason is considered dismissed from the service.

Meanwhile, Sumalipao said the election body has started training applicants on the use of poll automation equipment for the upcoming regional polls. (Charlie Señase, INQ.net)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Resume talks with MILF or risk war: think-tank

The Philippines should resume talks with Muslim separatists, or risk renewed fighting in the troubled south between government forces and the insurgents, the International Crisis Group (ICG) warned Wednesday.

Manila must jumpstart talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in order to consolidate gains made in parallel US-backed operations against Abu Sayyaf militants, the Brussels-based think-tank said in a new report.

"The Mindanao model of combining military operations with civic action operations against the Abu Sayyaf has been widely heralded as a success, but the gains could be short-lived", said Kit Collier, an ICG terrorism consultant.

"The model involves using counterinsurgency techniques for counter-terrorism goals, but the only way the Philippines will effectively manage domestic terrorism is to secure the cooperation of the MILF and MNLF -- and that requires concrete progress toward formal peace agreements."

The 12,000-strong MILF, which has waged a bloody campaign for a separate Muslim homeland since 1978, signed a truce with the Manila government in 2003 to open the door to peace talks, but they have stalled over land claims.

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) signed a peace agreement with Manila in 1996, but some elements of the group continue to fight government forces on the southern island of Jolo .
The ICG said the success of the military campaign against the Abu Sayyaf has rested largely on the government's coordination with the MILF for intelligence information.

But it warns the security operations are "confusing counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism and risk pushing the Abu Sayyaf group into the arms of the broader insurgencies in Mindanao ' -- the MILF and the MNLF.

The report said the urgency of finalizing peace deals was even more acute after Malaysia announced in April that it was withdrawing from an international monitoring team that has kept the lid on conflict in Mindanao since 2004.

The report urges the Philippines to revive the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) -- a body designed to facilitate information-sharing with the MILF, which it said had been "critical" to keeping the conflict from escalating.

It also encouraged Manila to set up a similar arrangement with the MNLF.

"But the leadership of both insurgencies will only be willing to provide information on terrorists in their midst as part of a political endgame, and the Philippines government is stalling while the US appears more focused on economic aid than political agreements," the report said.
John Virgoe, the ICG's Southeast Asia Director, noted: "The number of terrorists in the Philippines is small relative to the mass-based insurgencies in which they take cover. "But the Abu Sayyaf and its allies remain dangerous because of their potential to drag the latter (MILF and MNLF) back into war." (Source: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/storypage.aspx?StoryId=118235)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Former Moro rebels among recipients of Gawad Kalinga houses

ILIGAN CITY -- FORMER MORO rebels in the province of Lanao del Sur were among those named beneficiaries of the 30-unit housing project built on a public land in Wao town.

The Wao project is among several projects by Gawad Kalinga for former Moro rebels and other beneficiaries.

In 2007, GK also completed housing projects in Datu Paglas in Maguindanao, Camp Abubakar in Shariff Kabunsuan and in Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte.

GK said the houses in Wao were the product of its collaboration with the Lanao del Norte government, Iligan City government and various government agencies, including the National Power Corp. (NPC).

Based on an advisory sent to the Inquirer, the houses were to be turned over to the beneficiaries after the peace caravan that started in Davao City arrived in Wao.

In joining the project, NPC employees in Mindanao offered half of their day’s salaries to raise the P450,000 needed to build at least five houses.

Leo Nangaas, NPC team leader, said at least 75 employees also toiled during the construction of the houses for the former rebels and the other beneficiaries.

Tony Meloto, the driving force behind the Gawad Kalinga movement, praised “the relentless efforts of the high-spirited volunteers, who worked hard and sweated in building a village where Christian and Muslims co-exist in peace and harmony.”

Meloto, 2006 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for community leadership, said other GK projects—including those in Bukidnon—had already been completed with the help of their partners.

He said the help of GK partners was expected to generate more funds for the construction of more houses.

“Gov. Juan Miguel Zubiri of Bukidnon committed another 100 units,” he said.

Meloto said Vice President Noli de Castro also visited the GK project in Malaybalay City in Bukidnon.

Aside from building houses for the beneficiaries, Meloto said GK will also teach them livelihood such as livestock production and animal breeding, crop production, food processing and aqua-culture.

“So that the villagers will become self-sufficient while living in a peaceful, healthy and clean environment,” he said.

“The more we sweat for peace the lesser we bleed for war,” he added. (By Richel Umel, INQ.net)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Misuari proposes four Philippine federal states

MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari has batted for the creation of four federal states instead of the 11 proposed by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Speaker Prospero Nograles said Saturday. Nograles told reporters here that Misuari recently met with him and asked him to support the idea of a federal system.

Malaysian monitors fly out

COTABATO CITY -- THE MALAYSIAN PEACEKEEPERS began their withdrawal from this troubled southern island Saturday, raising worries that the decades of Muslim separatist rebellion in the predominantly Catholic nation may resume.

Twenty-eight of the 41 Malaysian soldiers and police officers in the International Monitoring Team boarded two army transport planes from various points in Mindanao and were reportedly flown to a base in the Malaysian province of Sabah.

The rest of the Malaysian peacekeepers will remain until the end of August with the remnants of the IMT, a body formed by the Islamic Conference to help maintain the ceasefire between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the government so peace negotiations could go on.

The Malaysian-brokered peace talks hit a snag last December over the issue of ancestral domain. Eid Kabalu, MILF spokesperson, said they would bring their demand for their own Bangsamoro homeland to the International Court of Justice.

Plebiscite needed

The government’s position was that a plebiscite would be needed to resolve the demand for an ancestral domain. “I don’t think bringing that to the ICJ will change the Philippine position. Our position is fundamental. We cannot dispense with constitutional processes,” responded Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye.

The remnants of the 60-member IMT, which includes 10 soldiers from Brunei, eight from Libya and a Japanese development worker, are also expected to pack their bags and go home before September, according to Reuters.

Mixed feelings

Before leaving, Maj. Gen. Yasin Mat Daud, head of the Malaysian-led IMT, said the team had laid the foundation for peace to take root in the Philippines’ most resource-rich region.

“We have mixed feelings about leaving Mindanao,” Yasin told Reuters, watching the soldiers file into the belly of one of the two twin-engine Casa-235 transporters while Filipino troops helped load equipment onto another plane.

“We’re happy because we’re returning to our families, but, we’re also sad because we’re leaving behind an unfinished dream. We’re still hoping to see the government and the MILF sign a peace treaty soon. That’s also our dream,” he said.

Yasin told the Inquirer that because of the pullout, the IMT offices in General Santos, Davao and Zamboanga cities would be closed down. Team sites in Cotabato and Iligan would remain until the pullout is complete.

Hopeful of peace pact

However, Yasin said he was still hopeful that a final peace treaty would be signed. He also said Malaysia would continue to broker the peace talks and raised the possibility that another peacekeeping contingent might be sent again in the future,

In the 1990s, the government entered into a peace pact with another separatist group, the Moro National Liberation Front, which then participated in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The MILF, a breakaway group of the MNLF, did not accept the pact. It has been in stop-start negotiations with the government for more than a decade to end the near 40-year conflict which has killed more than 120,000 people, displaced millions and stunted growth in Mindanao

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Extortion Group strikes again

Claims responsibility over latest blast in N. Cotabato

COTABATO CITY, Philippines -- An extortion gang being linked to the Abu Sayyaf extremist group claimed responsibility for Thursday afternoon's bomb attack in Midsayap, North Cotbatao that wounded five persons, including two children.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

GRP, MNLF, OIC Tripartite Meet Set in Davao

The tripartite meeting between the government, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) will finally take place in Davao City within May.

MNLF chairman Nur Misuari informed Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in a letter dated May 5 that the Jeddah-based OIC had picked the city as the venue for the "high-level" meeting.

The tripartite meeting is aimed at ironing out problems in the implementation of the 1996 peace agreement between the government and MNLF.

The meeting should have been held last January 14 but the OIC failed to send a representative then.

During the meeting, the Joint Working Group (JWG) -- a body composed of government and MNLF representatives -- will present its report on the implementation of the peace agreement.
The JWG was created during the tripartite meeting in Jeddah in November 2007 to look into the MNLF's complaint that the government failed to implement many provisions of the agreement.

In his letter to Duterte, Misuari said the MNLF was expecting many participants to the meeting.
"They are coming in big number[s]," he wrote.

But Misuari pledged that MNLF members attending the meeting would not be armed.

Duterte has banned firearms from the city except for on duty soldiers and policemen.

It was not immediately known if the faction of the MNLF headed by Muslimin Sema would send delegates to the tripartite meeting in Davao.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Two of 10 OFWs in Saudi are jailed for 'crimes of immorality'

The Filipina nurse caught kissing in public in Saudi Arabia last week is not alone.

An estimated two of 10 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia who seek Philippine government assistance are jailed for similar "crimes of immorality," INQUIRER.net learned Monday.

In a related development, Foreign Affairs spokesman Claro Cristobal said the Filipina nurse had been released by the Riyadh morality police Wednesday. He could not detail the circumstances of her release because the report from the Philippine embassy in the Middle Eastern kingdom was verbal, not written.

Cristobal admitted there are several such cases involving Filipinos in Saudi Arabia, but he could give no figures.

But a ranking labor official familiar with welfare cases involving OFWs in Saudi told INQUIRER.net such offenses involving Filipinos are "common…about 20 percent" of the cases his office handles.

As of June 2007, more than one million Filipinos are estimated to work and live in Saudi.
Labor Secretary Marianito Roque, for his part, said "there are a lot of crimes of immorality" involving Filipinos, most of them simply for "holding hands and eating out together."
Saudi laws prohibit a woman from going out in public with men other than her relatives.
In a phone interview, the labor chief confirmed that this prohibition has spawned an industry of fake marriage licenses, which are sold for $80-300. These documents are showed to the Saudi morality police when the OFWs are caught.

"They're sold in the commercial district in Jeddah, similar to the fake licenses sold in Recto [Avenue in Manila]. They look so real, complete with dry seal. Most of the agents are Filipino transport drivers," he said.

Roque said laws against these offenses are drilled into leaving OFWs during their pre-departure orientation seminars, but acknowledged that the isolation and "sheer loneliness" of being in a strange land may be reasons why many succumb to these affairs.

"They are in a hot, hostile environment. They do not understand the language. So when they meet a fellow Filipino or someone who speaks their language, that's the magnet," he said.
"But usually, it's just for having someone to talk to," he added.

Roque said the penalty for this crime is jail time of two to six months and deportation. He said the Philippine government usually intervenes in these cases and the Saudi government usually acquiesces.

"We usually tell them that it's a case of cultural differences and our people sometimes have to be reminded that these are the laws in Saudi. Oftentimes, they turn the arrested to us within five to seven days, unless they are caught in the act," he said. (By Veronica Uy, INQ.net)

Monday, May 5, 2008

3 soldiers slain, many hurt in North Cotabato NPA ambush

KIDAPAWAN CITY - Three soldiers were killed while 18 others were wounded, a number of them in very critical condition, after New People's Army (NPA) guerrillas ambushed a military convoy on the boundary of President Roxas and Arakan towns in North Cotabato Monday morning.

Major Lyndon Paniza, commander of the 39th Infantry Battalion, said the incident happened past 5 a.m. in Barangay (village) Ilustre, President Roxas.

He said the soldiers were heading down from Arakan Valley after a weeklong operation against the NPA when they were waylaid by the rebels belonging to Front Committee 3.

"There is a continuing military operation in the hinterlands of Arakan. The incident [ambush] happened while our troops [were] going back to barracks," Paniza said.

Earlier wire and radio reports said the soldiers were onboard two trucks that were struck by land mines detonated by the rebels.

A heavy firefight ensued between the soldiers and the rebels headed by one Commander Ibyong, said Paniza. He could not say if there were casualties among the rebels.

Paniza also said they were still verifying the actual number of casualties among his troops, adding there were only six soldiers wounded.

But Fe Mendoza, liaison officer of the Arakan Valley Hospital, said in a radio interview that there were 18 soldiers wounded.

"The three who were brought in Kidapawan were severely wounded. A couple of them were hit on their heads…they were in very critical condition," said Mendoza in a radio interview.

A dzMM radio report quoted Philippine National Police Director General Avelino Razon Jr. as saying 21 soldiers were injured in the ambush.

The NPA has a strong presence in the area.

Communist rebels withdrew from peace talks in 2004 after accusing the government of instigating their inclusion on US and European Union terrorist lists. (Reported By Jeffrey M. Tupas, INQ.net)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Survey: Muslims say poll violence normal

COTABATO CITY -- MAJORITY OF THE COUNTRY’S MUSLIMS said violence is a normal occurrence in their provinces during elections, according to a recent Social Weather Stations survey commissioned by The Asia Foundation (TAF).

The survey was conducted in support of TAF’s research on “Mindanao Muslim Attitudes toward Elections and Democracy.”

It was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), according to Wifredo Magno Torres III, TAF project officer.

A total of 69 percent of Muslims in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and non-ARMM areas, who took part in the survey agreed that “violence is a way of life during elections.”

Aside from the ARMM provinces of Basilan, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-tawi, Sulu and Shariff Kabunsuan, the survey was also conducted in the provinces of North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat in Central Mindanao and the cities of Cotabato and Zamboanga.

The survey, conducted on Feb. 1-7, 2008, showed that two out of five Muslims (43 percent) in the ARMM and one out of three (33 percent) among Muslims residing outside the region are “worried about personal security during election time.”

Only 17 percent of ARMM’s respondents said they “feel more secure during election,” and 18 percent of Muslims outside the region agreed with this.

The survey sampling was randomly taken from 1,300 residents -- 100 from each of the six ARMM provinces and two provinces outside the region. It has net error margins of plus or minus three (± 3) percent in Basilan, Lanao Sur, Maguindanao, Shariff Kabunsuan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, and ± 10 percent in Isabela, Basilan. The sampling error was also ± 10 percent in each of the provinces outside of the ARMM where the survey was taken.

The survey tool used four dialects in the questionnaire -- Cebuano, Maguindanaon, Maranao and Tausug.

In the ARMM, 76 percent of those surveyed agreed that voting during the May 2007 elections was “clean and orderly in our precinct,” while 75 percent of Muslims outside the region said the same.

Only 38 percent of ARMM respondents and 37 percent of those outside ARMM said that the 2007 elections were “not very free and fair,” while 60 percent of the region’s respondents said last year’s balloting was “mostly free and fair” and 59 percent of surveyed non-ARMM Muslim residents said the same.

Muslim respondents, 65 percent in ARMM and 62 percent in the other areas, said “it is good to have unopposed candidate in an election since it reduces campaign violence and insecurity.”
Only 35 and 38 percent of ARMM and non-ARMM respondents, respectively, said “it is important to have at least two candidates for every position so that everyone has a choice.” (Reported By Nash MaulanaMindanao)

Land conflict triggered MILF guerillas to occupy village

TACURONG CITY, Sultan Kudarat -- Due to a long standing land conflict, some guerillas belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front occupied a village in Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat earlier in the week.

But Akmad Usman Moro, also known as Boyet, a field commander of the MILF, agreed to pull out his 300 followers from Barangay Sangay on Thursday after a meeting with a mediation team organized by the Sultan Kudarat provincial government. As soon as the rebels had withdrawn, some 200 families displaced by the takeover immediately returned to the village.

During the mediation, Moro claimed that the land being occupied and tilled by Sangay residents belonged to their forefathers.

"It's all about land conflict. He (Moro) is claiming that the land is owned by their forefathers," Kalamansig Mayor Rolando Garcia said.

Garcia said the mediation team asked Moro's group to back up their claim by presenting the necessary documents. He also said the residents possessed titles to the lands.

Filipino tapped as import in pro basketball league

HE BARELY STANDS 5-FOOT-9, BUT Jason Castro has grown too big for local basketball.
The mercurial guard of Harbour Centre will leave the familiar confines of the Philippine Basketball League to strut his wares for the Singapore Slingers of the Australian National Basketball League.

Castro, a two-time PBL Most Valuable Player out of Philippine Christian University, formally signed Friday a juicy one-season deal with the Slingers, the first Asian-based team in the NBL.
That gave Castro the distinction as the first Filipino ever to play as an import in a professional cage league.

PBL commissioner Chino Trinidad and Harbour Centre owner Mikee Romero said Castro’s breakthrough feat could pave the way for other Filipinos to penetrate the international basketball market, including the National Basketball Association.

“We have to dream, and it’s been the country’s long dream to send a Filipino player to the NBA,” said Trinidad during yesterday’s impromptu press conference at Kamayan Edsa. “To achieve a dream, one has to start with a first step, a giant step. Hopefully, Jason will be the one to lead us in achieving that dream.”

Joining Castro, the PSA Amateur Basketball Player of 2007, during the occasion were Harbour Centre team manager Eric Arejola, Singapore-based Filipino investment banker Paul Monozca, Slingers operations manager Michael Johnson, managing director Bob Turner and Castro’s agent Danny Espiritu.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity given to me by the Singapore Slingers,” said Castro in Filipino. “They can count on me to give my 100 percent to help the team.”
After making the NBL playoffs in their maiden stint in 2006, the Slingers were eliminated last year.

Romero, who is in San Francisco, sent a text message hailing the momentous occasion.
“Castro being signed up by the Singapore Slingers is the biggest thing that happened in Philippine basketball,” said Romero. “This is the Australian pro basketball league, considered as one of the top five pro leagues in the world today. Hindi na biro ito (It’s no longer a joke).

“Players there are as big as the NBA already. The whole country must be very proud of Jason. He can now be scouted worldwide even by the NBA. The coming of Bob Turner and the NBL in the Philippines has opened the door for Filipino players to be known worldwide. This is big.”
Turner, an NBL Hall of Fame coach, said the NBL season will run from September to April, with teams playing 30 games, including 15 at home (Singapore Indoor Stadium) and 15 on the road (Australia, Perth and New Zealand).

Pressed for specifics, Espiritu said Castro will be getting nearly Aus $60,000 (about P1.8 million) net as part of the Slingers’ starting unit. (By Roy Luarca, INQ.net)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Filipino is New York Times teacher of the year

A FILIPINO teacher is The New York Times 2008 Teacher of the Year.
Feliciano Jaime Atienza, known to everyone as “Chito,” is a Filipino immigrant and a career (English as a Second Language) ESOL professional in New York City.
He has been an ESOL practitioner with the YMCA International, ELESAIR Project for 22 years and the Queens Library for 10 years.

He received his ESL/CO teacher training at the Southeast Asian Refugee Program in the Philippines, a joint project of the UNHCR, ICMC and funded by the US State Department.
Chito is a compassionate professional whose classroom is characterized by a healing and empowering concept of “skinship ” and trust.

He possesses a cheerful “can-do” attitude and time-tested skills as a teacher, trainer, mentor, test-giver and facilitator in the following areas: Diversity and Conflict Management in the ESOL Classroom; Literacy Teacher Training and Cultural Orientation; ESOL Testing and Evaluation; Language Program Development and Implementation; and UNHCR/ICMC Southeast Asian Refugee ESL/CO Programs. (Source: goodnewspilipinas.com)

Corruption, low pay hinder RP fight vs terrorism--US report

Corruption, limited resources and low salaries of security forces are just some of the problems plaguing Philippine law enforcement efforts to bring terrorists to justice.

These were some of the findings contained in a US State Department Country Report on terrorism for the East Asia and Pacific Region released Wednesday.

The report concluded that the Jemaah Islamiyah regional terrorist network (JI), which has ties to Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network, remains a serious threat to Western and regional interests, particularly in Indonesia and the southern Philippines.

“Limited financial resources, inadequate salaries, corruption, low morale, limited cooperation between police and prosecutors, and other problems in law enforcement have hampered bringing terrorists to justice,” the report said.

Rumors were rife that personal profit was responsible for the escape of JI top bomber Fathr Rohman Al-Ghozi from the heavily guarded headquarters of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Camp Crame, Quezon City in 2003. Three months later Al-Ghozi died in a gun battle with security forces in Mindanao

Also, the alleged connivance between the ASG and the military, exemplified by the ease with which Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members escaped from a surrounded hospital compound in Lamitan, Basilan in 2001, has yet to be resolved.

No one has been prosecuted for the two events.

Nonetheless, the US State Department also noted the confirmation of the death of ASG leaders Khaddafy Janjalani at the hands of the Armed Forces of the Philippines were important accomplishments of Philippine authorities. This year they captured and arrested 38 ASG members and killed 127.

Together with the successes by the Indonesian National Police (INP) in breaking up JI cells in Sulawesi and Central Java, the two countries struck “major blows to JI and the ASG,” the report said.

However, the report noted that the two accomplishments did little to “eliminate the overall threat to United States interests in the region.” JI bombers Dulmatin and Umar Patek are still on the run in the southern Philippines while other key terrorists like key JI operative Noordin Mohammad Top are still on the loose, the report said.

The US has conducted serious efforts to upgrade the capability of the Philippine security forces, the report continued. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and US prosecutors provided training to 34 representatives of the Philippine Anti-Terrorism Council in December. The training was focused on the use of electronic surveillance that could be used to file legal actions against terrorists under the country’s Human Security Act (HSA).

But the report also said the HSA was too strict to be used effectively in actual cases.

“The passage of the Human Security Act (HSA) was a major step forward in the modernization of Philippine law enforcement tools for use against terrorists. It permits wiretapping of members of judicially designated terrorist organizations and financial investigations of individuals connected to terrorist organizations. Tight restrictions in the law, however, have prevented it from being used in actual cases,” the report said.

The State Department also said border control remained problematic for an archipelago like the Philippines. Guarding Philippine islands against the entry of terrorists was difficult, making the borders “accessible for such terrorist activities as movement of personnel, equipment, and funds.”

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs began issuing digitized, machine-readable passports in June, the report said. But tampering or altering travel documents carried low penalties, the State Department said. ”In addition, law enforcement officials were reluctant to investigate or charge vendors or users of false documents when the Philippine government was not the issuing authority.”

The agency also noted the effective use of the rewards system by US and Philippines authorities. The US Department of State paid $5 million in June through its Rewards for Justice Program to informants who provided information that led to the killings of ASG leaders Khadaffy Janjalani and Jainal Sali a.k.a Abu Solaiman.

In sum, the United States paid out $10,302,500 for information leading to the arrest or killing of 13 ASG members.

The American Embassy, according to the report, received excellent cooperation from Philippine law enforcement officials in obtaining access to terrorist detainees and witnesses for FBI interviews, and access to criminal, immigration, financial, and biographic records via the mechanisms established in the US-Philippine Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty.(Alcuin Papa, INQ.net)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Operation vs Abu Sayyaf triggers clash with MNLF in Sulu

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines -- The military operation on Tuesday against Abu Sayyaf fighters in Sulu that led to the reported wounding of an extremist leader and his son also triggered a clash with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that sent more than 200 families fleeing.

But the Sulu provincial government, backed by civil society groups and non-government organizations, convinced the military and MNLF to disengage from the hostilities that broke out in Indanan town on Tuesday.

Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan told the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net) that as early as 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, they had tried to reach out to both groups.

Tan said they asked government forces to pull out of the area to end the hostilities.

He said the fighting finally subsided around 1 p.m. Wednesday after he talked with Brigadier General Juancho Sabban of Task Force Comet and Khaid Adjibun of the MNLF.

The military said Tuesday evening's assault in Sitio (sub-village) Marang in Barangay (village) Kagay was aimed against the Abu Sayyaf.

But MNLF members in the area denied the presence of the extremist fighters and said it was they who were fired on by government forces.

The MNLF was the largest Moro rebel group in Mindanao until it signed a peace agreement with the government in 1996.

Tan said with the end of hostilities, the provincial government was able to send its Area Coordinating Council's crisis committee to assess the situation in the affected village.

Affected residents have sought refuge in the villages of Bato-bato, Jariyah and Andihih.

Rahman Nair, international security advisor to the Geneva-based Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, said they have tried their best to prevent clashes between the military and the MNLF.

But Nair, who mans the CHD office in Jolo town, said they were informed Abu Sayyaf fighters were very near the MNLF camp.

"The military just culminated their operation against the Abu Sayyaf Group and there is no reported casualty either on the side of the MNLF or the civilians in the area," Nair said.

Major Eugene Batara Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) spokesman, quoting information reaching them, said Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and his son Tabari were wounded while at least one other extremist was killed.

He also said the extremists may have "suffered more casualties than what was reported to us," he said.

A lone soldier, whom he identified as Marine Lieutenant Daroy, was wounded.

However, the Tulung Lupah Sug, a non-government organization, said former MNLF members integrated into the military reported that seven Marines died and five others were wounded in the fighting.

Professor Octavio Dinampo, chief executive officer of the group, said the MNLF also suffered one dead and two wounded.(Julie Alipala, INQ.net)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Flooded towns in N. Cotabato declared in 'state of calamity'

COTABATO CITY – The provincial board of North Cotabato has declared six towns in the first district in a state of calamity after floods, spawned by three days of rain, struck the rice-producing areas.

Some 1,000 families have been displaced, social welfare and agriculture officials said.

More than 8,500 hectares of agricultural lands planted with rice, corn and vegetables have been damaged. Agriculture officials placed the cost of damage at about P30 million.

The towns were Pigcawayan, Alamada, Libungan, Midsayap, Aleosan and Pikit, collectively known as the Palma Alliance.

The alliance, an association of local government units that pooled resources in helping one another in infrastructure development, was recently recognized by the government through its Galing Pook Awards.

Since Monday, the provincial social welfare and development office has been distributing hundreds of sacks of rice to the displaced families.

Virgilita Guilaran, provincial social welfare officer, said calamity funds had already been allotted.

The worst hit town was Pigcawayan with at least 40 percent of its more than 30 villages flooded since Friday.

In a session on Tuesday, Vice Gov. Manny Piñol urged Gov. Jesus Sacdalan and town officials to release part of their calamity funds.

Piñol also urged the provincial health office to initiate steps to prevent the spread of diseases.

Pres. Arroyo to grant 10% pay hike to gov’t workers

EO to be signed this Wednesday - Ermita

In time for Labor Day, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is expected to sign an executive order that will grant a 10 percent increase in the salaries of the country's more than one million state workers, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita announced Wednesday.

Ermita said the President would sign the order Wednesday afternoon when she returns to Manila from this province where she was a guest at the second Strong Republic Nautical Highway Conference.

Arroyo has directed Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. to flesh out the details of the increase, to take effect on July 1.

The order is similar to the one the President issued last year when she also granted a 10 percent increase in the basic salaries of employees in the national government and a P1,200 raise in the monthly subsistence and other allowances of policemen, soldiers, and other uniformed personnel.

The increase for the 898,848 national government employees will cost P9.216 billion, the budget department said.

Meanwhile the adjustment for the 297,905 soldiers, policemen, firemen, jail guards, and Coast Guard personnel for the same period will cost the government P2.84 billion, it said. (Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, INQ.net)