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.

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Homes burned as MILF raids North Cotabato village

COTABATO CITY, Philippines -- Skirmishes in North Cotabato province between Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters and government militiamen resumed early Monday after some 100 rebels raided a remote village Sunday night, burning houses and sending residents fleeing, authorities said.

The militiamen and Moro rebels have been engaged in sporadic fighting over the past two days that has killed two civilians and forced 5,000 civilians to evacuate.

Colonel Julieto Ando, spokesman of the Army's 6th Infantry Division, said soldiers have been dispatched to try to pacify the clashing groups.

Ando said the military is preparing to file a protest against the rebels but warned that a full-scale government offensive might be launched if the MILF’s “harassment” continues.

MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu denied the rebels initiated the hostilities and claimed the militiamen attacked first. "The militiamen attack[ed] our position, we only retaliated," he said.

He added that appropriate action has been adopted by a joint government-MILF ceasefire committee.

The rebels were trading shots with some 50 members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit in Barangay (village) Bagolibas, Aleosan town, and in Barangay Baliki in Midsayap.

About 20 houses were torched by guerillas in nearby Barangay Bagolibas on Sunday although a militiaman told radio dxMS that 30 homes had been burned.

"They have been firing at us but we do not retaliate," the militiaman said, adding that soldiers and policemen have taken up defensive positions.

Aleosan Mayor Loreto Cabaya said there were no face-to-face skirmishes, only intermittent gunshots from either side.

However, the mayor said they had been "left to defend ourselves using our resources" and that the rebels had taken away villagers’ work animals.(Edwin Fernandez; INQ.net)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Measure to defer ARMM polls 'dead in the water' in Senate

An administration senator from Mindanao, who earlier expressed willingness to support a measure that would postpone the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, backed out on Tuesday after failing to get the support of other lawmakers.

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri said the move to postpone the election is "dead in the water in the Senate." He said that with only five session days left it is "logistically impossible" to amend the law setting the date of the ARMM election scheduled on August 11.

In the House of Representatives, a measure seeking the postponement of the election also suffered a setback after Mindanao lawmakers failed to agree to support the bill.

A two-hour, closed-door caucus by the Mindanao bloc led by Speaker Prospero Nograles failed to resolve the issue after only 14 lawmakers voted in favor of the postponement while 14 disagreed and five abstained.

The so-called Mindanao bloc in the House of Representatives has 57 members.

Nograles, however, said he would ask President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to certify the bill. After the caucus of the Mindanao bloc Tuesday afternoon Nograles met with congressmen from ARMM who agreed to move for the postponement.

“In my private meeting now with all the ARMM congressmen who are most directly affected, their unanimous decision is to move to postpone the elections," Nograles was quoted by news reports.

Time running out

Rep. Simeon Datumanong, deputy speaker for Mindanao who co-authored the bill, admitted that time is running out to pass the measure.

Rep. Ma. Isabelle Climaco of Zamboanga City, who is against of the deferment of the election, is confident that it will push through on August 11.

“I don’t think it will prosper because of lack of material time, hayaan na lamang natin sila na matuloy ang elections," Climaco said.

Hermogenes Esperon, presidential adviser for the peace process, was present during the caucus. He maintained that the postponement of the election in ARMM is necessary to give the government time to pursue the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“[The suspension of the election] will give us space and better time to discuss the final details of a peace agreement," Esperon said.

Earlier, Climaco and Cotabato Rep. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza said the Commission on Elections has already spent P1 billion for the automation of the ARMM polls.

“The one billion peso has been released for Comelec. Do we just change the date set?" Climaco said. “We need a credible poll body and this is their chance to prove it to us," she added.

Mendoza said her province has become a victim of election-related violence because of the MILF demand.

“I'm not in favor for the postponement in sympathy to my constituents in Cotabato, particularly the municipalities of Aleosan, Midsayap and Pikit that suffered the most in terms of civilian casualties," she said.

Arroyo silent

During President Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address on Monday, she pitched the peace accord with the MILF but chose to remain silent on the ARMM elections postponement.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said Zubiri's backtracking was an apparent realization that the Palace cannot force the issue.

“It looks like [President Arroyo] realized she can’t just please Esperon at the expense of public interest," Pimentel said.

Pimentel, who had allied himself with those against the postponement of the election, said the plan to postpone the ARMM polls could be a ploy to extend the terms of those who are abusing their office and the good ones who want to serve will be prevented from being elected because there will be no elections.

“Secondly, people must remember that the ARMM election is intended to provide the venue for the testing of the computer program of the electoral process," he added.

“If you postpone the elections now, when will we be able to test the machines in preparation of 2010? Are they saying that they will also postpone the 2010 elections or maybe the same things that happened in the past - regarding cheating in the elections - will happen again in the 2010," he said.

Zubiri said he had consulted with his colleagues in the Senate and 90 percent of them are against the postponement. Besides, he said, the ARMM election is only two weeks away.

The United Opposition earlier said President Arroyo's call to suspend the ARMM election was part of a grand scheme to amend the Constitution to extend her term.

UNO spokesman Adel Tamano said President Arroyo’s claim that the postponement of the ARMM election is part of the peace negotiations with the MILF could actually be "the first step in a grand scheme to amend the Constitution."

"Unfortunately, even for the MILF, [Arroyo] has not been negotiating in good faith because the proposed creation of a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity will ultimately entail an amendment of the Philippine Constitution, which will be the means to allow [Arroyo] to stay in power," Tamano said. - (GMANews.TV)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Shariff Kabunsuan govt employees ask SC to reverse ruling

Employees of the Shariff Kabunsuan provincial government have passed a manifesto asking the Supreme Court (SC) to reverse its July 16 decision declaring the power to create provinces and cities of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s (ARMM) law-making body unconstitutional.

Members of the Shariff Kabunsuan Provincial Employees Association (SKAPEA) feared they will lose their jobs if the high court decision becomes final and executory.

Records show that the provincial government has 490 regular employees and 250 contractual and casual employees.

In the manifesto, SKAPEA described SC's decision as a “drawback to regional autonomy and even graver to the aspiration of the Bangsamoro to draw their own lives in a truly autonomous and meaningful existence.”

Lawyer Suharto Ibay, provincial administrator, lamented that the employees were not part of the legal squabble but they were the ones suffering from the high court decision.

He added that the people of Shariff Kabunsuan were not even given a chance to air their side on the issue.

Last Friday SKAPEA members went to the office of Bai Sandra Sema, chair of Cotabato City Tourism Council, and urged the official to file a motion for reconsideration before the high court before the 15-day deadline for filing an appeal expires.

Ibay said SKAPEA is planning to lodge a motion to intervene before the high court.

On Aug. 28, 2006, the Regional Legislative Assembly (RLA) enacted Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Act (MMAA) 201 creating the province of Shariff Kabunsuan.

The SC ruling, however, declared MMAA 201 void, saying that only Congress can create or reapportion a legislative district.

The case stemmed from the consolidated petitions seeking to annul Resolution No. 7902 of the Commission on Elections treating Cotabato City, which is included in Region XII, as part of the legislative district of Shariff Kabunsuan. The resolution was issued in May 2007.

Sema, a congressional candidate during May 2007 polls, was one of the petitioners of the case.

Shariff Kabunsuan was created by separating eight municipalities from the first district of Maguindanao. Cotabato City forms part of Maguindanao’s first legislative district but it voted against its inclusion in the ARMM in the plebiscite held in November 1989.

MILF looks forward to continuing peace negotiations

Barely a week after storming out of a meeting with their government counterparts, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) negotiators are now looking forward to continuing peace negotiations with government.

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal credited Presidential Peace Process Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr and Malaysian facilitator Datuk Othman bin Abd Razak for convincing them to stay on.

"We look forward to continuing the negotiation on the Comprehensive Compact and to finally address the Bangsamoro problem and the conflict in Mindanao," Iqbal said in a statement on the MILF website Monday night.

The MILF statement said Esperon and Datuk Othman persuaded the government and MILF peace panels to return to the negotiating table, which led to the initialling of the document Sunday night.

At the time, the MILF negotiators had walked out of the meeting over another disagreement on a draft agreement on ancestral domain presented by the government panel.

"We managed to convince the MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal and lawyer Datu Michael Mastura to stand by even as we tried to iron out the thorny points," Datuk Othman said.

Both panels also conveyed their appreciation to Malaysian Prime Minister Dato' Seri Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi for the Malaysian government's continued assistance in the peace process.

They also thanked President Arroyo's "unwavering commitment" in pushing forward the Mindanao peace process.

Sunday's initialling of the draft agreement on ancestral domain ended the tense exploratory talks.

The MILF said that after the MILF walkout, Esperon, national security adviser Norberto Gonzales and the government peace panel led by Rodolfo Garcia went to Kuala Lumpur to confer with the Malaysian officials.

At the time, less than half of the MILF negotiating team had remained in the Malaysian capital.

The rest of the MILF delegation, Atty. Lanang Ali, Atty. Musib Buat, and Maulana Alonto had already left for Mindanao.

"All in all, it has taken the Parties a span of three years and seven months to strike a peace deal completing the four strands – conceptual framework, territory, resources, and governance," Matsura said.

In a joint statement issued after the initialling ceremony, both sides said they relied on their "deep reservoir of goodwill and cooperation" to restart the session. (GMANews.TV)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Collapse of gov’t-MILF talks on Moro homeland ‘most serious threat to peace’

The collapse of the talks between the Arroyo government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on an expanded Moro homeland is “the most serious threat” to the peace process and may eventually lead to war, according to an analyst.

Zainudin Malang, a lawyer of the Bangsa Moro Center for Law and Policy, warned that the collapse Friday in Kuala Lumpur of the government-MILF talks on ancestral domain “is the most serious threat to a peaceful and negotiated solution to the peace process.”

Malang, an analyst of the government-MILF peace process, said the “level of skepticism over the negotiating parties’ sincerity is approaching irreversible levels, if not so already,” he said in an e-mail sent to Newsbreak, in response to the collapse of the talks.

“Frustrations over past un-implemented peace pacts, coupled with flip-flopping stance on this latest peace process risks transforming the Mindanao conflict into an unmanageable type of war,” Malang said.

Backtrack on plebiscite

According to a report by Reuters news agency, the government’s attempt to push back the timing of a plebiscite that would expand the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was the reason for the collapse of the talks.

Reuters said government negotiators tried to delay the referendum on enlarging a previous Muslim homeland until after a political agreement was reached.

This would have reneged on a previous commitment to hold the vote six months after a deal on territory was signed, originally scheduled for August 5. MILF negotiators walked out of the meeting.

Both sides had hoped to wrap up the talks on an ancestral homeland last Friday in Kuala Lumpur ahead of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's annual state of the nation address tomorrow.

But Press Secretary Jesus Dureza, the former presidential adviser on the peace process, said Saturday there is still hope for the peace process.

“The peace process is a continuing effort. In the latest talks in Kuala Lumpur over the last few days to finalize the draft agreement, there remain some differences. Although the meeting did not immediately bring about progress in the ancestral domain issue, I am sure that the parties will continue to look for ways to hurdle the difficulties and move the process forward.” (abs-cbnNews.com)

Major buyer to sign deal at Minfruit Market Encounter

A major institutional supplier of fresh fruit and vegetables in Metro Manila and an exporter of carabao variety mangoes recently agreed to purchase a 50-hectare yield of mangoes in North Cotabato province for export.

The signing of the buying agreement by AgriNurture Inc. (ANI) will be among the highlights of the 1st Minfruit Market Encounter, which will be held July 31 to August 1 at the Green Heights Business and Convention Center in Buhangin, Davao City.

Zavier Abella, ANI purchasing officer for fruits, said that the rising demand from the Hong Kong market for mangoes, led the firm to seek help from USAID's Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program and the Department of Agriculture (DA) in establishing relationships with Mindanao growers.

The firm, which is also interested in solo papaya, banana and pineapple, has purchased bananas from growers in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

ANI is developing new markets in New Zealand, Canada and China, and in Singapore, to which they regularly ship twice a week.

ANI and other institutional buyers will meet with growers at the 1st Minfruit Market Encounter, which will provide a range of market options for producers, showcase emerging fruit commodities, and assist processors and exporters in finding sources to meet their fruit requirements.

The Market Encounter is being organized by the Mindanao Fruit Industry Development (Minfruit) Council with support from the Department of Agriculture, the GEM Program and local producer associations.

Mindanao's emergence as the country's primary supplier of fresh mango for export has enticed processors and supply chain firms to locate in the region.

In 2007, Mindanao shipped approximately 2,000 metric tons of fresh mango valued at almost $3.6 million to foreign markets. The region also exported approximately 2,300 metric tons of dried mango and other dried fruits valued at more than $1 million, and more than 2,200 metric tons of fruit purees and juices, valued at almost $1.3 million.

Abella said ANI is also considering establishing fruit buying centers in key ports in Mindanao, including Davao, to help streamline shipments to Luzon and the Visayas.

The GEM Program, which is implemented under the oversight of the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo), has been helping to strengthen the competitiveness of the island-region's high-value fruit and vegetable industries, in collaboration with growers' associations and government agencies.(INQ.net)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Nursing student in bus bombing dies in hospital

DIGOS CITY-- One of the critically injured victims of Thursday's bus bombing here died early morning Friday while being treated at a hospital in Davao City.

Nursing student Sarah Fe Abelle did not survive, said Dr. Ricardo Audan, spokesman of the Davao Medical Center.

At least five more critically wounded patients were being treated in the said hospital.

Thirty-five people were injured in the explosion at the terminal here, when an explosive device went off in a Davao-bound air-conditioned Metro Shuttle bus shortly before noon Thursday.

Authorities are eyeing the extortion group al-Khobar as the being behind the incident.(Orlando Dinoy; INQ.net)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Holding ARMM polls won’t jeopardize ancestral domain pact

MoA to be formally inked August--Esperon

Holding the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will not jeopardize the signing of the memorandum of agreement (MoA) on ancestral domain between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), presidential peace adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Friday.

Nevertheless, Esperon said postponing the regional polls, scheduled August 11, was “important” because it would provide "more space, chances of [success for the] peace negotiations."

Esperon briefed the diplomatic community on efforts to reach a peace agreement with the MILF and said the MoA, which will pave the way for the establishment of a Bangsamoro juridical entity and remove the most contentious issue that had stalled negotiations, is expected to be formally signed in August, after the draft is initialed in Kuala Lumpur either late Friday or early Saturday.

The juridical entity is envisioned to expand on the territory of the current ARMM.

Asked later if postponing the ARMM polls, as requested by the MILF, was crucial to signing the MoA and the success of the peace negotiations, Esperon said it was “important, that’s why the President [Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo] asked for it.”

But when pressed if pushing through with the elections would stall the peace process, Esperon replied: “No, as you can see, we’re already signing the draft this afternoon [Friday] or tomorrow morning, but it’s [postponing the ARMM polls] still important.”

"We have a major breakthrough in the discussions on ancestral domain and both panels are finalizing the text of the MoA for inking in early August. We are just a few strides away from the finish line," Esperon told the diplomats.

Soon after the formal signing of the MoA, the two parties will resume formal peace negotiations on the main talking points on how to solve the Bangsamoro problem.

Esperon said the signing of the MoA on ancestral domain will satisfy the requirements of the 2001 Tripoli Agreement between the two panels.

He said the only point of contention in the draft is when to schedule the plebiscite in the 721 villages eyed for inclusion in a proposed Bangsamoro juridical entity.

Esperon said the government wants the plebiscite held one and a half to two years after the signing of the final peace agreement while the MILF wants it after signing the MoA.

"It should be after final peace agreement,” Esperon said. “If [the plebiscite is held] after the MoA, we shall not have defined the powers of the resulting entity, the Bangsamoro juridical entity," he said.

On the ARMM elections, Esperon said if the polls are held on August 11, the term of office of officials elected then might overlap with the foreseen signing of the final peace pact.

Thus, he said, it would be better if there is only one electoral exercise for the Bangsamoro juridical entity, “involving ARMM officials now and any candidates coming from the new geographical entity.”

Esperon said he and his office would justify the postponement of the ARMM polls to Congress, whose members are reportedly divided on whether to pass a bill resetting the regional elections to 2010, together with the presidential elections.

Esperon also said the International Monitoring Team (IMT) that has been overseeing a three-year ceasefire agreement between the government and MILF, and whose mandate is supposed to end on August 31, has expressed “full support” for a proposal to increase the number of foreign economic monitors.

Currently, only Japan has an economic monitor with the team.

But Esperon said Singapore, Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and the European Union have expressed their intention to send economic monitors to the IMT.

The international team is chaired by Malaysia and includes Brunei, Libya, and Japan.
(Veronica Uy; INQ.net)

UST graduate tops nursing board

Aira Therese Salamanca Javier of the University of Santo Tomas topped the June 2008 nursing board exam with a rating of 86 percent, the Professional Regulation Commission said Thursday.

Alrin Flores Falgui of the Far Eastern University followed with 85.80 percent.

KristineMaravilla Mendoza, Remedios of Trinidad Romualdez Memorial School and UST’s Joanna Jacob Quirante shared the third place with a rating of 85.60 percent.

Following are the top 10 test-takers of the nursing licensure examination:

Top 1
• Aira Therese Salamanca Javier, University of Santo Tomas -- 86.00%

Top 2
Alrin Flores Falgui, Far Eastern University-Nicanor Reyes Medical Foundation -- 85.80%

Top 3
• Kristine Maravilla Mendoza, Remedios Trinidad Romualdez Memorial School -- 85.60%
• Joanna Jacob Quirante, University of Santo Tomas -- 85.60%

Top 4
• Ana Rica Chan Gutierrez, University of Santo Tomas -- 85.40%
• Dalfon Silvio Babular Navaja, Cebu Institute of Technology -- 85.40%
• Maria Alyssa Yee Policarpio, University of Santo Tomas -- 85.40%
• Aileen Grace Yu Sotyco, University of Santo Tomas -- 85.40%

Top 5
• Michelle Cruz Amoroso, University of the Philippines-Manila -- 85.20%
• Ma. Regina Basa Ang, Our Lady of Fatima University-Valenzuela -- 85.20%
• Michelle Joyce Cheung Encarnacion, University of Santo Tomas -- 85.20%
• Lyka Abalajon Gede-Y, Riverside College -- 85.20%
• Jason Albia Go, University of Santo Tomas -- 85.20%
• Katherine Rose Rodrigo Raquel, De La Salle University-Dasmariñas Health Science Campus -- 85.20%

Top 6
• Regina Krys Villaflor Cabanilla, Cebu Normal University (Cebu State College) -- 85.00%
• Aster Annie De Jesus Calma, University of the Philippines-Manila -- 85.00%
• Tracy Michelle Buan Catacutan, Centro Escolar University-Manila -- 85.00%
• Diana Justo Cupino, University of Santo Tomas -- 85.00%
• Rachel Mae Tabuena Daigdigan, Mindanao State University-Marawi City -- 85.00%
• Karen Marie Galvez Flores, Trinity University of Asia (Trinity-QC) -- 85.00%
• Elaine Esther Saldua Funtanar, Cebu Normal University (Cebu State College) -- 85.00%
• Marion Delos Santos Llauder, University of Santo Tomas -- 85.00%
• Kevin Bryan Uy Lo, University of Santo Tomas -- 85.00%
• Anne Lorraine Trinidad Lorenzo, University of Perpetual Help Rizal-Las Piñas -- 85.00%
• Louie Jhon Erracho Lunaria, University of the Philippines-Manila -- 85.00%
• Joanna Roxas Maala, Our Lady of Fatima University-Valenzuela -- 85.00%
• Patrick Paras Mejia, University of Santo Tomas -- 85.00%
• Kristine Valino Picadizo, University of Perpetual Help Rizal-Las Piñas -- 85.00%
• Eiren Oro Rebute, West Visayas State University-La Paz -- 85.00%
• Rizza Armas Tamayo, Colegio De Dagupan (Computronix College) -- 85.00%
• Anna Mae Maquiling Trinidad, Mindanao State University-Marawi City -- 85.00%
• Jennifer Laggad Ugalde, Dr. Carlos S. Lanting College-Q.C. -- 85.00%

Top 7
• Ma. Leonor Galvan Barbosa, Mindanao Sanitarium & Hospital College of Med -- 84.80%
• Jennifer Baguio Gait, Velez College -- 84.80%
• Ariane Castañares Llevares, Cebu Normal University (Cebu State College) -- 84.80%
• Neil Anthony Esmilla Manzano, Our Lady of Fatima University-Valenzuela -- 84.80%
• Oliver Naval Mendoza, Saint Bernadette College of Health And Sciences -- 84.80%
• Maricor Cortez Montalbo, University of the Philippines-Manila -- 84.80%
• Tara Patawaran Patawaran, Dr. Carlos S. Lanting College-Q.C. -- 84.80%
• Roger Carlo Payawal Pineda, Dr. Yanga's Francisco Balagtas College -- 84.80%
• Bartolome Arthur Marcaida Quincina, Dr. Carlos S. Lanting College-Q.C. -- 84.80%
• Marion Katrina Lara Raguini, Far Eastern University-Manila -- 84.80%

Top 8
• Ma Cristina Diesta Arroyo, University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Mem. Medical Center -- 84.60%
• Lance Lambert Gatdula Ayson, Bulacan State University (Bulacan Coll. of Arts & Trades) -- 84.60%
• Carla Emille Dalangin Barbon, University of the Philippines-Manila -- 84.60%
• Rosauro Cruz Briones, Manuel S. Enverga Univ. Foundation-Lucena City -- 84.60%
• Jan Paolo Santiago Caparas, De La Salle University-Dasmariñas Health Science -- 84.60%
• Sozein Soliel Bacena Bustamante, University of Santo Tomas -- 84.60%
• Lourdes Claire Rodriguez David, University of Santo Tomas -- 84.60%
• Ana Joy Almie Cruz Dizon, University of Santo Tomas -- 84.60%
• Lorrainne Yu Embay, University of the Visayas-Mandaue City -- 84.60%
• Kristine Marie Lee Indiongco, Perpetual Help College of Manila -- 84.60%
• Imee Loren Chan Lim, University of Santo Tomas -- 84.60%
• Sim Pama Paniza, West Visayas State University-La Paz -- 84.60%
• Rochelle-Anne Ordinanza Primavera, University of Santo Tomas -- 84.60%
• Raichel Faye Mallari Ringor, University of Santo Tomas -- 84.60%
• Roxan Salvadora Roman, Our Lady of Fatima University-Valenzuela -- 84.60%
• Czarina Ann Arellano Sevilla, University of Santo Tomas -- 84.60%
• Jeffrey De Justo Silva, Saint Paul University-Iloilo -- 84.60%
• Zyena Joyce Palines Untalasco, University of the Philippines-Manila -- 84.60%
• Paola Sarona Young, University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Mem. Medical Center -- 84.60%

Top 9
• Blake Warren Coloma Ang, Cebu Doctors’ University -- 84.40%
• Trisha Carmelli Gonzales Bautista, University of the Philippines-Manila -- 84.40%
• Danica Bianca Bernad Cagalawan, Saint Michael's College-Iligan City -- 84.40%
• Janna Bianca Albano Cajigal, University of Santo Tomas -- 84.40%
• Kathryn Kaye Aquino Carpio, University of Santo Tomas -- 84.40%
• Glynnis Doreen Olegario Corpuz, Capitol Medical Center School of Nursing -- 84.40%
• Katrina Rae Limjoco Daza, University of Santo Tomas -- 84.40%
• Jean Daisy Camacho De Guzman, University of the Philippines-Manila -- 84.40%
• Fritzie Praxidio Dela Cruz, University of Perpetual Help System-Laguna -- 84.40%
• Willenburgh Wong Ducusin, Manila Central University-Caloocan City -- 84.40%
• Gwen Atienza Legaspi, Saint Paul University-Manila -- 84.40%
• John Philip Tecson Lim, University of Santo Tomas -- 84.40%
• Stephanie Anne Chan Lopez, De Los Santos-Sti College,Inc-(Delos Santos S.N.) -- 84.40%
• Myron Marco Miranda Mariano, University of Santo Tomas -- 84.40%
• John Vincent Lim Omo, Holy Name University (Divine Word-Tagbilaran) -- 84.40%
• Maria Wella Balbona Pichon, University of the Visayas-Cebu City -- 84.40%
• May Stephanie Go Pua, Naga College Foundation -- 84.40%
• Daryle Joie Masocol Ragasa, Manila Doctors’ College -- 84.40%
• Girlie Lazaro Repuyan, University of Santo Tomas -- 84.40%
• Meludee Joy Madrigal Roche, Cebu Normal University (Cebu State College) -- 84.40%
• Maria Aileen Custodio Santiago, Dr. Carlos S. Lanting College-Q.C. -- 84.40%
• Arthur Michael Aris Camu Sunico, Far Eastern University-Manila -- 84.40%
• John Hirogie Abad Toku, Trinity University of Asia (Trinity-QC) -- 84.40%
• Angela Solayao Tiu, Velez College -- 84.40%
• Catherine Dasmariñas Uy -- Southeast Asian College (UDMC) -- 84.40%

Top 10
• Romina Paula Parreño Barrameda, University of Santo Tomas -- 84.20%
• John Robert Razote Bautista, Trinity University of Asia (Trinity-Qc) -- 84.20%
• Jeriel Bayhonan Besagas, Cebu Normal University (Cebu State College) -- 84.20%
• Marienne Sungcad Bravo, STI College Cebu, Inc -- 84.20%
• Evelyn Cuares Caseñas, University of Bohol -- 84.20%
• Bridgel Avila Galorio, Cebu Normal University (Cebu State College) -- 84.20%
• Ma. Bernadette Valdivia Lopez-Dee, University of Santo Tomas -- 84.20%
• May Flor Llego Marcolino, Larmen De Guia Memorial College -- 84.20%
• Kristian Santos Noche, Centro Escolar University-Manila -- 84.20%
• Dianne Mae Lagman Notario, Our Lady of Fatima University-Valenzuela -- 84.20%
• Kristine Ann Tagupa Panal, Mountain View College -- 84.20%
• Marnela Kathleen Veluya Pasamba, Sacred Heart College of Lucena City, Inc. -- 84.20%
• Ruby Joma Fadri Rafanan, Adventist University of the Philippines -- 84.20%
• Razeille Kristine Asistio Razon, University of Santo Tomas -- 84.20%
• Darra May Rapada Riano, Far Eastern University-Manila -- 84.20%
• Jomar Pacleb Ronquillo, Columban College-Olongapo City -- 84.20%
• Jeffrey Ramos Salazar, University of the Philippines-Manila -- 84.20%
• Frederick Abad Sampang, University of Santo Tomas -- 84.20%
• Marnelee Grace Rivera Semilla, Trinity University of Asia (Trinity-QC) -- 84.20%
• Janelle Grace Teo Sia, University of Santo Tomas -- 84.20%
• Jeanette Martinez Villar, West Visayas State University-La Paz -- 84.20%

See complete list of passers here: http://media.inquirer.net/inquirer/examresults/NURSE/20080724/index.htm

(Source: INQ.net)

Lack of consultation, transparency on Moro homeland accord hit

Various peace advocates and a Christian politician in Mindanao have decried the lack of consultation and transparency on the ancestral domain agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

In a forum last Monday organized by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and the Cotabato-based think-tank, Institute for Autonomy and Governance, the panelists said it is going to be hard to build public support for the agreement since many groups, including Mindanao peace advocates, were not consulted.

What is the GRP-MILF agreement on ancestral domain?
In a summary of the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on ancestral domain obtained by abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak, Camilo Miguel Montesa, policy adviser of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG), said that under the accord, the Philippine government agrees to:

- Recognize the Bangsamoro people as "distinct from the rest of the national communities";

- Grant the Bangsamoro people their own "distinct territory";

- Grant the Bangsamoro pople their own "government"; and,

- Concede international recognition to the Bangsamoro people.

more...

Former Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo Valles said the memorandum of agreement (MOA) on ancestral domain is not a good way to start implementing a peace deal.

"Up to now, officially we don’t have a copy. We, other leaders and stakeholders, would feel the same. We are kind of deceived, deprived of a voice. So it’s an uphill battle. I guess one cardinal principle for stakeholders is to start well. But this one, at the very start, it’s a bad step," Valles said.

North Cotabato Vice-Governor Emmanuel Piñol, a critic of the MILF, lamented that local leaders of Mindanao whose constituencies may be reduced as a result of the accord, were also not consulted on what will constitute the new Moro homeland.

Under the ancestral domain accord, the government will move for the holding of a plebiscite six months after it is signed. The provinces that will be most affected by a possible expansion of the ARMM are North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Lanao del Norte.

Supreme Court case

Pinol said he has already asked the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) for an official copy of the draft MOA and its annexes so he can question its legality before the Supreme Court (SC).

Piñol said his complaint will not be entertained by the SC unless he gets an official copy of the MOA. If he fails to get an official copy, he will ask the SC to compel the OPAPP to give him an official copy.

"By Monday [July 28], we should already be in the Supreme Court," he said.

He warned the government was courting trouble with the ancestral domain accord, especially in "warrior towns" of North Cotabato.

"When the leaders themselves are not aware of this, then you are courting trouble," he said.

IPs not consulted, too

Ponciano Bennagen, a member of the 1987 Constitutional Commission representing indigenous peoples (IPs), said IPs of Mindanao and other key stakeholders in the peace process in Mindanao were also not adequately consulted and given access to the MOA on ancestral domain.

Due to this drawback, he proposed that various mechanisms be established to discuss the MOA with the stakeholders, including Christian political leaders.

"We haven’t heard from the Lobregats yet," he said. "We need to address the question of transparency and then the education of the communities, the direct stakeholders."

He said even peace advocates who may be in favor of the MOA will find it hard to campaign in the plebiscite if they are not adequately informed about the agreement.

Bennagen also questioned why in the MOA, indigenous peoples are being given the freedom to choose whether to join the BJE "when they have already made their choice, and they don’t want to be part of the BJE."

But Benedicto Bacani, executive director of the Cotabato-based think-tank Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG), stressed that the people have the final say on whether to join the new Moro homeland by casting their votes in the plebiscite. "Let them say no [if they want]," he said. "Perhaps, it’s a matter of explaining to them also."

GMA lameduck by 2009?


Piñol said the government was "trying to raise false hopes" with the MOA.

Aside from possible legal obstacles, Piñol said he does not believe President Arroyo will be able to implement the MOA since she will be a "lameduck president by 2009." New national and local elections are scheduled in May 2010.

"We were not even to pass cha-cha at a time when Gloria was very influential, and she had the mayors, governors, congressmen all toeing her line. How much more in 2009, one year before the end of her term?" he asked.

Piñol said the GRP negotiating panel has "misjudged the sentiments of the people of Mindanao."

"We don’t like this [MOA]. We were never consulted about the plebiscite," he said.

Focus on poverty alleviation

When told that the OPAPP conducted consultations with various stakeholders including himself, Piñol said the proposals he made in these meetings called by former OPAPP chief Jesus Dureza were never adopted in the MOA.

He said the people of Mindanao want peace and are tired of war. In the past several years, when there was relative peace, Piñol said North Cotabato became more progressive.

Instead of trying to reach a political solution with the MILF, Piñol said the government should concentrate on economic projects that will eliminate the roots of the conflict in Mindanao.

"We have failed to realize that had there been greater scrutiny on what really ails the area, we would have discovered that it is the poverty of the people and corruption that prevails in the area," Piñol said.

Piñol said there was no need to hold another plebiscite in North Cotabato since 98% of those who voted in the 2001 exercise chose not to join the ARMM.

"If they want to fast-track the peace process, this is the wrong way of doing it," he said.

He said he and the North Cotabato governor have already talked to local officials and have passed a resolution against the MOA.

"We want peace but we are not willing to sacrifice a lot of things in the name of peace because the peace that you have in mind will create a lot of trouble for us," Piñol said.

Other sectors complain, too

Estrellita Juliano, vice-president for Mindanao of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said she supports Piñol’s plan to question the MOA before the Supreme Court due to lack of consultation and transparency.

Peace advocate Miriam Coronel, a professor of political science at the University of the Philippines Diliman, advised the panel discussants to come up with "mechanisms that will address the issue of transparency and lack of information."

She said the MOA is not clear on the role of other peace stakeholders. "Everything is dependent basically on the goodwill basically of government. All the different voices, which may be for or against this agreement, there is no mechanism for them."

Bacani said the government has promised to undertake an advocacy campaign for the MOA on ancestral domain after it is signed. He acknowledged, though, that this does not address the issue of lack of participation of the stakeholders in the accord.

Sister Linda Hisug, a peace worker in Mindanao, said the concept of freedom being pushed by the MILF is not clear to women religious groups in the south. She said they were also not consulted on the MOA on ancestral domain.

"Even this issue you’re talking about now, it is something that is hidden to us and we even ask why this is hidden to us. I believe this question will be answered if things are more clear and issues are more defined," she said.

Israelito Torreon, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Davao del Sur chapter, said the people of Davao were surprised about the agreement on ancestral domain since they were also not consulted. He also raised the issue of lack of transparency on the accord. (ISAGANI DE CASTRO, JR.; abs-cbnNEWS.com)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Comelec unmindful of moves to postpone ARMM polls

Despite an endorsement by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the proposal to postpone the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the Commission on Elections is confident that it is ready, having completed 98 percent of its preparations, its spokesman said Thursday.

“We are not wasting our time thinking if it will push through or not,” James Jimenez said in an interview.

He said that the Comelec would not wish to be distracted in their preparations, especially now that they were in the last and most difficult part of the process.

In a separate interview, Comelec chairman Jose Melo said that the poll body was pushing through with its preparations.

“Ang ginagawa namin dito ay [What we are doing here is] as if there is no law forthcoming, as if hindi pinag-uusapan ang [we are not talking of] postponement,” Melo said.

Meanwhile, Comelec commissioners insisted that the polls should push through.

“We have prepared everything and if we postpone it so much will be wasted,” Comelec commissioner Moslemen Macarambon said in a separate interview.

Newly appointed commissioner Leandro Leonida said that the automated polls would ensure honest elections and minimize corruption.

“Kung walang puhunan, walang hahabuling investment ang ating mga kandidato [If there is no capital, our candidates will not run after any investment]. Pure public service ang ibigay nila [They will deliver pure public service],” Leonida said.(Katherine Evangelista; INQ.net)

Lawmakers split on ARMM polls’ delay

Lawmakers are split on the appeal by the Palace to defer the Muslim Mindanao region elections scheduled for next month.

While the House of Representatives leadership echoes the Palace’s stand on postponing the polls to give way for peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Senate has immediately rejected the proposal.

In a text message to BusinessWorld, Speaker Prospero C. Nograles said he will call for a caucus of Mindanao congressmen on July 29 to discuss the issue. Mr. Nograles represents the first district of Davao City.

The elections at the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) were set for Aug. 11.

"One way or another, the elections may affect the ongoing truce talks. To postpone it seems to be prudent but I have to consult the solons from Mindanao," Mr. Nograles said.

In a telephone interview, Sultan Kudarat Rep. Datu Pax S. Mangudadatu (1st district), chairman of the committee on Mindanao Affairs, said he and colleagues from Mindanao will file next week a bill seeking to defer the elections.

Congress convenes for its second regular session on Monday.

"Although the Commission on Elections has proven that it is ready for the automated elections, there are more important matters that we need to consider, and that is the government’s long pursuit to attain peace with the MILF and MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front)," Mr. Mangudadatu said.

Meanwhile, in a radio interview, Makati Rep. Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. (1st district), chairman of the committee on suffrage and electoral reforms, said he will not support the measure, should it be referred under his committee.

"If they [MILF] really wanted to attain peace with the government, it should have been done a long time ago," he said.

Meanwhile, Senate President Manuel B. Villar, Jr. said they will reject moves to defer the ARMM polls.

"People are just getting confused," Mr. Villar told reporters.

Senator Richard J. Gordon, co-chairman of the congressional oversight committee on automated elections, said, "The law is already in place and we are already implementing it. I don’t think Congress would be amenable to that."

Mr. Gordon, also chairman of the committee on constitutional amendments, revision of codes and laws, noted that the resumption of peace talks is independent of the ARMM polls, which seeks to solve electoral fraud.

Administration ally Senator Juan Ponce Enrile said he also rejected the polls’ deferment since these have been postponed for several times.

In a text message, Senator Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, another administration ally, said he will first consult his colleagues on the matter. The Bukidnon solon earlier said he will file a bill to postpone the ARMM polls.

"If I don’t get a consensus with the Senate leaders on its approval, then it may be a futile exercise to file the measure," added Mr. Zubiri.

In a related development, the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are expected to approve today the final draft agreement on ancestral domain, Executive Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita said Wednesday.

In a press conference, Mr. Ermita said the memorandum of agreement (MoA) will still follow the legal framework, specifically the Constitution, which the MILF earlier refused to acknowledge.

"MILF recognizes the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) legal framework and the need to change it before agreement can be made executory. We are making them [MILF] aware that the term of reference is the Constitution."

Mr. Ermita said the agreement will have no specific time line or date. Negotiators said the approval of the draft agreement will eventually lead to the long-awaited final peace agreement.

The principles of the agreement include:

* The MILF recognizes the legal framework and the need to effect changes to it before the agreement can be made executory. This is an alternative means of embedding the constitutional process in the agreement.
* The government will recognize past accords subject to subsequent modifications to be agreed by both sides.
* Time frame will be taken up in future negotiations.

The draft distributed to media said the exploratory talks will include the finalization of the MoA on ancestral domain, determination of specific date for the signing ceremony to take place in Kuala Lumpur between the last week of July and the first week of August, and initial discussions on specific issues.

Malacañang has agreed to postpone the elections upon request by MILF negotiators, who believe that this could derail the creation of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, a political subdivision that expands the ARMM coverage through a referendum. — (Elizabeth T. Marcelo, Bernard U. Allauigan and Alexis Douglas B. Romero, BusinessWorld)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Elderly woman killed, sister hurt in alleged MILF attack

ALEOSAN, North Cotabato, Philippines—An elderly woman farmer was killed while her sister was wounded when about 50 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerillas stormed the village of Pagangan here Tuesday afternoon, officials said.

The attack came while President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was visiting nearby Cotabato City.

Mayor Loreto Cabaya said the MILF attack was the latest in the series of violence the rebels have launched.

The MILF hierarchy has already denied it ordered the attacks in various parts of Mindanao and pledged to end these by sanctioning "erring commanders."

MILF civil military operations chief Eid Kabalu on Wednesday said the civilian casualties were caught in the crossfire between Army militiamen and rebel forces.

But Cabaya said around 3 p.m. on Tuesday, MILF fighters fired rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and assault rifles at a group of farmers in Pagangan.

Rosita Calarasa, 62, was hit by a bullet on the neck, said Major Armand Rico, spokesman of the Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command.

Calasara died while her sister Gemma, 41, was wounded when an RPG shell exploded near their group, Cabaya said.

The assailants also carted away her carabao, he said.

"This is too much already," Cabaya said.

Cabaya said what was more disgusting was that the attack came after the ceasefire committees declared a three-kilometer peace zone in the village following last week's clashes.

"I pity our farmers, they fled, returned home and fled again. When will this situation end?" he asked.

But Kabalu said the encounter started after the militiamen fired at MILF forces. The rebels were on their way to the sub-village Tubak, Pagangan village, to augment the troops of MILF commander Ta Gundarangan, who were allegedly attacked twice by the militia force there.

"They [casualties] were caught in the crossfire,” Kabalu said in a phone interview.

Kabalu said a fact-finding team from the Joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) was investigating the incident.

The encounter occurred on the same day that MILF forces allegedly attacked three militia positions in North Cotabato. Kabalu denied the rebels' involvement in the attacks.

Rico said the attack on the outpost situated in the village of Bualan occurred around 11:45 a.m.

"No one was injured in the attack, but troops from the Army's 40th Infantry Battalion were sent to the area to monitor the MILF activities and take a defensive stance to secure the community," Rico said.

(With reports from Edwin Fernandez, Charlie Señase, Jeoffrey Maitem and Dennis Santos, Inquirer Mindanao; and Joel Guinto, INQUIRER.net)

Pres. Arroyo backs postponement of ARMM polls

To make way for developments in talks with the MILF

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has endorsed the postponement of the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to "open up the highway" for peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to succeed, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said Tuesday.

Dureza also said that at least four lawmakers have pledged to file separate measures in the House of Representatives and the Senate when sessions resume on July 28 to move the ARMM elections, which were originally scheduled for August 11.

The bill in the House of Representatives will be principally authored by Representatives Paks Mangudadatu (Sultan Kudarat), Nur Jaafar (Tawi-Tawi), and Yusop Jikiri (Sulu). In the Senate, Senator Miguel Zubiri will author the counterpart bill, Dureza added.

MILF officials last week formally asked the government to postpone the ARMM polls until a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain has been inked with the government.

Zubiri said the plan is to put off the regional elections until 2010 and synchronize this with the national polls then.

"The request of the MILF is to postpone the election but allow the holdover capacity of [ARMM] Governor [Zaldy] Ampatuan and the [regional] assembly,” he said. “The plan is to move it till 2010 and to synchronize it with the national elections.”

“President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo consulted with the Ampatuans and they agreed [to the postponement] if it would be for the greater good of Mindanao,” he said. “Congress now should act quickly to comply with legislation by August 7 to amply prepare for the postponement."

Dureza said the "Cabinet consensus" to postpone the regional polls was reached after Arroyo met with Cabinet members and ARMM officials in Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Shariff Kabunsuan Tuesday.

Arroyo visited Datu Odin Sinsuat hospital in the province and presided over a National Anti-Poverty Commission Cabinet level meeting in Camp Siongco in which efforts to rehabilitate areas affected by typhoon “Frank” (international codename: Fengshen) and social welfare programs were discussed.

"The reason for the efforts to postpone the elections is to give some space for the peace process to succeed since we reached that strategic threshold of coming out with a settlement on the ancestral domain issue and the decision was arrive at that a bill will be filed in Congress," Dureza said in a phone patch interview.

"It will provide an open opportunity for the peace process and the negotiations to move in the next stages...this is merely to open up the highway, the roads, so to speak to give the peace negotiations a chance," he added.

In a speech during her visit at the Datu Odin Sinsuat hospital Tuesday noon, Arroyo said the country is now "on the threshold of peace" following the breakthrough agreement with the MILF on ancestral domain.

"For decades, a comprehensive peace eluded us but I am proud that talks will soon resume and we are on the threshold of peace," she said in a speech at the Datu Odin Sinsuat Hospital in Shariff Kabunsuan.

(A recent Supreme Court decision voided the creation of Shariff Kabunsuan province in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in 2006, reverting it back to being part of Maguindanao province.)

"If we truly move from arms to farm in Mindanao, we can give the gift of peace and prosperity to Mindanao and to the whole country. Kaya inaasahan ko ang tulong ninyong lahat para sa kapayapaan at tagumpay ng ating [Therefore I am counting on your help for peace and the success of our] peace talks," Arroyo said.

The MILF had agreed to drop the term "freedom" in a draft accord on ancestral domain, the remaining contentious issue that had stalled negotiations for months, and to a plebiscite to determine the inclusion of 712 villages in a proposed Bangsamoro juridical entity, a territory that is on top of the current territory of the ARMM.

When asked if this was one of the reasons for the postponement, Dureza said: "We have not discussed that."

He said it is up to Congress to determine the new schedule of the elections.

"We leave it, therefore, to the good judgment of Congress the final decision as to whether or not a postponement can be approved, so this will be a bill that will be filed and will be tackled hopefully by Congress as soon the opening of Congress after the State of the Nation Address of the President," Dureza said.

Asked to comment on a statement by House Speaker Prospero Nograles that the measure was too late in the day, Dureza said: "We realized it's a little close to the August 11 elections but there will be best efforts to pursue and we hope that consensus will be given attention accordingly by Congress."

Because of the move to postpone the polls, Dureza said the proclamation of Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats for the ARMM did not push through.(By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez;INQ.net)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

President GMA inspects jatropha initiative in GenSan

President Gloria M. Arroyo on Monday visited a plantation in Barangay Apopong of jatropha curcas under a joint program of state-owned PNOC Alternative Fuels Corp (PNOC AFC) and Jubilee Agri-Advancement Corp (JAC).

In a briefing for the President, PNOC-AFC chairman Renato S. Velasco said that this city and Sarangani province have at least 172,500 hectares more available for expanded production of this industrial crop. Mr. Velasco said this city, which already has a developed jatropha plantation area of 140.57 hectares, may expand up to 10,000 hectares. He said Sarangani’s current Jatropha plantation area of 238.36 hectares may be expanded up to 162,500 hectares.

"These are among our priority production areas for jatropha and, eventually, its end-product: biofuels," he told the Ms. Arroyo, who was joined by Press Secretary Jesus Dureza and local officials led by South Cotabato 2nd District Rep. Darlene Custodio and City Mayor Pedro Acharon Jr.

After the briefing, she inspected the jatropha nursery facility and observed several workers harvesting Jatropha seeds.

Jessehan P. Pia, PNOC AFC legal counsel, said in an interview that there are plans next year to build a biofuel refinery in partnership with foreign investors.

The state-owned company hopes to establish a trading center and crushing plant for every 5,000 hectares of jatropha plantation in contiguous areas, she added.

After signing Republic Act 9367, or the Biofuels Act of 2006 last January, Ms. Arroyo directed PNOC-AFC to spearhead the biofuels production.

Last Feb. 7, the PNOC-AFC and JAC signed a memorandum of agreement on the establishment of a 500-hectare jatropha orchard here and nearby Sarangani for seedlings propagation and seed production to supply the requirements of jatropha plantations in the area.

JAC, in partnership with farmers, has already planted some 783 hectares with jatropha in General Santos City, capable of producing one ton of jatropha seeds per week.

Last July 3, the PNOC-AFC and Landan People’s Multi-Purpose Cooperative, a private independent pineapple growers’ cooperative of Dole Philippines based in Polomolok, South Cotabato, also signed an agreement to plant jatropha on 5,000 hectares of marginal, idle and unproductive lands in the area.

Korean biodiesel producer Eco-Global has also expressed interest to establish commercial-scale jatropha nursery-cum-plantations in South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sararangani and General Santos. — (BusinessWorld)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bloggers, students try out ARMM automated poll systems

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) invited bloggers and students last week to try out the automated systems that will be used in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) elections in August.

Initiated by members of Bloggers' Kapihan , 20 students and bloggers participated in mock elections, where actor Pierce Brosnan won as regional governor for ARMM over mock candidates Kevin Costner, Leonardo DiCaprio, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Al Pacino and Sharon Stone.

Vanessa Redgrave won as regional vice governor, beating Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Michael Jackson, Tom Jones, Jennifer Lopez, Brian McKnight and David Pomeranz, Comelec said in a recent blog posting.

"We invited bloggers because we believe them to represent a significant part of the general public that wants to be informed about the most recent developments in election automation," said Comelec spokesman and education and information director James Jimenez, in the poll body's blog.

In an interview, blogger and activist Mong Palatino said bloggers and students from the University of the Philippines Manila and the De la Salle University in Dasmarinas tried both the direct recording electronic (DRE) and the optical-mark reader (OMR) technologies, both of which are being deployed in the ARMM elections.

"They had fun doing it so we ended up doing mock elections," Palatino recalled.

He said Comelec also shared the history of automating elections in the Philippines, stressing that poll automation is "10 percent technology and 90 percent process."

Palatino said the bloggers and the students agreed that automating elections in ARMM would provide government lessons that could be applied during the national elections in 2010.

"A lot of questions were also asked about the systems' reliability," Palatino said.

Jimenez, who also blogs, said that blogging can be a powerful medium to share knowledge with the electorate, especially the youth.(Erwin Oliva; INQ.net)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mindanao’s largest river cleared of water lilies

COTABATO CITY — Public works officials, working hand in hand with government troops and separatist rebels, have cleared the Rio Grande de Mindanao of some 70,000 metric tons of water lilies over the past days.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said clearing operations were completed on Saturday on the Pulangi River section of one of the largest river system in Mindanao, which caused widespread flooding in the Cotabato area last month.

"So far our clearing operation in that section of that river, the largest in Mindanao is now complete. The water is now flowing freely," said by Director Emil Sadain, head of the DPWH-Bridge Program (PBP) emergency response team.

"We estimate around seven hectares of water lilies were washed down in the river section as a result of heavy rains brought by typhoon ‘Frank.’ The river section was almost erased," Sadain said.

Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr earlier ordered the emergency response team to move in upon the clamor from local officials whose towns were affected by floods.

The PBP sent a floating barge with an 18-ton backhoe to help and dredge the river of tons of tons of water lilies which that were washed down by heavy rains from the Liguasan Marsh.

Sadain said they have made the removal of water lilies a priority as these can threaten the structural integrity of some of the bridges.

In another show of cooperation, government troops and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have helped clear the river of water lilies. - (GMANews.TV)

North Cotabato officials nix inclusion in expanded ARMM

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) of North Cotabato province has passed a resolution, drafted by Vice-Governor Emmanuel Piñol, expressing strong and vehement opposition to the inclusion of the province and areas within its political jurisdiction in the reported plebiscite that would determine the territories of the expanded Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

North Cotabato’s SP also passed a resolution urging and authorizing Gov. Jesus Sacdalan to seek legal redress against the inclusion of the province of North Cotabato to the plebiscite to determine the areas to be included in the proposed expanded ARMM.

The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said on Wednesday they had hammered out long-standing differences on the ancestral domain of local Muslim communities, allowing for the resumption of peace talks stalled since December 2007.

The deal would expand ARMM, an area that was carved out in an agreement with another Muslim rebel group, the Moro National Liberation Front.

Previous referendum on ARMM rejected

In the referendum held last August 14, 2001 on the creation of ARMM, the people of North Cotabato overwhelmingly voted against the proposal to include the province in ARMM.

The present officials of the province said that there was no information dissemination nor consultation with the leaders and people of North Cotabato held before the province was included in the referendum last 2001.

Sacdalan said that he will do what is necessary with what the majority of the people of North Cotabato would agree upon.

Piñol however said that more than 92 percent of the people of the province had already expressed fear on the proposed inclusion of the province and were against joining an expanded ARMM.

Piñol however expressed his support to the on-going peace process. He said that they are already happy and satisfied with their current situation and that there is no need for expansion of the ARMM.

For self-determination

Eid Kabalu, a top official of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, meanwhile insisted that there is nothing to worry about the expansion of the ARMM

He said that the laws that will be implemented in their territory will only emphasize the right of the Bangsamoro people to self determination.

Tired of being war victims

Some Christian and Muslim residents in Aleosan town in North Cotabato where the government and MILF troops recently had an encounter meanwhile said that they have mixed opinions and emotions regarding the MILF’s "Bangsamoro juridical entity."

Maguindanaons Bai Landa Mabandas and Tikayan Makadato, fellow evacuees from Barangay Pagangan in Aleosan town said they want that the government should give the territory demanded by the MILF so that there will be lasting peace in Mindanao.

They said they are tired of being victims of war. They said they believe that giving land to the Bangsamoro people is the best solution to the Mindanao problem.

Meanwhile Cyril Cantomayor, Lito Canawigan and their friends in Barangay San Mateo in Aleosan which is a Christian barangay said that they do not want their land being included in the expanded ARMM nor in the Bangsamoro juridical entity as was demanded by the MILF.

They insisted that they have their own right, they have their land titles and they do not want to disrupt their way of living.

Butch Diagao, a farmer and a Muslim in Aleosan town, also said he does not want his land to be included in the expanded ARMM.

Diagao said it should be better for the Mindanaon's if the rebels would just cultivate their own land and strive for a clean living - instead of fighting for their demanded territory.

Consultations wanted

George Antoniego, a Christian and another resident of Barangay Pagangan said it would be better if the all sectors in North Cotabato, both Christians and Muslims, should be consulted first before any agreement will be done by the government and the MILF.

He said that if majority of the people in the province would want that the North Cotabato will be included in the expanded ARMM, so be it!

If not however, said Antoniego, the government and the MILF should follow the people's decision.(By JASPER ACOSTA; ABS-CBN Cotabato)

Basilan bishop receives threats from extremists

The peace and order environment in the province of Basilan has degenerated to the nightmare situation it was a decade ago, as threats to the Catholic clergy and kidnapping incidents continue to mount, the Catholic bishop based in Basilan warned.

Bishop Martin Jumoad said on Saturday he and the members of the Catholic Church were being terrorized by men claiming to be mujaheedin or Islamic warriors.

Past letters threatened Basilan Catholic priests in Lamitan that they would be attacked, he noted.

The latest threat, Jumoad said in an interview with the Church-run Radio Veritas on Saturday, was delivered to his residence on Friday night. He said the letter was sent to him and was not sealed in an envelope.

A copy of the letter, which was sent to the media, warned Jumoad that violence would be done to him should he refuse to convert to Islam or pay Islamic taxes.

The letter writers, a certain Paruji Indama and Nur Hassan J. Kallitut, warned the bishop that as a resident of a Muslim province, he has to abide by Islamic law.

“You think you are safe because there are soldiers around you? Remember, the jamaa can strike even in Davao, General Santos, Zamboanga City,” the letter said.

“We are giving you 15 days to respond. If we don’t get an answer from you, we will consider you our enemies,” it added.

The bishop said the peace and order situation in the province has been spiraling out of control and mirroring the chaos a decade ago, when abductions and ambushes by extremist groups like Abu Sayyaf were rampant.

“I am really sad with our situation. Instead of moving forward, we are now moving backward. When it comes to peace and order, I thought we have already gone out from 1998 scenario, but now we are coming back,” he said.

Aside from the death threats, Jumoad expressed concern over the kidnappings in Basilan and nearby provinces the past few months.

The latest occurred in Basilan where several employees of Basilan Electric Co. were kidnapped in Tuburan town in June. They were released last week.

Jumoad said the threats have been taking its toll on the members of his parish. He said it has been “very frustrating” for him and the community to live and work under an atmosphere of fear.

Basilan, a part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, has a population of 400,000. Seventy-percent of the residents are Muslims.

According to the bishop, one parish member told him that he could not sleep because of the death threats.

“It is okay to be poor and I could endure having no food for a day or two but to receive a threat such as this is miserable. This is something psychological. To spend sleepless nights due to threats would be more dangerous than to have no food and to be poor,” he said.

The bishop said he would discuss with the leadership of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines the security situation in Basilan. On Monday, Jumoad said he would meet with the members of the parish to consider their next move.

Jumoad said he earlier told the provincial police and the soldiers in the area about their situation, but no help came. The provincial police chief, he said, told him that he was also in a bind as he could not go to areas where the suspected extremists were. “The provincial police director should be replaced. He is not doing anything,” he said.

“We hope the military and police will work hard to maintain the peace and order here,” he added.(Kristine Alave; INQ.net)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Comelec: Suspension of ARMM polls not our call

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Friday that suspending the scheduled Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) elections rests on legislators and not the poll body.

"Mahirap tugunan ang panawagan ng pag-postpone ng elections sa ARMM dahil nakabase ito sa batas… unless siguro may legislative intervention. Otherwise, wala tayo magagawa e (It is hard to adhere to the call to suspend the ARMM polls since it (elections) is based on law. Unless there is legislative intervention, the scheduled polls will push through)," said Comelec spokesman James Jimenez.

Jimenez said that at present, the Comelec is almost finished with its preparation for the coming August 11 polls.

Still, he stressed that should there be a legislative measure that would call for the postponement of the ARMM polls, the Comelec would have no choice but to suspend the automated polls.

Earlier in the day, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) called on the government to postpone the ARMM elections scheduled this August 11, claiming that pushing through with the balloting would affect the ongoing peace negotiations.

Mohagher Iqbal, chief negotiator for the MILF, said that pushing through with the election would "create the impression that the government is not really serious in the present talks and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is not really determined to wind up the talks during her term of office."

He said it will also postpone the start of the transition to the future Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) once the government and the MILF sign the Comprehensive Compact, saying elected local officials of the ARMM will have to finish first their term of office in 2011.

"Other local officials in the provinces, municipalities or cities purported to be included in the area of the BJE will finish their terms of office in 2010. President Arroyo's term would end in June 2010," Iqbal said in a statement. - (GMANews.TV)

Friday, July 18, 2008

MILF deal may expand ARMM

Bangsamoro Homeland may include 5 other provinces

A plebiscite will determine the composition of the new territory to be considered the ancestral homeland of three million Moros in Mindanao, which it is hoped would result from a peace agreement between the government and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), according to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s adviser on the peace process.

The “projected” territory referred to as the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity is the “current” Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which may be expanded to include 712 barangays (villages) in five provinces in Central Mindanao, Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Thursday.

He said the five provinces were Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Zamboanga-Sibugay and Palawan.

“The MILF has agreed that additions to the present ARMM will be subject to the conduct of a plebiscite... We promised to cause the [conduct] of the plebiscite six months after the signing of the MOA (memorandum of agreement),” Esperon told reporters.

He said the two panels would meet on July 24 to determine the formal signing date of the MOA, and the formal peace talks—which had stalled on the issue of ancestral domain—would resume after that.

“Whether it will take one month or one year, we don’t know. But we would like to build on the goodwill that has been built,” said Esperon, a former Armed Forces chief of staff.

But Fr. Eliseo Mercado, OMI, a former member of the government panel in peace talks with Moro rebel groups, said he was “90 percent” certain that a final peace agreement with the MILF would be signed this year.

75-25 sharing
Esperon said the two panels had also agreed that the jurisdiction and control of resources found within 15 kilometers from the shoreline would be with the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

“Beyond that, there will be joint control in the sharing of these critical resources, primarily fuel, oil and other such critical minerals,” he said.

The sharing will be 75 percent for the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity and 25 percent for the government, he said.

As for land resources, Esperon said there were “existing arrangements,” and pointed out that the ARMM had its own Department of Natural and Environment Resources.

Esperon said there should be “some unification” between the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) regarding the issue on ancestral domain.

He declined to comment on how this could be attained.

The ARMM, composed of the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Shariff Kabunsuan, was created after the Philippine government entered into a peace agreement with the MNLF.

Breakthrough
At informal talks in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, the government and the MILF reached a breakthrough in efforts to resume the peace talks.

The two panels agreed to drop the word “freedom” in reaching a deal to create an ancestral homeland for Muslims in Mindanao, and settled for the phrase “aspiration of the Bangsamoro people.”

In the earlier wording of the agreement, the MILF sought to “permanently address the aspirations of the Bangsamoro for freedom.”

The unofficial, draft agreement will thus read: “The recognition and peaceful resolution of the conflict must involve consultations with the Bangsamoro people free of any imposition in order to provide chances of success and open new formulas that permanently respond to the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people.”

Esperon said the wording on ancestral domain would be negotiated once the peace talks resume.

He said the word “freedom,” which basically was about governance, was one of four contentious issues between the government and MILF panels in the peace talks.

He said the three other issues were jurisdiction and control of natural resources, the kind of organization to be established to “enable” the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity “to function efficiently,” and “the matter of providing for a clause proposed by the Philippine side that all these agreements must conform with the Constitution ... or with the legal framework of the Philippines.”

Big difference
Father Mercado, who now heads the peace advocacy group Kusog Mindanao, told radio station dxND in Kidapawan City that the agreement on the choice of words could spell a big difference in the peace talks.

But he warned that the agreement did not automatically resolve all the issues hounding the peace process with the MILF.

“The MOA on ancestral domain is not the comprehensive agreement, as what others [think]. It will only pave the way for the resumption of formal peace talks,” Mercado said.

MILF civil-military affairs chief Eid Kabalu told Inquirer Mindanao on the phone that the separatist group was also optimistic about the signing of a final peace deal.

But he said this would depend on how fast the panels could agree on the issues pending resolution.

Still, Kabalu admitted that the Kuala Lumpur agreement resolved some of the stickiest issues that had been stalling the peace talks.

Possible federal state
Esperon said the new territory would cover a “considerable” land area.

If the residents agree to be included in the new territory through the plebiscite, their barangays or towns will comprise an expanded ARMM.

Esperon said the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity “would take a form more advanced than that of an autonomous region, and this could take the form of a federal state.”

An amendment in the 1987 Constitution may also be necessary depending on “the provisions of the peace agreement,” he said, adding:

“A federal state is not allowed within our current legal framework, and so if we go through that, then the agreement will not be executory until we have the enabling act which could come in the form of a constitution.”

Interviewed over dzBB in Manila, President Arroyo gave thanks for the agreement made by the two panels in Kuala Lumpur.

“Yes, praise God, yes, praise God,” she said.

She added that a peace deal could be concluded soon because the clashing views on ancestral domain had been resolved.

Ms Arroyo also said that “once a lasting peace is achieved in Mindanao, a speedy and lasting ... development will ensue.”

She said that while certain areas in Mindanao were “very, very productive,” some parts were “very, very deprived” because these were “torn by armed conflicts.”

Resistance
In Kidapawan City, the provincial board of North Cotabato passed a resolution opposing the inclusion of the province in the proposed expanded ARMM.

In the resolution, the provincial board also authorized North Cotabato Gov. Jesus Sacdalan to file a case with the Supreme Court in the event the province is identified as part of the projected Moro territory.

“The people of North Cotabato already spoke in 2001 when they opposed the inclusion of the province in the ARMM,” Vice Gov. Emmanuel Piñol said.

Piñol said North Cotabato’s opposition was based on documents indicating that the province was one of the areas being considered for inclusion in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

Moro assignment
Esperon said another important development in the peace process with the MILF was the appointment of a Moro as head of the government team in the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), a body formed by the government and the MILF to address the prevalence of organized crime in Mindanao.

Brig. Gen. Muhammad Nur Askalani replaced Brig. Gen. Ben Dolorfino, the Marine Corps chief, in the AHJAG.

“I know he can handle this job well, knowing his experience,” Dolorfino said of his successor, who is also deputy commander of the military’s Western Mindanao Command.

Said Esperon: “Askalani is the first Tausug to become a general in the Philippine Army, and with his vast experience in Mindanao, I have no doubt that he can perform well for the Bangsamoro people.”

Askalani hails from the fishing village of Lugus Island in Sulu, a depressed province in the ARMM, which is always known as the hotbed of the Moro rebellion. (With reports from Julie S. Alipala, Edwin O. Fernandez and Dennis Jay C. Santos, Inquirer Mindanao; Michael Lim Ubac in Manila)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Supreme Court voids creation of Shariff Kabunsuan

The Supreme Court has declared the creation of the province of Shariff Kabunsuan in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao void and ruled that the power of ARMM’s legislature to create provinces and cities is unconstitutional.

The SC, in an 8-6 vote, declared void Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Act 201, which created the province of Shariff Kabunsuan, which was carved out of Maguindanao province.

“Only Congress can create provinces and cities because the creation of provinces and cities necessarily includes the creation of legislative districts,” the 33-page decision penned by Justice Antonio Carpio reads.

The SC ruling said that creation of province or a city “inherently involves the power to create a legislative district.” Creating a province or a city without creating a legislative district, the decision said, is unconstitutional because the Constitution mandates that a province or a city with at least 250,000 inhabitants is entitled to at least one representative.

The ruling said that only Congress can create or reapportion a legislative district. “Congress exercises these powers through a law that the Congress itself enacts and not through a law that a regional or local legislative bodies enact.”

The Regional Legislative Assembly, ARMM’s law-making body enacted on Aug. 28, 2006 MMAA 201, which created Shariff Kabunsuan by separating eight municipalities from the first district of Maguindanao-- Barira, Buldon, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Kabuntalan, Matanog, Parang, Sultan Kudarat, Sultan Mastura and Upi. It was ratified in a plebiscite on October 29, 2006.

More LGUs
The now-defunct province of Shariff Kabunsuan was composed of 11 towns after RLA created three new towns—Sultan Mastura, Northern Kabuntalan and Datu Blah Sinsuat—from the province’s three existing plan.

The SC decision also declared unconstitutional the RLA’s power to create provinces and cities in the region but it did not pass upon the constitutionality of the creation of new municipalities and barangays.

“The creation of such municipalities and barangays does not involve the creation of legislative district,” the ruling reads.

Under Republic Act No. 9140 or the Expanded ARMM Law, the RLA has the power to create new LGUs and to set its own criteria in creating, dividing, merging, or abolishing LGUs. LGUs created by the Expanded ARMM Law that do not meet the standards of the LGC are not entitled to the share in the national taxes collected by the national government and depend only on the general funds of the ARMM regional government.

This provision of the ARMM law has been criticized because it results in the creation of smaller and non-viable local government units. In recent years, the number of LGUs in the region has swelled. In December 2005, the region was composed only of 5 provinces, 101 municipalities, and 2,461 barangays. Since then, one province (Shariff Kabunsuan), 12 municipalities, and nine barangays have been created.

Local officials in the region said that this process has improved the peace situation because it helps avoid rido or clan wars by giving every political family a territory to govern. (Jesus F. Llanto; abs-cbnnews.com)

Agreement reached with MILF on homeland issue

The Philippine government and the separatist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have finally settled the contentious homeland issue that has been plaguing the resumption of peace negotiations for months.

This was according to Presidential Peace Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr, who said Wednesday night that government peace panel head Rodolfo Garcia and MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal have just signed the minutes of the executive session held in Kuala Lumpur.

"It is now final that they have settled the issue in the draft memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain," Esperon said.

He added that the development is a major breakthrough in the seven-year old peace talks aimed at putting an end to the more than four decades of bloody fighting in Mindanao.

The ancestral domain covers the whole Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and other Muslim-dominated areas in Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani provinces.

Esperon said both parties have agreed to meet on July 24 to finalize the date on the formal signing of the draft MOA.

“The signing of the MOA will pave the way for the resumption of the peace talks," Esperon said.

He added that President Arroyo has already been informed about the development and was "very happy" about it.

The agreement was reached more than a month after President Arroyo appointed Esperon as peace adviser replacing Jesus Dureza, who is now press secretary.

Esperon, a former military chief, last month vowed to pursue the peace talks with the MILF and sign a peace deal before President Arroyo's term ends on 2010.

Aside from Iqbal, the MILF contingent in the meeting were composed of lawyer Datu Michael Mastura, Roberto Maulana Alonto, and Mike Pasigan. Lawyers Leah Armamento and Sedfrey Candelaria, on the other hand, joined Garcia in representing the government.

Negotiations between the government and the MILF have been stalled for months due to disagreements over what authority the secessionist group would exercise over the areas they claim as their ancestral homeland.

A statement from the MILF website said both panels have already spent three years and seven months in their discussion of ancestral domain.

MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said they are optimistic that the talks would lead to a peaceful solution to the Muslim secessionist problems in Mindanao.

"We have repeatedly said that we are for a peaceful solution of the problems in Mindanao. We have opened the door in order for the talks to push through and for both sides to arrive at a viable formula that will benefit us all, all for peace in Mindanao," he said. (Al Jacinto, GMANews.TV)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

‘Halal’ cuisine to lure Muslim tourists to RP spots

Making halal cuisine readily available in tourist destinations will encourage more tourists from Muslim countries to visit the Philippines.

This is according to officials of the Department of Tourism (DOT), who on Tuesday stressed the need to intensify the promotion and availability of halal food.

Halal food would help the country get a bigger share of the global Muslim tourist market, said Tourism Secretary Ace Durano.

“There is a need to make our Muslim tourists and travelers more welcome by having more establishments cater to their dietary requirements,” Durano said in a statement.

The DOT co-sponsored the recent National Halal Convention held at the Philippine Trade Training Center in Pasay City.

The two-day event gathered 600 local and national government officials, Muslim religious leaders and experts, food manufacturers and exporters, certification professionals, local and international civic group representatives and diplomats to discuss issues on improving the production of and access to halal food in key consumer areas in the country.

“The department is striving to help make halal cuisine available in our tourist destinations in anticipation of the influx of travelers from Malaysia and the Gulf States,” said DOT director for product research and development, Elizabeth Nelle.

The department implements a country-wide program that advocates the preparation and presentation of halal meals and food products in hotels, restaurants, resorts and airlines. (INQ.net)

MILF leader warns against arming civilians

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines — The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Tuesday appealed to local government executives in Mindanao to be careful in issuing statements that tend to provoke hostilities, such as calls to arm civilians.

Eid Kabalu, MILF civil-military affairs chief, feared such calls might resurrect the Christian-led Ilaga paramilitary group in the 1970s.

The Ilaga was blamed for the Manili massacre in North Cotabato province, where 65 Moro men, women and children were killed inside a mosque at the time. The years that ensued fanned bloody skirmishes between the Ilaga and Moros known as Blackshirts.

"These recent calls to arm the civilian population... tends to spark animosities [between Christians and Muslims]," Mr. Kabalu said.

Mayor Manuel M. Rabara of Midsayap in North Cotabato and North Cotabato Vice-Governor Emmanuel F. Piñol have separately called for the arming of civilians in their area, saying that civilians should be allowed to defend themselves from "marauding MILF fighters."

But Mr. Kabalu said such provocative statement may influence the mind-set of the local officials’ constituencies.

The pronouncement of Mr. Kabalu, however, apparently runs counter to an earlier statement by a fellow MILF leader, Muhammad Ameen, chairman of the front’s central committee secretariat, who seemed to favor arming the civilians. (gmatv.net)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"We need every type of job candidates here."

"These aren't just hot jobs, they're sizzling jobs," said Christine Real de Azua, spokeswoman for the American Wind Energy Association. Wind energy grew by 45 percent last year. "We need every type of job candidate."

Indeed, with oil topping $100 per barrel, expect power industry jobs to explode in the next 10 years -- and not just in petroleum or the electric company. Want to repair wind turbines, manage a nuclear reactor or install solar panels? The jobs await.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and energy leaders reveal what fields are expected to grow, and they are listed below with projected growth levels through 2016, salary data, and what you need to get a related job.

Engineers
11 percent projected growth
$44,790-$145,600 annually, depending on specialty

"We're experiencing a comeback in 'dirty jobs,'" said Chris McCormick, partner and head of the energy division of venture capital firm Landmark Ventures. "While a few years ago, what we wanted were the 'clean' jobs in computer engineering, now we're back to the types of engineers who get their hands dirty with chemistry and broad-application engineering."

Chemical engineers who work with biofuels, electrical engineers who design power plants, mechanical engineers who find better ways to capture air and wind energy, and nuclear engineers who make plants run more efficiently will all be in high demand -- with salaries to match. While some engineers, like chemical engineers, may need a PhD to do their jobs, most others, like environmental engineers, only require a bachelor's degree in physics or engineering, according to the BLS.

Nuclear Power Reactor Operators
11 percent projected growth
$35,590-$75,240 annually

"When I got out of college, people told me, 'Go do other things.' The conventional wisdom was that nuclear power was going to go away," said Carol Berrigan, senior director for industry infrastructure at the Nuclear Energy Institute. "But now, with some regulatory changes, we have something like nine applications out there for 16 new nuclear power plants in the next few years."

Which jobs will grow fastest? Think Homer Simpson, but with more computer knowledge and less buffoonery. On top of the billions of dollars the industry is spending on new construction, the field's employees are aging: In the next 10 years, half of all nuclear reactor operators are expected to retire. You don't need to have an engineering degree for these jobs, but you should expect extensive on-the-job training and classroom instruction as well as licensing exams, according to the BLS.

Industrial Machinery Mechanic
9 percent projected growth
$42,350 median annual income

Someone's got to install the solar panels and repair wind turbines, and industrial machinery mechanics are often the ones who get the jobs. In solar, Tioga Energy's Executive Vice President Preston Roper said the biggest demand is for solar installers.

Both Roper and Real de Azua said local community colleges are the places to go to get the training necessary for the jobs. Many are offering specialized training in solar or wind repair work.

Skilled Trade Workers
Electricians: 7 percent projected growth
$44,780 median annual income

Line Workers: 7 percent projected growth
$52,570 median annual income

Welders: 5 percent projected growth
$32,270 median annual income

These workers repair the lines that bring power to your home and build and repair power plant structures. Want one of these jobs? Usually you don't need post-high school education, but you will need an apprenticeship through a union or other skilled trade group. The programs usually take about four years. (Yahoo! Hotjobs)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Proposals to arm N Cotabato citizens meet opposition

KIDAPAWAN CITY, Philippines – Proposals to arm civilians as part of a defense plan against rebel attacks met opposition Monday from different sectors Monday.

Sultan Kudarat Suharto Teng Mangudadatu, chair of the RPOC, said that ‘mobilizing’ villagers will only worsen the situation.

Mangudadatu cited an incident in Kalamansig, one of the coastal towns in Sultan Kudarat, where the local government officials acted as mediators between the warring families to ease the tension instead of deploying additional Army troops in the area.

There were at least three resolutions passed during the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) meeting held Monday at the capitol rooftop of the Cotabato Provincial Capitol here that urged local government units (LGUs) in North Cotabato towns affected by the recent skirmishes to provide ammunitions to civilians.

One of these resolutions was authored by Cotabato vice-governor Manny Pinol who chairs the provincial board; the other two were passed by Aleosan Mayor Loreto Cabaya and Midsayap Mayor Manuel Rabara.

Midsayap and Aleosan were two of the six towns recently attacked by the Moro rebels.

Cabaya, during the RPOC meeting, said that arming civilians will protect the communities from any Moro Islamic Liberation Front attack.

But Presidential adviser on the peace process Hermogenes Esperon stressed during the meeting that arming civilians will not guarantee total ‘peace’ in an area.

“This is because firearms can be used to commit other crimes. This can be abused," he said.

Chief Supt. Felizardo Serapio, regional police director, said that arming civilians “is not that easy."

“It has to go through a process," he stressed. - (Malu Cadelina Manar, GMANews.TV)

Miss Venezuela is Miss Universe 2008

NHA TRANG, Vietnam - Miss Venezuela was crowned Miss Universe 2008 on Monday in a contest marked by the spectacle of Miss USA falling down during the evening gown competition for the second year in a row.

An elated Dayana Mendoza received the crown from her predecessor, Riyo Mori of Japan, and then prepared to meet a gaggle of reporters. Miss Venezuela, 22, was once kidnapped in her homeland and says the experience taught her to remain poised under pressure.

Tension got under the skin of Crystle Stewart of Texas, the second Miss USA in a row to fall down during the Miss Universe pageant. She tripped on the train of her bejeweled evening gown as she made her entrance.

During the 2007 Miss Universe contest in Mexico City, Miss USA Rachel Smith also tumbled during the evening gown competition and became an unintended star on You Tube, where the video was shown over and over again.

Like Smith, Stewart quickly stood up after her fall and continued on as if nothing had happened.

Stewart, 26, is a motivational speaker and former track and filed star who is working on a book called "Waiting to Win." The Houston native plans to open a character-development school for young children and has worked with autism victims in the Texas schools.

The final five contestants included four from Latin America: Miss Mexico, Miss Dominican Republic, Miss Colombia and Miss Venezuela. Rounding out the final five was Miss Russia.

Miss Colombia finished second behind Mendoza.

Miss Thailand won the prize for best national costume and Miss El Salvador was chosen by her peers as Miss Congeniality.

During her interview with the judges, Mendoza was asked who she thought has it easier in life, women or men.

"God made us to share and have differences," she replied, then highlighted what she regards as the different thought processes of men and women.

"Men think that the faster way to go to a point is to go straight," she said. "Women know that the faster way to go to a point is to go to the curves."

The NBC show was hosted by talk show star Jerry Springer and Spice Girl Melanie Brown and broadcast live to hundreds of millions of viewers in 170 countries.

Eighty contestants gathered in the seaside city of Nha Trang, Vietnam, vying to succeed reigning Miss Universe Riyo Mori of Japan.

Sporting yellow, green and orange bikinis, the 15 semifinalists strutted across the stage during the swimsuit competition to the sounds of Lady Gaga, who belted out the pulsating "Just Dance" in a platinum blond wig. Miss Vietnam, Lam Thuy Nguyen, was greeted with a roar from the Vietnamese audience.

The final 10 then competed in the evening gown event.

They performed in front of a panel of judges that included international fashion experts and Donald Trump Jr., whose father, the real estate magnate and TV star, co-owns the pageant with NBC.

This year's contestants spanned a wide range of experiences and aspirations.

Miss Albania was a professional basketball player. Miss Argentina says she has paranormal experiences. Miss Antigua & Barbuda is fascinated by snakes. Miss Angola was in a plane crash while trying to escape a conflict during her country's civil war.

The show has been a publicity bonanza for Vietnam, where beauty contests are very popular. The contest featured segments on many of the nation's most popular tourist destinations, such as Hue, Hoi An, Sapa and Ha Long Bay.

The program set has been dominated by iconic Vietnamese images, such as bamboo trees, conical hats and lotus flowers.

The tuxedoed Springer made a grand entrance on a motorbike — the vehicle of choice in Vietnam where the streets are teeming with millions of the speeding two-wheelers. (Associated Press)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

MILF-MNLF merger in the works--peace adviser

LAMITAN CITY, BASILAN -- Is a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)-Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) merger in the offing?

Peace Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who visited the province on Friday, said the soon-to-resume peace talks with the MILF might include the merging of the two Moro forces or at least "a unity of purpose" that would see them presenting a united front in the ongoing government-MILF negotiations.

"In the upcoming peace talks, we are looking forward to the unity of purpose between the MNLF and the MILF… meaning the two fronts agree to sit as one for the agreement," Esperon said.

"I could not imagine two different agreements here. Since both parties are for the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people, merging is alright as we are dealing with the issue of unity of purpose here," he added.

Hatimil Hassan, a candidate for the regional assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), earlier admitted that the MNLF initiated talks with the MILF for a possible merger in a meeting held in Kuala Lumpur in August 2001.

The Kuala Lumpur meeting, Hassan explained, was about the law which created the ARMM, but the contentious issues of the MILF, particularly the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, were also discussed.

Hasan said the MILF also wanted to include areas covered under the ARMM in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

The 2001 meeting also gave birth to the umbrella group for the two fronts, the Bangsamoro Solidarity Movement.

"Our (MNLF) position here is that provided there is coordination between the MILF and MNLF, then the issue of constitutional process could be resolved under the 1996 peace agreement, provided MILF and MNLF can coordinate with each other and perhaps sit down together and have one position in negotiating with the Philippine government," Hassan said.

"It may be difficult for the MNLF and MILF to come together to be united. They can remain separate organizations but can have one negotiating position," Hassan added.

He revealed that MNLF chair Nur Misuari had a "lengthy talk" with Ghazali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs, during Misuari's recent trips to Central Mindanao.

Esperon said peace talks with the MILF would resume within July.

"The process is moving very fast. We have been having proposals and counterproposals since June. After some lengthy legal studies, we are positive and we are very optimistic that we might be getting some agreements very soon," he said.

Esperon urged the leadership of the MILF and the MNLF to sit down and "work out among them the issue of unity with purpose."

"I could predict and could sense they have unity of purpose for the good of the Bangsamoro People," he said. (Julie Alipala, INQ.net)