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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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

MILF denies report on Kato death

COTABATO CITY—The military said it had received reports indicating that Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader Ombra Kato was killed in a skirmish with government troops in Maguindanao last week.

However, a ranking MILF official denied this.

Col. Marlou Salazar, commander of the Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade, said intelligence reports said Kato, who carries a P10-million price on his head for staging attacks on villages in North Cotabato in August, died from gunshot wounds.

“We have information about it, we are verifying it,” Salazar said.

But Eid Kabalu, MILF civil-military affairs chief, laughed-off the reports.

“We have no report on that, as far as I know, he is alive and is somewhere in his area of responsibility,” he said.

It was the second time that Kato, head of the MILF 105th base command and one of three MILF field commanders described by the military as “rogue” for disobeying the MILF chain of command, had been reported dead.

Last month, a similar report also surfaced but Kato, in a video shot by the MILF, dispelled rumors of his death.

Salazar said the military was not saying it was certain that Kato had indeed been killed.

“That’s why we said we are still verifying it,” he said when asked late Friday afternoon if they had already ascertained the veracity of the reports.

Salazar claimed that while Kato might still be alive, his group’s capability to launch attacks against the military had been greatly reduced because of the ground and air assaults against MILF lairs in Maguindanao and nearby areas.

Kato’s group was linked to the recent raid on the town of Senator Ninoy Aquino in Sultan Kudarat.

At least six civilians, including a newborn baby, were killed in the attack that took place on Dec. 24, according to Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, spokesperson of the military’s 6th Infantry Division.

Ando identified five of the fatalities as Ibey Bugtong, 30; Dandan Bugtong, 6; Buling Ikog, 45; Aysa Buling, 45; Baylan Sabing, 22; and the 15-day-old infant. The victims were members of a Manobo community.

The MILF attacks prompted the military to launch air and ground offensives in the area.

Ando could not say if the rebels suffered casualties during the military offensive. He doubted the accuracy of local newspaper reports saying about 14 MILF were killed in that operation.

As this developed, government security forces captured an alleged bomb expert with links to the MILF during a raid in Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat on Dec. 24.

Supt. Joel Limson, Tacurong City police chief identified the suspect as Badrudin Ambao Balawag, 45.

“He is a suspect in previous attacks in the region (Central Mindanao). A fragmentation grenade was also recovered from his possession,” Limson said.

However, Kabalu denied that Balawag had ties with the MILF.

Kabalu accused the military of creating a scenario to block the resumption of peace talks that did not push through in August. (By Edwin Fernandez and Jeoffrey Maitem; INQ.net)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Suspected MILF members bomb gym

Suspected members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) bombed a gymnasium in Polomolok, South Cotabato Sunday night.

No one was hurt in the incident, a police official said.

Two unidentified men fired the roof of the Polomolok Municipal Gym using a rifle grenade at 7:45 p.m. and quickly fled. Senior Superintendent Robert Kuinisala, South Cotabato provincial police chief, said.

Initial investigation showed that suspected MILF members, under a certain Commander Wahid Aminola, were behind the incident. Kuinisala said the incident was reportedly a form of “retaliation” after police served a search warrant against Aminola in six homes located in Purok 1, Barangay (village) Sumbakil in the same town last December 23.

Confiscated during the search were one M79 grenade launcher and one Garand rifle, Kuinisala said.(By Abigail Kwok; INQ.net)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

DAR chief’s son, 5 bodyguards face charges for alleged mauling of 2 golfers

The Antipolo police said Saturday that they would file physical injuries charges against the son of Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman Sr. and five bodyguards for beating up two golfers at the Valley Golf and Country Club in Antipolo on Friday afternoon.

Facing charges are DAR chief’s son Nasser Pangandaman Jr., who is mayor of Masiu in Lanao del Sur, and his five bodyguards, a report on DZBB said.

They were accused by Delfin de la Paz, 56. De la Paz claimed that Pangandaman and his bodyguard mauled him and his 14-year-old son after a brief spat inside the golf course.

Meanwhile, GMANews.TV learned that Pangandaman Jr has filed a counter-complaint against his accuser at the police station in Mayamot, Antipolo.

Bombo Radyo reported that Pangandaman Jr filed physical injuries and grave threats against De la Paz. The DAR chief’s son claimed he was hit with an umbrella by De la Paz during a commotion.

The lead investigator of the case said they found out that only Pangandaman Jr. and the five bodyguards took part in the mauling of De la Paz. Earlier reports said the elder Pangandaman also hurt De la Paz.

De la Paz, however, told DZBB in a separate interview that he was not sure if the DAR chief hurt him during the melee.

“In fairness sa DAR chief, parang hindi ako sigurado kung naki-tadyak siya kasi bumagsak na ako at hindi ko masyadong makita kung kasama siya," De la Paz said.

(In fairness to the DAR chief, I’m not sure if he kicked me because I was already down and could not see very well.)

Radio dzRH earlier reported that the De la Paz family filed on Friday night a complaint with the Antipolo police for physical injuries and violation of the law protecting women and minors.

De la Paz said he was with his 14-year-old son Bino and 18-year-old daughter Bambi at the golf course when the incident happened at about 1 p.m.

He said the Pangandaman father and son overtook them at one of the holes, prompting him to ask a marshal to have them get back in line, but when they were playing at the fifth hole, Pangandaman Jr allegedly voiced impatience with his slow playing.

He said at the bodyguards of Pangandaman Jr beat him up and his 14-year-old son who tried to pacify the attackers. De la Paz said his daughter desperately tried to stop the attack.

After the scuffle, De la Paz said he and his children trudged back to the clubhouse but the Pangandaman, with their bodyguards, followed them.

Pangandaman Jr also reportedly poked a finger at De la Paz’s 14-year-old son and said, “tatandaan kita (I will remember you)."

Moreover, when his elder son and wife arrived at the clubhouse with baseball bats, the Pangandaman Jr’s bodyguards allegedly drew handguns.

Pangandaman Jr said he talked with the elder De la Paz in a nice way but the man hit him instead with an umbrella and hurled invectives and twice challenged him to a fight.

De la Paz admitted hitting one of the Pangandaman’s men with the tip of an umbrella in self-defense as he was being ganged upon.

However, the De la Paz family has said that they won’t be intimidated by Pangandaman and that they will pursue the criminal complaint against them.

Meanwhile, the Antipolo police said they are still gathering information from witnesses regarding the incident. (Kim Tan, GMANews.TV)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

14 MILF rebels killed in military offensive

COTABATO CITY – The military reported killing 14 suspected Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels yesterday in the manhunt for the MILF guerrillas who attacked three towns in Sultan Kudarat, killing nine villagers on Christmas eve.

On Christmas Day, five people were wounded in separate grenade attacks in President Quirino town in the province, officials said yesterday.

Two men riding tandem on a motorcycle hurled a grenade at a house in Tacurong City, wounding three people.

Two more people were injured when unidentified men fired rocket grenades at a restaurant in the city several hours later.

Regional Army spokesman Lt. Col. Julieto Ando said the rebels led by Wahid Tundok and Basit Usman fired rockets and mortars on the troops, triggering a two-hour gun battle in two villages in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao.

Ando said the MILF rebels earlier attacked an Army detachment in nearby Datu Saudi Ampatuan town.

Local officials said eight rebels were killed after troops responded with grenade and mortars.

Two of the slain rebels were identified only as Manan and Odin, both killed during the mortar barrage.

Six more rebels were killed by government troops when they attacked a detachment in Aleosan, North Cotabato.

Ando said military forces tightened security in some areas in Central Mindanao due to persistent intelligence reports that MILF rebels would attack more Christian villages and worship sites on New Year’s Day.

“The 6th ID (Army’s 6th Infantry Division) is not taking chances. These renegade MILF rebels are known for their disrespect of their central committee and for already being detached from their chain of command. They are loose cannons now,” Ando said.

Sporadic clashes between MILF forces and soldiers were also reported to have occurred at the border of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces, according to Ando.

Ando said more soldiers have been fielded along main roads in Central Mindanao to prevent MILF forces from harassing commuters and motorists.

Ando said the Army’s 75th Infantry Battalion has been deployed to Sen. Benigno Aquino town in Sultan Kudarat to block the MILF forces behind the attacks last Christmas eve.

The attacks came at a time when the military claimed to have drastically reduced the capability of the MILF to mount large-scale offensives.

Ando said the attacks were an attempt by the group to show their strength in the light of renewed efforts to revive the scuttled peace talks between the government and the MILF.

Following the incident, Ando said soldiers would intensify their combat operations and pursue the attackers.

Ando said the attacks are the fulfillment of the rebel group’s warning that they would retaliate for the military offensives allegedly launched by government forces during the holy month of Ramadan.

Armed Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres said the military would continue to confront the MILF threat.

“The (MILF) have once again attacked villages. They are observed to be operating in large-scale formations. The military shall confront these lawless groups in accordance with these recent developments,” Torres said.

He added the AFP has succeeded in degrading the manpower and logistics of the MILF.

The situation on the ground remains fluid, however, forcing troops to make tactical adjustments in the face of the prevailing situation, Torres said.

“In warfare, strategies vary and it may vary in the middle of battle,” he pointed out.

‘Anti-Christmas’

The military had launched air and ground offensives against the MILF rebels behind the Christmas eve attacks.

Col. Marlou Salazar, commander of the Army’s 601st Brigade, said the MILF led by Commander Jakiri harassed Manobo villagers in Ninoy Aquino town in Sultan Kudarat, forcing them to leave their village at gunpoint while the rebels ransacked their houses.

Three barangays in Ninoy Aquino and two villages in Kalamansig town fell under the control of the MILF after the attack.

Initial reports said the rebels killed six Manobo villagers, including a newborn baby.

Officials said the rebels retreated to Palimbang town, also in Sultan Kudarat, just as government troops arrived with two OV-10 bomber planes.

Fr. Joel Canonizado, a parish priest in Ninoy Aquino, said about 450 families took shelter in two public schools in the town center.

“We appeal for immediate food assistance to the evacuees,” Canonizado said.

“I am sad with this incident, it happened during Christmas where we are supposed to be at peace in our homes,” he said.

Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad, for his part, said the attacks in Sultan Kudarat, Cotabato and Basilan might have been coordinated by what he called “anti-Christmas” groups.

Considering the timing of the consecutive terrorist attacks, Jumoad stressed he is not discounting the possibility that the three brutal incidents could be related.

Jumoad said the attack in Basilan last Dec. 23 was intended to “sow fear so Catholics would not attend the Misa de Gallo.”

It was meant as a signal to the public and the authorities that they are still capable of mounting a terrorist attack, he said.

At least 26 people were injured when grenades were hurled near a fastfood outlet near Sta. Isabel Cathedral in Isabela, Basilan.

Authorities suspect Abu Sayyaf extremists were behind the attacks.

The following day, Dec. 24, as people were busy preparing for their Christmas eve dinner, MILF rebels attacked three towns in the provinces of Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat, leaving nine people dead and eight others wounded.

“I think they (the attacks) could be connected because the aim was to sow fear and terror,” Jumoad said.

Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma also expressed concern over the series of bombing incidents in Mindanao.

“Here in Mindanao, we pray for peace and the resumption of the peace talks to bring about lasting peace in Mindanao,” Ledesma said.

This developed as suspected Abu Sayyaf extremists attacked two Marine detachments in Patikul, Sulu on Christmas Day.

“The Abu Sayyaf group took advantage, thinking the soldiers were hanging out after the celebration on Christmas eve,” Western Mindanao Command spokeswoman 1Lt. Steffani Cacho said.

Cacho said troops from the 5th Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT) in Barangay Taglibi were able to repel the attackers, forcing them to retreat.

The bandits escaped but they torched the Datu Uddin Bajim Central Elementary School to divert pursuit operations.

Cacho said the bandits then staged another attack at a Marine detachment in Barangay Danag.

“The bandits were also repelled. They took advantage of Christmas eve but the soldiers have been on alert,” Cacho said.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or injuries on both sides. –(With James Mananghaya, Roel Pareño, Evelyn Macairan - By John Unson; Philstar News Service, www.philstar.com)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Blasts rock Cotabato bus terminal

COTABATO CITY, Philippines--Two grenade explosions rocked a Cotabato City bus terminal on Christmas Day, police officials said Thursday.

Senior Superintendent Willie Dangane, Cotabato City police chief, said that at around 8:15 p.m., a still unidentified man onboard a motorcycle hurled two grenades at the Husky Bus Terminal located at Barangay (village) Tamontaka.

The explosion "slightly damaged" three buses but no one was reported injured in the incident, Dangane said.

The suspect, meanwhile, immediately fled in the direction of Datu Odin Sinsuat in Shariff Kabunsuan.

Revenge is being eyed as a possible motive according to Chief Superintendent Felizardo Serapio. An initial investigation revealed that a number of guards were terminated by the company this month. (By Abigail Kwok, Jeoffrey Maitem
INQ.net)

MILF kills 9 villagers in Christmas eve raid

Nine people were killed and eight others were wounded after Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels attacked three towns in the provinces of Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat on Christmas eve, the military reported.

The fatalities and wounded have not yet been identified. The rebels also took hostage farmer Ramil Vicente, his wife and their two children.

Col. Julieto Ando, Army 6th Infantry Division spokesman, said troops have been sent to the scene to pursue the rebels.

Residents of Ninoy Aquino and Kalamansig in Sultan Kudarat province and Alamada in Cotabato province were preparing their noche buena or Christmas eve dinner when the MILF fired a continuous barrage of mortars at the three towns at around 7 p.m. Eight residents were reportedly killed.

Three barangays in Ninoy Aquino and two barangays in Kalamansig remain under MILF control, according to Ando.

In Alamada town, an elderly woman was killed when the MILF fired 60 mm and 81 mm mortars at Barangay Dato at about 10 p.m.

“This is an atrocity against innocent civilians,” Ando said.

At 9 p.m. the MILF fired mortars continuously for 15 minutes at a military detachment in Barangay Gayunga, Northern Kabuntalan town in Shariff Kabunsuan province.

Barangay Gayunga is on the border of Cotabato and Shariff Kabunsuan provinces.

Almost at the same time, the MILF unleashed 17 rounds of 60 mm mortars at a military outpost in Barangay Puyon, Pigcawayan town in Cotabato province.

No injuries were reported in the attacks on the military installations.

Cotabato Gov. Jesus Sacdalan said residents of a barangay fled their homes when armed men attacked Aleosan town in Cotabato province at about 9 p.m. on Christmas eve.

“The attacks came while the people were setting off firecrackers. The attackers timed their attacks during the revelry,” said Alamada Mayor Ernesto Concepcion.

Eight people living near the military detachment in Alamada were taken to the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center after they were hit by flying shrapnel.

However, Eid Kabalu, MILF civil-military chief, denied the military report that they attacked the three towns in Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato provinces.

“All these incidents took place because the MILF were subjected to attacks by the military,” he said.

Kabalu said the MILF had not launched a coordinated offensive on Christmas eve as the military claims.

“In all incidents, we were on defensive mode,” he said.

As many as 400 families fled their homes after the MILF attack, according to social welfare officer Edmund Cordero.

More than 600,000 people were displaced in the fighting, he added.

Maj. Randolph Cabangbang, Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command spokesman, said the attack on barangays Midtungok and Kiadsam in Cotabato province were spearheaded by Guiabar Datu Kali alias Commander 511 and Commander Maxs4.

“The 601st brigade already launched combat operations in the area,” he said. “They have also requested for an air strike against the rebels.”

The MILF is starting to withdraw from the occupied communities, according to Col. Marlou Salazar, Army 601st Infantry Brigade commander.

This was the second time that barangays Midtungok and Kiadsam were occupied since the attacks in Cotabato and Lanao del Norte provinces last August. (By John Unson And James Mananghaya; Philstar News Service, www.philstar.com)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Six civilians killed as suspected Moro rebels attack village

TACURONG CITY, Philippines--Six civilians were killed as suspected Moro rebels stormed a village in Senator Ninoy Aquino town in Sultan Kudarat on Tuesday.

Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, 6th Division spokesperson, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone on Wednesday, that an undetermined number of Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels under the 104th Base Command fired rockets and high powered assorted weapons as they arrived in the village at around 2:30 p.m. Ando said another civilian was wounded.

"We have dispatched troops to the area to hunt down the attackers," Ando said.

Eid Kabalu, MILF civil military affairs chief, denied the military's accusation.

"There was no harassment that happened yesterday. The military is just preempting the situation in the area," Kabalu said on Wednesday.

"Apparently, the residents are apprehensive of possible attacks but I talked to our men on the ground and we found out there was no harassment," Kabalu said.

However, town municipal social welfare officer Edmund Corder said over 400 families left their homes in the village of Midtungo.

The military has been hunting MILF Commander Ameril Umbra Kato who was responsible for the series of attacks in the region.(By Jeoffrey Maitem; INQ.net)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

UN food truck attacked in Lanao; 1 dead

ILIGAN CITY – Unidentified gunmen ambushed a truck contracted by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to deliver food aid in Lanao del Sur Sunday, killing a driver’s aide.

In a press statement, WFP country director Stephen Anderson said the incident happened Sunday evening in Barangay Inoma in Calanogas town.

“WFP strongly deplores the senseless loss of life of an individual who was assisting in the delivery of humanitarian assistance,” Anderson said.

The truck was on its way back to WFP’s warehouse in Cotabato and was already empty when the incident occurred. Two other people in the vehicle were unhurt.

Anderson added that the WFP was working with all concerned government authorities in the investigation of the attack.

He noted that since 2006 when it started providing food support to people displaced by armed conflict in Mindanao, they have encountered “a minimum of security incidents.”

However, he acknowledged that “delivering emergency food assistance in a conflict zone is beset with risks” well known to them.

The agency has been providing food aid to evacuees of the recent skirmishes between government troops and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

WFP official Patricia Artadi-Facultad said the WFP has been told the area where the attack took place was prone to highway robberies.

She said that the truck was traveling alone without a Philippine military escort, as is standard procedure. She said it was the first time an aid worker contracted by the U.N. was killed in the country.

She said, however, that aid operations would continue despite the shooting.

WFP has been supplying tons of rice to about 300,000 Filipinos in Mindanao who fled their homes at the height of fighting in August, when Muslim rebels went on a bloody rampage in the Lanao communities to protest the scrapping of a preliminary peace deal.

The agreement to expand an existing Muslim autonomous region was nullified by the Supreme Court acting on a petition by Christian politicians.

The government has subsequently put peace talks on hold, although it recently indicated it was ready to restart negotiations.

The rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have been fighting for self-rule in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation’s south for decades.

The ambush was a robbery rather than the work of Muslim separatists, the regional military commander said Tuesday.

“There is no involvement by the MILF in the attack,” Colonel Rey Ardo, head of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade, told AFP.

“The motive was just plain robbery.”

Suspicion swiftly fell on the MILF which has been active in the area since August when the Supreme Court ruled against a peace proposal which would have given Muslims their own state.

Ardo said the area where the truck was driving was known to be inhabited by bandit groups who prey on vehicles, particularly those transporting food. (AP; AFP; Ryan D. Rosauro)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hatton buildup for Pacman starts Feb. 1

MANILA, Philippines. British brawler Ricky Hatton will put in close to 13 weeks of training for his May 2 showdown with Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas’ Thomas and Mack Center.

In an interview with www.boxingscene.com, Hatton said he will start working out with trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr. on Feb. 1.

With the fight against Hatton close to being finalized, meanwhile, Pacquiao is reaping accolades following another banner year that was highlighted by a stunning eighth-round technical knockout victory over Oscar De La Hoya on Dec. 6.

Readers of the online edition of Ring Magazine, accessed through www.thering-online.com, voted Pacquiao’s pummeling of De La Hoya in their welterweight clash at the MGM Grand Arena as the Upset of the Year by giving him 68 percent of the votes.

Coming in a far second with 23 percent of the votes was 43-year-old Bernard Hopkins’ triumph over Kelly Pavlik, 26.

Reacting to the result of the poll, Ring Magazine associate editor Michael Rosenthal wrote: “Pacquiao was too small for De La Hoya. But never has a fighter prepared better or executed a game plan better than him (Pacquiao) that night. Simply put: He was magnificent.”

Steve Kim of www.maxboxing.com also selected Pacquiao as his Fighter of the Year and his American trainer, Freddie Roach, as Trainer of the Year.

Pacquiao became the first Asian to win titles in four divisions when he dethroned WBC lightweight champ David Diaz with a ninth-round knockout on June 28.

Hatton, who holds the IBO junior welterweight title, has reiterated his desire to fight Pacquiao.

“Manny has been at the top of my radar since he beat Oscar De La Hoya,” Hatton told Britain’s Sunday Mirror.

“I went in with the best fighter in the world in 2007 when I lost to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and I will do the same when I get in the ring with Manny. Every boxer wants to prove himself against the very best and that is what I have done again and again.” (By Cedelf P. Tupas;INQ.net)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pres. Arroyo basks in at Pacquiao's b-day party

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines—(UPDATE) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo reveled in a lavish birthday-cum-victory bash for hometown hero, Manny Pacquiao, that capped his December 7 sensational conquest of Oscar dela Hoya.

The party at the KCC Mall here, on Wednesday night, opened with booming music and a footage of a busy Pacquiao on the ring on two wide screens beside the stage, and a dance number by "bunny girls,'' setting a Las Vegas-like atmosphere.

After two women and a man in boxing gloves danced in silhouettes to the tune of "Para sa Yo,'' out came Pacquiao through a white box on the stage bedecked with big playing cards with his face on them, and huge differently colored dice.

Pacquiao, wearing a black suit and a blue tie, was ushered into a ring-like platform where he waited for his No. 1 fan. Arroyo, clad in a black pantsuit, arrived at around 7 p.m., sharing the limelight with the boxing hero, and hobnobbing with his guests, including trainer-coach Freddie Roach, and Top Rank boss Bob Arum.

She later sat at the table inside the ringed platform with Pacquiao, Arum, Roach, and Secretary Lito Atienza in the middle of over 100 candle-lit tables in the mall's packed convention hall.

There could have been no better way for her to cap a hectic day. Earlier in the day, she flew from Manila to visit Cotabato City, Sultan Kudarat and Maasim in Saranggani. Pacquiao personally invited Arroyo to his birthday party when he called on her in Malacañang upon his arrival from Las Vegas, Nevada last December 10.

The boxer's mother, Dionisia, later joined Pacquiao and his guests at the table, followed by his father Rosalio, and Deputy National Security Adviser Luis "Chavit'' Singson Jr. "This is not a surprise at all,'' fight promoter Wakee Salud said of the elder Pacquiao's presence at the party.

After his guests had settled on their seats, Pacquiao walked up the stage to blow the candles on his three-tiered brown birthday cake. As soft music played in the background, the more than 1,000 guests – the men in coat and tie or barong Tagalog, and the women in formal dresses, bantered over sumptuous food -- liver bacon pasta, steamed Lapu-lapu, prawns thermidor, chicken galantina and babyback ribs, beer and other drinks.

Pacquiao's pregnant wife, Jinkee, called from Las Vegas to greet him. (By TJ Burgonio;INQ.net)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Principal freed by kidnappers in Sulu

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—A Sulu public school principal was released by his kidnappers Monday night without the payment of ransom, the police confirmed on Tuesday.

Pakkam Hashim, principal of the Kutah Sairap Elementary School, in the village of Wanni Pyanjihan in Parang town, Sulu, was freed on Monday at 7:15 p.m. in the Lanao Dacula village in the same town, said Senior Superintendent Julasirim Kasim, police director of Sulu, on Tuesday afternoon.

Kasim said the police learned during their tactical interrogation of Hashim that no ransom was given to the kidnappers. "He (Hashim) was released through the intervention of community elders," Kasim told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Police were considering a group headed by a certain Gafur Jumdail as suspect in the kidnapping.

Police suspect that the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group is behind the rash of kidnappings in certain parts of Mindanao. (By Julie Alipala; INQ.net)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Snatched Chinese a ‘struggling trader’

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—The Abu Sayyaf Group in Sulu may be thinking it has netted a big fish.

But Chief Superintendent Bensali Jabarani, police chief for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said the Muslim extremists’ latest kidnap victim, Hili Wu alias Peter Go, "is not a rich man."

"He is simple businessman trying out his luck in Sulu," he said.

Senior Superintendent Jularisim Kasim, police chief for Sulu, said police recently discovered that the victim is not a Tausug-Chinese but a 19-year-old Chinese national from Fujian, China.

The victim was reported to have arrived in the island province in July 2007.

"The Wus have a business here. They own a store selling electrical items and appliances," Kasim said.

Hili's father, Jetli, manages the business.

Hili was snatched by at least five armed men in the village of Walled City in the capital town of Jolo last Saturday.

The kidnapping happened two days after Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro went to Sulu to visit government troops.

"President Arroyo gave an explicit instruction to get to the root of kidnapping activities, to flesh them and root them out and to protect the people so they can go on with their lives," Teodoro told soldiers during his visit.

A day after Teodoro's visit, Pakkam Hasim, principal of Kutah Sairap Elementary School, was abducted by three unidentified men in Wanni Piyanjihan village in Parang town.

Two days later, Hili Wu was abducted.

In Hasim's case, Jabarani said, the abduction might have something to do with family feud, police said. (By Julie Alipala; INQ.net)

Military hunting kidnappers of trader, school official

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — Government troops are tracking down two Abu Sayyaf groups which abducted separately a Chinese trader and a ranking public school official over the weekend in Sulu.

Lt. Esteffani A. Cacho, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command, said the bandits, led by Albader Parad, abducted Peter Go while he was opening a store in downtown Jolo on Sunday.

Ms. Cacho said the victim was the owner of Perlas Trading, which sells clothes, appliances and mechanical tools.

“Witnesses said that the victim was forcibly taken right in front of his store by five unidentified fully armed men in camouflage," she said.

Prior to the abduction of Mr. Go, the Abu Sayyaf led by another commander Gafur Jumdail seized Pakkam Hashim, principal of the Kutah Sairap Elementary School in Parang town on Friday.

Ms. Cacho said the military is focusing on the town of Indanan, citing ground reports.

The separate abductions occurred amid the directive of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, through Defense Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro, Jr., to intensify operations against combined Abu Sayyaf and kidnap-for-ransom groups operating in the nearby island-province of Basilan.

Regional security officials have earlier noted an increase in abduction of civilians in the Sulu archipelago this year.

At present, bandits in Basilan are still holding Zamboangueño nursing student Joed Anthony Pilanga and nine-year-old April Nicole Raveche.

Most abductors were said to be minors and not selective of their victims said Marine commandant Maj. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino.

In its continuing manhunt operation, the military has incurred heavy losses. Last week alone, at least five Marines were killed and 36 others wounded in Basilan and Sulu. — (BusinessWorld)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pacquiao statue going up in GenSan

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – Filipino boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao's Canadian friend and adviser has agreed to chip in some money for the immediate completion of his life-size bronze statue, which the city government plans to erect.

Michael Koncz did not say how much he was willing to pitch in for the statue, which will be put up in front of the General Santos City Hall.

"I don't know the cost. I still have to talk to the mayor," he said here on Friday.

Koncz said Pacquiao deserves the statue because "he has done great honor and glory for his country."

"Manny has taken the gold out of the Golden Boy. And I think he deserves a statue just like Dela Hoya, who has a 14-foot bronze statue in Staples Center," Koncz said.

Mayor Pedro Acharon Jr. said he was overjoyed at Koncz generosity.

Like the Canadian, Acharon said the statue was fitting because of the honor and prestige that Pacquiao has brought to the city and the country as a whole.

Pacquiao, sounding humble in a low tone, said he did not take away the gold from Dela Hoya. "Just the glitter," he said.

In a speech delivered during the grand welcome organized by the city government, Pacquiao reiterated that his victory against over Oscar dela Hoya was brought by prayers and support from his fans and associates.

Pacquiao also assured his thousands of fans here, who patiently waited for his arrival from Manila on Friday, that his next two fights will be equally exciting.

"After which, I will retire…. But not because of politics," he said. (By Aquiles Zonio; INQ.net)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

All they want for Christmas are boots

ISABELA CITY, Basilan -- Philippine Marines pursuing a band of kidnappers here since Nov. 28 know they will not be able to spend Christmas with their families. They’re not even hoping to do so now that they are inching closer to their quarry.

All they want for Christmas are new boots and uniforms to replace their worn-out ones.

Cpl. Joel Albances even showed to reporters a the two-inch wide gap in his shoes.

"Pag pinasok ito ng linta, patay tayo [If leeches crawl in, we’re dead]," he said in jest.

Turning more serious, Albances said the worn-out shoes have hindered the the soldiers’ mobility.

"It would be helpful if our combat shoes are not worn out. We can move quickly. Besides, our shoes help keep us warm during the night," he said.

Sgt. Moammar Tingcasan said they were not asking for additional salaries.

"New uniforms and new combat boots are enough for us," he said.

Cpl. Dansel John Palafox acknowledged soldiers in tattered uniforms are not a pretty sight, nevertheless they have to don old uniforms.

Col. Elmer Estilles, commander of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 8, said he pitied his soldiers because they do need new boots and uniforms.

Estrilles said when Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro came over on Thursday, he also requested that their small wish be granted.

Philippine Marine Corps commandant Lt. Gen. Ben Dolorfino said they were now working on the procurement of two pairs of new battle dress uniforms and a pair of combat boots for each of the Marines.

He said P36 million has been set aside for the procurement. )Julie Alipala; INQ.net)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Arroyo cancels Mindanao visit

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo cancelled her trip to Shariff Kabunsuan province on Friday, when groups opposed to Charter change are expected to mount a huge protest.

Malacanang said Arroyo called off the trip not because of the protest but to prepare for her trip to Qatar on Saturday.

"The trip did not push through due to the Middle East trip tomorrow [Saturday]. The President has to prepare for events in the host country," Presidential Security Group (PSG) chief Brigadier General Celedonio Boquiren said in a statement released through Press Undersecretary Jose Capadocia.

Arroyo was expected at the Tapayan Elementary School in Sultan Mastura at 11:20 a.m. It was her only official schedule that was open for media coverage for the day.
On Friday afternoon, activist organizations, civil society groups, and religious organizations will mount a march in the Makati City financial district to denounce efforts by Arroyo's allies at the House of Representatives to amend the 1987 Constitution, which they said could extend her term beyond 2010.

On Thursday morning, a roadside bomb exploded in Datu Odin Sinsuat town, where the Shariff Kabunsuan airport is located. There were no casualties. (Joel Quinto; INQ.net)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What else do they say after the Pacman-Golden Boy encounter

Before I take you to what other good people say about the recently concluded Pacquiao-Dela Hoya fight, here are the top ten observations first:

• 1. Indications are that the pay-per-view result will be around 1.5 million buys, which is a phenomenal number. It’s a tribute not only to De La Hoya’s ability to sell, but it points out the widespread popularity that Pacquiao has obtained. This guy isn’t popular just among his countrymen in the Philippines.

• 2. If Floyd Mayweather Jr. comes out of retirement to fight Pacquiao next year, he won’t find the going as easy as he may think. Mayweather is outstanding, but so, too, is Pacquiao.

• 3. De La Hoya trainer Nacho Beristain should have stopped the fight at the end of the sixth round. He let the Golden Boy take far too much unneeded punishment. And though Beristain later said he stopped the bout, it was clear De La Hoya himself did it.

• 4. De La Hoya would be foolish to consider another fight, even a so-called farewell fight against an easy opponent. His health isn’t worth it. He looked mediocre against Steve Forbes in May and worse against Pacquiao on Saturday. Boxing is far too dangerous of a sport for someone who has clearly reached the end of the line, as De La Hoya has.

• 5. Former world champion Alexis Arguello was certainly prescient in May, when after De La Hoya’s one-sided (on the scorecard) win over Forbes, he told me in a private interview, “That was a big, significant drop.”

• 6. It was hard to believe Pacquiao is the same guy I watched lose in the same ring back in 2005 to Erik Morales. The work trainer Freddie Roach has done with him is beyond incredible.

• 7. Ricky Hatton is Pacquiao’s likely next opponent. And he’s going to learn very quickly that, “There’s only one Manny Pacquiao.”

• 8. Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer and attorney Stephen Espinoza were way out of line Friday when they threatened to pull the credentials of journalists who were listening in during a dispute with the Nevada Athletic Commission over the way De La Hoya’s hands were wrapped. The meeting was held in the media center; if they wanted privacy, there were many places they could have gone that were off-limits to the media and they wouldn’t have looked like bullies. Schaefer was also wrong for telling a Los Angeles Times reporter that if the reporter kept asking questions about undercard fighter Victor Ortiz’s bankruptcy, which led to his signing with Golden Boy, he would get very angry. The crumbling (and toothless) Boxing Writers Association of America should take the matter up, but you can guarantee that won’t occur.

• 9. Saturday’s undercard was so bad, it rivals the Nov. 8 one underneath the Joe Calzaghe-Roy Jones Jr. fight in New York as the worst of the year. No matter how good a main event is, the public deserves more than that dreck. And the non-televised fights were about as one-sided.

• 10. One of the shocks of the post-fight Saturday was that no one from HBO felt it necessary to speak publicly. You can rest assured that if De La Hoya had won, one of the many vice presidents in attendance would have been at the microphone speaking.

And with that, it’s time to address your questions and concerns in this week’s reader mailbag. My answers are in italics.

Manny’s future

There can be no more questions on who is the pound-for-pound king right now, but what are the possible fights in Pacquiao’s future? They say Hatton may be next, or maybe be a third war with Juan Manuel Marquez, but what other options are there? Mayweather may come out of retirement, but by the way Floyd ducked decent competition before, I don’t think he will risk his unbeaten record against Pacquiao.

Maide Evangelista, Philippines

Pacquiao convinced me beyond any doubt that he is the No. 1 boxer in the world. Unless Mayweather comes out of retirement – which I’d expect, given the financial bonanza he’d reap from such a bout – Pacquiao plans to fight at 140. There are a ton of great fights for him there, including Hatton and Marquez. But he’ll be able to pick and choose bouts from 135 through 147, opening a lot of possibilities for him. Another guy to watch as a future opponent is Edwin Valero, who is reported to be making great progress working with trainer Kenny Adams.

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Eat your words

You’re one of those who branded the De La Hoya-Pacquiao fight as a money-making farce. Care to comment on that now?

Joel Soliman, Philippines

Clearly, my prediction was way off base, but I didn’t believe Oscar would be so far gone. That’s not to take anything away from Pacquiao, but the big issue in my eyes prior to the fight wasn’t answered. I didn’t know how well Pacquiao could handle a punch from a big man and hard puncher like De La Hoya, but De La Hoya never landed one. But Pacquiao’s footwork and movement were much improved and contributed to the problems De La Hoya experienced.

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Manny and money

If Pacquiao and Hatton fight next year, I think it will be a fight of the year candidate, with Pacquiao stopping Hatton late. The thing that bothers me most is, I think Pacquiao has a much better chance against Mayweather than most of us think. I just finished watching the Mayweather-Zab Judah (southpaw with speed and power like Pacman, but Judah doesn’t have the heart) fight. I think Pacquiao stands a chance of beating and outboxing Floyd. I also watched Mayweather-Hatton and Pacquiao-Marquez II. I think a Mayweather-Pacquiao would bring out the best in each man and give us one hell of a fight for sure. What do you think?

Mel Donaldson. New York

I agree completely. I’m not ready to pick Pacquiao over Mayweather yet, but it would be a dogfight and I can’t imagine having said that a year ago. Your analysis in all regards is spot on, Mel.

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Horrible undercard

Golden Boy Promotions should offer whoever bought the fight on Saturday a refund. Not only did we see Oscar do his best impression of a punching bag, but the rest of the card was horrible. The Juan Manuel Lopez-Sergio Medina fight was even worse. Medina wanted no part of Lopez and should not have even shown up. Golden Boy Promotions will never get $54.95 out of me again.

Thomas Garcia; Culver City, Calif.

Amen.

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Another unhappy customer

I think Golden Boy Promotions has been doing this for too long. They are all about showing off their fighters rather than putting on a good show. The only thing worth $55 was the significance of what happened in the main event. Other than that, this was the most disappointing card I’ve ever paid for. Do you see Golden Boy continuing to put on these extreme mismatch cards? If they do, I will not be paying for them.

Jesse Guerrero, Dallas

Unfortunately, Jesse, I think you’ll continue to see these kinds of cards, where they save as much money as they can on the undercard. Given the enormous numbers they’ve done on pay-per-view in this fight, they have no reason to change. They’ll only do so when the fans make their feelings known en masse. Fortunately, I think there will be far fewer pay-per-view shows in 2009.

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Safety first

Prior to the Pacquiao-De La Hoya fight, I wrote you stating that the only reason why Oscar was taking this fight was because it was a big money bout and that I believed that in his opinion, he saw it as a fairly safe fight. He thought he was simply too big for Manny, as did most of the boxing public. I also stated that when it was all said and done that Manny Pacquiao would not only win, but win by way of sensational knock out. De La Hoya has made a career of taking fairly safe fights against either smaller or shot opponents because of the huge paydays. Genaro Hernandez, Fernando Vargas and Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. come to mind. When he did step up his quality of opposition, as in Pernell Whitaker, Ike Quartey and Shane Mosley, he either lost or won by controversial decision. Manny has done the complete opposite and it has benefitted him greatly. He has fought the best possible opposition and, with the exception of the first Erik Morales fight, not stumbled. My opinion is Manny Pacquiao is one of the greatest fighters ever, pound-for-pound, but Oscar De La Hoya is not even close. What do you think?

Joseph Furr Stanley, N.C.

I agree with a lot of your statement. I think when Pacquiao’s done, he has a chance to be remembered as a Top 100 pound-for-pound fighter. As I said in last week’s mailbag, I don’t believe De La Hoya is there. De La Hoya did have clear victories over excellent fighters in their primes (Rafael Ruelas, Ike Quartey and Vargas), but your point about many of his opponents is well taken.

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Manny as a welterweight

Manny looked very impressive at welterweight, carrying over his speed and power. This just makes me more impressed with him and Juan Manuel Marquez. I thought Marquez won the rematch with Pacquiao and I believe 80 percent of the people watching felt Marquez won, also. After Manny’s performance, Marquez’s stock must rise as well. And my other thought and question for you is how would Pacman fare against Miguel Cotto or Antonio Margarito? I would say that Pacman would lose easily because his performance looks better because Oscar was a shot fighter.

Chris C. Waterville, Maine

I just don’t see Pacquiao ever facing Margarito or Cotto, because of the size/strength factor. And I agree with your assessment that Oscar was shot. That’s not to say that Manny wouldn’t have won regardless, but Oscar made it easier for him. Of course, Marquez’s stock rises in this scenario and that will only increase interest in a third fight between them.

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What caused Oscar’s slip?

I was lucky enough to watch the De La Hoya-Pacquiao fight Saturday and I felt that Oscar looked terrible. He spent a lot of time just standing there. I have never been his biggest fan, but I saw him fight Mayweather and I thought he looked pretty good in that one. What happened in the last 19 months? I didn’t see the Forbes fight, but it really seems that Oscar has lost it. Was it Pacquiao’s style that made him look so bad, or is it over for Oscar?

Josh Pittsburgh

There is an old saying in boxing that sometimes a fighter gets old overnight. We saw that with De La Hoya, though there were plenty of signs of his decline in the Forbes fight, which I noted in my column after that bout. Saturday’s result was a combination of Pacquiao being outstanding and De La Hoya having nothing left.

Monday, December 8, 2008

5 soldiers slain in Basilan encounter

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines -- Five soldiers were killed and 24 wounded in running battles with Al Qaeda-linked militants in the southern Philippines, the military said Monday.

Troops launched attacks against Abu Sayyaf militants on the southern islands of Basilan and Jolo Sunday and fighting was continuing early Monday, said Lieutenant Stephanie Cacho.

Cacho initially said 24 soldiers were killed but the military later rectified the toll to five dead and 24 wounded, citing confused reports from the field.

"There is still sporadic fighting today [Monday]," Cacho, a spokeswoman for the military's Western Mindanao command, told Agence France-Presse.

She said fighting on Basilan was concentrated in its interior jungle area where Muslim militants also beheaded 14 Marines in July last year.

"This operation is part of our campaign to flush out the Abu Sayyaf which is responsible for a series of kidnappings," Cacho said.

The Abu Sayyaf is a small group of Islamic militants blamed for a string of high-profile kidnappings and attacks, including the 2004 firebombing of a ferry in Manila Bay that left more than 100 dead. (Agence France Presse)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Pacquiao wins in eighth round over De La Hoya

LAS VEGAS (AP)—The end for Oscar De La Hoya on this night came as he sat in the corner after the eighth round, his left eye swollen shut and his face bruised by punches Manny Pacquiao seemed able to land almost at will.

The decision to call it a night was easy. The decision to call it a career may be a lot tougher.

“My heart still wants to fight, that’s for sure,” De La Hoya said. “But when your physical doesn’t respond, what can you do? I have to be smart and make sure I think about my future plans.”
Pacquiao gave De La Hoya a lot to think about by beating and battering him around the ring for eight rounds Saturday night before De La Hoya declined to answer the bell for the ninth round. The domination was shocking enough, but the fact that it came at the hands of a fighter who just nine months earlier had been fighting at 129 pounds had to be even more troubling for De La Hoya and his legions of fans.

De La Hoya absorbed such a beating that he was taken to a hospital afterwards for what was described as a precautionary examination. The most popular fighter of his generation won just one round on one ringside scorecard and none on the other two against a smaller opponent who fought bigger than him from the opening bell on.

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“We knew we had him after the first round,” Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach said. “He had no legs, he was hesitant and he was shot.”

Roach trained De La Hoya in his last big fight a year ago and said then that De La Hoya simply couldn’t throw punches when he needed to anymore. That was magnified even more against Pacquiao, who not only was as elusive as Floyd Mayweather Jr. but threw punches back that kept De La Hoya off pace.

“Freddie, you’re right,” De La Hoya told the trainer after the fight. “I just don’t have it anymore.”

If De La Hoya’s career is over, it will be the end of a remarkable story that began when he won the Olympic gold medal in Barcelona in 1992 and went on to become the biggest box office attraction in the sport. But while he sold tickets, De La Hoya hadn’t won a big fight in six years, and there were whispers long before the fight that he had nothing left.

He certainly had nothing against Pacquiao, who fought a lot bigger than he looked and who proved that speed was a lot more important than size against a fighter who at the age of 35 has seen his better days.

“That’s what we were focused on every day in the gym, speed, speed would be the key to this fight,” Pacquiao said. “I trained hard for this fight, and that’s why I deserve tonight.”

De La Hoya’s left eye was swollen shut as he sat on his stool after the eighth round and the ring doctor, referee and his cornermen discussed his condition. De La Hoya offered no complaints when his corner decided he had enough, getting up from his stool and walking to the center of the ring to congratulate the victor.

“You’re still my idol,” Pacquiao told him.

“No, you’re my idol,” De La Hoya said.

It was lopsided from the beginning, with Pacquiao landing punch after punch while De La Hoya chased after him, trying to catch him with a big blow. Pacquiao was winning big even before the seventh round, when he was pounding De La Hoya against the ropes in his corner and catching him with huge shots that knocked him across the ring.

De La Hoya remained upright, but with one eye closed and his reflexes seemingly gone there was no chance he was going to land the big punches he would have needed to turn the fight around. Ringside statistics showed Pacquiao landed 45 power punches in the seventh round to just four for De La Hoya. (By TIM DAHLBERG, AP)

Pacquiao: ‘Time to make history’

Pacquiao 3 lb lighter than Hoya

LAS VEGAS—With a smile on his face and a snarl in his voice, Manny Pacquiao shrugged off a weighty issue as he tries to overcome the biggest challenge in his career both for the glory of a nation and for his own share of boxing greatness.

The Filipino icon battles his sport’s acknowledged Golden Boy, Oscar De La Hoya, in an intriguing welterweight battle Saturday (Sunday in Manila) at the MGM Grand’s Garden Arena here, in a fight dubbed the “Dream Match.” Some call it a mismatch.

“I’m ready to fight,” Pacquiao told journalists Friday night. “It’s time to make history.”

The 29-year-old brawler tipped the scales at 142 pounds Friday in a festive official weigh-in at the packed Garden Arena. The moment the number was called out, trainer Freddie Roach quickly approached the scale to check if he heard it correctly. Everybody sensed something was wrong.

“I was surprised at my weight,” Pacquiao said later that evening inside his cushy 61st floor suite at Mandalay Bay. “Before I went to the weigh-in, I checked my weight and came in at 146 lb.”

That the 5-foot-10 De La Hoya made it at 145 lb, two under the stipulated welterweight limit of 147 lb, drew even more questions.

“When I got to the venue, in less than an hour, I weighed 142 lb. In less than an hour I lost 4 lb and I did not even do anything. I don’t want to insinuate anything, but I lost 4 lb in less than an hour without doing anything,” Pacquiao said.

Not that Pacquiao wants a full-blown inquiry into the matter.

“Ako pa? Kilala niyo ako, hindi ako basta-basta nasisindak,” exclaimed Pacquiao. “Kung gusto nila, magsuntukan na kami ngayon, kahit wala pang gloves (You know me. I don’t get scared easily. If they want, we can fight now, even with the gloves off).

De La Hoya ploy?

People may easily register different weights in different scales, but the difference is rarely as pronounced as 4 lb. Pacquiao feels that De La Hoya may have rigged his way out of a $6-million penalty for being overweight.

As stipulated in the fight contract, any fighter who weighs over 147 lb will pay $3 million per excess pound. That clause was inserted into the contract as a safety measure by Roach to prevent De La Hoya from coming in too big and create an even bigger mismatch between the two fighters.

De La Hoya, who has been in seclusion since reaching this gambling haven Monday night except for a few official public appearances, could not be reached for comment as his team immediately whisked him out of the venue after a couple of short television interviews.

Prior to the weigh-in, though, De La Hoya said that he “feels great” at the lower weight.

“I feel energetic,” he said. “I feel happy. I feel like I have a little bounce. I’m taking care of myself, to make sure that I keep the speed, because the power is already there.”

Pacquiao added there was no way the official scale and his own machine could have produced separate results because they were both on the mark just the day before.

4 pounds off Hoya

“After I trained, I checked my weight and came in at 146. I ate a little and the next morning, I checked my weight again and came in at 146. All of a sudden, the official scale and my scale were off by 4 lb. Take those 4 lb and that means Oscar is 149.”

As dangerous as the prospect of fighting a guy 2 lb heavier than he should be is, Pacquiao remains unperturbed. In fact, he relished the challenge and—a day after being referred to as King Kong by De La Hoya—cooked up his own metaphor for the match.

“It’s David vs Goliath,” Pacquiao said, laughing.

But this David is expected to have a tougher time against Goliath.

Pacquiao, the world’s best pound-for-pound boxer, sports a 47-3-2 record spiked with 35 knockouts. He battles the Golden Boy (29-5, 30 KOs) in a fight people say he cannot win. Even the betting odds, which was slowly moving to an even line on fight night, suddenly turned against him after he registered 142 on the scales.

Pacquiao is now a plus 160 underdog and De La Hoya a minus 190 favorite for the match. That means that a $100 bet on the Filipino will win an additional $160, while one has to bet $190 on De La Hoya to win another $100. Before the weigh-in, De La Hoya was a minus 155 favorite and Pacquiao just a plus 125 underdog.

Power punches but ...

Emanuel Steward, who once trained De La Hoya, praised Pacquiao’s ability to unload power punches in volumes from the first to the last round, but he still favored the Golden Boy to win this one.

“The odds would have to favor Oscar because he’s the bigger man and he’s not slow,” Steward said.

Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins was even more brutally honest.

“This is one of the greatest fights ever and Oscar’s going to knock Manny out in the seventh or eighth round,” said the 43-year-old Hopkins, who is coming off an impressive victory over Kenny “The Ghost” Pavlik.

Steward says Pacquiao’s relentlessness and De La Hoya’s penchant for losing steam in the later rounds may be the only way that the outcome could be reversed.

“He (Manny) punches with full power from first round to 12th round. Most big punchers like Mike Tyson get tired after the first few rounds. Manny’s going to be punching at full speed and if Oscar tires like he does in all of his big fights, Manny could knock him out.”

The legendary trainer also warned De La Hoya that an inspired Pacquiao might just find a way to pull off an upset.

Whole country behind him

“I’ve never known any fighter in my life that has a whole country behind him,” Steward said. “Julio Cesar Chavez was like that in Mexico, but nothing like Manny. He’s motivated because he feels like he’s not fighting for himself, he’s fighting for a lot of people.”

“It’s not just all of the Philippines, but all of Asia depending on this one little fellow.”

And more than that, Pacquiao is fighting for his spot alongside the greats of the game.

“If I beat Oscar, I will be known not only in the Philippines but in the whole world,” Pacquiao had said. “People are going to be talking about this fight for the next 50 years. This is going to be part of boxing history.”

Revelation

Pacquiao should also get a boost from a revelation by a former De La Hoya sparring partner that all the hype about how hard the Golden Boy trained for the fight is plain rubbish.

“Oscar doesn’t like to work out,” said super featherweight knockout artist Edwin Valero. The Venezuelan said he saw clips of Pacquiao in training and compared it to his experience with De La Hoya and from that predicted the Filipino to knock out his bigger rival.

“Oscar doesn’t like to run,” added the 27-year-old Valero. “Pacquiao is going to knock Oscar out.”

Whatever happens, Pacquiao is assured of his biggest windfall ever.

The four-division champion and current WBC lightweight king is expected to earn close to $15 million for this fight, which includes a guaranteed purse—reportedly $6 million—and his share of the pay-per-view pie.

No. 2 bestseller

The fight already is No. 2 on the Nevada bestseller list, second only to the De La Hoya-Floyd Mayweather blockbuster last year in terms of ticket sales. Experts said it took an economic turmoil in the US to prevent the “Dream Match” from being No. 1.

The official weigh-in was hosted by comedian George Lopez, who made a normally routine affair into a lively one, engaging the crowd and cracking one-liners that scored a knockout with his audience.

“This is one of the greatest fights in boxing so if you can’t watch it live, get it on pay-per-view. That’s where OJ is going to watch it for the next 15 years to life.” Lopez said, referring to disgraced football star OJ Simpson, who was sentenced to prison earlier that day.

“If you’re white, don’t forget to get this fight on pay-per-view. If you’re Latino, you can just, you know, connect the cables or whatever,” added Lopez, who is of Mexican descent.

Also present during the weigh-in were Top Rank chief Bob Arum and Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, announcer Michael Buffer and boxers Hopkins, Shane Mosely, Ricky Hatton and Juan Manuel Marquez.

Something wrong

Arum, who is co-promoting the fight with the Golden Boy promotions, said he sensed something wrong with the way De La Hoya looked.

“I don’t know if it’s wishful thinking or if I’m seeing things that I shouldn’t be seeing, but Oscar looked drawn,” Arum said. “If Oscar comes in more than 155 lb, he’s going to be dead because he will be putting too much weight and that makes him vulnerable to body shots.”

An hour before the fight, there were already close to 3,000 fans, boisterously cheering for their boxers and waving the national flag of the Philippines and Mexico.

Half an hour before the weigh-in started, there were no more seats available.
(By Francis Ochoa)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Tyson backs Pacquiao

Manny still underdog but betting odds closing

LAS VEGAS—As if words were not enough to drive his point across, former undisputed heavyweight champion “Iron” Mike Tyson stepped back, bobbed, weaved and then ducked a phantom left hook.

This is how you do it against Oscar De La Hoya, Tyson told Manny Pacquiao’s assistant trainer Buboy Fernandez.

With Pacquiao still the underdog in his “Dream Match” with Oscar De La Hoya, Tyson dropped by the IBA Gym here Thursday to catch the Filipino’s last training session before the fight on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).

Although on the short end of betting with less than 48 hours left before the fight, the odds against the man whom De La Hoya alluded to as King Kong continued to slip with the influx of Filipino bettors who are wagering on Pacquiao.

The greatest plunge in the odds was on the probability of Pacquiao knocking out De La Hoya. That proposition opened at 13-2, before slipping to 9-2. In less than 24 hours, that moved to 3-2 as people started putting faith in the Pacman’s punching power.

For most of his stay in the gym, Tyson, garbed in a pink shirt and dark gray slacks, kept to himself in one corner, standing up only when Pacquiao climbed the ring to begin his workout.

“He (Tyson) said Manny must keep moving the head,” Fernandez said.

Tyson also noted that De La Hoya’s background as an amateur fighter makes him a deadly tactician.

“He wants Manny to move in and not to back away too far because that’s where Oscar’s jab-straight-hook (combination) comes to play,” Fernandez said.

Keep attacking body

He also quoted Tyson as saying it would be best for the Filipino ring hero to keep attacking De La Hoya’s body because sooner or later the Golden Boy’s guard would start to lower.

“It was nice for Mike Tyson to come,” said trainer Freddie Roach, who once handled the boxer formerly known as “the baddest man on the planet.”

“Mike gave me a little advice,” Roach added. “He said be careful with moving back in straight lines because Oscar has a long reach. Sensible stuff. He wants Manny to make sure he doesn’t come in with the head first, but instead come in behind his punches.”

Free tickets for Tyson

The 42-year-old disgraced heavyweight champion stayed for nearly the entire time Pacquiao worked out, following the Filipino’s every move as he skipped rope, worked the mitts, hit the double end or pounded the speed ball.

He left just as Pacquiao was about to wrap up his final workout. Roach said Tyson still had no tickets to the fight but Pacquiao took care of that, providing four tickets to the man who was once the youngest heavyweight champion of the world.

Pacquiao, the reigning World Boxing Council lightweight champion, is expected to do walks and stretches on Friday and on the morning of the fight. The official weigh-in is on Friday at the MGM Grand.

Pacquiao, according to Roach, now weighs 146 pounds. He will have breakfast and a short walk in the hallway outside his suite at The Hotel at Mandalay Bay before proceeding to the weigh-in.

“We’ll have it in at 146 or 147,” Roach said. “We’ll have breakfast and then we’ll check his weight. That’s about it.”

Training in secrecy

“We’re good, we’re happy,” the two-time Trainer of the Year added. “We have nothing to worry about. We’re well prepared and we have nothing more to do.”

Pacquiao made the most of his final workout, going four rounds with the mitts with Roach. He also shadow-boxed with intensity, worked the double end and the speed ball before skipping rope and doing crunches to wrap things up.

Several times, his trainers had to restrain Pacquiao as he kept shouting “one more” at the end of every workout.

De La Hoya, meanwhile, continued to train in seclusion. He is also expected to easily make the weight after undergoing a training regimen that was aimed to retain his strength at a lighter weight.

For the past months, he trained at 145 lb and flew into this ritzy gambling city at 143.8 lb, according to Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer.

Odds-wise, De La Hoya is now just a minus 155 favorite and Pacquiao a plus 125 underdog. That means, a bet of $155 on a De La Hoya win will earn only $100, while a wager of $100 on a Pacquiao victory will win $125.

Scribes pick De La Hoya

Among serious boxing writers, however, De La Hoya continues to be the overwhelming favorite. An Internet site polled 17 of its scribes and 13 picked De La Hoya to win.

However, almost all of those who picked De La Hoya said that Pacquiao stood to be the big winner whether or not De La Hoya defeated him. A De La Hoya victory would only make the Golden Boy look like a bully, the poll said, while a Pacquiao victory would cement the Filipino’s claim to the mythical pound-for-pound throne.

Roach admits he was skeptical of the whole idea of a De La Hoya-Pacquiao match at first.

“I honestly never thought it was possible,” he said. “But then I saw Oscar with small guys and southpaws. He has trouble with both. So I pushed for it hard.

“It’s basically because of what it will do for Manny’s life. It’s the icing on the cake. It makes him a superstar.”

Said Pacquiao: “This is the most important fight of my life.”

Power is gone

Results have been mixed for fighters who jump up in weight. It turned out badly for Kelly Pavlik recently, but Roy Jones Jr., who started his career at middleweight, made a jump to defeat World Boxing Association heavyweight champ John Ruiz.

Like Roach, Pacquiao believes his speed will help him overcome De la Hoya’s 4-inch height advantage.

“He’s getting slow and the power is not there any more,” Pacquiao said of De la Hoya.

And there is the question of whether coming down in weight will adversely affect De la Hoya.

In his last six fights, De la Hoya has a record of 3-3 and he has looked drained in the latter stages of each fight, absorbing myriad blows in the final rounds.

De La Hoya’s weaknesses

Some pundits have predicted his effort to make the 147 weight will exacerbate the problem, although his trainer for this bout, Mexico’s Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain, says they have adjusted his training regimen to prevent a late-fight letdown.

“It’s obvious that Oscar can’t be the same fighter at 35 that he was at 20, but his preparation remained almost the same,” Beristain told Agence France-Presse.

“Now we have corrected that error. We put more emphasis on physical conditioning so he can go the distance if necessary.”

Certainly, Pacquiao’s famously aggressive style will offer De la Hoya no respite.

Roach believes the American has weaknesses Pacquiao can exploit.

“I’m not saying we’re not going to knock him out,” Roach said. “If it happens, fine. We’ll take it. What we’re going to do is break him down round by round,” Roach said.

“We’re working on staying away from the jab and the left hook. The hook is a power shot. But Oscar makes a mistake with his jab. I’m not saying what it is, but I’ve seen it.” (By Francis Ochoa with reports from AFP)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Manny vs Oscar: Dream fight or nightmare

LAS VEGAS -- Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao faces the biggest challenge of his career Saturday when he takes on Oscar de la Hoya in what could be a career-defining bout.

The bout between the Mexican-American "Golden Boy" and Pacquiao, who is reckoned to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world right now, has been dubbed the "Dream Match."

But given the disparity in the foes' natural weights, some have speculated it could turn into a nightmare of a mismatch.

Pacquiao began fighting professionally at 106 pounds, and has fought just once at lightweight -- weighing in at 134.5 pounds when he wrested the World Boxing Council lightweight crown from David Diaz on June 28.

He'll take on De la Hoya at the MGM Grand on Saturday at a compromise welterweight limit of 147 pounds -- which will be the lightest De la Hoya has been since his 2001 victory over Arturo Gatti.

"I feel very comfortable at this 147-pound weight right now," said Pacquiao, who nonetheless has made it plain he plans to go back to lightweight after the fight. "I've fought larger guys before. It's not a problem."

Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, admits he was skeptical of the whole idea at first.

"I honestly never thought it was possible," he said. “But then I saw Oscar with small guys and southpaws. He has trouble with both. So I pushed for it hard.”

"It's basically because of what it will do for Manny's life. It's the icing on the cake. It makes him a superstar," he said.

A hero in his homeland, Pacquiao stands to collect his biggest purse and make his biggest international impact in Saturday's fight, regardless of its non-title status.

"If I win this fight, I will have achieved my dream and mission in boxing, to put my name in boxing history after all these years," said Pacquiao, who brings a 47-3 record with two drawn and 35 knockouts to the bout. "This is the most important fight of my life."

Results have been mixed for fighters who jump up in weight. It turned out badly for Kelly Pavlik recently, but Roy Jones Jr., who started his career at middleweight, made a jump to defeat World Boxing Association heavyweight champ John Ruiz.

Like Roach, Pacquiao believes his speed will help him overcome De la Hoya's four-inch height advantage.

"He's getting slow and the power is not there any more," Pacquiao said of De la Hoya, who has won world titles in six different weight classes. "I think I'm faster than him."

And there is the question of whether coming down in weight will adversely affect De la Hoya.

In his last six fights, De la Hoya has a record of 3-3 and he has looked drained in the latter stages of each fight, absorbing myriad blows in the final rounds.

Some pundits have predicted his effort to make the 147 weight will exacerbate the problem, although his trainer for this bout, Mexico's Ignacio "Nacho" Beristain, says they have adjusted his training regimen to prevent a late-fight let-down.

"It's obvious that Oscar can't be the same fighter at 35 that he was at 20, but his preparation remained almost the same," Beristain told Agence France-Presse.

"Now we have corrected that error. We put more emphasis on physical conditioning so he can go the distance if necessary," he said.

Certainly Pacquiao's famously aggressive style will offer De la Hoya no respite.

Roach, who trained De la Hoya for his unsuccessful super welterweight clash with Floyd Mayweather in 2007, believes the American has weaknesses Pacquiao can exploit.

"I'm not saying we're not going to knock him out," Roach said. "If it happens, fine. We'll take it. What we're going to do is break him down round by round," Roach said.

"We're working on staying away from the jab and the left hook. The hook is a power shot. But Oscar makes a mistake with his jab. I'm not saying what it is, but I've seen it," said Roach.

De La Hoya has acknowledged Roach may have valuable insight into his style.

"It concerns me quite a bit actually," De La Hoya said. "He trained for Mayweather and although Mayweather and Pacquiao have different styles, he knows how I train."

As if the imponderables in the ring weren't enough, the match-up includes a tinge of personal animosity.

That stems from a seven-fight deal worth at last $35 million that Pacquiao signed with de la Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions in September of 2006, only to return bonus money two months later and stay with promoter Bob Arum.

"We signed the deal and he turned his back on me and he's going to have to pay on December 6," he said.(Agence France-Presse)

A fight for the Oscar (award) in boxing!


“I prepared for King Kong,” De La Hoya told reporters on Wednesday, adding his fight with the Filipino was the kind likely to end in a knockout.

Fight time is around 9 p.m. Saturday Las Vegas time, or about 1 p.m. Sunday in Manila. (For pre-fight updates and coverage of the fight, please go to www.inquirer.net)
a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_L4i0TRfBW6g/SThP_ofADOI/AAAAAAAAAlA/ihpLhmUdRak/s1600-h/Oscar+%26+Manny.jpg">

Pacquiao is hardly King Kong, though De La Hoya would be wise to beware of a fighter who has won titles in four weight divisions and is heralded by many as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

Though he started his boxing career at 106 pounds (48 kg) and has never fought above 135 pounds (61 kg), Pacquiao is the kind of nonstop puncher who can make an aging fighter look bad.

And that pretty much is the selling point for a fight that seemed odd when it was first made but now looks like an increasingly intriguing match-up of two men who have been in their share of big fights.

“We can either box, we can either brawl or we can even counterpunch him,” De La Hoya said.

“I would be disappointed if I don’t stop him because this type of fight calls for a knockout,” the 35-year-old, six-division champion and former Olympic gold medalist added.

“[In] this type of fight, you get two fighters who are going to fight. If Manny Pacquiao hits me with a good shot, hey, let’s fight. I’m going to bite into my mouthpiece and let’s fight.”

De La Hoya even made a play on his own name during an interview following their final pre-fight press conference, which lasted close to two hours.

“When you want to win an Oscar (award), you’ll do anything you can to win an Oscar,” De La Hoya said. “That’s what they’ve done. They jumped up two weight classes and they’re looking for that Oscar.”

And it will be an Oscar ready to do everything he can to win a fight where he has everything to lose that will confront Pacquiao in the ring, De La Hoya vowed.

A place in history

“This is going to be boxing history,” the Pacman countered. “Fifty years from now, people will still remember this fight.”

Pacquiao continues to train without the nuisance of trying to make the weight. With the fight pegged at the welterweight limit of 147 pounds (67 kg), Asia’s only four-division champ hasn’t found any need to cut down on food.

Two days before the weigh-in, the 29-year-old Gen. Santos City native reportedly tipped the scales at 145 pounds, with De La Hoya at an even lighter 143.8.

“It doesn’t matter, fighting at 147,” said Pacquiao, currently a +135 underdog in the match. “It’s not a big (issue) because I fight a lot of bigger fighters in sparring.”

Odds of +135 underdog mean your bet of $100 on Pacquiao would bring you $135 if he won.

Odds won’t matter

Making this special for Pacquiao is the fact that this match “will make my name known not only in the Philippines but in the whole world.”

Pacquiao said he was drawing a lot of motivation from the fact that De La Hoya continued to be a -165 favorite for the fight—meaning a bet of $165 bet on De La Hoya would win you only $100 if the American won.

Pacquiao reminded reporters that bigger odds—4-1 to be exact—were against him in his 2003 fight against Marco Antonio Barrera, the Mexican legend that Pacquiao forced to quit after 11 brutal rounds in San Antonio, Texas.

“I always believe in myself,” Pacquiao said.

De La Hoya claims he has been down to around 147 pounds for weeks, and one look at him in a track suit seemed to back that up.

The same can’t be said about Pacquiao, but his job in the weeks preparing for the fight wasn’t to diet but to eat as much as he possibly could.

One fighter has been starving himself, while the other has been gorging. That’s the only way the two could get close enough in weight to allow them to meet at the 147-pound limit in a bout that will bring them millions even with a souring economy.

$100-million purse

The “Dream Match” is expected to generate a purse of $100 million to be divided between the two fighters, with the “Golden Boy” taking in the lion’s share at 60 percent, according to Agence France-Presse.

De La Hoya towered over Pacquiao when the two met during the press conference. But the bout could hasten De La Hoya’s exit from the ring if he has misjudged his opponent.

Pay-per-view

Some oddsmakers give Pacquiao a chance, making him an 8-5 underdog in a fight that both he and De La Hoya have relentlessly promoted from their first press conference a few months ago at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

The promotion continued unabated at the final press conference, but there are questions over how well the fight will do with a $55 pay-per-view price tag in the United States at a time people are watching their money carefully.

De La Hoya is co-promoting the fight through his own company and spent much of his time at the podium at the MGM Grand hotel-casino reminding people that they could get up to $50 in rebates on the fight if they buy the right kind of beer, tequila and soda. Just to make sure he covered all bases, he repeated the message in Spanish.

De La Hoya, who hasn’t won a significant fight in six years, sounded like he was preparing for the kind of all-out brawl boxing fans would pay good money to see.

But Freddie Roach doesn’t buy it. The man who was in De La Hoya’s corner in his last big fight a year ago against Floyd Mayweather Jr. said after that fight that De La Hoya couldn’t pull the trigger on his punches anymore.

Pacquiao’s dream

Roach is Pacquiao’s trainer and he pushed for this fight, certain that even an undersized Pacquiao has plenty to handle De La Hoya.

“He’s so tight,” Roach said. “I’ve never seen a fighter who is so experienced so tight before a fight.”

While De La Hoya says he has nothing to gain by beating Pacquiao because of the size difference, a win would help turn around a career that has been stuck in mediocrity since he stopped Fernando Vargas at 154 pounds (70 kg) in 2002.

Pacquiao, meanwhile, is already a national hero in the Philippines, where the entire nation pauses to watch his fights, and widely considered one of the best active fighters around.

But this would be a breakthrough win in his first megafight, and he has the added bonus of perhaps being the fighter who finally sent De La Hoya into retirement.

“If you sacrifice and dream about a fight, you can win,” Pacquiao said. “It’s hard to explain how happy I am right now.”

Focused, prepared

Pacquiao said he was “ready and excited” going into the fight.

“I am prepared ... This will be a good fight,” Pacquiao told a Manila radio. “I am focused on the fight. I am ready, I am excited.”

With a 47-3 record, with two drawn and 35 knockouts, Pacquiao is the current World Boxing Council lightweight champion after knocking out David Diaz in June.

De la Hoya, who has won world titles in six different weight classes, has not fought as a 147-pounder in seven years. He brings to the ring a 39-5 record, with 30 knockouts. (Reports from AP and AFP)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

JI Suspect Nabbed in Shariff Kabunsuan

Cotabato City, Philippines. -- Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Jesus Verzosa called for “heightened vigilance” following the arrest of a suspected member of the Jemaah Islamiyah terror network on Tuesday.

In a statement Wednesday, Verzosa said security forces in Mindanao should stay alert against “other similar attempts to disturb the peace in Mindanao.”

Police arrested Muhammad Alpariz, a Bangladeshi, at around 3 p.m. Tuesday in Shariff Kabunsuan province.

The arrest stemmed from a search warrant issued by Judge Isaac Robillo of Davao City Regional Trial Court (RTC) branch 13.

Authorities said they recovered are several improvised explosive devices and bomb-making paraphernalia from the suspect, who is still undergoing interrogation.
(By Abigail Kwok; INQ.net)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Its MOA-AD or nothing -- MILF

PIKIT, NORTH COTABATO, Philippines—“It’s MOA-AD or nothing,” the chief peace negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said Tuesday in reaction to the government’s reconstitution of its peace panel.

Mohagher Iqbal said the MILF welcomed the appointment by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of Foreign Undersecretary Rafael Seguis as chair of the government panel, “but still it’s not enough.”

“It’s a good step toward the peace process,” he said by phone, but adding that what was needed to kick-start the negotiations was for the government to honor the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD).

The government reneged on a commitment to sign the MOA-AD on Aug. 5 as a prelude to opening formal peace negotiations with the MILF, after numerous stakeholders in Mindanao and elsewhere raised a hue and cry about not being consulted on the deal that would have granted the Moro people a virtually independent state.

The Supreme Court later struck down the MOA-AD as unconstitutional.

Since then, Malacañang has said any peace negotiations would be based on agreements that would not violate the Constitution.

Iqbal, however, said the MILF was holding the government to the MOA-AD, and if the government insisted on bringing up new talking points, the MILF would not return to the table.

“How can we resume the talks? Do we have something to talk about? We will only return to the negotiating table if we will both sign the memorandum on ancestral domain,” he said.

Since the talks hit a snag, fighting between the military and MILF forces have broken out in several areas.

Seguis, a veteran diplomat who gained prominence after negotiating the release of two Filipinos held hostage by insurgents in Iraq, said in a statement: “This is a tremendous challenge and opportunity which I humbly accept knowing fully well the difficult road that lies ahead.”

He said his appointment was “the first step in preparation for the resumption of talks.”

The government will complete reconstituting its negotiating panel by Dec. 15 in an effort to revive negotiations with the MILF hopefully before Christmas, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita told reporters.

“We may be resuming the talks toward the second or third week of December,” said Ermita.

Seguis, a former ambassador to several Muslim countries, including Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, replaced retired Gen. Hermogenes Esperon.

President Arroyo has faced growing international calls to resume peace talks with the MILF to end the fighting that broke out in August, killing scores of people on both sides and displacing more than 500,000 residents of southern Mindanao.

Several countries, including the United States and Great Britain, have urged the President to find ways to resume talks with the rebels to ease the plight of the displaced villagers. (By Jeoffrey Maitem, Julie Alipala, Richel Umel. With reports from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

DSWD: 6,000 evacuee families return home

Around 6,000 families displaced by the armed conflict in several areas of Mindanao have returned home as the situation begins to normalize, Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral said Tuesday.

“We hope that the situation will continue to improve,” Cabral said during an interview after speaking at the 3rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) forum at the Manila Hotel, which her agency hosted, Tuesday morning.

The forum brought together social welfare departments and NGOs from Brunei, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam. There was also a representative from the politically unstable Thailand.

Cabral said the number of families in evacuation centers monitored by the Department of Social Welfare and Development had gone down from the original 18,000 to 12,000 as of last week.

Still, Cabral said: “Our relief operations continue.”

The DSWD is not only providing basic goods but also toys for children in Mindanao this Christmas. Cabral said the DSWD has partnered with two foundations to collect toys in Metro Manila.

“What we want is to see how the governments and NGOs can work together for better and faster delivery of social services in each respective country,” Cabral said of the forum’s purpose.

She said the forum aims to put together a “consortium” of neighboring countries to provide each other examples of excellent social welfare practices to learn from.

For instance, she said the country can learn from the welfare programs for the elderly of Singapore. She admitted that the Philippines has not paid much attention to taking care of the elderly.

“We can always learn from the experiences of others,” Cabral said.

However, she said the Philippines has strong programs for the protection of children and for providing livelihood support, which representatives from Indonesia and Nepal have already learned from.

“In the Philippines, the collaboration between the government and the NGOs is quite effective and close. The government recognizes that NGOs are effective social service partners,” Cabral also said.(By Edson C. Tandoc Jr.
; INQ.net)