Archive for the ‘Mindano War’ Category

Nuns Decry Inclusion of Church Workers in Military’s ‘Order of Battle’

May 26, 2009

An association of 350 Catholic nuns from 40 congregations in Mindanao expressed outrage over the inclusion of Church people to the reported ‘order of battle’ of the 10th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

In a document titled “JCICC ‘AGILA’ 3rd QTR 2007 OB VALIDATION RESULT,” several Catholic and Protestant groups were listed, including the Archdiocesan Council of Lay Apostolate and Integrated Movement (ACLAIM), Missionaries of Assumption (MA), National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), Promotions of Church
Peoples Response (PCPR), Philippine Independent Church (PIC) and Mindanao Interfaith People Conference (MIPC).

Bishop Felixberto Calang of PIC and Bishop Anacleto Serafica of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), along with Catholic priests and nuns were also named in the document.

In a recent statement released to the media, Lt. Col. Kurt A. Decapia, chief of the 10th ID’s Public Affairs Office, did not deny the existence of such list but criticized Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo for “falsifying” the document.

Ocampo presented the order of battle in a press conference of the International Solidarity Mission in Davao City on May 18.

Decapia said that the words “targeted,” “dominated” and “organized” in the document mean that the individuals and groups on the list are targeted, organized and dominated individuals and groups by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).

The Sisters’ Association in Mindanao (SAMIN) said in a statement, “It is indeed disturbing to know that such an order exists from the AFP, which labels church people, lawyers, journalists, activists and NGO workers as enemies of the state.”

“It is condemnable that church people who are fulfilling Christ’s mandate to bring the Good News to the poor are subject to this vilification campaign,” said SAMIN executive secretary Sr. Elsa Compuesto MSM.

Compuesto said that the order puts all the individuals and organizations in the list in grave danger, including church people.

The SAMIN recalled the harassment against SR. Stella Matutina OSB and the raids in two sisters’ convents in Butuan City in 2006. “Both cases have shown that even religious can be subject to the attacks of the state,” Compuesto said.

In February this year, Matutina along with her three companions was illegally held against her will by the elements of the 67th Infantry Battalion in Cateel, Davao Oriental after doing advocacy work against large-scale mining.

In November 2006, the convents of the Contemplative Good Shepherds and the Missionary Sisters of Mary were raided by the police on allegations that they are keeping a rebel leader in their convents.

In 2005, the SAMIN was already among those included in the military’s powerpoint presentation “Knowing the Enemy.” Compuesto said that pictures of their members and their activities were downloaded from their old website and inserted in the powerpoint.

“These accusations remind us of the Biblical times, when being Christians meant putting one’s life in danger of being persecuted and killed by the soldiers of the Roman Empire. Today, this persecution continues with the military’s attack on the religious, especially on those who dare to speak God’s message of hope, denouncing the evils of society and taking sides with God’s chosen poor,” Compuesto said.

The association of nuns vowed, “As a new tyranny is in our midst, SAMIN is emboldened to continue with its commitment of fighting the darkness of oppression and corruption, and bringing the light of hope and justice for the poor and Creation.”

The group called on the government authorities to stop the “persecution of church people and the poor.” (Bulatlat.com)

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Editorial Cartoon: Southern Campaign

April 17, 2009

kampanya-daw

Abu Sayaff is now a Political Endorser.  A puppet political endorser.

Bayan says MOA-AD is a ploy to extend Arroyo’s term

December 31, 2008

The militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) fears the government has not entirely given up on the controversial memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD), which the group sees as a ploy to change the Constitution to extend the term of the President.

Malacañang lawyers to the Supreme Court (SC) ruling indicates that the government is still planning to pursue the controversial MOA-AD. Bayan believes the MOA-AD will pave the way for constitutional amendments that will extend Arroyo’s term.

The SC ruled as unconstitutional the MOA-AD that would have given the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) authority over territories included in the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE), which covers a wider territory and an expanded administrative capacity in the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)

Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera filed a manifestation, protesting what she referred to as “a transgression of the doctrine of separation of powers” between the nation’s judicial and executive bodies. Devanadera feared that the Supreme Court decision foreshadowed “a future trend” of the Court’s interference in “areas exclusive to the other branches of the government.”

Devanadera urged the High Court to dismiss the case filed by local officials in Mindanao questioning the MOA-AD just two weeks after the botched August 5 signing in Kuala Lumpur. The solicitor-general later formally urged the Supreme Court to dismiss this case as moot and academic.

Reyes said this move proved that the administration really wants to push through with the MOA-AD. With time running out until 2010, Arroyo cannot afford to lose options to stay in power, said Reyes. Even though she had majority of the members of the House of Representatives, she would still have the Senate to contend with, many of them eyeing for the Presidential elections in 2010 would waylay any of her moves to stay in power.

Militant partylist representatives Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño (Bayan Muna), and Liza Maza (Gabriela Women’s Party) said the SC ruling should not invalidate issue of ancestral domain of the Bangsamoro.

Reyes said Bayan respected the Bangsamoro people’s right to self determination but the proposed signing of the MOA-AD came at the time when the administration is pushing for changes in the Constitution to stay in power. (CJ Cuizon/davaotoday.com)

MILF hails EU for its humanitarian concern A 3-day tour by envoys indicates concern for civilians caught in the ongoing conflict and the urgent need for a political settlement

December 17, 2008

By Julmunir I. Jannaral, Correspondent

COTABATO CITY: The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Tuesday hailed the continuing aid and humanitarian concern of the 27-member nations of the European Union (EU) for the war victims in Mindanao.

Muhammad Ameen, head of the MILF secretariat and also a member of the MILF Central Committee, said the recent three-day tour of Mindanao by EU ambassadors is the clearest sign yet of their concern for the plight of the civilians in the ongoing conflict and the urgent need for a political settlement.

Ameen stressed that the Moro rebels is always for the negotiated political settlement of the Moro problem and the armed conflict in Mindanao but if there is no peace and settlement reached until this day, the Philippine government should be blamed, he added.

He cited the failed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) that was supposed to be signed by both Moro rebels and government peace panels on August 5, and later declared by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

Ambassadors from the European Union started their three-day tour of Mindanao since Monday (December 15), to see for themselves how the European Commission’s assistance to war victims has been implemented.

They are Ambassadors Heikki Hannikainen (Finland), Christian Ludwig Weber-Lortsch (Germany), Rubens Fedele (Italy), Valeriu Gheorghe (Romania), Luis Arias (Spain), Peter Beckingham (United Kingdom) and Alistair MacDonald (European Commission). French Chargé d’Affaires Didier Ortolland represented the EU presidency.

Other officials from the Austrian, Czech, Dutch, Greek and Swedish embassies will also take part in the next visit, along with officials from the World Food Program, led by Stephen Anderson, country director, according to Ameen.

The group will meet with local government officials and civil society organizations and non-government organizations involved in peace and development in Cotabato City, Maguindanao, South Cotabato and Sarangani provinces.

Likewise, they are also scheduled to visit a number of evacuation centers in Maguindanao, where assistance provided by the European Commission is being implemented.

It can be recalled that in October this year, the European Commission agreed to provide some P440 million to help civilian victims of the conflict in Mindanao.

The assistance is used to cover emergency food distribution, drinking water and additional sanitation facilities, non-food relief items, basic shelter assistance, health care and psychosocial support, emergency support to livelihood rehabilitation and protection.

Taken together, the EC’s humanitarian, rehabilitation and development assistance for Mindanao has amounted to P7.9 billion over the last two decades, the MILF secretariat head also said.(ManilaTimes)

MILF pooh-poohs gov’t peace talks statements

December 16, 2008

THE National Government’s statements on the alleged resumption of peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have not impressed the Muslim secessionist group, a Moro leader said.

Khaled Musa, deputy chairman of the MILF committee on information, branded the repeated announcements as nothing but part of government propaganda.

He said: “[These are] gimmicks in order to give false hope to the people, especially those in the conflict affected areas and the international community that the peace talks is going to be held.”

Musa cited the earlier statement of government officials that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) would have a full peace panel before the middle of this month, “but so far only undersecretary of foreign affairs Rafael Seguis was appointed as government chief peace negotiator”.

It was learned that the government set December 15 as the first schedule of talks. As of Monday, nothing has developed in the said talks.

“There is no full peace panel yet and the GRP again announced that the talks would take place on December 22. All these are empty talks,” Musa said.

Musa warned the government “not to make hollow and repeated announcements for the resumption of the peace talks between them [MILF] when no such serious thing is in the offing or set for in the immediate future.”

Jun Mantawil, head of the MILF peace panel secretariat, said the MILF has not received any official communication from the Malaysian government, the chief facilitator of the GRP-MILF Peace Talks, about any schedule of peace talks in December.

There were earlier suggestion for Indonesia to take over Malaysia as the talks’ facilitator, but the MILF disapproved it. (BOT)

AFP hurting from allegations of human rights violations

December 10, 2008

By James Mananghaya Updated December 10, 2008 12:00 AM

The Armed Forces of the Philippines admitted that it is affected by allegations linking the AFP to cases of human rights violations, particularly incidents of enforced disappearances and summary executions.

But although they are hurting from the allegations, the AFP said they would institutionalize efforts to remove the stigma and change the way the public views the military organization.

Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres, AFP public affairs office chief, told The STAR that the newly created Human Rights Office led by Col. Feliciano Loy is part of the military’s efforts to show the public that any infraction committed by its personnel will not be condoned or tolerated.

Torres said that aside from investigating soldiers allegedly involved in cases of human rights violations and receiving complaints, the AFPHR office is also tasked to educate military personnel on human rights.

He said the AFP is affected by these allegations, which somehow hurt those who remain true to their mandate to protect the people.

“A big portion of these allegations is propaganda, being fanned by groups who are continuously trying to weaken the government. These are groups who want to bring down the government and supplant it with their own brand of government,” he said.

Torres also warned that by continuously putting the spotlight on the military and other government security agencies, there is a chance that the real perpetrators of these so-called human rights violations might go scot-free.

“Security forces are convenient scapegoats. This makes the investigations narrower and prolongs the resolution of the cases,” he said.

Torres said that there had been several instances in the past where it was proven through further investigation that the allegations were mere fabrications of groups who want to discredit the government and the AFP, which is an instrument of national policy.

But Torres also admitted that there are some soldiers who might have, on their own, committed some human rights violations, although these cases have already been submitted to the proper courts, civilian and military alike.

“The number of those who have committed these violations would be dwarfed by the number of military personnel who are willing to lay down their lives in the performance of their duties,” he said.

At the same time, Torres belied claims by some groups that the AFP is drumbeating the issue on the recruitment of minors by the New People’s Army just to discredit the rebel movement.

He said documents would show that even the United Nations has recognized the NPA and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as organizations that recruit minors.(PStar)

A DEEPER LOOK AT THE BANGSAMORO PROBLEM AND THE ARMED CONFLICT IN MINDANAO AND ITS ISLANDS

December 4, 2008

This piece was originally posted by the author as a response to the ” STATEMENT: Moro Youth Leaders push for Peace” article.

Barangay RP reposted it here now as a major story.  Please read.

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A DEEPER LOOK AT THE BANGSAMORO PROBLEM AND THE ARMED CONFLICT IN MINDANAO AND ITS ISLANDS:

Written by: DATUAN S. PANOLIMBA of
North Cotabato, Philippines

datuan.panolimba@yahoo.com

When the Spaniards set their foot in Manila in 1570, Islam had taken its roots in the bay area. In the southern portion of the archipelago, there were already established sultanates, attesting to the existence of advanced political system the Moros had had. It was during the Battle of Manila that year that the word “Moro” was first used by the Spaniards, reminded of their experience with the Moors in Morocco who fought them for territory and dominance in the Iberian peninsula.

Military campaigns were launched to subjugate the Moro Muslims in 1578. These expeditions came in six stages starting from the Spanish conquest of Borneo in 1578, ending in the attempts to consolidate Hispanic hold in some parts of Mindanao to prevent the other foreign powers at that time (e.g. the British and the Dutch) from penetrating the Muslim sultanates. Each of these aggressions was fiercely resisted by the Moro people. Despite some minor gains towards the end of the Spanish era, the Castelllans, who gained some advantage with the introduction of fast steamboats and the weakening of the Sultanates due to internecine wars on succession, never subjugated the Moros.

But the wounds remained and even grew deeper. The Moro wars as well as the cultural conditions imposed on the Indio’s, e.g. the Moro-Moro, zarzuela and the like, separated the Christianized Filipinos from the Muslims in the South of the Philippines. Stereotypes portraying the latter as “uncivilized and barbaric” persisted giving notion that the Muslims were being treated as second-class citizens.

American colonialism of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan began with the Bates Treaty that was on August 20, 1899. The document was just a tactical ploy designed by the American occupational forces to thwart any alliance between the defenders of the young Philippine Republic and the Sultanates. When the Americans succeeded in crushing the revolutionary government in Luzon, they mounted military expeditions to pacify and subjugate the Moro people. These took several forms foremost of which was the no-nonsense unleashing of full military might capped by the opening of settelemnts for the Filipinos from Luzon and the Visayas here in Mindanao and its islands.

Through the pensionados-scions of Moro families who were sent to institutions of higher learning in Manila and the U.S. – the Americans were able to erect some pillars of their colonial government. In August 1916, the Jone Law (Public Act No. 240 of the Second Session of the 64th United States Congress) was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson. This was followed by the abolition of the Department of Mindanao and Sulu. The administration of the Moro lands came largely under the Bureau of Non-Christian tribes under the Department of the Interior.

American and Christian Filipino officials were in general agreement on the overall policy on the Moros; their integration into the mainsteam of Filipino society. But this policy was seriously obstructed by at least three circumstances: 1) The atmosphere of mutual suspicion between American and Filipino officials; 2) Continued Moro resistance and struggle against the domination of the imperial government based in Manila; and 3) The priority given to national economic development and security consideration in the Bangamoro Homeland.

Throughout American Regime, the Filipino leaders (Quezon, Osmena, Laurel, Recto, etc) did not manifest interest of the Moros at heart, being motivated to ensure control and demonstrate their capacity to government and hasten the granting of (political) independence. Pockets of small uprisings dotted and shock American presence in Mindanao. Notable among these were: the Maranao revolt in Tugaya, Lanao Sur in 1923; the uprising led by Datu Santiago in Parang, Cotabato in 1923-1924; the one by Datu Tahil in 1927 against land taxation and cedula, among others, and the most notable of all, the one led by Hadji Kamlon of Sulu Province in the 1950’s.

The Americans never grasped what the Moro problem really was. They saw it as underdevelopment of “Non-Christian Tribes” – and the solution was education, economic development and judicious application of force whenever the Moros resisted. Worse, to some, the Moros were considered savages needing to be civilized and the homeland of the Moros as territory promising vast economic resources for an independent Philippines; hence, the term “Land of Promise”. Migration was greatly accelerated in 1936, further boosted with the creation of such bodies as LASADECO, NARRA, and EDCOR. This stage set the process of “denationalization” and “minoratization” of the Moros.

The Japanese occupation force little understood the actual situation of the Moros. They tried to use the “Brother Asians” appeal but the best that they could achieve was the guarded, enthusiastic obedience of some Moros living in occupied towns. The majority of the Moros, however, supported the anti-Japanese war effort, and not a few were pleased at the opportunity to legitimate by show their martial bravery. In many instances, the Moros and the Filipinos fought side by side to repulse the Japanese imperial army.

Under the contemporary period, political analysts and pundits are wont to point out to three underlying causes to the Moro problem and the Mindanao conflict: landlessness, socio-cultural differences, and power struggle. In the eyes of progressive minds, they are four: political autonomy or self – determination, leadership, oppression and exploitation, and mass liberation. The underlying circumstance is that the Bangsamoro Muslims are fighting against “forcible denationalization”, if not actual physical extermination.

Three events in the late 1960s and early 1970s precipitated Mindanao Crisis: The Corregidor incident (Jabidah Massacre) of March 1968 in Bataan Province; the Manili massacre, Carmen, North Cotabato in June 1971, the November 1971 elections, and President Marcos imposition of Martial Law in September 1972. The first event led to the formation of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). To that however, five Muslim scholars from Mindanao and Sulu were known to have planted the seeds of “JIHAD” on the Bangsamoro ancestral, noble, and belove homeland. One of these scholars was Late Ustadz Salamat Hashim, first Chairman, Central Committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The auspicious birth of the Mindanao Independence Movement (MIM) espoused by the “Grand Old man of Cotabato” Governor Datu Udtog Matalam.

There was a shirt of political power from the traditional MUslim ruling class to the newly – elected Christian leaders as a result of November 1971 elections. Almost simultaneously, a Christian vigilante group called “ILAGA” (acronym fo ILONGO LAND GRABBING ASSOCIATION) came into being. The declaration of Martial Law put an exclamation point to the neo-colonial attempts at finally subjugating the Moros.It only expose the then unified MNLF, and soon it became the rallying force of the Moros in their quest for self – determination.

Finding it difficult to supppress the MNLF, which had gained an Observer Status in the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), the Philippine government gave way to the signing of the Tripoli Agreement in December 1976. Apart from this, President Marcos of the Philippines unilaterally established autonomous regions in Regions IX and XII and created several offices to dramatize its policy of measured benevolence towards the Moros. These offices included the Offices of the Regional Commissioners for Regions IX and XII, Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA), Philippine Amanah Bank, Philippine Pilgrimage Authority , Office of Islamic Affairs in the Department of Foreign affairs, Agency for the Development and Welfare of Muslims in the Philippines, Commissioner for Islamic Affair (later Ministry of Muslim Affairs, OMACC, and now Office of Muslim Affairs), among others. This culminated by the enactment of R.A. 6734 that established the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in 1990.

The GRP-MNLF Tripoli Agreement of 1976 did not end or solve the Bangsamoro problem and the Mindanao conflict neither did the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement signed on September 2, 1996. While the MNLF opted to join the government and had a hand in the running of the ARMM and the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD), the Bangsamoro problem and Mindanao conflict remained. The continued exploitative and oppressive policies of the Philippine government, punctuated by unabated militarization, open human rights violations and myopic initiatives that serve more as palliatives and cosmetical approaches in containing, or denying the existence of the problem, further the strengthened the resolved of the Moros in the struggle for Right to Self – Determination (RSD).

The MORO ISLAMIC LIBERATION FRONT (MILF), borne by the disenchantment, disenfranchisement and the dejection of the Moro masses from the Philippine government’s refusal to recognize the inherent right of the Bangsamoro Muslims to regain their lost freedom and independence and reclaim their homeland that were subjected to laws promulgated without due representation from and consultations with the Bangsamoros.

From July 17, 1997, the MILF entered into a General Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities with the GRP, the latter, through its Armed Forces continued to violate the agreement and the subsequent documents forced between the GRP and MILF Peace Panels to ensure continuously confidence building and fruitful negotiations. The GRP unveiled its “All – OUt War Policy” to bring down the Moro Mujahideens to their knees. Just like what the Americans did to the Bates Treaty, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) ignored the joint statements acknowledging certain MILF major and satellite camps – only for the duration of the peace process-on the pretext that these turned into bases from which “terroristic activities” of MILF were launched. They launched offensives notwithstanding the existence of civilians and holy structures in the communities within MILF camps.

The All-Out War policy bodes well with real intent of pursuing genocide or ethnic cleansing. This leaves no alternative for the Moro Muslims but carve their separate state. The unitary system with sprinkling of autonomy in areas dominated by Moros and tribal peoples did not sit well with the Moro people’s desire for real freedom to control their religion, political, cultural, educational, and economic affairs.

The experience of the Bangsamoro Muslims had its parallel in Algeria and other countries. Emotionally, the former of 2000 are now where the Algerians were in 1955. Mere socio – economic development progress side-by-side with military action by France did not succeed in making the Algerians of the time accept the offer of autonomy. Their suffering galvanized their resistance, until as then French President Charles de Gaulle belatedly realized, independence was the only acceptable solution to the Algerian problem. This is the reality that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) must face, Insha ALLAH Subhanaho Wataalah.

As the MILF, however, firmly believes that the Bangsamoro problem and the Mindanao conflict can be solved through peaceful means, it has embarked on a negotiation to pave the way to a peaceful and democratic return of the Bangamoro homeland to the Moro people. This is in accordance with Qur’anic provisions contained in Chapter VIII, verse nos. 60-62. It is for this reason that the MILF entered into the AGCC and subsequently submitted a 9-point agenda for the peace talks with the GRP. These nine talking points have been clustered into six, namely: 1) Ancestral Domain and Agrarian Related Issues, 2) Destruction of Properties and War Victims, 3) Human Rights Issues, 4) Social and Cultural Discrimination, Corruption of the Mind and Moral Fiber, 5) Economic Inequities and Widespread Poverty, and 6) Exploitation of Natural Resources. As the negotiation went on, these six talking points were deduced again to only three, namely: 1) Security Aspect, 2) Relief, Rehabilation and Development Aspect, and 3) Ancestral Domain Aspect.

While the GRP Panel preferred to delve on positive and more forward looking aspects, the MILF maintains that the true nature, scope, magnitude, and depth of the Bangsamoro problem and the Mindanao conflict must be emphasized for the well – being and future of the Moro people. No amount of stonewalling or window – dressing will ever justify any effort to arrive at another sets of palliatives and /or short – sighted remedies “in the name of peace process” but to the detriment of the downtrodden, exploited, colonized and oppressed Bangsamoro.

The objective of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is to regain the illegally and immorally usurped freedom and self – determination of the Bangsamoro people through peaceful means. The annexation of the Bangsamoro Homeland through the Treaty of Paris of December 10, 1898 constitutes an illegal and immoral act, which is a violation of human rights. The position of the MILF is very clear. There is no viable and lasting solution to the centuries-old conflict in Mindanao between the Bangsamoro people and their prosecutor except to give way to the aspirations of the native inhabitants of Mindanao and its islands – the Bangsamoro people and the Highlanders, and this is no other than the resoration of their usurped legitimate rights to freedom and self – determination.

THE BANGSAMORO MUSLIMS AND THEIR HOMELAND:

The ancestral homeland of the Bangsamoro is not just located in Mindanao, Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Palawan. In a map found on London Library and Museum, Muslim areas in the Philippines at the time of the arrival of the Spaniards in the Philippines were found throughout the archipelago. There were seven kingdoms and principalities, namely: a) the Sultanate of Maguindanao, b) Sultanate of Sulu, c)Muslim principality of Palawan, d) Muslim principality of Panay, e) Muslim principality Mindoro, f) the Muslim principality of Manilad (Manila), and g) the Muslim principality of Iloco.

Due to the partial success of the Spanish conquistadors’ attempt to proselytize the Indio’s, the Moros were decimated in Luzon and the Visayas. At the end of the Spanish regime, the Moros were found principally in the southern portion of the Philippines: on the island of Mindanao, in the Sulu archipelago, and on the island of Palawan, south of Puerto Princesa City. The dominant Islamized tribes consist of 13 major ethno – linguistic groups : the Maguindanaos (Cotabato and parts of Zamboanga del Sur), Maranaws (Lanao, and parts of the Misamis, Bukidnon and also in Caraga region), Tausogs (Sulu), Yakans (Basilan), Iranons (North of Maguindanao and Cotabato provinces and south of Lanao del Sur, Jama Mapun (Tawi-Tawi and Cagayan de Sulu), Palawani (Southern Palawan), Kalibugan (Zamboanga del Sur) Kalagan (Davao areas), Samal (Sulu), Sangil (Saranggani Island group), Molbog (Balabac Island Southern Palawan), and Badjao (South of Sulu) – (per Yambut et. al., 1975:16). Each of these groups occupies a more or less distict territory, though in some instance the smaller groups have their living spaces penetrated by families belonging to the larger groups.

Then there are highlanders or lumads, the tribal ethnic groups like the T’durays (Tirurays), Manobos, B’laans, Bagobos, Subanons, T’bolis, Bukidnons, and other indigenous cultural communities, who opted not to embrace Islam, but form part of the Bangsamoro nation. They have the same aspiration as the Muslims to reclaim their ancestral domain and be free of exploitation and oppression.

Notwithstanding the unifying bond of Islam and custom and traditions (in the case of the highlanders or lumads), the Moros differ in certain respects: 1) subsistence patterns, 2) historical development and in the intensity of their contracts with the rest of the archipelago and the world beyond, and 3) in the details of their social organization, degree of their Islamic acculturation, and in their dress, custom, arts and many other aspects of culture.

These accidental differences, including patterns of psychosocial behavior, were exploited by the regime of President Marcos to divide the Moros in its attempt to weakened the then unified MNLF. What it could not win in war, it somewhat accomplished, albeit with little success in politics of compromises, concessions, and deception. This strategy also somewhat worked in magnifying the mis – perception that the Moros by themselves could not govern, rendering the various mechanisms devised by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) especially the Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA), the Bogus Autonomous Regions under P.D. 1618, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as “mean to fail.”

The Bangsamoro homeland consists of the picturesque, crab-like island of Mindanao. The minnows are, the island of the Sulu archipelago (or the Basilan, Sulu, Tawitawi). Moroland is said to be a territory of 36,540 square miles. By way of comparison, it is larger in territory than either portugal or Austria. And the Bangsamoro Population outnumbers that of Albania, Costa Rica, and even of oil-rich desert country of Libya.

In terms of the history of the Bangsamoro, three regions have loomed more important than others: the Sulu archipelago, the Lake Lanao Region, and the Pulangi (River) Valley, that is Cotabato Empire of old.

Sulu is the gateway that connects to Borneo and Malay Peninsula, which explains the very close ties between the people of these areas. In 1994, seeing the tremendous potentials of reviving the thriving trade and commerce that made the region prosperous some 500 years ago, former Philippine president Fidel V. Ramos, under his much-maligned Philippine 2000 vision, orchestrated the establishment of the BIMP-EAGA (Brunie-Malaysian-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area). The rapid gains of said multilateral borderless economic arrangement were vaporized when the currency crisis struck in the mid – 1997. But then the Bangsamoro people remained in abject socio – economic condition, despite the promised bonanza especially after the signing of the Final Peace agreement between the GRP and tHe MNLF on September 2, 1996.

Lake Lanao, all of its 135 – square-mile size, supplies the electric power generated through hydro plant to larger portion of the island of Mindanao. Paradoxically, a big part of the Province of Lanao del Sur, where it is located is not yet energized up to this writing. The more properous Lanao del Norte, now dominated by Christians, with some big industries located therein, especially in Iligan City, is one enjoying the benefits of cheap electricity, together with those in Northern Mindanao, Caraga region and the Zamboanga Peninsula, all now populated mostly by Christian settlers from the Luzon and Visayas.

The Rio Grande de Mindanao (Spanish name for Pulangi, which also means “river”) is like Mount Fuji to the Japanese or the Nile river to the Egyptians. It is not just a channel for transportation/navigation, source of irrigation, trade and commercial route, and agro – industrial key production area. More than other, it is a symbol, a source of pride amongst the Maguindanaons and the other Moros in the area. The regime of former President Marcos of the Philippines came up with the cotabato – Agusan river Basin Development Project (CARBDP) aimed at transforming the valley into a modern complex of agricultural production, marketing, and corporate growth. The Marcos era ended without seeing the fruits of such a grandiose scheme.

Three dispensations in succession concocted as set or a package of programs to gain attempt at developing the valley, including the 286,000 hectare-plus Liguasan (Ligawasan) Marsh. There is the Maridagao-Malitubog Irrigation Development Project, a multi – billion peso project, and the aborted Liguasan Marsh Development Project, whose feasibility study was spearheaded by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) at a cost of P6 million but was flatly rejected by the native inhabitants of the Marsh area. The World Bank is set to bankroll a bigger project to encompass MalMar, Liguasan, and the Pulangi. Yet, the Bangsamoro natives have never participated in the drawing of the plans, never been consulted, or even are going to be dispalced once these projects are in place.

THE BANGSAMORO ANCESTRAL DOMAIN AND OTHER RELATED ISSUES:

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) maintains that the issue on ancestral domain involves: a) intrusion into the domain (by vested interest, settlers, and multinationals), b) declaration of ancestral domain as public and disposal lands, and c) wanton destruction and irreverence towards ancestral domain.

Throughout contemporary history, the Bangsamoro were subjected to various forms of oppression, subjugation, and genocidal campaigns. The situation of the Bangsamoro people became worst when colonies and settlements projects in Mindanao and Sulu were established to decongest Luzon and Visayas. It was also a palliative to appease for Huk members. The systematic deprivation of the Bangamoro people of their ancestral domain is anchored in the Regalian Doctrine, which has been enshrined in the Philippine Constitution of 1935, 1973 and 1987 with the state declares itself the sole owner of what is called state dome in and reserves the right to classify it for purposes of proper disposition to its citizens. To this effect, the Philippine government enacted series of laws, detriment to the occupancy, use and rights of the Bangsamoro people of their homeland.

On November 6, 1902, the Philippine Commission passed Land Registration Act No. 496 which requires the registration of lands occupied by private persons or corporations, and the application for registration of title, says Sec. 21, it shall in writing, signed and sworn to by the applicant. This provision of law is totally discriminatory. First, the registration was not only totally alien to the Moro communities, most of them would have been unable to comply, illiterate that they were. Second, it failed to take cognizance that the Maguindanao and Sulu Sultanates were independent Muslim States, possession had been, and was a complete and absolute title to their land in accordance with Islamic Law.

To ensure unchallenge exercise of the state authority to dispose of state domain or public lands, the Philippine Commission enacted an Act No. 718 entitled “An Act makig void land grants from Moro Sultnas or Datus or from Chiefs of Non – Christian Tribes when made without governmental authority or consent. Section 82 of Public Land Act No. 926 which was amended by Act No.2874 by the Senate and House of Representatives on 29 November 1919 in accordance with the Jones Law and finally incorporated in Commonwealth Act 141 under Section 84, enacted and approved on November 7, 1936, continues to carry the almost exact wordings of said law, reiterating further the legitimacy of the transfer of sovereign authority from Spain to the United Staets of America, and the illegality of the Moros claim.

On October 7, 1903, the Philippine Commission passed Public Land Act No. 926 which allowed individuals to acquire homestead not exceeding 16 hectares each corporation, 1,204 hectares each of, unoccupied, unreserved, unappropriated agricultural public lands as stated by Section 1. Nothing was said about the unique custom of the Moro Communities.

Public Land Act No. 926, amended through Act No. 2874 by the Senate and House of Representatives on 29 November 1919 in accordance with Jones Law, provided that 16hectares allowed earlier to individuals was increased to 24 hectares, but the Non – Christian , including the Moros, was allowed an area which shall exceed ten (10) hectares with the very stringent conditions, that is, it shall be an essential condition that the applicant apply for permit to cultivate the land and if the applicant has not begun to cultivate and improve the land six months from and after the date on which the permit was granted, the permit shall ipso facto be concelled and land.

Commonwealth Act No. 141, amended on November 7 1936, withdrew the privilege earlier granted to the settlers of owning more than one homestead at 24 hectares each and reverted to one not exceeding 16 hectares. But the non – Christians (including the Moros) who were earlier allowed a maximum of ten (10) hectares were now permitted only four (4) hectares.

For the administration of agricultural colonies, Commonwealth Act No. 141 created the National Land Settlement Administration. This took charge of the settlement projects in Koronadal, Cotabato, and in Malig, Isabel, Cotabato. With the subsequent reorganization of the government in 1950, the office was merged with the Rice and Corn Production Administration, forming a new identity known as the Land Settlement and Development Corporation (LASADECO). Later, Republic Act No. 1160 abolished LASADECO and created the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Administration (NARRA). With the efforts of the NARRA, it had resetled 20, 500 at the cost of p44.5 million in 1963. The government also created the Economic Development Corporation (EDCOR), which issued homestead land to, alleged former HUKS.

THe defunct Commission on National Integration (CNI), created under R.A. 1888, as amended by R.A. 3852 on 4 May 1964 did not succeed in its objectives, but merely perpetuated and made more start the discriminatory oppression and misleading thrust of the Philippine government by implementing more settlement projects, allowing more concession ot the political elite.

On March 11, 1974, former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, issued P.D. No. 410 “Declaring Ancestral Lands Occupied and Cultivated by National Cultural Communities as Alienable and Disposable, and for other Purposed”. This edict had a ten – year period of effectively but it lapsed without getting implemented. It was overtaken by events, one of which was the shaky bureaucratic realignments and reorganizations that plagued the dictatorial regime.

Subsequent laws passed by resurrected congress did not alleviate the suffering and dislocation of the Moro people. Bureaucratic red tape and unconscionable practice of certain irreverent parties taking advantage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), as extended, and other programs like the Integrated Social Forestry and the issuance, and other Certificates of Ancestral Domain Claim (CADC) made matters worse. Even wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, like Liguasan Marsh and Lake Lanao, were surreptitiously titled and mortgage with the Land bank of the Philippines (LBP).

DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTIES OF AND WAR VICTIM’S: DISPLACED AND LANDLESS BANGSAMORO MUSLIMS:

The destruction of properties, loss of hundreds of thousands on innocent lives, physical and psychological injuries to those who survived the bloody wars from the early 1970’s to the present, and displacement and or disposition of lot more came as result of genocidal.

As an instrument to fulfill the grand design of the Marcos government, then President Ferdinand E.Marcos declared Martial Law on September 21, 1972 to support the ILAGA movement backed up by the Philippine Constabulary (PC) and Philippine Army (PA), see the book of Dr. Muslim. Until the middle part of 1971, ILAGA operations were concentrated in various Muslim villages in the municipalities of the then two Cotabato Provinces (North and South) with mixed populations, but largely in municipalities where the Muslims were in minority. In the second half of the 1971, they reached the province of Lanao del Sur, particularly the municipality of Wao which was among the centers of the Christian Filino migration. Then, they spread to several towns of Lanao del Norte and in Bukidnon Province.In 1972, ILAGA operated in Zamboanga del Sur. For the period of two years, practically all – Muslim areas in Mindanao were under seige the ILAGA backed up by Philippine Constabulary (PC),. and the Philippine Army (PA).

June 19, 1971 is a very memorable moment for the Bangsamoro Muslims of Carmen, North Cotabato particularly in the village of Manili with more than 70 innocent Moro civilians were massacred by the agent of the Marcos regime particularly the ILAGAs and the Philippine Constabulary (PC). In six months period from January 1971, a total of 358 Moro Muslim were recorded killed by the ILAGA backed up by the PC and PA. In the town Alamada, North Cotabato alone, about 92 houses were recorded burned. In the nearby towns, 55 Moro Muslims houses in Carmen, North Cotabato; 18 in Pikit, North Cotabato; 25 in Kidapawan, North Cotabato and 22 in Buldon, Maguindanao were all burned by the ILAGA in just five days in August, 1971. A total of 411 Moro Muslim’s houses were burned in the town of Wao, Lanao del Sur and Buldon, Maguindanao, respectively.

Other towns with notable killing and burning of several hundreds or even thousands of Muslim houses, masjeeds, and Islamic schools were: Magsaysay, Lanao del Norte; Kisulon, Bukidnon Province; and Siay and Ipil in Zamboanga del Sur. A notable ILAGA Commander Toothpick reinforced by a PC Captain Manuel Tronco made Upi, Cotabato as his Kingdom. As pointed out by a Muslim leader, Senator mamintal Tamano when interviewing the Muslim evacuees of barrio Kulongkulong, Palembang, Cotabato, after the more than two thousand Muslim (men and women, young and old) massacred in their barrio (village) on January 2, 1972, I could not shake their belief that some of the ILAGA were soldiers of the marcos regime. The incident was popularly known as “Kulongkulong Massacre”. Jubair (1999) in his book, confirmed the findings of Dr. Muslim in his dissertation.

Apperaring simultaneously with the reported ILAGA atrocities, until the middle part of 1972 were series of massacres of Muslims reportedly by the units of the Philippine Constabulary and the Philippine Army.. It was noted thatthere were 73
Muslims massacred by PC in Alamada, Cotabato in January 19, 1971; 40 Muslims were massacred by the Philippine Army in Tacub and Kausuagan all in Lanao del Norte, according to Salah Jubair. In the same incident, some 162 were reported missing allegedly salvaged by the Philippine Army soldiers. In a neighboring town of Magsaysay, Lanao del Norte scores of Muslim civilians were on their way for voting and were gunned down by the Philippine Army soldiers.

These atrocities against the Bangsamoro Muslims by the ILAGA and the military machineries of the Philippine government had converted several Muslim areas as ‘Killing Fields”, where the rest are evacuation centers. Naturally, the Muslims in these areas and those of the neighboring towns were forced to leave behind their farms and homes, many of which were subsequently looted and occupied by the Christian settlers even up to this writing. Worst, those land occupied by the Christian settlers from the Luzon and Visayas were titled forcefully with manipulations and connivance with the corrupt, liar Philippine government officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the Register of Deeds.

Records or documents submitted to the Egyptian – Libyan team that visited the Philippines in 1972 could give us a sense of the extent of displacement suffered by the Bangsamoro Muslims. Not to include the recent war victims between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the freedom fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the provinces of North Cotabato, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Saranggani, Maguindanao, Basilan and Sulu after the Philippine government did not sign the initialled Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in August 2008 at Putrajaya, Malaysia.

The following are some of the vacated Moro Muslim areas presently occupied by the Christian settlers from Luzon and Visayas:

1. Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat Province – Moro Muslims in this town were totally displaced by the Christians. These Moro Muslims evecuated to Maganoy and Datu Piang towns in Maguindanao Province. Their houses and masjeeds were burned and effects looted.

2. Ampatuan, Maguindanao and Isulan, Sultan Kudarat – Moro Muslims in these areas have been driven either to Buluan, Maganoy and Datu Piang towns; their houses and masjeeds were burned and effects looted.

3. Alamada, North Cotabato – Moro Muslims were driven to the neighboring towns ofBuldon and Sultan Kudarat; their houses and masjeeds were burned and effects looted.

4. Colombio, Sultan Kudarat Province – Moro Muslims were driven to Alep (Datu Paglas) and Buluan; their houses and masjeeds burned and effects looted.

5. Upi, Maguindanao Province – Moro Muslims were driven to the poblacion, to Cotabato City and Dinaeg (now Datu Odin Sinsuat town); their house and masjeeds were burned; their effects looted.

6. Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat Province – Moro Muslims were driven to Lebak, Cotabato City, Sultan Kudarat and Parang; their houses and masjeeds were burned; their properties looted.

7. Lanao del Sur – Moro Muslm in Wao town were driven to the interiors of Lanao del Sur, their houses and masjeeds were burned; their effects looted.

8. Lanao del Norte – All Moro Muslims living along the National Highway from one end to the other, a distance of over 100 kilometers were driven to the interiors of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur; their houses and masjeeds were burned; their properties looted.

9. Zamboanga del Sur – All Moro Muslimms in the several small villages along the seacoast of the peninsula were driven to Basilan and Sulu Provinces; their houses and masjeeds were burned; their effects looted.

10. Bukidnon Province – All Moro Muslims living in several towns in Bukidnon were driven to Lanao del Sur Province; their houses and masjeeds were burned; their effects looted.

To sumarize the extent and effect of the first two years of the ILAGA and Philippine government’s military atrocities, we could conclude that the Moro Muslims in the rural areas of the Bangsamoro Homeland were badly devastated which under INTERNATIONAL LAWS needs CONDEMNATION and INDEMNIFICATION. Hundreds of thousands of houses, madaris (Islamic schools) and Masjeeds (House of Worship)were burned and tens of thousands of innocent Bangsamoro were massacred and more than one Million of rural Bangsamoro residents were displaced even up to this writing. About five hundred thousands (500,000) are still living in the island state of Sabah, Malaysia as refugees and thousands upon thousands are refugees in other urban centers in Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon. It should also be worthwhile to take note the permanent and partial lost of properties and lives of the Bangsamoro Muslims living along the seacoasts of Zamboanga peninsula, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi whose number reached to about one Million.

The problem of refugees has remained unsolved uo to this day. Displaced Moro Muslims could not return to their places of origin , especially in Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte, and Zamboanga del Sur Provinces because either their lands have been stolen and titled by other parties or they fear continued persecution from the Philippine government occupational armed forces. Compounding is what is termed now as “STATISTICAL GENOCIDE” whereby the Bangsamoro people are subjected to minoritization in the national statistics records of the Philippine government. At present even the National Statistical Office could not provide an accurate figure regarding the nearest estimate of the Bangsamoro population. For several years now, the NSO’s census reports have shown a slow growth of the Bangsamoro population, which is quite improbable campaigns and military operations undertaken in the Bangsamoro Homeland today.

HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES AND CONCERS:

The Bangsamoro Muslims are the native inhabitants of Mindanao, Sulu, Basilan Tawi-Tawi and Palawan, who are not Spanish subjects on the eleventh day of April, eighteen hundred and ninety-nine (11 April, 1899), and then resided in said Islands, who have neither been naturalized under either of Act No. 2927 and Commonwealth Act No. 473, nor have ever been elected to public office prior to the adoption of the 1935 Constitution.

The Bangsamoro Muslims have fought against Spaniard, American, Japanese, then Filipino aggressions of their ancestal domain, now invoke the human right protection and guarantees accorded them by international conventions and customary laws.

The subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitute a denial of fundamental human rights, contrary to the Charter of the United Nations. The process of liberation is irresistible and irreversible and that, in order to avoid crises, an end must be put to colonialism.

The recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of the Bangsamoro People is the foundation of liberty, justice and lasting and comprehensive peace in Mindanao and its islands. It is essential, if the Bangsamoro Nation and People are not to be compelled to pursue rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that their human rights be protected by the rule of law. The ideal of free human beings enjoying freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone in Mindanao and its Islands may enjoy his or her economic, social and cultural rights, as well as his civil and political rights.

The right to development is an inalienable human right by virtue of which every humman person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized. The human right to development also implies the full realization of the right of peoples to self – determination, including their inalienable right to full sovereignty over all of their natural wealth and resources.

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines has undertaken to ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights set forth in the international covenants. The Government of the Republic of the Phlippines has also undertaken to take the necessary steps, in accordance with its constitutional processes and with the provisions of the international covenants, to adopt such laws or other measures as may be necesary to give effect to the rights recognized by international law and conventions. The Government of the Republic of the Philippines is under obligation under the Charter of the United Nations to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and freedoms.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, keeping such Declaration constantly in mind, striving by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among its peoples and among the peoples of Mindanao and its islands.

It’s MOA or nothing — MILF Moro rebs OK with new peace panel chief, but…

December 3, 2008

By Jeoffrey Maitem, Julie Alipala, Richel Umel
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Mindanao Bureau
First Posted 02:39:00 12/03/2008

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. With reports from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse

MILF Commits Anew to International Humanitarian Law on Landmines

November 12, 2008

The Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines (PCBL), affiliate of the 1997 Nobel Peace laureate International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), hereby announces the recent signing by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) of a new instrument developed by PCBL entitled “Rebel Group Declaration of Adherence to International Humanitarian Law on Landmines” – bring to four the number of signatory rebel groups in the Philippines, all in this year.

This declaration allows non-state armed groups (NSAGs) to adhere to, become accountable for, and generate assistance for compliance with the key norms, standards and undertakings of existing international humanitarian law (IHL) on landmines, not limited to those of the 1997 Ottawa Treaty totally banning victim-activated anti-personnel mines.

The MILF declaration was signed (not just initialed) by its representatives on 21 October 2008 and was received by PCBL on 10 November 2008. It was signed by two important MILF Central Committee members, namely Atty. Lanang S. Ali, who is Vice-Chairman of the Maglis Al Shoorah (the MILF legislative body), and Sammy Al Mansor, Chief of Staff of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF, the MILF army).

What is significant about this MILF declaration is its being signed while there are ongoing armed hostilities (since last August) in Central Mindanao between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and at least three base commands of the MILF/BIAF which had reacted violently to the aborted signing of a Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the MILF. Since last August, there have been a number of field reports, mainly from the AFP, regarding alleged landmine use by the MILF. But this has yet to be verified by independent, competent and credible entities.

PCBL hopes that the MILF declaration of adherence to IHL on landmines will help spur better respect for IHL as well as human rights not only by the MILF but also by the AFP and other armed forces/groups involved in the current hostilities. Any resolution of these hostilities as well as any resumption of the stalled peace negotiations will have to include measures for the respect of IHL and human rights. Those measures should include a more thorough investigation of the various reported violations, the effective imposition of sanctions against those found to be responsible for atrocities to obviate impunity for these, and the adequate provision of different forms of redress for the victims.

And in the particular case of whatever landmines and other unexploded ordnance (UXO) that may still remain on the ground and pose danger to life and limb even after the cessation of hostilities, these explosive remnants of war (ERW) will have to be cleared. All these measures from incident investigation to landmine/UXO clearance would be presumably easier now to get MILF cooperation for, as a result of its declaration of adherence to IHL on landmines. PCBL will do its part in these measures in cooperation with its partners in Mindanao and internationally.

The three earlier signatory Philippine rebel groups in separate but standard declarations are all communist breakaway factions with armed rural units: the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Mindanao (RPM-M, Revolutionary Workers Party of Mindanao); the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas (RPM-P, Revolutionary Workers Party of the Philippines); and the Marxista-Leninistang Partido ng Pilipinas (MLPP, Marxist-Leninist Party of the Philippines). The first two groups, the RPM-M and RPM-P, are engaged in a peace process and ceasefire with the Philippine government. They signed their declarations through their respective chairmen Harry Tubongbanwa (RPM-M) on 10 February 2008 and Nilo de la Cruz (RPM-P) on 14 May 2008, both in the presence of PCBL which received them.

The third group, the MLPP, has no peace process and ceasefire but instead ongoing armed hostilities through its Rebolusyonaryong Hukbong Bayan (RHB, Revolutionary People’ Army) with Philippine government forces, so this is a real value added to this humanitarian effort. In addition, it had never made a previous commitment to a total ban on anti-personnel mines, unlike the MILF, RPM-P and RPM-M which had previously done so through the groundwork and efforts of PCBL in 2000-03. MLPP spokesperson Leon Guevarra and RHB spokesperson Red Olalia signed the declaration on 29 March 2008 “somewhere in Central Luzon” but, due to technical difficulties, was delivered to PCBL only on 30 July 2008.

The “Rebel Group Declaration” outlines the key applicable norms, standards and undertakings under four sources of IHL relevant to landmines: the 1997 Ottawa Treaty; the 1996 Amended Protocol II on Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW); the 2003 Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) of the CCW; and the customary IHL rules on landmines as set forth in the 2005 customary IHL study by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). As regards victim-activated anti-personnel mines, the Ottawa Treaty norms on a total ban hold sway under this declaration. As for other landmines which are not banned by IHL as weapons of war – command-detonated anti-personnel mines (like certain Claymore mines) and all types of anti-vehicle mines – it is mainly Amended Protocol II as well as customary IHL which apply. The allowable use of these other landmines are governed by rules aimed mainly at protecting civilians against indiscriminate effects both during and after armed hostilities. While Protocol V on ERW specifically excludes landmines from its scope, still its provisions on ERW clearance are relevant to mine clearance.

In zones of armed conflict, not only landmines but many types of explosive ordnance in warfare and all sorts of unexploded and abandoned ordnance remain after the armed hostilities. The “Rebel Group Declaration” is therefore more reflective of this reality on the ground than most existing declarations. It is hoped that this comprehensive, as opposed to segmented, approach in the case of NSAGs will also encourage a similar approach in the case of states, such as in their domestic implementing legislation (e.g. the bill for a “Philippine Comprehensive Law on Landmines”) and in developing possible inter-treaty regime interface mechanisms (e.g between/among the Ottawa Treaty, CCW and the coming Cluster Munitions Convention regimes).

In terms of accountability mechanisms, the “Rebel Group Declaration” points to the role not only of neutral, impartial and competent humanitarian organizations but also of the people in the group’s areas of control or operations, which is more compelling when the local, affected population comprises the group’s own constituency or mass base. The declaration also welcomes assistance that would help ensure compliance with and implementation of the IHL on landmines. Since the declaration is still new, its accountability and assistance mechanisms are expected to evolve further in the course of practice and with the help of the relevant networks and resources for this purpose. Finally, the declaration clarifies that it does not limit the group’s adherence vis-a-vis other norms and standards or the broad framework of IHL and human rights.

The “Rebel Group Declaration” can be a significant contribution and example on the part of adhering NSAGs. Though initially piloted in the Philippines, it can be replicated in appropriate localized versions elsewhere in the world. These will cumulatively encourage reciprocal adherences from states, and result in improvement in the human security situation for the people and communities in conflict-affected areas. These will also help build up the treaty norms to become customary norms of international law binding on all, not only to states-parties to treaties but also to non-party states and even non-state entities. In this way, we can achieve true universalization of the IHL on landmines.

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Body of Lies

November 12, 2008

By Carlos H. Conde

Ever since the United States sent its troops to the Philippines in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks, the Filipino people have been fed the line that the Americans are here either to help the people of Mindanao through humanitarian projects or to help train the Philippine military combat terrorism. The US troops have stayed in the country for so long now that not only have we lost count of exactly how many of them have remained – for all practical purposes, the Americans have set up camps in Mindanao. We know so little else about what they do here except some morsels of information contained in the occasional press release from the US embassy about medical missions and such.

Meanwhile, Filipino officials, particularly those belonging to the political opposition, have either lost interest in knowing exactly what the Americans are up to down south or they, too, had bought the line that all those undetermined number of troops, all those millions of dollars spent since 2002, are so the people of Basilan and Sulu can enjoy potable water or have their cleft lip fixed.

There had been assertions, of course, that there’s more to the presence of the US troops in Mindanao than meets the eye. Focus on the Global South, an international NGO, maintained, for instance, that the Americans have been engaged in an “offensive war” in Mindanao. Leftist groups, naturally, have been calling for the US troops’ pullout, particularly after the Americans suddenly sprouted everywhere — from Basilan, they moved to Sulu then to the Lanao provinces and God knows where else. And the usual line was, of course, they were on humanitarian or medical missions.

Perhaps the first real glimpse of the true nature of the US military’s presence in the south was the mission in 2002 that led to the rescue of Gracia Burnham, the American missionary, who, together with her husband Martin and several others, was kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf in 2001. The group has been linked to al Qaeda.

And today, The New York Times reported that the US military has used, since 2004, a “broad, secret authority to carry out nearly a dozen previously undisclosed attacks against Al Qaeda and other militants in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere.”

“These military raids typically carried out by Special Operations forces, were authorized by a classified order that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed in the spring of 2004 with the approval of President Bush, the officials said. The secret order gave the military new authority to attack the Qaeda terrorist network anywhere in the world, and a more sweeping mandate to conduct operations in countries not at war with the United States.”

The paper also reported about operations that reminded me of Body of Lies, the movie starring Russell Crowe and Leonardo diCaprio that was shown here recently. “In 2006, for example, a Navy Seal team raided a suspected militants’ compound in the Bajaur region of Pakistan, according to a former top official of the Central Intelligence Agency. Officials watched the entire mission — captured by the video camera of a remotely piloted Predator aircraft — in real time in the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorist Center at the agency’s headquarters in Virginia 7,000 miles away.”

The New York Times report tells us not to believe whatever the US and the Philippine governments have been telling us since this “war on terror” began. Although the Philippines was not mentioned in the report, it is not difficult to imagine that we are one of the “other countries” where the US had launched these secret attacks.

If anything, this should give politicians a reason to ascertain exactly what the US is doing in Mindanao. As this report indicates, a strong argument can be made that this American presence may have violated Philippine laws.

If the US military can have its way in countries that are less friendly to Washington – Pakistan, for instance – how much more in the Philippines where Americans are given far greater access, whose people bestow on them a tremendous amount of trust that they probably will not find elsewhere?

Carlos H. Conde is a journalist based in Manila.

Cost of war: 550 students drop out of school in NorthCot

November 11, 2008

Malu Cadelina-Manar/MIndaNews
Sunday, 09 November 2008 06:50
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st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/8 Nov) – Some 550 students in North Cotabato have dropped out of school since hostilities between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) resumed in early August, police said.


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Chief Supt. Felicisimo Khu, head of the Task Force Palma-Pikit, said most of the dropouts are high school students, numbering 448; the rest are in elementary. Most affected is a public high school in the town of Carmen, where 33 students, all males and all Maguindanaons, stopped reporting back to school.

The principal of Takepan National High School in Pikit town earlier said that 15 of her students failed to return to school when classes resumed.

The police also noted student dropouts in Aleosan, Banisilan, Pikit, Carmen, Tulunan, M’lang, Midsayap, Alamada, Kabacan, and Matalam.

Khu said that based on their initial findings, the students left school mainly because of fear that fighting might erupt again. He added that poverty also prevented the others from going back to school.

“But we do not discount the possibility that some of these students might have been recruited by an armed group operating in North Cotabato,” said Khu, adding that they did receive “disturbing” reports of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) Commander Umbra Kato training children for warfare.

Khu stressed that recruiting minors for war is a violation of local and international laws.

The MILF, however, denied the reports, saying it was part of a government propaganda to discredit the rebel group.

“Everybody is using Kato in whatever way possible. I don’t think some of these students who dropped out from school have gone training at one of our camps,” said Eid Kabalu, chief of civil-military relations of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces. (Malu Cadeliña Manar / MindaNews)

300 families flee Bumbaran as soldiers and MILF clash

November 11, 2008

MindaNews
Tuesday, 11 November 2008 06:45
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CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/10 November) – At least 300 families from Bumbaran in Lanao del Sur fled to neighboring Wao town Monday morning following skirmishes between government forces and what the military spokesperson referred to as “a lawless faction” of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

OV-10 planes dropped bombs on areas where the MILF forces were reportedly seen. Two MG-520 choppers were also sent to provide support to the soldiers, Major Mitchel Anayron, public information officer of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division said.

Anayron added that 105 mm howitzers were also fired at rebel positions in Barangay Sumogot, Bumbaran, near the village where 21 farmers were massacred by unidentified persons in 2000.

He said the Army’s 23rd Infantry Battalion and 43rd division reconnaissance company are pursuing the rebels who are believed to be responsible for bombing the power line of the National Transmission Corporation in Maramag, Bukidnon last month. (MindaNews)

Mercy mission claims harassment

October 26, 2008

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:42:00 10/26/2008

COTABATO CITY, Philippines—Members of an inter-faith humanitarian mission, composed of legislators and representatives of non-government organizations, on Saturday charged the military of trying to stop them from visiting conflict-affected communities in Mindanao.

The military denied the charge, saying the group was only routinely questioned at a checkpoint and warned that they were entering a risk area.

But Amirah Lidasan, national chair of Suara Bangsamoro and Kalinaw Mindanao, said soldiers belonging to the 64th Infantry Battalion pointed their guns at them and tried to intimidate them at a checkpoint in Barangay Pagatin in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

Lidasan said her group, which included Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan and former Bayan Muna Rep. Joel Virador, were visiting civilians displaced by military operations against Moro rebel leader Ameril Ombra Kato in Maguindanao and North Cotabato from Oct. 21 to 24.

“We were treated like the enemy,” she said in a radio interview on Saturday.

“They were trigger-ready, some pointed their guns at us and they were disrespectful,” Lidasan said.

She said that when they told the soldiers that they were members of NGOs who wanted to see the situation of the refugees and abandoned communities, “they did not want us to proceed.”

Lidasan also said the soldiers wanted to confiscate their video and still cameras.

Ilagan said they were later allowed to visit some areas.

When asked for a response, Col. Marlou Salazar, chief of the Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade, said the soldiers did not bar the humanitarian mission from entering Datu Piang and Datu Saudi Ampatuan towns.

He said it was standard procedure for the military to check those entering conflict areas.

“First, they did not coordinate with us,” said Salazar.

“When we asked them to wait while we were checking road security, it did not mean we prevented them from visiting the areas,” Salazar added. Edwin O. Fernandez, Inquirer Mindanao

Bangsamoro state eyed under federacy

October 26, 2008

By Vincent Cabreza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:56:00 10/26/2008

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. on Friday said the autonomous governments mandated by the 1987 Constitution for indigenous Filipinos of the Cordillera and Muslim Mindanao would not be touched by charter amendments seeking to create a federal government in the Philippines.

Pimentel said the existence of the autonomous governments, particularly the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, would repair the damage caused by a failed government attempt to sign a deal creating a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

In August, a peace panel organized by President Macapagal-Arroyo and its counterpart in the MILF drafted a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain creating the BJE.

The talks eventually collapsed after the Supreme Court stopped the scheduled signing of the memorandum of agreement in August. On October 14, the Supreme Court declared MOA-AD unconstitutional.

Pimentel presented the 63-page Joint Resolution No. 10, which outlines the creation of 11 Philippine federal states under an amended Constitution, before 500 north Luzon officials who attended a Charter change consultation here on Friday.

Baguio Representative Mauricio Domogan, a member of the House committee on constitutional amendments, organized the forum.

Pimentel said a Bangsamoro federal state would take the place of ARMM in a new bureaucracy to avoid antagonizing former Moro rebels.

But unlike previous political organizations designed for a Muslim community, the proposed Charter reforms would allow a Bangsamoro government to be administered by sharia (Islamic legal system).

Giving the region its own sharia-supervised state means the government is finally acknowledging the Muslim Filipino identity, he said.

The discussion pacified many of the Cordillera delegates, who are trying to revive Cordillera autonomy before legislators push for federalism, Domogan said.

The Cordillera drafted the country’s first law creating an autonomous region but the bid failed to win support during a 1990 plebiscite. A second law was also not ratified in a plebiscite held in 1998.

Some of the delegates, who discussed Charter reforms with Pimentel, were worried that the constitutional amendments would make Cordillera autonomy obsolete.

ARMM remains the only active autonomous region in the country, Pimentel said, but it has its flaws.

“There is a critical element missing [from ARMM] to address the problems of the Moro people…Pinag-aralan ko ito nang mabuti (I studied this thoroughly). That problem is our lack of recognition of their cultural identity,” he said.

“What is the basis of this identity? That element is the absence of the sharia… Without their laws, they could not truly say they are being allowed to live their lives as Muslims,” Pimentel said.

Egyptian, Indonesian and Malaysian legislators have already assured the Philippines that sharia can still be bound to Philippine laws that forbid extreme punishment such as beheading and stoning, Pimentel said.

He said the government has been attacking the Muslim secessionist problem with war when all it needed to do was accept their religion.

==========

My Take:

With the MOA-ADs failure, the MILF will surely be smarter enough not to take Pimentel’s hook, line and sinker.

Palace will not appeal High Court ruling on MOA

October 16, 2008

THE government will not appeal the Supreme Court decision declaring unconstitutional the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain it drafted with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said yesterday.

He said the government, through the Solicitor General, will instead file a manifestation explaining that the government is already addressing some of the “observations” made by the tribunal in Tuesday’s decision, like the conduct of public consultations.

“A new paradigm shift had been issued and the two important things about the paradigm shift in negotiations with the MILF are focus of the negotiations on dialogue with communities and not only with the armed groups. The negotiation should be undertaken in the context of disarmament, disbandment and reintegration of forces,” he said.

The government announced the new shift in policy in dealing with armed rebel groups late in August after deciding to abandon the MOA.

Ermita shrugged off the statements of MILF officials that they would bring the issue before international bodies.

He said President Arroyo has informed the international community, including the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Countries, of her government’s decision on the MOA and the shift in paradigm.

The Supreme Court, voting 8-7 Tuesday, said the government peace negotiating panel that crafted the MOA with the MILF violated the Constitution when it initialed the agreement that would have ceded a portion of the country’s territory to the secessionist group.

The agreement proposes the creation of a Muslim homeland in the South to be governed by the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity which can enter into economic agreements and trade relations with other countries.

President Arroyo said the high court’s ruling did not change her government’s decision not to sign the agreement.

She expressed hope no one would take “undue advantage of the verdict that would lead to the deterioration of the situation.”

After the oathtaking of the new officers of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines in Malacañang, Arroyo thanked Iligan City Mayor Lawrence Cruz and Vice Mayor Henry Lim.

Iligan City questioned the agreement before the Supreme Court together with North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Zamboanga del Norte provinces and Zamboanga and Isabela (Basilan) cities.

Parts of these areas, and other areas outside the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, were proposed to be included in the Bangsamoro homeland.

Hermogenes Esperon, presidential adviser on the peace process, belied the Supreme Court’s finding that he committed grave abuse of discretion when he failed to carry out the consultation process, as mandated by law, in areas that would be directly affected by the creation of the Muslim homeland.

“I must say that in our record at the office of the presidential adviser on the peace process from 2005 to 2007, there were 140 consultations with various sectors and organizations, including, if I may add, one that lasted for six hours in Zamboanga City. So there were indeed consultations. But it is different from saying that what the people would air or suggest should be taken hook-line-and-sinker by the panel itself,” he said.

He added: “If ever we could be faulted, it is only because we wanted to achieve, attain for us concrete results which could lead to lasting peace in Mindanao.”

Esperon, along with Rodolfo Garcia, chair of the now disbanded government panel, was supposed to sign the agreement August 5 in Kuala Lumpur.

Esperon said they agreed to the inclusion of at least 700 barangays in the Muslim homeland because the MILF was willing to subject the issue to a plebiscite.

“Processes that would go in the plebiscite itself would call for consultations. First, Congress would be coming out with an enabling law to authorize the plebiscite itself, there would be consultations. In the end when we conduct the plebiscite itself, then that is another form of consultation,” he said.

Secretary Ronaldo Puno said he was “happy” with the tribunal’s ruling “because its central message was on the necessity of consulting local government units, or something which the DILG had already been doing in Mindanao upon the instruction of President Arroyo herself.”

He also said the government was not worried about the MILF’s plan to bring the issue before international bodies because the group has no “legal leg to stand on.”

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon called for the immediate resumption of peace talks but said no foreign country should be allowed to broker the negotiations.

Biazon said choosing or allowing Malaysia to broker the peace talks was a mistake.

“We cannot disregard that there are conflicts of interest between Malaysia and the Philippines in the form of the unresolved Sabah question and the conflict of claims in the Spratlys. If Malaysia continues to be the broker of the peace process, the Philippines will be at a disadvantage on both counts,” he said.

Senate majority leader Francis Pangilinan said Malacañang should declare a ceasefire in Mindanao to ease the tension created by the Supreme Court ruling.

“The government needs to own up to its mistake in entering into that unconstitutional agreement, and to do this, it needs to spare the people in Mindanao from possible repercussions of the SC decision with the MILF. It needs to declare a ceasefire right away,” he said.

Sen. Loren Legarda said the government and all parties in strife-torn Mindanao must continue the search for lasting peace based on social justice by pushing for another round of peace negotiations.

“Just because the Supreme Court had declared the MILF-GRP memorandum of agreement to be unconstitutional doesn’t mean that we now have to close the door on peace initiatives,” she said. – Jocelyn Montemayor, Victor Reyes and Dennis Gadil(Malaya)

Moro human rights group records 245,522 victims of war

October 13, 2008

Moro human rights group records 245,522 victims of war

Cotabato City

October 2, 2008

*Photos courtesy of Kawagib Moro Human Rights Group

PRESS RELEASE
02 October 2008

Moro group records 245,522 victims of war; lambasts AFP’s add’l P10-B budget

COTABATO CITY – A Moro human rights group here expresses fresh apprehension that number of innocent civilian victims will magnify with the persistent military operation against MILF commanders Kato, Bravo and Pangalian, now that Ramadhan had concluded.

The Kawagib Moro Human Rights Group has documented, since June, 14 types of human rights violations and International Humanitarian Law (IHL) that has affected 245,522 individuals from the three provinces of Central Mindananao – North Cotabato , Maguindanao and Shariff Kabunsuan.

Bulk of these cases are victims of forcible evacuation due to indiscriminate firing, shelling and aerial bombing while the gravest human rights violation transpired was the massacre of Daya family in Barangay Tee, Datu Piang, Maguindanao, where six are killed – four are children and a pregnant teenager.

Bai Ali Indayla, the group’s spokesperson, said, “Moro residents of Datu Piang and Datu Saudi Ampatuan, reported that around 70 houses were conflagrated and 18 families were divested of their properties by military elements designated in their communities. And these violations transpired while Muslims observe Ramadhan.”

Moreover, Kawagib criticizes the Armed Forces of the Philippines ’ (AFP) additional P10 billion-budget in the ground of an effective hunt against their so-called ‘rogue MILF commanders’ and materiel upgrade. Defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr.. proposed the additional budget which amounts to a 17.7% increase in the P56.6 billion already earmarked under the 2009 national budget.

Indayla stressed that instead of additional war paraphernalia, the proposed additional budget is of big help to supplement assistance to affected civilians.

“The AFP’s bombs and bullets target not only Commanders Kato, Bravo and Pangalian but large number of innocent people. Much has been killed and it’s very disheartening that our military troops that supposed to be the ‘people’s safeguard’ only treat the victims as collateral damage,” Indayla lamented.

Further, the group appeals to the conflicting parties (GRP and MILF) to heed the cry of innocent civilians, respect the rights of the Bangsamoro people and return to the negotiating table.

A National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission, to be spearheaded by Kawagib and several rights and church groups, will be conducted this month in Central Mindanao .

“We call all sectors to support the mission so that we can give a little relief to our Muslim and Christian brethrens,” Indayla concluded. #

For Reference:
BAI ALI INDAYLA
0921.906.4699/(064)421.5680

Victims of the war in MIndanao

By the numbers (since June 2008):

■   14 types of human rights violations monitored

■   245,522 individuals affected

■   3 provinces — North Cotabato , Maguindanao and Shariff Kabunsuan.

■   Massacre of Daya family in Barangay Tee, Datu Piang, Maguindanao: 6 killed, 4 of whom are children and 1 a pregnant teenager.

■   In Datu Piang: 70 houses were burned, 18 families were divested of their properties by military elements

Arkibong Bayan

BUC appeals for compassion, human solidarity

October 13, 2008

DAVAO CITY, October 12, 2008—The Bishops Ulama Conference (BUC) has issued an appeal for compassion and human solidarity in behalf of the civilian population caught in the crossfire of the present conflict in Central Mindanao.

In a statement signed by the two BUC co-convenors Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla and Bishop Emeritus Hilario M. Gomez of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), the BUC “strongly appeal for the welfare of the unfortunate civilian victims of the ongoing bloody conflict in Northern and Central Mindanao.”

“If, as we were to understand, violent encounters have become inevitable in view of the current campaign of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to pursue, capture, and bring to justice the three (3) MILF commanders, we make this urgent appeal to both, AFP and MILF parties, combatants and other armed groups: Spare the innocent civilian population,” it further stated.

The BUC co-convenors also appealed for more help especially to the evacuees who have been displaced by war.

“We appeal for more, and continue providing these help to the evacuees now temporarily living in several areas in Northern and Central Mindanao,” read the statement signed October 11.

But, the convenors also recognize the efforts of individuals, groups and organizations who responded to the immediate need of the evacuees for food, clothing, shelter and medicine.

The BUC also expressed concern on the traumatic experiences of those who were victims of war, especially children and young people.

“We appeal to individuals, groups as well as institutions which have the training and expertise to conduct psycho-social interventions and counseling to start the healing of the physical and spiritual wounds leading to forgiveness, reconciliation and wholeness of life,” it said.

The convenors also “hope and pray to the God of peace of all people for a genuine and lasting peace in Mindanao.”

“We do this as instruments of peace serving all peoples in Mindanao,” it added. (Mark S. Ventura)(CBCPNews)

Asian youth leaders urge MILF and gov’t to resume peace talks

October 13, 2008

DAVAO, October 12, 2008—If one thinks the enduring conflict in Mindanao is due to religious differences, some 90 multi-religious youth leaders gathered here today believe otherwise.

This is because for the members of the Religions for Peace Asia and Pacific Youth Network, lasting peace and friendship is achievable among the religiously-diversified Mindanaoans had they been peace-loving enough to respect everybody’s ideologies.

To further prove their point, youth leaders of Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Muslim, Sikh, Zoroastrian and indigenous communities from sixteen Asian countries are convening today until Tuesday (October 12-14) in a pan-Asia summit to formulate multi-religious action plan to help develop the Mindanao peace process.

“(We believe that) the root cause of the conflict in Mindanao is not unique to the Philippines, and can be found in all parts of the world. The process of marginalization of the political, economic, cultural and religious identities needs to be exposed and over-turned. Religious youth leaders are convinced that we need to confront this challenge and become peacemakers now,” the youth network said in a statement.

Meantime, the group has urged the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Philippine government to “meet halfway” and promote peace talks capable of generating real and lasting solutions in the conflict-laden region.

“The youth hopes the immediate returning to the negotiation table by the Philippine government and the MILF. The international community is paying close attention to the humanitarian crisis in Mindanao of the almost half million internally displaced persons and others affected by the current conflict,” it added.

According to organizers, the outcomes of the Summit will be highlighted in the senior religious leaders gathering in Manila from October 17 to 21.

“(This will definitely) bring the voice of youth and the situation in Mindanao to the 300 participants of the general assembly of the Asian Conference of Religions for Peace (ACRP) with the President of the Philippines,” it said. (Kris Bayos)(CBCPNews)

Peace groups shouldn’t be used as smokescreen of gov’t in peace efforts

October 13, 2008

DAVAO CITY, October 12, 2008—A peace advocate and founder of Kusog Mindanaw (Strong Mindanao) has reminded peace groups and coalitions in Mindanao not to be used as “smokescreen” of the government’s real intention in peacemaking.

Fr. Eliseo Mercado said Saturday that there are groups which have been approached by the government and used in its “camouflaging tactics” in order to pursue peace and development in Mindanao.

He added that the present government is already unpopular and inept to fulfill its commitments in the controversial memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain.

Mercado said that because of its “unpopularity”, the Arroyo government is now seeking the help and assistance of highly regarded peace groups in Mindanao to mediate in its peace efforts.

“The integrity of Arroyo government in terms of peace efforts has already dropped. It has no social capital to pursue with peace efforts,” Mercado told the group of consecrated women in the Archdiocese of Davao in a gathering Saturday at the MIC Cursillo House in Torres St., this city.

That is why, he continued, “Mrs. Arroyo turned 90-degrees in saying that her government will no longer sign the peace accord with MILF. Now, she loses her credibility.”

Mercado also explained that Arroyo’s use of disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation (DDR) framework for peace negotiations with the MILF is misplaced.

“While DDR is part of the supposed entire comprehensive peace agreement of the government with the rebels, it should not be used as front in negotiating,” said Mercado, also former member of the government’s peace panel.

According to DDR in Peace Agreements and UN Peacekeeping Mandates, disarmament entails the actual collection of arms and ammunition, while demobilization is a process that separates the combatants from military service or armed troops and may include the establishments of camps and receiving areas where former combatants hand in their weapons and in return receive counseling, vocational training or economic assistance.

Reintegration (Rehabilitation as used by Arroyo) programs support the immediate and medium term social and economic inclusion of former combatants into their communities of origin or new communities. (Mark S. Ventura) (CBCPNews)

Editorial Cartoon: VFA Flag

October 6, 2008

Another way to see it.

LFS-Lanao, STAND-IIT and LKM-Lanao join the evacuees in Duyog Ramadhan in Munai, Lanao del Norte

October 6, 2008

LFS-Lanao, STAND-IIT and LKM-Lanao

join the evacuees in Duyog Ramadhan

in Munai, Lanao del Norte

When will the war come to an end for this boy and the hundreds of thousands of evacuees in Munai and elsewhere in Mindanao?

On the toad to Munai

——-

Report from LFS Lanao:

Thirty members of the LFS-Lanao, STAND-IIT and LKM-Lanao travelled four hours of rugged road from Iligan to Munai, Lanao del Norte, to join our Muslim brothers and sisters in their culmination of the Holy Month of Ramadhan on September 30, 2008. We were joined by the National president of Suara Bangsamoro, Ms. Amirah Ali Lidasan.

Aside from joining the Duyog Ramdhan, we were there also in preparation for the NATIONAL INTERFAITH HUMANITARIAN MISSION on October 21-25, 2008 in Lanao del Norte.

Because we were new in the place and because most of us are Christians, the thousands of evacuees initially were not very enthusiastic. But during the Solidarity gathering where we presented cultural presentations related to the Muslim culture, we were warmly welcomed. They asked us to sing one song after another that we almost run out of songs to sing. The speech of Suara Bangsamoro national presdient Ms.Amirah  Lidasan helped  in making the evacuees understand the causes of their present problems.

In the morning, we had breakfast with the evacues and organized parlor games for the children while preparatory work for the humanitarian mission in late October was conducted.

Munai is a highly-miklitarized community crawling with soldiers; nevertheless we learned to love it because of the people we met and because it is such a great, cool and beautiful place.

Interviewing the evacuees

National president of Suara Bangsamoro, Ms. Amirah Ali Lidasan.

Entertaining the evacuees with songs.
LFS-IIT Chair Marvin Urey Antiquina with the children of Munai.JPG

Cultural Presentations for the evacuees, parlor games for the kids.

(Arkibong Bayan)

(Photos) SALINLAHI Alliance for Children’s Concerns: Children Take Small Steps Towards Peace in Mindanao!

October 5, 2008

SALINLAHI Alliance for Children’s Concerns:

Children Take Small Steps Towards Peace in Mindanao!


NEWS RELEASE
1 October 2008
REFERENCE: Alphonse Rivera, Spokesperson, 0929-6076157

Children Take Small Steps Towards Peace in Mindanao!

Footprints of children in armed conflict in Mindanao queued up towards a sign of peace at the Peace Bell inside Quezon City Circle this morning. The footprints symbolize the call of children and child rights advocates to stop the Arroyo government’s all-out war and restart the peace negotiations with the MILF.

SALINLAHI Alliance for Children’s Concerns took the lead for today’s activity, gathering about 100 children, including Moro children from urban poor communities in Metro Manila. The group, together with other child-focused organizations referred to a peace that is based on justice and not a peace of the graveyard.

Alphonse Rivera, Spokesperson of SALINLAHI, said, “While October is celebrated nationwide as children’s month, Salinlahi and its allies see no reason to celebrate it with festivities. Today is the last day of the Ramadan and we mark this 1st day of October as a day for calling peace for the sake of the Filipino children, especially the Moro children. The Moro people of Mindanao have long been struggling for their right to self-determination and for their ancestral domain and yet the government responds with bombs, bullets and massive displacement of the Moro people from their homes and sources of livelihood, time and time again.”

The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) reported at least 500,000 families so far displaced by this conflict and crowding out limited spaces in evacuation centers. “Children are getting sick and have stopped schooling. Children have also died because of indiscriminate firing and air strikes by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP),” continued Rivera.

Now that Pres. Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo and the AFP are asking for the declaration of MILF leaders Bravo and Kato as terrorists by the United Nations (UN) and with the pull-out of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) peace negotiating panel from the Peace Talks, SALINLAHI and other child rights advocates are expecting a continuous rise in the numbers of war victims, especially women and children. “Women and children are vulnerable to this kind war and terror that our government has created. They are most prone to deaths, abuses, harassments and other military atrocities because the AFP does not recognize and respect their human rights,” added Rivera.

“In this kind of war that the government is waging, there is no bright future for the Moro children. We call on other children and child rights advocates to join hands and call for peace!” Rivera concluded. ###

MALUNGKOT AKO KAPAG MAY DIGMAAN
(Ang digmaan sa Mindanao sa isipan ng isang Bata)
Ni: Mary ann Ordinario-Floresta

Story narrated by: Gabriela Partylist Rep. Luz Ilagan

Ba’t kaya ganito ang aking nararamdaman? Kapag naririnig ko na ang malalakas na Putukan, ang ating mundo ay hindi ko na maintindihan.

Nakikita ko ang nag-aalalang mukha ni Ina. Umaagos ang luha sa mga mata, habang si Ama ay nagahahanda upang madala ang aming mga alagang manok at kambing.

Tatakbo na naman kami at hindi ko alam kung saan papunta.  Nandyang sasakay kami sa kariton na hinihila ng kalabaw, o kaya ay sa traysikel, sa dyip o Ford Fiera at makikisakay na lang sa kahit anong sasakyan na mapadaan basta’t makalayo lang sa putukan. “Digmaan, digmaan,” naririnig kong sigaw ng mga tao sa aking paligid.

Ano ba itong Digmaan? Ano man ito, nalulungkot ako. Alam ko, matatagal na naman bago ako muling makapaglaro. Iiwanan na namin namin ang aming maliit na bahay, ang aking saranggola, bola at aking mga aklat.

Nag-iisip nga ako, muli ko pa kayang makikita ang aking manika sa aking pagbabalik?

Hindi ko maintindihan ang digmaan.  Pinagmamasdan ko at tinitingnan ko na lang. May mga sundalo at rebelde. Parang sine, o kaya’y
tulad sa telebisyon. Naglalaro kaya sila? O umaarte lang? Pero may mga baril sila at tangke de gyera pa. Tiyak mayamaya biglang may sasabog na naman at kami ay muling magtatakbuhan.

Kung minsan, hindi ko mapigilan ang umiyak. lalo na kung naiisip ko ang kaibigan kong si Khalil  na nawalan ng kamay dahil sa digmaan. Makakapasok pa kaya siyang muli? Paano kaya niya gagamitin ang kanyang lapis at krayola? Ewan ko. Hindi ko talaga maintindihan.

Hindi ito ang buhay na nakagisnan ko. Dahil sa digmaan, nagtatago kami ng matagal, palipat lipat sa ibang bayan. Akala ninyo madali?…
Nakakapagod. Naghahanap kami ng lugar, o ng gusaling masisilungan, at kalimitan ay mga paaralan.

Ang daming tao, sama-sama kaming natutulog sa isang silid-aralan. Hindi kami magkakakilala. Maraming lamok, wala kaming kumot, walang kulambo at walang banig. Nakahiga ako sa semento, ang lamig sa likod. sina Ama at Toto? Sa labas sila natutulog.  Dahong niyog ang banig.

Kadalasan sa aking pagtulog, nagigising ako at nagugulat sa malaksa na pagsabog. Minsan, ginising ako ni Ina. “Gising anak! Binabangungot ka.”  Sabi ko sa kanya, “ang laking baril, hinahabol ako…. tumakbo ako ng mabilis upang makapagtago….natatakot ako.”

Hindi kami makapagpalit ng damit at wala kami ni isang gamit.

Hindi nga kami makapaligo dahil wala ring tubig. Kaya siguro marami ang nagkakasakit sa amin. Nakita ko pa nga, may isang ina, nanganak siya. Kaya lang ang sanggol ay hindi gumagalaw. Sabi nila, wala raw kasing doktor nanag-aasikaso sa kanya.

Dahil sa digmaan sumasakit ang aking tiyan. Pero ang sakit, tinitiis ko na lang. Wala kasi kaming pagkain kahit na kapirasong tinapay man lang. Minsan wala akong agahan o pananghalian. Buti na lang may mabubuting tao na napapadaan at may dalang pagkain tulad ng noodles, tuyo, sardinas o kaunting bigas. Naririnig kong sabi nila, donasyon daw yun. Pero kulang na kulang. Hindi magkasya para sa lahat. Pero anong magagawa namin kundi makuntento na lang.

Malungkot ako kapag may digmaan. Nakikita ko may mga taong nasusugatan o kaya ay namamatay. Sumusigaw ang mga tao. May nadadapa, may umiiyak, at mayroong hindi na kumikilos.

Habang si Ina, sa kamay ako ay hila-hila. Nababangga pa ako at naaapakan ng kahit sino. Pero kahit mahirap, kailangan na ako ay tumakbo at humakbang kahit ako’y nakapaa lamang.

Ang lalo kong ikinatatakot ay ang isiping, sina Ama, Ina, Toto at Nene… paano kung isang araw sila ay mawala o dili kaya’y biglang magkasakit? Kaya’t sa palda ni Ina, mahigpit akong kumakapit. Baka kasi ako ay mawala at maiwan.

Ako ay nalilito, nalulungkot at nanghihina. Wala na bang katahimikan? Wala na bang Kapayapaan? Kailan titigil ang putukan? Kailan ba matatapos ang digmaan? Hindi ko na alam ang aking gagawin. Nagtataka bakit ang mga tao’y nagkakaganito. ang dami kong tanong ngunit hindi kayang sagutin ni Ama sa akin.

Pagod na ako… Gusto ko nang umuwi… gusto ko nang magpahinga… maglaro…kumain ng maayos..at..bumalik sa paaralan. Tumawa at maging masayang muli. Hindi kaya nararamdaman ni Digmaan na ako ay nahihirapan? Hindi ko na talaga maintindihan.

Kaya dasal ko sa Diyos Amang Makapangyarihan na nagmamahal sa mga batang tulad ko, na kami sa ay kaawaan. Kasi nalulungkot kami kapag may digmaan. Susubukan kong itong hilingin. Sana pakinggan Niya ako. Magdadasal ako na kapayapaan na lang ang umiral sa pusot’ diwa ng buong sangkatauhan.

(Arkibong Bayan)

Editorial Cartoon: VFA Emblem

October 4, 2008

Look closely and you’ll see the ‘VFA’ in there. 🙂

MILF homeland deal dead

October 4, 2008

GMA govt still committed to pursuing peace

By Angelo S. Samonte, Reporter

It’s final. President Gloria Arroyo reiterated that her administration would no longer sign an agreement on ancestral domain with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) whatever the Supreme Court decision on the homeland deal would be.

The President standing pat on her decision to trash the territorial pact came as the European Union backed her so-called paradigm shift in resolving the nearly four decades of separatist conflict in Mindanao in southern Philippines.

A former rebel leader, Nur Misuari of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), on Friday also supported the government’s peace efforts in the South, an apparent turnaround in his past criticism that President Arroyo failed to implement the 1996 final peace agreement between Manila and the MNLF.

“We want peace. We don’t want war, and I am helping [the President] to bring peace to the South,” Misuari said during a meeting with Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan and senior military and government officials on Thursday at the provincial capitol in Patikul town.

In her speech during the 107th anniversary celebration of the Office of the Solicitor General in Fort Bonifacio in Makati City on Thursday night, Mrs. Arroyo said she was firmly closing the door on the controversial agreement “in the light of the recent violent incidents committed by MILF lawless groups.”

Such groups attacked mostly Christian communities in four provinces in Mindanao in southern Philippines in August. Ensuing clashes between government troops and the rebels saw more than 200 soldiers, insurgents and civilians killed and nearly half-a-million residents displaced.

Committed to peace

Despite her decision not to sign the agreement, the President said: “We are committed to doing everything possible to bring lasting peace to Mindanao and end 40 years of fighting that has killed more than 120,000 people.”

“It is in the interest of all Filipinos, Muslim and Christian, to end the violence that has held that part [Mindanao] of our country back and required an investment of hundreds of millions of pesos to support our military presence there,” Mrs. Arroyo added.

To achieve lasting peace in southern Philippines, the President said, all peace talks would be refocused from dialogues with the rebels to direct talks with both Muslim and Christian communities in Mindanao.

She highlighted her new paradigm shift of disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation, or DDR, which, she said, would be the “overall framework governing our engagement with armed groups in peace talks.”

Under this strategy, Mrs. Arroyo said, rebel forces would be held accountable for all their actions.

“Our people, together with government, will be the primary force in defining the shape and direction of societal change, not the force of arms,” she added.

EU backing

In supporting the President’s new tack against the rebels, Eneko Landaburu, the European Union’s director general for external affairs, offered to study strengthening the government’s new policy through development assistance to Mindanao.

“[We] will help the Philippines find ways to recuperate the situation. The Philippine government already spent enormous amounts of effort and government resources for the peace pact [between Manila and MILF]. They should not go to waste,” Landabaru said.

Mrs. Arroyo dissolved the government peace panel on September 3, or a few weeks after the attacks led by rebel commanders Umbra Kato and Abdurahman Macapaar or Bravo. The two MILF leaders justified the attacks, which they said they launched to protest the aborted signing of the agreement on ancestral domain on August 5.

The deal would have added 721 villages to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao under the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, virtually the government for the Muslim homeland.

Philippine Ambassador to Belgium Cristina Ortega said dissolving the Philippine peace panel was necessary to enable the government to realign all peace initiatives with disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation.

“By consulting directly local communities and holding dialogues with them, the new approach would be more effective and viable,” she added in a statement.

Peace broker

Rafael Seguis, the Foreign Affairs undersecretary for special concerns, said Malaysia is still willing to continue with brokering the peace process in southern Philippines.

The signing of the homeland deal set in Kuala Lumpur nearly two months ago was stalled after the Philippine Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against it on petitions from local officials in Mindanao.

The Supreme Court is expected to again hear oral arguments on the petitions in the next few weeks.

Hermogenes Esperon Jr., the presidential adviser on the peace process, earlier admitted that Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had expressed disappointment over the collapse of the homeland deal.

Seguis, apparently confirming Badawi’s reaction, said during a chance interview with The Manila Times: “Malaysia did not like what happened, but they are still willing to help and give assistance to the Philippines, provided that the MILF will not resort to violence.”

Esperon on Friday expressed confidence that the government could achieve peace in Mindanao regardless of the resistance of the MILF.

“No matter how bad the damage [inflicted by the rebels] is, there is still hope to achieve peace,” he said during a media forum at Hotel Rembrandt in Quezon City.

Like the President, Esperon insisted that the MILF first turn in Kato and Bravo, plus another rebel commander, Solaiman Pangalian, to show its sincerity in seeing the peace process through.

The three commanders have been issued a total of 44 warrants of arrest and they and other rebel leaders are facing a total of 152 criminal cases.

Supposedly, 16 MILF commands have not joined followers of Kato, Bravo and Pangalian in battling government troops, a sign that the rebel leadership remains committed to an existing ceasefire agreement between the government and the separatist group.

In throwing his support behind Mrs. Arroyo’s peace initiatives, Misuari said he had been asked by the President to help quiet down the rebellion in Mindanao.

He spoke with Tan, Maj. Gen. Juancho Sabban, commander of military forces in Sulu, and Undersecretary Nabil Tan, a presidential adviser, about his role as a peacemaker.

Misuari also met with his loyal forces in Sulu led by Habier Malik, who is wanted by Philippine authorities for previously leading a series of attacks on government troops in Sulu.

In September, he said that the MNLF had nothing to do with the peace talks between the government and the MILF. “We are not involved [in the peace process between them]. We are not a party to that [process]. We are not bound by any consequences of any peace agreement.”

Misuari is facing rebellion charges over a failed attempt of his followers to seize a major military base in Sulu. He fled to Sabah, his former refuge, but was arrested by Malaysian authorities and sent back to Manila. Misuari is currently out on bail.
— Llanesca T. Panti, Al Jacinto And Jefferson Antiporda (ManilaTimes)

Fact-finding team inspects US troops and facilities

October 3, 2008

By Bong Garcia

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INITIAL findings of the Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement (Lovfa) showed that the presence of the American forces in Zamboanga City is not violating any provisions of the VFA between the US and Philippine government.

This was disclosed Thursday afternoon by Senator Rodolfo Biazon, the co-chairman of Lovfa that is tasked to verify all allegations against the continued stay of the American forces in the country.

What’s your take on the Mindanao crisis? Discuss views with other readers

However, Biazon said they are not yet making a conclusion based on the initial findings, citing they will continue to do the evaluation based on their ocular inspections.

Biazon and other members of the Lovfa arrived Thursday morning in Zamboanga City and inspected the American forces that are stationed inside Philippine military bases.

Some of the American forces are stationed inside Camp Don Basilio Navarro that houses the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) headquarters, Camp General Arturo Enrile and Edwin Andrews Air Base (EAAB) that houses the 3rd Air Division.

Biazon said there are two issues that they are checking and these are the allegations that the American troops are involved in actual combat and whether they are establishing bases in this part of the country.

So far, Biazon said there were no reported American soldiers who were injured or killed in any of the clashes taking place in Mindanao, “but Filipinos, yes.”

He said there is no truth to the allegations that the American troops are establishing bases, citing all of the facilities here are administrative in nature.

“As a former soldier, it is difficult for me to make a conclusion that the Americans have establish their own military base in this part of our country,” Biazon said.

He said all of the US troops’ facilities inside the Philippine military bases are temporary in nature.

He cited that one facility, a barracks inside Camp Enrile has been turned over to the Army’s 1st Infantry Division as stipulated in the Term of Reference (TOR) of the VFA.

The TOR states that all structures of the US forces will be left behind for the use of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Lovfa co-chairman Congressman Antonio Cuenco called on the people or group complaining about violations regarding the US troops’ presence to substantiate their allegations.

“So far we have not found any violation in so far the VFA between the US and RP is concern,” Cuenco said.

Cuenco said that providing information to Filipino troops by the Americans does not tantamount to any violation.

Earlier, Presidential Commission on the VFA Undersecretary Edilberto Adan said the US soldiers only provide technical assistance to the Philippine troops as part of the joint military exercises popularly known as Balikatan.

“We are happy to be able to get information from any source whatsoever so that we can attain our objectives in demolishing these enemies of our state,” Cuenco said.(SunStar)

UN, OIC’s help sought in Mindanao conflict

October 3, 2008

By Richel V. Umel and Malu Cadelina Manar


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MARAWI CITY — Some 5,000 Maranaos took to the streets Thursday their call for the United Nations (UN) and the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) to help end the armed conflict in Mindanao.

It was the biggest anti-war rally in Mindanao since full-scale fighting began in August after the junking of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) initialed by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

What’s your take on the Mindanao crisis? Discuss views with other readers

Waving banners and streamers with calls for a halt in the indiscriminate bombing of Moro communities, the rallyists marched from Bangolo to the Army headquarters in Kampo Ranao in Marawi City.

“We are angry. We want an end to this war,” said Haj Abdullah Lacs Dalidig, leader of the Islamic Movement for Electoral Reform for Good Government.

Dalidig said Moro communities in Central Mindanao and two Lanao provinces have bear the brunt of the military offensive to catch the two MILF commanders — Umbra Kato and Abdul Rahman alias Commander Bravo — accused of carrying attacks in North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte.

“Our communities have been subjected to aerial and artillery bombardment that did not happen anywhere else in the country. Communities in Luzon and Visayas did not suffer like we do,” he said.

Dalidig said the UN and OIC should step in to end the war and bring the failed peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the MILF back on its track.

The peace rally came as new clashes erupted in Maguindanao province killing four soldiers and five guerrillas Thursday.

In a manifesto, the Consortium for the Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), composed of several non-government organizations, peoples’ organizations, academe, and religious groups, said that with the mediation of the two strong and very influential global organizations, there would be cessation of hostilities in Mindanao.

The group has also called on the UN to investigate and determine the true cause and extent of the war in Mindanao.

The group felt the Moro people are still bereft of their inherent rights as a distinct sovereign nation.

“When, after many decades of so-called peace negotiations, the Bangsamoro people wake up to the harsh truth of the abominable situation of sustained betrayal, manipulation, lying, cheating, and killing by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines,” it stressed.

Meanwhile, International humanitarian agencies have raised concerns over their safety when delivering aid to thousands of people displaced in the southern Philippines, officials said Thursday.

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said the issue was aired during a meeting between a special government taskforce on refugee and various UN agencies.

“One of the issues raised was the security of international aid workers and other NGOs (non-governmental organizations) who are helping in the relief operations,” he said.

But providing troops to escort food convoys could also strain soldiers on the frontlines against the MILF, which has been locked in heavy fighting with troops since August.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday that it is providing emergency aid for thousands of people displaced by fighting with Moro rebels in the southern Philippines.

The P15-million package will provide medicines and medical supplies and ensure safe water for some 38,000 families in evacuation centers in the south, the WHO said in a statement in Manila.

“Evacuees are vulnerable to diseases such as diarrhea and respiratory tract infection that may be acquired because of crowding and less than ideal environmental conditions in temporary shelters,” WHO representative Soe Nyunt-U was quoted as saying.

Journalists covering the war also raised concern of their safety after unidentified gunmen strafed a van carrying reporters and photographers of the Agence France Press in Datu Piang town last Tuesday.

Red Batario, Asia-Pacific regional coordinator for International News Safety Institute (INSI), said no one of the journalists was hurt but the incident was “sobering reminder that the situation in hostile environments can rapidly change, putting lives at risk.”

Batario said new guidelines were emailed to news organizations to ensure the safety of their reporters, TV cameramen and photographers.

“It is important for members of the media to make themselves easily identifiable as such especially when using unmarked, private vehicles,” Batario said. (Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro/Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)

Philippine Military Told: Justify P10-B Additional Budget

October 2, 2008

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said the minority bloc in the Senate is sympathetic to the request of defense officials to augment the budget of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to beef up its fighting capability against insurgencies and fast- track the goal to attain permanent peace.

Pimentel said they will thoroughly look into the proposal submitted by Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Jr. for an additional Pl0 billion for the AFP budget for 2009, which amounts to a l7.7 percent increase in the P56.5 billion already earmarked for the military under the national budget submitted by Malacanang to Congress.

He pointed out that the eight-man Senate minority bloc had in fact earlier urged the executive branch to submit a supplementary budget to enable the AFP to purchase much-needed firearms and to recruit additional troops following the outbreak of armed hostilities in several areas in Central and Muslim Mindanao as an offshoot of the government’s decision not to sign the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) last month.

“We want to look at the specific requests of the AFP in terms of the armaments, equipment and other logistics, as well as manpower that they need,” the minority leader said.

According to Secretary Teodoro, the additional funding will be used to recruit more soldiers, repair ships and helicopters and buy more ammunition.

Pimentel, however, said that Pl0 billion is too big an augmentation fund for one department or instrumentality of government. He said it would be very difficult to grant the full amount requested considering that Congress is not allowed by the Constitution to increase the national budget beyond the level proposed by the President.

He pointed out that whatever extra fund that can be infused into the AFP will be derived from the amounts deducted from other agencies or appropriation items in the budget bill.

For this reason, Pimentel said it may be more practical for Malacanang to propose a supplemental budget for the AFP for the current fiscal year. He said the only question is whether the House of Representatives and the Senate can still accommodate the passage of the supplemental budget since they are now both deliberating on the proposed Pl.4 trillion national budget for 2009.

“But if an additional funding is extremely necessary to meet essential expenses of the AFP, I believe that the senators and congressmen will exert extra efforts to approve a supplemental budget. That, I suppose, will depend on the justification to be given by Malacanang and defense officials,” he said.

Pimentel noted for instance, the urgency of providing funds for the repair of some cargo aircraft after one of the two C-130 cargo planes of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) crashed into the sea in Southern Mindanao last month while airlifting soldiers and relief goods for people displaced by the armed conflict.

He said the executive branch will also have to set aside funds for the purchase of a new or second-hand military cargo plane to solve the PAF’s cargo transport problem. (PStar)

4 children, 3 others hurt in Friday clash

October 1, 2008

Sittie Sundang/MindaNews contributor
Tuesday, 30 September 2008 08:57
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DATU PIANG, Maguindanao (MindaNews/29 September) — Four children and three other persons were wounded in a reported clash Friday near the evacuation center in Sitio Nimao, Barangay Balanaken, of this town.

Merpat Mohammad, 9, Abdullah Mohammad, 6, Datumanong Taculanga, 3 and Mohaguira Montano, 8 were in Datu Gumbay Elementary School’s room 22 when blasts erupted allegedly from the military detachment near the evacuation site.

Kabiba Mohammad, father of Merpat and Abdullah, told Mindanao Tulong Bakwet that the shrapnel that hit the children came from the first blast from the detachment.

Kabiba said the clash lasted from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.

He said the incident showed that they could not be safe even in an evacuation center.

Families displaced by the resumption of hostilities between the military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have been living in evacuation centers for several weeks now.

Montano, one of the child victims, said she might be unable to return to school because of the continued fighting between the two groups.

She is a grade two pupil in Balanaken.

The blast also wounded Waras Abdulmaguid, 25, Narex Taculanga, 32, and Mustapha Kalusiang, 36.

Sarah Anabal, 35 and two months pregnant, reportedly had a miscarriage owing to the incident.

Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division said he had not received a report on the incident. (Sittie Sundang/MindaNews contributor)

MILF chair: “Be patient in these trying times”

October 1, 2008

Malu Cadelina-Manar/MIndaNews
Wednesday, 01 October 2008 10:57
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KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/30 September) — Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has called on his men and fellow Muslims to stay patient in these “trying times” as they celebrate today Eid’l Fit’r or the end of their month-long fasting or Ramadan.


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Ebrahim was referring to the military operations against MILF rebels which saw no letup even during the period of Ramadan.

He said Muslims had to flee their villages even during Ramadan to avoid being hit by aerial bombardments and artillery shelling.

“Some of our women and children were even killed or wounded during the attacks,” he aid in a statement issued to media today.

As a religious obligation, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk for one lunar cycle during the Ramadan.

Ebrahim said that despite “our efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Bangsamoro problem” the Philippine government and its political leaders were “bent to foil these efforts and instead launched military operations against the defenders of our people homeland, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).”

The MILF chair also hit the government for not signing the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain even if its negotiating panel had initialed the document.

He said the refusal to sign showed government’s insincerity to resolve the Bangsamoro issue.

“But we have to be patient.  Ramadan taught us that when we feel the pains of deprivation, we have to endure patiently for this is just temporary,” he said.

“There might be some hard times that we have to face in the days ahead that need our patience and sacrifices.  And in meeting these challenges of the hard times, our unity as people is of paramount importance,” he said.

In Cotabato City some revelers greeted Eid’l Fitr with gunshots.

Meantime, Governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan will start today his second term as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Ampatuan will focus more on peace dialogues among his people in the next three years, ARMM solicitor-general Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi said.

“Let the essence of this Eid’l Fitr celebration inspire us in the ARMM government to perform our duties, as public servants, with utmost transparency and accountability. Let’s help one another in working out the attainment of lasting peace and development in the ARMM,” Guiani-Sayadi quoted Ampatuan as saying in an official statement. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)

Rights groups extend relief to evacuees

October 1, 2008

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/30 September) — Human rights groups in Southwestern Mindanao conducted a two-day relief mission in areas in North Cotabato and Maguindanao affected by the resumption of hostilities between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

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Dubbed “Duyog sa Ramadan” (In solidarity with Ramadan), the Suara Bangsamoro, Kawagib Moro Human Rights Organization, National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and ACT International, started on Monday the distribution of relief items to hundreds of remaining evacuees in the towns of Aleosan, Midsayap, and Pikit in North Cotabato.

Suara national president Amira Lidasan said they have given packed foods to residents from the villages of Katinggawan, Rangaban, Baliki and Lindongan in Midsayap; Bagolibas and Pagangan in Aleosan; and Nalapaan in Pikit.

The packs included rice, mongo, sugar, sugar, salt, and dried fish.

“This is our way of helping our people during Eid al-Fitr (Hariraya Puasa). Also, this is just a modest respite to the protracted torment of Moro people,” the group said.

Kawagib spokesperson Bai Ali Indayla expressed dismay that “the military has refused to heed our cries” for a suspension of military operations during the holy month of Ramadan.

“This government showed no sign of respect to the Muslims’ most significant occasion,” Indayla said.

In a recent fact-finding mission in Maguindanao, the group found out that the military has set up temporary command posts in areas near the evacuation sites.

One proof, it said, was the encounter between government soldiers and Moro rebels last Friday near the Datu Gumbay Elementary School in Datu Piang, Maguindanao.

Seven civilians, four of them children, were reportedly wounded.

The school, used temporarily as evacuation center, is near the temporary command post of the 601st Brigade.

“If only the AFP would pull out their troops in Moro communities, there will be no more evacuees. Muslims in the evacuation centers have only one wish – return home and celebrate Eid al-Fitr peacefully,” Indayla said. (Malu Cadeliña Manar/MindaNews)

Muslims end Ramadan fast with Eid’l Fitr prayers

October 1, 2008

By EDD K. USMAN

Millions of Muslims around the world, including Filipino members of the Ummah, yesterday marked the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan with Eid’l Fitr (Festival of Breaking the Fast) starting with early morning congregational prayers.

President Arroyo through the Office on Muslim Affairs (OMA) conveyed her warmest felicitations to the Islamic world, particularly Muslim Filipinos, and noted the significance of Ramadan in adhering to the Islamic virtues of self-restraint, sincerity, perseverance, humility and generosity.

“May the graces of the just-concluded Ramadan foster more understanding on the firm resolve of the government to finally put an honorable conclusion to the decades-old conflict in Muslim Mindanao. The economic gains that we have painstakingly achieved can only be sustained if peace reign supreme in our country,” said Arroyo.

Known as Hariraya Puasa among the Malay race, Eid’l Fitr is also a non-working national holiday in the Philippines through Republic Act No. 9177.

On the recommendation of OMA Executive Director Datu Ali B. Sangki, the President issued Proclamation No. 1625 declaring Wednesday, October 1, a regular holiday throughout the country.

Ramadan officially ended Monday evening. The OMA said the new moon was sighted Monday evening, and according to Islamic tradition, this marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

With this, the Eid’l Fitr, also known as Hariraya Puasa, which marks the end of the holy month, was observed by Muslims yesterday.

However, despite this declaration by Muslim leaders, the non-working holiday set by Malacañang on Oct. 1 will be observed.

Sangki said the Eid celebration shows Islam’s culture of tolerance over bigotry, brotherhood over hatred, and harmony over violence.

“The solemn day of Hariraya Puasa provides the Muslim an opportune time to have a new dawn, to remold his character as he strides and stays the course of his posterity and of his children’s future,” said Sangki.

Malacanang conveyed President Arroyo’s greetings to Filipino Muslims for the celebration of Eid’l Fitr, and called on all Filipinos to pray for guidance and peace in Mindanao.

“As we come to the end of the most venerated and holy month of Ramadan, the Palace sends its greetings to our Muslim brothers and sisters and the Islamic world on the joyous Eid’l Fitr,” Deputy Presidential Spokeswoman Lorelei Fajardo said.

“The Palace enjoins the whole nation to pray for guidance and peace,” Fajardo said.

In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), re-elected Gov. Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan and his constituents performed the prayers for Eid’l Fitr.

“It is my ardent prayer the fasting we have gone through and these trying times would embolden our spirit and strengthen our resolve in creating a healthier, more prosperous and productive society. Let the virtues that fasting instills guide us toward this path,” Ampatuan said.

“The Autonomous Regional Government is exhausting all means at its disposal to bring an end to decades of poverty, illiteracy and conflict in the region. The programs that we have introduced in recent years are designed to usher in a new era, an era of peace and prosperity,” he said.

Prof. Taha Basman, president of Center for Moderate Muslims (CMM), urged his brethren to practice Ramadan’s virtues all throughout the year.

“We should be aware always that Islam’s principles and tenets are every day obligation for everyone of us,” said Basman.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chairman Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim also sent his Eid’l Fitr greetings.

“May the Almighty Allah accept and reward your fasts, prayers and all the good deeds you performed during the holy month in submission to Allah Subhanna wa Ta’ala,” said Murad. (with a report by David Cagahastian)

Peace is best way to observe Eid’l Fitr — Tamano

By LEONARD D. POSTRADO

Peace, and not hostilities, in Mindanao would be the best way for the country to honor the Muslim holy day of Eid’l Fitr, United Opposition spokesman Adel Tamano said yesterday.

“Today Filipino Muslims celebrate Eid il Fitr which is the culmination of the holy month of Ramadan. We do so with a mixture of happiness and concern because while it is a time for celebration we also know that the conflict in Mindanao has displaced half a million of our Muslim and Christian brothers and sisters. This is a true humanitarian crisis,” Tamano, a Muslim lawyer and educator, said.

“The best way to honor the holy month of Ramadan is for the government and the MILF to cease all hostilities and go back to the negotiating table to look for a peaceful resolution to the Mindanao conflict. Not only is war not an option but our country can never move forward until we achieve a just and lasting peace in the south and until Moros are fully integrated in the mainstream of Philippine society,” he said.

Senator Loren Legarda also joined Muslims in the celebration of Eid’l Fitr.

“I wish to convey my sincerest greetings to our brothers and sisters in the Islam faith on the occasion of Eid’l Fitr to celebrate the end of Ramadan,” Legarda said in a statement.

“This month-long tradition of prayer and fasting has been an integral part of your lives. In emptying yourselves of temporal provisions and in devoting your time to worship and prayer, you allow Allah to fill your lives with His strength, wisdom and guidance to achieve the purpose that He has set for your lives here on earth,” she said.

“Setting aside your differences, your self-discipline and obedience to the Holy Quran as well as the importance that you give on the communion with fellow Muslims are practices that serve as model and inspiration to those around you. With the renewed and purified strength that is imbued by the divine spirit of the Ramadan tradition, I trust and believe that the Muslim community will continue to be a strong influence and contributor to our development as a people and as a nation.”

San Juan Mayor and UNO National Capital Region chairman JV Ejercito said the government should have long ago stopped its “yo-yo policy” on Mindanao and insisted on peace for all Filipinos in the south.

“It is the Muslim populace who are paying a high price for the government’s apathy to their situation and the opportunistic few in their midst who insist on the politics of guns and bloodshed to press for their demands for power,” Ejercito said.(ManilaBulletin)

‘MILF did not provoke aerial attack’

September 28, 2008

By Alcuin Papa
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:01:00 09/28/2008

COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS CHAIR Leila de Lima said the initial CHR investigation into the deaths of six civilians in an aerial attack in Datu Piang, Maguindanao, on Sept. 8 showed the attack was not provoked by members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

This contradicted the military’s claim that the MILF had fired at their plane, leading the pilot to fire back, killing the civilians, among them, two children and a pregnant teenager, in Barangay Tee, Datu Piang.

In a talk with reporters during the change of police command ceremonies in Camp Crame, De Lima said witnesses had told the CHR there was no exchange of gunfire between the military plane and the MILF.

“Witnesses have told us that they heard two loud explosions which were not preceded by any gunfire. So the fire (from the military plane) was not in retaliation of anything,” she said.

But De Lima stressed that this was just the result of an initial investigation which would need a “further probe.”

She also said their independent probe confirmed the deaths of the six civilians and that they had died due to bullet wounds. De Lima explained that they have yet to determine if the two loud explosions were caused by a rocket attack or high-caliber fire.

The military had said there was no way of knowing how the six had died because, according to Muslim tradition, the bodies were buried before sundown after death. It also claimed the MILF members were trying to escape on bancas with some civilians, probably their relatives, when the plane on reconnaissance patrol spotted them. The MILF members, the military said, fired at the plane.

No sanctions on pilot

Early this week, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Alexander Yano said no sanctions would be slapped on the military pilot who flew the plane since the plane was under hostile fire and had to fire back.

An Inquirer I-team report after the incident quoted 60-year-old Mandi Bangkong as saying explosions in and around Sitio Dagaring in Barangay Tee had sent many residents fleeing on bancas. He himself had herded his extended family and put them on three boats.

2 rockets fired

Mandi said he was about 100 meters behind the first boat when a Philippine Air Force plane appeared. “I saw this plane dive and head for my grandchildren and fire two rockets.”

Shrapnel killed five of his six grandchildren—two boys and three girls, including a pregnant 18-year-old. Four died instantly. Another succumbed to wounds in the hospital. Another grandson was seriously wounded. Their father, Daya Manunggal Mandi, disappeared in the water and was presumed to have died.

Photographs made available to the Inquirer showed the mortally wounded, including close-ups of flesh ripped apart.

The NDCC reported that the fighting that erupted in central Mindanao after a peace agreement between the government and the MILF collapsed has so far claimed 71 lives — all civilians except for a colonel and three soldiers.

MILF calls for an independent body to look into civilian casualties

September 28, 2008

Q & A with Mohagher Iqbal, MILF panel chief negotiator

Part One

Earlier reports have put the blame on Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commanders Ameril Ombra Kato in North Cotabato and Abdullah Macapaar, also known as Kumander Bravo, in Lanao del Norte for launching the attacks in August that reportedly killed civilians and forced the government to change tack in the peace talks.

The attacks came after the failed signing of the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD), which would have given the MILF authority over the areas identified under the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

Even in the holy month of Ramadhan, the AFP continues its military operations in Moro communities in pursuit of the two renegade commanders.

But what really triggered the attacks? Were Ombra Kato and Bravo solely to blame?

In this interview, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal told Davao Today the unreported MILF side of the story.

Q: Some MILF commanders were reported to be on a rampage after the failed signing of the MOA-AD. What really happened?

When the Philippines failed to sign the MOA, there were commanders who, at the beginning, did not really want the peace process because, according to them, the Philippines cannot be trusted, anyway. The government will not implement what it has committed. So when it was not signed, our two commanders concluded that the government of the Philippines did not really want the peaceful process. So, they decided by themselves without the sanction of the high leaders of the MILF. That’s when the problem came.

But we have to distinguish between North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte.

In North Cotabato, it was the government of the Philippines who clearly started it. On July 1, they attacked our forces in Aleosan, some 2.5 kilometers away from the highway. That was how the war started in North Cotabato. Then, there were burning of houses. There were elements who joined the MILF who also burned some houses.

As for the Cafgus (Civilian Armed Forces Geographic Unit), the CVOs (Civilian Volunteers Organization) and the military, they also burned houses. If you come to think of it, there were more houses burned among the Moros, than those among the settlers.

What we are trying to say is that, since they filed charges against Kato, why not also file charges against the Cafgus and CVOs, who were also guilty of burning houses?

In fact, they burned a lot more houses than the MILF. We are saying that if the government still treat the Moros as constituents of the Republic of the Philippines, they should also file charges against Cafgus and CVOs.

In the case of Lanao del Norte, we have to admit that it was initiated by Kumander Bravo. But as to the reported incidence of deaths of civilians, let me clarify that there were three kinds: First, there were Cafgus and CVOs. How do you classify them? They were armed combatants, therefore, enemies in times of war.

Second, there were those caught in the crossfire, especially the kid from Pagadian (a city in the province of Zamboanga del Sur). It was a crossfire, so, we do not really know who hit them.

Third, there were other civilians who were not very careful. We really feel sorry for that and we condemn the killing of unarmed civilians.

But it’s no secret to us that in Lanao del Norte, there is a fanatic group called Good Shepherds. They owe the Moro a lot. They took lands away from the Moros. There were people killed. Some of them joined the MILF. They took revenge against the people. Maybe, this is hard to believe but we are trying to ask the government to allow an impartial group, most probably the international monitoring team, to conduct an investigation so we would know, once and for all, what is the truth. It should be an impartial group so that nobody doubts the result of the investigation.

The government doesn’t allow this, yet, but this is what we want.

Q: Has there been an investigation done by the MILF leadership as regards the two commanders?

Well it becomes moot and academic. When (the MILF attacks) happened, the government countered. As a result, there were more houses destroyed, more properties of civilians lost, or taken. There were indiscriminate bombings, shelling and excessive use of force in Maguindanao and Lanao del Norte. So (to investigate our two commanders) becomes moot and academic. But still, the MILF would want the incident, the killing of the civilians, investigated. There should be justice for all victims of the attacks.

If we have to count the number of casualties, only one percent died among the settlers. There were more casualties on our part. I can cite to you some examples. In Manili massacre (which happened in 1971), 72 Muslims died, in the Tabuk Massacre and the Kauswagan Massacre, 73. In Palengla (1974), 1000 Moros were massacred inside the mosque, in Pata Island (1981), 2000 Moros, in Patikul, 700.

Were they given justice? I’m not saying the death of those killed in Lanao del Norte meant nothing because they must also be given justice. But first, you have to give justice to the Moro. Our people have been denied justice for far too long.


Q: We read in the MILF website http://www.luwaran.com that the MILF is already dealing with the two commanders. May we know some updates regarding the actions that the MILF has taken on them?

Well, we don’t want to imitate the government of the Philippines, during the February 4 massacre in Maimbung, (Sulu) early this year, where 15 civilians were killed.

The Human Rights Commission (sic) found the Marines responsible for or guilty of the crime but later, the Armed Forces of the Philippines came up with its own investigating team and came out with a report that the Marines were not guilty.

That is why we are saying, it should not be the CHR who should investigate because it is still an agency of the government. And besides, the findings might be reversed.

As to our commanders, we have internal rules to follow. We have our policies, our military discipline. We have the disciplinary board, we have Shariah Court. We should be the judge on this.

Secondly, as to the rules of engagement, the only thing that regulates our relationship with the government is the ceasefire agreement of 1997 and 2001.

In that ceasefire agreement, the opposing parties are responsible for the violations of their own members. If the violators are members of the MILF, then it should be the MILF who punishes them. If it is the government who committed the violation of the ceasefire, then they should deal with their own ranks, too.

There is no rule agreed by both parties in the ceasefire agreement that will require us to turn our erring commanders over to the government. Since there is none, what can we do? The MILF is a revolutionary organization. It has policy, it has ideology, integrity. What will happen to us if we turn them over?

Q: So do you mean that the two commanders had already been dealt with by the MILF leadership?

Well, that is internal to us. If I can cite an example in 2005, the Marines launched attacks in Palembang, Sultan Kudarat, and one of those killed was a member of the 106th (Base Command of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces) under Ombra Kato.

What Kato did after that was he exacted revenge in Maguindanao. There were soldiers killed. So, because they did a very clear violation of the ceasefire beyond reasonable doubt, we had to suspend the whole unit. We also suspended the direct commanders involved. We suspended them for more than one year.

Now, amid the violations and accusations hurled against government troops, the government refused to punish its men. They only assigned them (the violators) to other places.


Q: So, at least, Sir, there is an assurance that the MILF has already been dealing with the two commanders…

Well basically, that’s more on discipline. We cannot say it (the two commanders’ action) is a criminal act or not. I’m not saying that. But the MILF has to make necessary disciplinary actions against them. (To be continued) (davaotoday.com)

AFP eyes supplemental budget for Mindanao war

September 28, 2008

By Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 20:37:00 09/28/2008

MANILA — The Armed Forces has stressed the need to replenish the ammunition of soldiers in Central Mindanao in order to sustain its pursuit operations against commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), who had led attacks on civilian communities.

“If we are to sustain our operations and increase our operational tempo, there is a need to replenish our expended ammunition,” Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres, Jr. told reporters on Sunday.

Asked if there was a need for a supplemental budget for the military campaign, Torres said “it may be expected” but quickly added that he had no detailed information yet on the “request of the Armed Forces regarding this campaign.”

The defense department has proposed a P56.54 billion regular budget for 2009, more than half of which is for the Philippine Army whose troops are in the frontlines of the government’s campaigns against communist and Muslim insurgencies.

Torres said that in the last one-and-a-half months of operations in Central Mindanao, the military already expended a significant amount of ammunition.

The soldiers’ continued mobility needed to be ensured as well, Torres said, pointing out that the military recently lost a C-130 Hercules cargo plane in a devastating crash last August.

“We will proportionately increase our operational tempo so as not to allow the LMGs (lawless MILF groups) to hurt more people and destroy more properties,” Torres said, when asked if fighting could intensify with the end of the holy month of Ramadan in a few days.

In a separate statement, the Philippine Navy said on Sunday that its Landing Tank, BRP Benguet (LT507), left the Navy port in Cavite on Sunday to transport 220 tons of ammunition and 23 Army vehicles in support of the operations in Mindanao.

There were also relief goods for the soldiers under the 103rd, 104th and 403rd Brigades in Iligan City from the AFP Civil Relations Service office, said Capt. Leopoldo Alano, commander of the Naval Task Force 80, in the press statement.

The ship also brought truckloads of relief goods for typhoon victims in Visayas and evacuees displaced by the fighting in Mindanao.

The military is hunting down MILF commanders Ameril Ombra Kato, Abdullah Macapaar alias Bravo, and Aleem Sulaiman Pangalian who led their men in a rampage in North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte, and Saranggani province last August in protest of the scuttled signing of the agreement on ancestral domain between the government and the Moro rebel group.

The MILF rebels’ attacks left scores of civilians dead and displaced hundreds and thousands of residents in the impoverished Central Mindanao provinces.

==========

My Take:

Now what?

After commiting grave humn rights abuses and killing civilians with thier aerial bombings, they want us to shell out more money to sustain their wrong doings?

Just asking…

LFS-Lanao Feeding Mission

September 27, 2008

Children’s Rehabilitation Center
Southern Mindanao Regional Office

Press Statement:
September 16, 2008

The Armed Forces of the Philippines consistently sings the same old tune as excuse for their merciless actions

The AFP is again using their same old lines of “collateral damage” and tagging children as “child soldier”, as alibi to escape from accountabilities of violating children’s rights.

These lines were again used by the AFP particularly by Col. Marlou Salazar of the 601st Brigade and Maj. Gen. Hernanie Perez of Philippine Air Force 3rd Air Division after the September 8 incident when 6 person including 4 children with an age range of 2 years old to 10 years old, were killed after an OV-10 aircraft of the Philippine Air Force randomly bombed the civilians who were on board a motor boat, evacuating from their community in Barangay Tee, Datu Piang, Maguindanao.

The AFP is habitually known of using it as an excuse every time they commit atrocities against civilians especially children, just like what happened to Grecil Buya, the 9 year old girl child whom they killed and tagged as child combatant . They alleged that Grecil was doing a maneuver with an M16 riffle while shooting at the soldiers. When their allegation was proven wrong by the parents and friends of Grecil, they immediately justified that Grecil was just caught in crossfire of a legitimate encounter between the AFP troops and the NPA, thus making her a collateral damage.

The lives of civilians especially the children are put into grave danger with these arrogant yet cowardly excuses. These would mean that children will become legitimate targets of the government troops who are already known of their cold blooded human rights and children’s rights violations. The arbitrary military actions that the AFP launched and to be launched will continue thus, there will be no distinction between their armed enemy to the civilians. In fact, these scenarios are already happening in Mindanao amidst the escalation of the military offensives ordered by President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo.

Based on report, there are already 21 civilians killed including 7 children and 13 others including 7 children were wounded due to indiscriminate firing and indiscriminate artillery shelling and bombings perpetrated by the government troops particularly under the 601st Brigade.

The present all out war of the Arroyo administration in Central Mindanao has already affected and displaced more than 360,000 Moro and Christian individuals and they are still increasing.

We, together with other child rights organizations held the Arroyo government liable for the escalating conflict in Mindanao which only victimized civilians especially women and children.

As civil society organization, we demand justice and indemnification for the victims brought about by the callous actions committed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines under the leadership of President Arroyo. Prosecution should undertake to those who are liable for violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

We challenge the Commission on Human Rights under the leadership of Commissioner Dillema to conduct a speedy and impartial investigation on the death of innocent civilians particularly children and to the other human rights violations, and to file appropriate charges to the perpetrators.

The government forces as well as the MILF forces should stand firm in protecting the civilians especially the children, in undertaking military action by observing and respecting the protocols of war as stipulated in the Geneva Conventions.

The government should be serious in realizing its mandate in protecting the children as stated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which the Philippine Republic ratified, by means of initiating the resumption of peace talks with the MILF.

We call for the stoppage of war in Mindanao and for the resumption of peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

For Reference:
John Birondo
Advocacy Officer
CRC-SMRO
Contact no. 09184417947

NEWS RELEASE
10 September 2008

For Reference: REP. LIZA LARGOZA MAZA 0920-9134540
Jang Monte (Public Information Officer) 0917-4049119

RISING CIVILIAN DEATH TOLL SHOULD PROD PEACE TALKS, IMMEDIATE
ABANDONMENT OF DDR -MAZA

“The deaths of women and children, the evacuation of hundreds of
thousands and the destruction of communities: This is what President
Arroyo’s obstinate DDR framework for peace has spawned. Only the
callous and the inhumane would insist for the AFP’s pursuit operations
and indiscriminate aerial bombings to continue.”

Thus said Gabriela Women’s Party representative Liza Maza as she
called for the immediate resumption of peace negotiations between the
government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, not on President
Arroyo’s DDR or disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation
framework but on a policy of peace that recognizes basic human right
and international protocols for the conduct of war.

Following the deaths of Aida Manunggal and her four children in the
indiscriminate bombing of Datu Piang communities, the militant
lawmaker sought an investigation into the Armed Forces of the
Philippines’ conduct of its pursuit operations in the ongoing military
offensives in Mindanao.

“With their aerial bombings and indiscriminate firing, the AFP has
continued to harm more civilians than their purported targets,” said
Maza who is set to file a resolution this week.

Maza noted news reports where a pregnant woman, Aida Mandi, 18, along
with Bailyn, 10, Zukarudin, 7, Adtayan, 5, and Faiza, 2 died Monday
morning as they were fleeing military bombardments in Datu Piang,
Maguindanao. Last August 28, the Children’s Rehabilitation Center –
Southern Mindanao Region reported that indiscriminate bombing in
Sambulawan, Midsayap that led to the death of 9 year old Homidi
Abdurrahman and injured his 7 year old sister Samera Abdurrahman.

“For as long as the AFP’s all-out war and military offensives
continue, peace remains an even more unconceivable concept for
Mindanao, especially for women and children victims of this conflict.” #


NEWS RELEASE
11 September 2008

DEATH OF 6 CIVILIANS IN DATU PIANG, MAGUINDANAO VIOLATION OF
INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW, AFP SHOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE

For Reference:
REP. LUZ C. ILAGAN 0920-9213221
Abby Valenzuela (Public Information Officer) 0915-7639619

Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan condemned today the
irresponsible attack of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in a
civilian area in Datu Piang, Maguindanao last Monday, which killed six
people, wounded and displaced many others, in the continuing effort to
hunt Moro Islamic Liberation Front Commander Umbra Kato.

“What the AFP did is a violation of the International Humanitarian Law
which states that the State is responsible for the protection of the
people living in conflict areas and not participating in the war. They
are especially accountable for the safety of women and children who
are the most vulnerable targets of war. As it turned out, it is the
supposed guardians who violated this law,” the Mindanaoan solon said.

“The government should conduct an investigation into the irresponsible
actions of its military, especially after reports that the forces
hunting down the MILF used bomber aircrafts to indiscriminately fire
at civilians resulting to the death of six members of the Manunggal
family, including four children and an unborn child.”

Ilagan wants the government to immediately conduct an investigation
and punish the military personnel involved in this recent atrocity to
give justice to Aida Mandi Manunggal, 23, pregnant, and her children
Bailyn, 10, Zukarudin, 7 Adtayan, 5 and Faida 2.

The victims, along with their neighbors in Barangay Te, were caught in
the crossfire and were fleeing for safer ground on board a banca when
an OV-10 aircraft dropped a bomb which exploded near their location.
Their bodies, once recovered, were riddled with shrapnel.

Manunggal’s husband, Daya, and her son, Khneg, both wounded, are still
missing.

“To stop the human rights violations against innocent people in
conflict areas, the Malacanang should immediately order a ceasefire
and a pull-out of AFP troops from Mindanao,” Ilagan said.

__._,_.___

ARKIBONG BAYAN

Lanao All-Youth Rally VS Mindanao War

September 27, 2008

Editorial Cartoon: Blind Force

September 25, 2008

They’re just like bullets.

Talks with MILF to continue

September 25, 2008

President Gloria Arroyo has assured the United Nations that she will resume peace talks with Muslim separatists as recent fresh fighting in southern Philippines left two rebels dead.

Her assurance came a day after the government announced that it was working on adding the names of three rebel commanders to the UN’s list of terrorists.

President Arroyo has suspended peace talks with the rebels and poured more troops into Mindanao to pursue the three Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leaders and their men blamed for deadly attacks there in August.

But speaking before the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, Mrs. Arroyo said she remained committed to the peace process but stressed the negotiations would only resume when the three rebel commanders are arrested.

Organization of Islamic Confe-rence Secretary General Edmeleddin Ihsanoglu told President Arroyo that it would support efforts for political settlement in Mindanao “only within the context of Philippine sovereign integrity and will not allow crossing that line,” Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said.

MILF leaders Umbra Kato, Abdu-rahman Macapaar or Bravo and Sulayman Panglian last month led attacks on mostly Christian communities in the provinces of Lanao del Norte, Maguindanao, North Cota-bato and Sarangani.

Ensuing clashes between them and government troops caused the death of more than 200 soldiers, rebels and civilians and displaced at least a quarter-million residents.

Foreign aid agencies have reported difficulties in getting access to refugee camps in their efforts to avert a humanitarian crisis.

“Much progress was made until violent elements within the [MILF] decided to take the law into their own hands,” the President said in her speech, which was released on Wednesday in Manila.

She added that the government would resume dialogue with the rebels when the area was secure and the separatist leadership had regained control of their men.

By “area,” the President was apparently referring to the four provinces, although there also had been violence in Sultan Kudarat province.

MILF justifies attacks

The MILF said it launched the attacks in answer to the Supreme Court’s aborting a peace deal that would have given the rebel group control over an expanded Muslim autonomous area, the Bangsamoro Juridical Authority, that would constitute the rebel homeland.

Mrs. Arroyo said any future negotiations would also have to subscribe to the UN principle of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, or DDR, the so-called paradigm shift of her administration in dealing with the nearly four decades of undeclared war in Mindanao.

Some 50 MILF separatists engaged government troops in gun battles across Maguindanao on Tuesday, according to the Philippine Army spokesman, Maj. Armand Rico.

Two rebels were killed and two soldiers wounded in the fighting, Rico said in a statement.

The government’s move to include Kato, Bravo and Panglian in the UN list of terrorists will only worsen the situation in Mindanao, according to officials of the MILF.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chairman for political affairs, said the government should resolve the conflict in the South within the framework of an existing ceasefire agreement between Manila and the rebels.

According to Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF chief negotiator, the separatist group cannot stop the government from going to the United Nations.

He, however, said that Manila’s move would give the MILF an opportunity to also present its case on alleged atrocities committed by government troops in Mindanao.

“We have compiled and documented these [atrocities] and in due time, if we are given the chance, we will present [them] before the United Nations,” Iqbal added.

If the three commanders would be tagged as terrorists, he said, the Philippine government should also be branded as a terrorist for allegedly causing the death of and injury to civilians in the South.
— AFP With Jefferson Antiporda,Al Jacinto And Angelo S. Samonte(ManilaTimes)

=========

My Take:

200 soldiers was killed?  Is this official?  How come media reports never mentioned this number before?  Is this a real figure or some inflated numbers just to get the UNs nod to add the 3 MILF leaders int their list of terrorists?

Just asking.

‘Batang mandirigma’ ng MILF?

September 24, 2008

Kenneth Roland A. Guda

MUKHANG bata nga sila. Nagmamartsa, nasa pormasyon, matikas. Bitbit ang matataas na kalibre ng baril.

Ganito ang ipinakitang bidyo ni Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, tagapagsalita ng 6th Infantry Division ng Army, sa midya kamakailan bilang patunay daw ng pagkakaroon ng mga “batang mandirigma” sa MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front). Nakuha raw ang bidyong ito sa inabandonang kampo ni Kumander Umbra Kato sa Maguindanao.

“Ipinakita ng bidyo ang mga batang lalaking Muslim na sinasanay ng mga rebeldeng MILF. Malinaw na paglabag ito sa tratado ng UN (United Nations) na nagbabawal sa mga bata na lumahok sa pakikidigma,” pagbibigay-diin ni Ando.

Ang problema lang, hindi ipinaliwanag ni Ando kung paano niya nasabing nasa edad 17 pababa nga ang mga “batang” nagsasanay na maging rebelde. O kung sumasangkot nga ba ang mga “batang” nagsasanay na ito sa pakikidigma. O, kung totoo man ito, bakit nahihikayat ang mga “batang” Moro na lumahok sa MILF.

Pinaiimbestigahan ni Ando at ng AFP sa mga pandaigdigang ahensiya tulad ng UN ang MILF kaugnay ng sinasabing mga “batang mandirigma.”

Pero ang hindi alam o hindi binanggit ni Ando, naglabas na ng masusing pag-aaral ang Unicef (UN Children’s Fund) hinggil dito noon pang 2007.

Sa pag-aaral na ito, kaanib ng Unicef ang Ibon Foundation, Children’s Rehabilitation Center at Center for Women’s Resources. Pinuntahan ng mga mananaliksik ang walong komunidad sa walong probinsiya sa Pilipinas para pag-aralan ang kalagayan ng kabataan at kababaihan sa mga lugar na may digmaan.

Giyera kontra sa New People’s Army ang inilulunsad ng AFP sa pinuntahang mga probinsiyang Abra, Mindoro Oriental, Capiz, Leyte, Surigao del Sur, at Compostela Valley. MILF naman ang kalaban ng gobyerno sa mga probinsiyang North Cotabato at Maguindanao.

Narito ang sinaling sipi mula sa Uncounted Lives: Children, Women & Conflict in the Philippines, librong inilathala ng Unicef at Ibon hinggil sa naturang pag-aaral. Malawak ang saklaw ng libro, pero pinili naming sipiin ilang bahagi lamang ng Part II ng libro, hinggil sa mga probinsiyang may presensiya ng MILF: North Cotabato at Maguindanao. PW ang nagpaiksi at nagsalin mula sa orihinal na Ingles.

Sa amin nanggaling ang anumang di-sinasadyang pagkakamali. (Ed.)


Isinaling sipi mula sa Uncounted Lives: Children, Women & Conflict in the Philippines

North Cotabato

Isang dosenang barangay ang matatagpuan sa Kalaong (sa North Cotabato), at malaking bahagi nito ang sumasakop sa Liguasan Marsh. Tatlo sa limang katao dito ay Moro; ang iba’y kalimitang Kristiyano. Pangunahing kabuhayan ng mga tao ang pagsasaka, pag-aalaga ng mga hayop at pangingisda.

Ang komunidad na binisita, Barangay Pantawan, ay may mahigit 500 kabahayan…

Ang MILF at ang paglaban nito

Hindi man nila direktang sinasabi ito, lumalabas na simpatetiko sa MILF at sa ipinaglalaban nito ang mga bata sa FGD (focused group discussion). Ayon sa kanila, [“Ang] itinuturo ng Islam ay kabutihan lamang. Nangyayari ang jihad kapag niyuyurakan ang karapatan.[“] Inamin ng ilan na sinusuportahan ng mga pamilya nila ang mga mandirigma ng MILF sa pamamagitan ng pagbigay ng bigas. Anila, boluntaryo ang pagsali sa MILF. [Pero] tuwing nakasasagupa nito ang militar, nananalangin sila para sa mga mandirigma ng MILF.

Bagamat hindi pa lubos na naiintindihan ng mga bata ang giyera, naihahayag nila kung bakit may giyera, at kung bakit may matinding presensiya ng militar sa kanilang mga komunidad. Ayon sa isa, “Hindi binibigay ng gobyerno ang karapatan ng Moro sa Mindanao. Hindi nangingibabaw ang Islam.”…

Abdul: Natulak [sa pakikidigma] pero determinado

Si Abdul, 22, ay isang magsasaka sa isa sa maliliit na bayan ng North Cotabato. Anim na taon na ang nakararaan, sa edad na 15-anyos, isa siyang nakababatang mujahideen sa Camp Abu Bakr – malaking base ng MILF na inatake ng gobyerno noong 2000…

Noong 1991, lumipat ang pamilya ni Abdul mula sa Kabacan, North Cotabato, isang bayang dominante ang mga Kristiyano, tungong Camp Abu Bakr dahil sa mga oportunidad na pangkabuhayan na inaalok ng MILF…

Noong siya’y pitong taong gulang, alam na niya ang tungkol sa mga nakababatang mujahideen. Naiintindihan niya na tinutugunan ng mga ito ang mahalagang gawain sa ilalim ng Islam…Pero di tulad ng kapatid niyang isa sa mga nakababatang mujahideen, wala siyang balak na humawak ng armas. Kuntento na siyang mag-aral at pana-panahong tumulong sa pamilya…

Naririnig niya mula sa mga nakakatanda na samantalang hindi lahat ng sundalo [ng gobyerno] ay abusado, may ilang sadyang tumatarget ng inosenteng mga sibilyan. Dagdag niya: “Kapag nakapasok na [ang mga sundalo sa aming komunidad] walang pagtatangi silang papatay ng mga Muslim…Lumaban man kami o hindi, papatayin nila kami.” Nang inatake ng militar ang kanyang komunidad, walang magawa ang napilitang si Abdul kundi ipagtanggol ang komunidad…

Noong 2000, itinalaga [si Abdul] bilang bahagi ng blocking force na guguwardiya sa kampo. Sa alala niya, may 30 mandirigma ng MILF na kaharap ang humigit-kumulang 800 sundalo…Nang nagsimula ang sagupaan, ang unang karanasan sa palitang-putok sa murang edad ni Abdul, marami sa mga kasamahan niya ang nabuwal hanggang lima na lamang silang natira…Bumalik si Abdul at ang apat na natitirang mujahideen sa malaking kampo. Bumalik si Abdul sa kanyang ina…


Maguindanao

Matatagpuan ang Barangay Bentingaw malapit sa Liguasan Marsh at, ayon sa matatagal nang mga residente, itinuturing na bahagi ng Rajamudah Camp ng MILF. Pagsasaka at pangingisda ang pangunahing kabuhayan dito…

Naranasan ng lahat ng bata sa FGD ang masamang epekto ng armadong tunggalian. Isang umaga noong Hunyo 2000, ginising ang komunidad ng pagsabog at pagputok ng baril. Dinagsa ang tahimik nilang komunidad ng mga sundalo ng AFP na, ayon sa mga residente, lumalabas na nagpapaputok nang walang pagtatangi…Ayon sa 9-anyos na si Halid, “Sinunog ng mga sundalo ang bahay namin. Kinuha din nila ang mga alaga naming hayop tulad ng baka at iba pa. Ipinahabol kami sa aso.”…

Amin: Nag-aarmas para ipagtanggol ang sarili

Isang 16-taong-gulang na sundalo ng MILF si Amin na pinakabata sa apat na magkakapatid. Isang insidente na ikinasawi ng buhay ng kanyang ama at mga kapatid na lalaki ang nagtulak sa kanya na mag-armas at lumahok sa MILF. Nang magsimulang bombahin ng militar ang mga karatig ng Barangay Bentingaw noong 2000, lumikas ang pamilya ni Amin patungong malapit sa Liguasan Marsh. Pero pati ang lugar na ito ay binomba rin.

Naaalala pa ni Amin ang lahat: Tinamaan agad ang kanyang ama at nakababatang kapatid sa shrapnel pero hindi agad nasawi…Walang doktor sa lugar dahil lahat ng health personnel ay nasa evacuation centers. Ang nakatatandang kapatid niya, na mujahideen na noong panahong iyon, ay namatay rin sa pakikidigma. Tatlong kaanak agad ang nawala kay Amin na 11-taong-gulang pa lamang noon…

Sinabi ni Amin na nag-armas siya para ipagtanggol ang sarili at ang ina… “Walang ibang dahilan (ang paghawak ko ng armas) kundi ang ipagtanggol ko ang aking pamilya dahil sa nangyari. Hindi ako napilitan.”…

Hindi niya maalalang dumaan sa isang proseso ng pagrerekluta…Matapos na lamang ang malungkot na insidente nang unang maisipan ni Amin na humawak ng sandata, pero 13-taong gulang pa lamang siya noon. Pero kahit noong panahong ito, binibigyan na siya ng mga simpleng gawain sa kampo ng MILF. Dahil hindi pa siya tuwirang mandirigma, madalas pa niyang bisitahin ang ina na nagsasaka…

Sa una, ang gusto lang niyang gawin ay ipaghiganti ang pagkamatay ng ama at mga kapatid na, ayon sa kanya, walang labang pinatay…”[Pero] sa paglaki ko, nalaman kong hindi pagpatay ang dahilan ng pakikidigma. May mas malaking dahilan sa paglaban sa giyerang ito: ang pananampalataya sa Islam.”…

Dr. Iqbal: Hinggil sa mga bata at sa armadong pakikibaka

Inilinaw ni Dr. Mohagher Iqbal, kasalukuyang hepe ng public affairs ng MILF at punong negosyador nito, ang posisyon ng MILF hinggil sa mga batang mandirigma: “Hindi dapat lumahok ang mga bata sa giyera dahil dapat nasa paaralan sila.” Pero sinabi niyang may ilang kaso na kinukuha ng MILF sa kustodiya ang bata kapag namatay ang mga magulang nito dahil sa armadong labanan at walang ibang kaanak na susuporta sa bata.

“Sa halip na itaboy sila para maging social deviants, kriminal o adik sa droga, mas mabuti pa silang nasa pangangalaga ng organisasyon…” ani Dr. Iqbal…

Sa mga kasong ito, aniya, ang mga bata sa MILF ay hindi narerekluta bilang full-time na mandirigma kundi nabibigyan ng auxilliary tasks sa kampo nito. Kabilang sa mga gawain nila ay ang pagiging kuryer o tagadala ng pagkain ng mga mandirigma ng MILF sa panahon ng digmaan. Hindi ibig sabihin, ani Dr. Iqbal, na walang karanasan sa pagpapaputok ng baril ang mga batang nasa kustodiya nila. Hindi malayong nakagamit na ang mga ito ng baril bilang paglaban sa militar, laluna tuwing brutal na inaatake ang kanilang mga komunidad…

Pinasubalian ni Dr. Iqbal ang paniniwalang napipilitan o nabi-brainwash ang mga bata na sumali sa kanilang organisasyon… (PinoyWeekly)

MOA-AD a victim of political crisis in Manila, says Murad

September 22, 2008

MAGUINDANAO (MindaNews/17 Sep) — The Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) “is a victim of the political crisis” that the Manila government is faced with, according to Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chair Al-haj Murad Ebrahim.

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He said the MOA-AD, which was supposed to be signed in Kuala Lumpur on August 5 had the Supreme Court not restrained the government panel from penning the accord, was a concession they agreed to in the stead of “Bangsamoro sovereignty.”

But he stressed that it was “unfortunate that the political crisis in Manila” would lead to the collapse of the supposed agreement that was a product of four years of negotiation.

The government and the MILF have been talking peace for the past 11 years and ancestral domain was the lone agenda they had been discussing in the past four years.

Reiterating that the MILF considers the MOA-AD as one of the “binding” accords similar to the ceasefire agreement that both parties have entered into, Murad said that the government had no reason to abandon it “simply because some presidentiables have opposed it.”

“Those opposing the MOA are politicians and some presidentiables who don’t care about the killings in Mindanao but only their vested political interests,” Murad said in an interview in the jungles of Maguindanao province. Murad, however, did not mention that thousands of residents in the cities of Iligan and Zamboanga and in areas in Bukidnon, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato also protested the signing of the MOA-AD and went to the streets with placards and streamers.

Murad reminded the government about its alleged “promise to do all legal means to accommodate the MOA-AD,” while reiterating that in exchange to the Arroyo government’s commitment on the controversial accord, the MILF has agreed on a plebiscite.

The MILF, Murad said, does not want “another Iraq, Iran or Palestine in Mindanao. That was why we agreed to talk with the government.”

This developed as MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal reiterated their call for the government to make the peace process in Mindanao a national agenda.

“We have been telling the government to make the peace process a national agenda,” Iqbal said in a separate interview at the MILF’s Camp Darapanan.

It can be recalled that some peace groups in Mindanao led by the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC), a tri-people alliance of 26 organizations, have also pushed for the nationalization of the Mindanao peace agenda.

“If the peace process in Mindanao is made a national agenda, people would no longer entertain thoughts that we are only talking peace with the executive department,” said Iqbal.

The MPC has been talking with some Mindanao congressmen whom they wanted to pass a legislation that would in effect nationalize the peace agenda in Mindanao. (Romy Elusfa / MindaNews contributor)

Pikit ‘bakwits’ ask North Cot gov: where’s the help?

September 22, 2008

KIDAPWAN CITY (MindaNews/18 September) — Evacuees in Pikit, North Cotabato have questioned the provincial government’s sincerity in helping them as some of them have not received even a single centavo despite promises.

One of them is Normina Gumansan, from Barangay Lagundi, who lamented not having received help from the provincial government’s promised financial aid of P10,000. Her house was among those burned last Aug. 11 at the height of clashes between government and Moro rebels.

She said none from Lagundi received such promised amount.

At least 25 houses in Pikit were razed when hit by either mortar rounds or rocket propelled grenades (RPGs).

Vice Governor Manny Piñol likewise criticized the provincial government for giving only a pittance from its P50-million calamity fund.

The provincial government, he said, has so far released only P4 million, or a mere 8 percent of its calamity fund, as relief assistance to 13,000 families affected by the recent armed clashes.

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan, which Piñol chairs, during its regular session last Tuesday asked provincial social welfare officer Virgilita Guilaran to explain the minimal funds released to evacuees.

She said that aside from the P4 million from provincial funds, other non-governmental organizations, like the World Food Program and the Catholic Relief Services, have worked with the provincial government in helping the evacuees.

Another international relief group, Oxfam, which has an office in Cotabato city, distributed in Lagundi this morning 20 latrines, 30 empty containers for drinking water, and a number of medical kits.

There are still 76 families in Lagundi who refuse to return to their homes. They come from Barangays Tagbak, Kadingilan, Bualan and Lower Lagundi.

Glenn Maboloc, media affairs head of Oxfam, said the relief distribution was part of their rehabilitation efforts in conflict areas, including Pikit. The group proceeded to Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao where they also conducted relief operations. (Malu Cadeliña Manar / MindaNews)

MILF admits ‘extremists’ waiting in the wings

September 22, 2008

BY VICTOR REYES

THE Moro Islamic Liberation Front yesterday agreed with former government chief negotiator Rodolfo Garcia that failure to strike a peace accord with the secessionists might give rise to a new breed of extremists espousing jihadist activism.

“I would not call it terrorism but the observation is correct,” said MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal.

Garcia, in a forum on the Mindanao conflict Friday, said the new breed of rebels, including two renegade commanders being pursued by the military, would be a “harder group to deal with.”

Commanders Ameril Umbra Kato and Abdurahman Macapaar alias Bravo are subject of a military offensive launched last month after they attacked North Cotabato in July and Lanao del Norte.

Iqbal said the government’s failure to sign the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain has irked a number of commanders. The signing set for August 5 in Kuala Lumpur was stopped by the Supreme Court. The government has since dropped the MOA.

“The government’s non-signing, that gave them enough justification for the commanders, who are actually against the peace process, more reason to prove that their theory is correct: that the government, after all, is not a trustworthy partner in the peace process,” said Iqbal.

A number of sectors outside the MILF are opposing the MOA which would create a Muslim homeland. A number of areas proposed to be covered by the Bangsamoro homeland are questioning the constitutionality of the agreement before the Supreme Court.

Iqbal said there is nothing wrong with the word “jihad” which he said does not necessarily mean religious war.

The nearest translation in English is “utmost striving in the way of Allah and what is followed is the principle of Islam.”

“Among the Muslims, the only justification for war is when it is a defensive war. That is jihad…Jihad has no translation in English… There is no such thing as religious war in Islam,” he said.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said jihad “is actually not something that is always related to violence.”

“Jihad among our Muslim brothers and sisters refers to a cleansing, an internal cleansing of a person,” said Dureza, former presidential adviser on the peace process.

Iqbal said the acts of Kato, head of the MILF’s 105th Base Command, and Bravo of the 102nd Base Command were “merely a question of discipline.”

“They saw that the government is not abiding (by the agreements) so they have gone out of their way and, without the sanction of the MILF leadership, attacked military targets,” said Iqbal, adding government forces instigated the North Cotabato incidents when they attacked MILF rebels.

Kato’s group occupied 15 barangays in North Cotabato on July 1, long before the peace panels announced their agreement on the MOA.

Bravo’s group attacked Iligan City and four towns in Lanao del Norte on August 18.

Iqbal said this was a result of the commanders’ frustration over the non-signing of the MOA. “In the case of Lanao del Norte, it was probably started by Bravo,” he said.

The fatality figures provided by the government in the Lanao attacks are 28 civilians, three soldiers and a policeman.

Iqbal said the government’s “civilian” fatality count included militiamen who he said are considered combatants. A second type of “civilians,” he said, are victims of crossfire and “we don’t know who hit them.” The third type, he said, could not be classified and “their deaths should be looked into to determine who is responsible.”

Iqbal said Kato, Bravo and Aleem Pangalian, a third commander being pursued by the military, would abide by the provisions of a peace accord, if one is finally signed.

Iqbal said that the MILF had no problems with the three commanders “until the Philippine government did not sign (the MOA) at the last hour.”

The military belied Iqbal’s statement, saying the MILF leadership has “no control” over the three commanders.

“In the past, specially Bravo and Kato, were also involved in similar atrocities,” said Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres, chief of the AFP public information office.

Bravo is still in Lanao de Norte, “hiding in a forested area,” according to Col. Benito de Leon, commanding officer of the Army’s 104th Brigade.

In Matungao town, a 25-man rebel band believed to be part of Bravo’s group clashed with government troops yesterday.

One rebel was killed in the 30-minute clash, De Leon said, belying the MILF claim that 20 soldiers died in the encounter.

De Leon said the rebel band was responsible for the failed toppling of a power line tower in Kauswagan last Friday.

President Arroyo has said the fighting in Mindanao is a temporary setback to the peace process.

Arroyo on Saturday night attended a breaking of fast with the Muslim community, or the 4th Iftar, hosted by the Libyan Embassy and the World Islamic Call Society (WICS) at the Sofitel hotel. – With Jocelyn Montemayor(Malaya)

Peace in Mindanao – at what price?

September 20, 2008

By the Policy Study, Publication, and Advocacy
Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)

(This issue analysis comes in two parts: 1) Bringing the MILF to the Peace Talks; and, II. The Peace Process and U.S. Role)


I. Bringing the MILF to the Peace Talks

Peace is not just the absence of war. It is the outcome of settling an armed conflict by addressing its fundamental roots toward a just and lasting peace. Unless the causes are addressed, any peace that is forged is just a means of preserving an unjust status quo leading to bigger tensions.

In the old days, peace terms were prescribed by victorious states and armies in a war or armed conflict; the terms usually included disarming the vanquished and dismembering territories. The impositions in the treaties that ended the two major world wars of the 20th century yielded no lasting peace: World War I led to World War II, and the latter was followed by the so-called “cold war” and thereafter by the permanent and borderless “war on terrorism.”

In the Philippines, the ongoing peace talks between the Arroyo government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fits into a peace process paradigm developed by capitalist countries led by the United States. Sometimes referred to as globalization-driven, the peace process – somewhat similar to the UN’s “peace building,” “conflict resolution” or “dispute settlement” – purportedly aims to address the core issues of the Bangsamoro problem, namely, the Moro people’s ancestral domain claim and self-rule.

The trouble is, not all “peace processes” are success stories as advocates and current political literature on this paradigm admit. In fact, the backlash generated by a controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (Moa-AD), which is a product of this peace process, and the resumption of hostilities are imperiling the peace talks between the GRP and MILF.

Two major peace talks

The centuries-long Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination – in terms of having a separate and independent state – has gone through two major peace negotiations with the government. The first, held with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), traversed through 20 years ending in the 1996 final peace accord that has been criticized as inadequate in building autonomy and development for the ARMM. The second, with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), started in 1997 with an agreement on the cessation of hostilities followed by the Tripoli agreement of 2001(1) . Unfolding in this second process are seemingly irreconcilable interests representing not only the MILF and GRP but also the local elite, investors, and foreign governments.

In the GRP-MNLF peace talks, a confluence of events – on the part of the Marcos regime the economic crisis and the need to tap Middle East countries for oil and market for cheap Filipino labor, and, on the MILF military setbacks and the gradual loss of armed support from Libya and other OIC countries – drove both parties to enter into a negotiated political settlement. In the early phase, however, a faction of the MNLF that disagreed with the peace talks, led by Salamat Hashim, formed the MILF in 1977. The MILF has been the main revolutionary Moro group with its armed component, Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), consistently fighting for secession.

The MILF suffered a major setback when 50 of its military camps were destroyed by the AFP in the total war unleashed by then President Joseph Estrada in 2000 and again, when the Buliok complex which replaced Camp Abubakar as the rebels’ central headquarters, came under heavy military offensive – in violation of a truce – in February 2003. Government offensives forced the MILF’s positional warfare units to disperse into smaller, clan-led guerrilla forces.

Although intelligence reports say that the BIAF is still 15,000-strong with 11,000 firearms, the MILF’s fighting spirit appeared to have reached what some security analysts call a “hurting stalemate” which can go either to extremism by its dispersed units or to a prolonged armed engagement without any prospects of winning. Aside from economic losses and other reasons, the Arroyo government pursued the peace talks in a bid to silence the guns of the MILF – which had been put into effect in the 1997 ceasefire agreement – in order to concentrate on its strategic offensives against the New People’s Army in a vain attempt to put it into irrelevance by 2010.

Ripe time

By 2003, the time was ripe for giving momentum to the “peace process.” The MILF faced the threat of having its inclusion in the U.S. government’s list of foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) renewed and, hence, foreign support from Muslim countries being reduced. An exchange of communications between MILF Chair Salamat Hashim (2) and U.S. President George Bush followed in early 2003, paving the way for U.S. participation in the peace talks. Further legitimizing U.S. participation was an official request by Arroyo for U.S. assistance in the peace talks.

Since Malaysia was the official facilitator of the talks being held in Kuala Lumpur, U.S. role was through the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), a quasi-state agency created by an act of Congress. Washington promised an initial $30 million aid package to the MILF subject, however, to the latter’s signing a final peace agreement. The USIP’s Philippine Facilitation Project, which allowed U.S. state department authorities a direct access to the MILF including its military camps, lasted from 2003-2007. Since then, U.S. liaison with the MILF has been continued by the state department and its embassy in Manila.

Meantime, Malaysia, Libya, and the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) tried to persuade the MILF to drop its secessionist goal, work for an expanded autonomy and, at one point, to adjust its hard position against the constitutional framework of the negotiations. This stance complemented the USIP’s peace formula regarding an expanded autonomy with legal authority for the MILF and for the GRP to soften its constitutional rigidity.

The MoA-AD, the signing of which was aborted by a Supreme Court (SC) temporary restraining order, articulates a compromise deal with the MILF in which its historical ancestral domain claim is recognized by the government in principle but makes its actualization conditional. The implementation of this claim, along with the ownership of natural resources and the exercise of jurisdictional authority, will need to pass through the gauntlet of more contentious negotiations leading up to the Comprehensive Compact, plebiscite, and a constitutional amendment that will establish a federal system. More importantly, the agreement binds the MILF to honor private landholdings, corporate plantations, foreign investments particularly in energy resources, as well as the presence of foreign forces in Bangsamoro.

II. The Peace Process and U.S. Role

The critique that the U.S. had a hand in crafting the MoA appears to be not without basis. The agreement – the whole peace talks for that matter – is a by-product of a new peace formula whose underlying goal is to enhance the U.S.’ comprehensive security strategy in Mindanao and the whole Southeast Asian region. Among other instruments, the superpower’s security imperatives, i.e., economic, geo-political, and military objectives, are promoted through the now spurious “war on terrorism” defining the region as the second front. This post-9/11 declaration, backed by Arroyo, became the entry point for an indefinite forward deployment of U.S. forces and basing facilities particularly in southern Philippines.

With the USIP and other policy thinkers in Washington, however, this strategy has been reformulated to adopt what is described as the “political economy of security.” Basically, this new formula postulates that U.S. security imperatives are better advanced by transforming the Bangsamoro into a governable zone and a stable extension of global capitalism supported by international funds and investments in a post-conflict scenario. Mindanao, particularly the Bangsamoro homeland, holds the key to U.S. security goals in Southeast Asia and the MILF is seen as a major player for undercutting the influence of anti-American extremism particularly among the region’s Muslim populations. The non-resolution of the Moro problem now will have far-reaching implications to U.S. security imperatives in the region in the future.

What this means is that, using the classic “carrot and stick” policy, U.S. special forces will continue to pin down the Abu Sayyaf Group and other alleged terrorist networks through surgical military strikes and expanded intelligence, but the politico-diplomatic approach will moderate the MILF by tying it down to a protracted peace process and cutting its ties to the ASG and extremist politics. As far as the U.S. is concerned, the push for the MILF’s abandonment of secessionism matched by the Arroyo regime’s dropping of its constitutional rigidity with the support of Malaysia and other countries is a positive step for moving the peace process forward.

MILF disarmament

But this formula will only succeed if, among other conditions, the MILF is finally disarmed and transformed into a mass-based political party thereby enhancing – in the language of the peace process – its legitimate political authority. It also depends on the cooperation and, more important, the political will of the Arroyo government even as, in the eyes of the USIP and other U.S. policy strategists, it is weak and incapable of delivering peace and development in the Moro communities (3). In the post-conflict scenario, it is almost inevitable for the U.S. with its military presence in Mindanao to head an international mission to guarantee the security of a new Bangsamoro.

The cooperation of the Arroyo regime and the MILF in this new peace formula is assured by internationalizing the peace process – the icing on the cake, so to speak. Supportive of the “peace and development” policy for Mindanao, a coalition of donor countries led by the U.S., Japan as well as the World Bank is committed to fund the Bangsamoro’s economic reconstruction. Aside from infusing 60 percent of its economic assistance to the Philippines in Mindanao, the USAID has committed a multi-year Mindanao Peace and Development Agreement worth $190 million and increased its economic support fund (ESF) to 25.9 million US dollars. Japan, besides joining the International Monitoring Team (IMT), has committed 400 million US dollars in Mindanao. Japan, which is also the U.S.’ chief security partner in East Asia, is working closely with the MILF’s development arm, Bangsamoro Development Agency. Similar commitments have come from Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Libya, and the OIC.

Cold war

Peace process as a paradigm finds its birth in the 1970s when it was coined by U.S. policy strategists to reduce tensions between Israel – a U.S. ally – Egypt, and Syria following the 1973 Yom Kippur war. The first peace process involving Israel and Egypt was choreographed by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, considered dean of the realist diplomacy, as part of their détente strategy for winning the cold war in the Middle East. While there had been agreements forged, the process itself – hyped as the “roadmap to peace” – has been incremental for 40 years. Meantime, while tensions have aggravated in the Middle East today, the net effect of this peace process, among others, has included the rise of Israel as a nuclear power occupying a major swathe of the Palestinian land claim, the taming of the Palestine Liberation Organization by giving it a symbolic political authority, and a pro-U.S. Egypt.

After the cold war, peace process has been introduced in several flashpoints in the world including Northern Ireland, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Aceh, East Timor, Bougainville, Kosovo, Kenya, the Basque region in Spain, and now, in Mindanao. As a politico-diplomatic track adopted in the global anti-terrorist war, peace process is the entry point for the U.S. purportedly to bring stability and governance in so-called “ungoverned” and “contested” territories such as Mindanao followed by a post-conflict program of international aid and security guarantee.

Global capitalism

The major political-economic goal of the peace process is to extend and embed market-driven global capitalism in these areas. A British scholar, Jan Selby, notes that the peace process is more of “a stalling mechanism for the powerful” whose central purpose “is to forestall radical or revolutionary political change” as well as to “reconsolidate hegemony and/or legitimacy.” Meanwhile, this peace formula has given birth to a global “peace industry” that involves multilateral agencies, think tanks, academic consultant groups, corporate investors, media, and elite stakeholders.

In Mindanao, the USIP itself anticipated that the MoA-AD would face strong legal and constitutional resistance and predicted Arroyo’s lack of capability in pushing the peace process to the end. Indeed the draft agreement has lit a wildfire of resistance from powerful non-Muslim politicians and landlords who have threatened war against the MILF unless it is shelved. How to bring stability and governance that would make the MILF the political authority which is only possible if the Muslim sultans and non-Muslim oligarchs disengage from dominant power politics is a daunting task.

This underscores the inherent failure of the peace process – the reason why, according to Selby – the whole exercise, which involves deliberate, well-calibrated long and tedious phases, does not provide substantial basis for sustainable, lasting peace. But if the net effect – which appears to be an underlying motive in the “peace process” – is to at least pacify a rebel army toward its eventual capitulation or accepting an exit strategy from war, then that itself can be claimed as an accomplishment by the peace architects.

But, at what price? The peace process can bring about a simulated peace – but not the final solution to the Bangsamoro people’s historic and just grievances. Moro leaders should be wary with other external parties’ facilitation programs that put into greater harm the core interests not only of the Bangsamoro people but the sovereign and territorial rights of the country as a whole.

The challenge to both parties, particularly the MILF, is how to address the Bangsamoro people’s historic and just grievances by pursuing peace talks based on sincerity, independence, and non-interference by external parties except a transparent and facilitative role of a third party negotiator. The call for full transparency in the talks should include full consultations with Lumads and non-Muslim communities in the disputed territories.

As the MILF leadership itself said when Hashim announced their 50-year jihad in 2000, if peace cannot be achieved now under Arroyo it will do so with her successor and thereafter.

_________________

(1) Implementing Guidelines on the Security Aspect of the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement of Peace of 2001.

(2) Reports said that it was Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. who convinced Salamat Hashim to write Bush in January 2003. Pimentel is the architect of federalism that aims to transform Bangsamoro into a federated state.

(3) In fact, some Washington policy experts on this issue see the Arroyo government as the main problem and not the MILF.

Arroyo knew MOA details — Esperon

September 16, 2008

By Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:35:00 09/16/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Presidential peace adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Monday President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was aware of the details of the controversial memorandum of agreement (MOA) on ancestral domain that he initialed in Kuala Lumpur early last month.

Esperon, speaking to reporters during the 15th anniversary celebration of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), explained that the peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) involved consultations with the Cabinet and guidance from the “top leadership.”

Malacañang backed out of the peace agreement after its constitutionality was questioned before the Supreme Court.

“Any product of negotiation (is) always submitted to the President for further executive action or for further guidance to the negotiating panel,” Esperon told reporters.

Asked if the President had seen the MOA, Esperon replied: “Yes, of course, the President knows what the panel has been going through.”

When told that his statement ran counter to the claim of Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera before the Supreme Court that Ms Arroyo had “never” seen the document, Esperon clarified his remarks.

The President had not seen the MOA “in its entirety,” Esperon said. “I mean, in the end, we will always seek the guidance of the President, not exactly expecting that she knows word for word the MOA itself. But the guidance would come from the top leadership,” he said.

Esperon flew to Kuala Lumpur over the weekend to explain to Malaysia, which moderated the peace talks for more than 10 years, of the government’s decision to back out of the agreement.

Esperon said Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi expressed disappointment over the collapse of the peace talks.

One of the members of Esperon’s now-defunct peace panel, Rudy Rodil, declined to comment.

Former peace adviser and now election commissioner Rene Sarmiento, also present at the OPAPP event, told reporters a peace process “takes a lot of patience.”

He said the country had learned a lot from the issue of the MOA itself, such as the importance of the involvement of civil society, being stakeholders, in discussions.

Esperon said that even if the government would no longer sign the MOA, the document could still be used as a “major reference,” particularly its “substance,” in future negotiations with the MILF.

“The MOA represent a meeting of minds. It also contains consensus points and therefore by that alone, as a product of four years and seven months of deliberations—long deliberations, long negotiations—it cannot just be put aside and so it becomes a major reference,” Esperon said.

Esperon said that while he already had a short list of possible members of a new peace panel, its recomposition “is not our main concern right now.”

Esperon said the government had asked a Malaysian facilitator to relay to the MILF that the peace process would continue but they (the rebels) should surrender the two commanders responsible for recent attacks in central Mindanao—Ombra Kato and Commander Bravo.

Esperon said the government was shifting to a direct dialogue with communities which would “not only provide the ideas for resolving the conflict but will also definitely provide the constituency for peace.”

“That is actually the shift in the paradigm. For so long a time, we have been conducting dialogues only with the armed groups,” he said.

================

My Take:

Hmmm.. interesting remarks.  Maybe the Supreme Court should comment on this.

MILF recruiting members in Brooke’s Point, Palawan

September 13, 2008

By Celeste Anna R. Formoso

DESPITE PERSISTENT claims by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that there is no presence of the renegade Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in southern Palawan, claims that they’re recruiting for members in at least two municipalities there continue to persevere since the signing of a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) to establish the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) got botched this month.

In Brooke’s Point, a first class municipality in southern Palawan, municipal information officer Bonifacio Rosel confirmed to local radio station DYPR that members of the Muslim extremist group are moving “house-to-house” in his town to recruit members supposedly to compose a burly force in the province.

He said bonnet-wearing men are the ones visiting homes in the dead of the night to convince residents to join the MILF and support the establishment of the Bangsamoro land.

Although this report has yet to be verified by authorities in Palawan, particularly in the south, Rosel said those who are being recruited are also being promised P30,000-P35,000 if they join the MILF.

“The recruiters are saying they will give those who will join the MILF, but those who are being recruited are refusing. They said what they will do with the money if they can’t live in peace,” he said.

Meanwhile, 2nd Palawan District Rep. Abraham Kahlil B. Mitra said he is worried that if residents and authorities in the south will not be vigilant, the MILF might gain ground and be able to establish a force.

But he also assured that the Western Command (Wescom), under the leadership of Commodore Ruperto Rico C. Borromeo, is doing everything to make sure that the peace and order situation in southern Palawan remains intact.

Undamaged, particularly in the municipality of Bataraza, where members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who supports the MILF, were reportedly issued warrants of arrest because they have armed themselves, the reason for which is still being clarified.

Mitra issued an appeal to the Muslim communities in southern Palawan to be vigilant and not to support the war that the MILF has waged in Mindanao since the signing of the MOA-AD was cancelled. He said the conflict in Mindanao is not a concern of the Muslims and Christians in the province whose relationship is good because they support each other for their development and the province of Palawan.

In related news, a task force called Task Force Kapayapaan, was created to disseminate information to residents in southern Palawan regarding the MILF and what to do in case being recruited.(PalawanTimes)

Observing Ramadhan, Islam community hits military operations in Mindanao

September 13, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Muslim residents here expressed their concern over the continued military operations in the south directed at the immediate capture of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Commanders “Umbra Kato” and “Bravo” despite the observance of the holy month of Ramadhan.


RAMADHAN PRAYER. Muslims in Baguio City are one in prayer for lasting peace in their homeland Mindanao. Photo by Cye Reyes/NORDIS

Jamal who did not give his full name, a Muslim trader here, said the government’s continued military operations in Mindanao during Ramadhan is a bastardization of Islam.

“Ramadhan is our most sacred and holy month, it is disrespectful of the government not to declare a total ceasefire,” said Jamal. He said the sentiments of the people especially the Muslims would be diverted to anger against the government.

Abdulwahab Lacsaman, a teacher in the Almaarif Educational Center, along Roman Ayson Road was adamant that the government should respect this very important Islamic practice.

Under the Islamic lunar calendar, the month of Ramadhan is from September 1 to September 30, this year.

Meanwhile, Office on Muslim Affairs-Cordillera Administrative Region (OMA-CAR) Director Abdullah S. Macarimpas said the military should observe protocols in their conduct of military operations not just in Mindanao but in any place in the country.

“No civilian should be affected in their operations and the government troops should respect everyone’s human rights,” said Macarimpas.

He was also firm on his opinion that the government is waging an all-out-peace operations and not an all-out-war in Mindanao.

“The president is not waging war but peace against lawless forces such as the MILF,” he added.

The conflict between the MILF and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) started when the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) between the MILF and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

The collapse of the MOA

According to Macarimpas part of the MOA is unconstitutional mainly because of the process it underwent.

“Not all people concerned were consulted about it. Even Malacañang admitted it did not have a copy of the MOA,” he said.

He also stressed that the negotiations between the MILF and the GRP has been going on for a long time. If certain sectors were not consulted it is a fault of government and not the MILF.

In a statement the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) released August 26, it said the MOA, “while recognizing on paper the Moro people’s right to self-determination, in particular their right to their ancestral domain, was calculated to flounder and fail in the face of legal challenges and the unfounded outcry that it would dismember the Philippine Republic.”

According to Bayan, the present administration under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is not sincere at resolving the primary issues connected with the armed conflict with MILF, which includes the Moro’s right to a homeland and self-determination.

“Opportunistically, the Arroyo clique wished to take advantage of the situation that the MOA would precisely entail constitutional revision, in order to open the doors wide open to its bid for term extension via charter change,” the statement further said.

Meanwhile, Baguio Muslims are in prayer for peace for their homeland Mindanao as they observe this year’s holy month of Ramadhan. # Cye Reyes(NorDis)

Pokus: The military operations in Mindanao during Ramadan

September 13, 2008

Malacañang is so serious on its goal for the immediate capture of the rogue members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) led by Commanders “Umbra Kato” and “Bravo,” it is steadfast in continuing military operations in Mindanao even during the holy month of Ramadan.

Under the Islamic lunar calendar, Ramadan starts on September 1 and ends on September 31, this year.

Nordis went around Baguio City to gather the sentiments on the said issue of some Muslims and Maranaw traders residing in the city.

Those interviewed opted not to give their full names for anonymity.

Macarampat, 22, originally from Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. “Dapat nang matigil ang labanan sa Mindanao lalo na at magsisimula na ang Ramadan. Sana naman ay ipatupad ang ceasefire. Kung umalis ang mga sundalo, wala nang gera. Dapat masaya ang Ramadan at hindi magulo”

Rasmia, 38, originally from Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. “Irespeto naman nila sana si Allah. Gusto naming maging tahimik ang pagdaos namin ng Ramadan at hindi magulo.”

Jasmin, 35, originally from Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. “Malayo kami roon kaya di namin talaga nalalaman ang mga nangyayari pero sana naman ay matigil na ang kaguluhan sa Mindanao. Kahit papaano sana ay may katahimikan kahit sa loob ng isang buwan lang. Malaking gulo ang pwedeng mangyari kung itutuloy ng gobyerno ang pagtugis sa mga MILF. Holy war na ang mangyayari kung hindi mag-withdraw ang mga sundalo. Marami na sa aming mga Muslim ang nagagalit sa mga nangyayari.”

Jamal, 32, originally from Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. “Di magiging maganda kung di sila mag-ceasefire sa Ramadan. Ito ang pinaka-respitadong buwan sa aming mga Muslim. Ito ay para sa aming Allah. Pambabastos ito kung hindi tumigil ang mga sundalo. Ang mangyayari mas lalong mapapalihis ang simpatya ng mga Muslim at mapupunta ito sa galit laban sa gobyerno. Sa totoo lang hindi kami naniniwala na magagawa ng mga Muslim ang pagpapasabog sa isang Mosque na napanood namin sa balita. Ginagawa nila ito para lang sirain ang mga Muslim. Dinadamay pa ng mga sundalo ang mga sibilyan sa kanilang pambobomba.”

More people wanted to give their stand on the issues surrounding the Mindanao problem. We promise to accommodate as many as possible in our next issue of Pokus. #

National security adviser ailing, can’t go to KL

September 10, 2008

By Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:36:00 09/10/2008

MANILA, Philippines—National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales may undergo angioplasty, a source close to the GRP-MILF peace panel told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

He has been advised by his doctors not to go to Malaysia on Wednesday for discussions with Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi on the government’s new peace policy in dealing with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Only this week, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo formally appointed former Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson as deputy National Security Adviser.

Another source close to the peace panel, but also not authorized to speak on the matter, said Gonzales was confined Tuesday in a Quezon City hospital and undergoing medical tests. However, the source could not confirm if Gonzales would undergo angioplasty.

Angioplasty is a medical procedure to restore blood flow through a narrowed or blocked artery in the heart.

The first source said only Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and the newly appointed chief of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency Pedro Cabuay would be going to Kuala Lumpur to “officially notify” Malaysia that the Philippines will no longer sign the controversial memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) with the MILF following the adoption of a new peace policy.

Same ailment

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita confirmed Tuesday night that Gonzales was no longer going to Malaysia “because of his personal health.”

Ermita, however, was not sure if Gonzales would undergo angioplasty.

He said Gonzales was suffering from the same condition that was ailing him during the Senate hearings on the Venable lobby contract in 2005.

In September 2005, at the height of his testimony before the Senate blue ribbon committee, Gonzales suffered from high blood pressure and was taken to the hospital.

Back then, he was advised by his doctors to undergo a “coronary and cerebral arteriography with the possibility of coronary angioplasty and stenting.”

Ms Arroyo had been informed by Gonzales about his condition during Tuesday’s Cabinet security cluster meeting, Ermita said.

‘I hope he’s well’

Esperon, presidential adviser on the peace process, said he had not been informed at press time if Gonzales, who is the “head of the mission,” would be proceeding with the trip or not.

“I know he (Gonzales) went for a medical check up Tuesday,” Esperon said in a separate phone interview. “I hope he’s well.”

Esperon confirmed that the trip to Kuala Lumpur would be to officially notify Malaysia about the government’s decision not to sign the MOA-AD with the MILF following a new peace policy.

Malaysia had been brokering peace negotiations between the government and the MILF and served as host to the aborted signing of the MOA-AD last Aug. 5.

Refocused peace talks

Ms Arroyo earlier announced that the government was refocusing its peace talks from dialogs with armed groups to dialogs with communities. She said the government would only engage in talks with armed groups in the context of laying down their arms.

Esperon said they would be bringing a letter from President Arroyo to Badawi.

Aside from Badawi, he said he would also meet with other officials, including the Malaysian foreign minister.

The Inquirer called Gonzales several times but failed to reach him.

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My Take:

Same ailment? Or same tactic?

Maybe the NSAdviser needs tons of bananas to recover.

🙂 Maybe they’ll invoke the Executive Previlige next time. hehehehe!

Maybe, tehee.

Editorial Cartoon: (Mindanao War) Bombing the Civilians

September 10, 2008

With Taxpayers Money!

The AFP should understand now that the MILF is waging a guerilla war, so they should stop using air raids because they will always hurt the civilians in the area.

Military welcomes probe on Maguindanao incident

September 10, 2008

ZAMBOANGA CITY — A top military official said Tuesday that they welcome any investigation into allegations that a bomb dropped by government forces in Datu Piang, Maguindanao Monday killed six innocent civilians.

AFP vice chief-of-staff Lieutenant General Cardozo Luna said in a radio interview that the investigation would reveal the truth as to “how these people, how these children got into that situation.”

What’s your take on the Mindanao crisis? Discuss views with other readers

Another official, Eastern Mindanao Command spokesman Major Arman Rico, said the bodies showed bullet wounds from M16 rifles, and these could not have been caused by a bombing run of a military plane.

Initial reports said six people, including three children, were killed Monday when a bomb allegedly dropped by a military aircraft hit a motorized banca loaded with evacuees in a river in Barangay Tee, Datu Piang town.

The report said the victims were on their way to an evacuation site at Datu Piang when the incident happened Monday morning.

In welcoming the probe, Luna said the military is strictly adhering to the rules of engagement while in pursuit of MILF renegade members led by Umbra Kato alias Commander Kato in Central Mindanao and Abdullah Macapaar alias Commander Bravo in Lanao del Norte.

“We avoid collateral damage or civilian casualties as much as possible,” Luna said.

Rico said there was an encounter in Barangay Tee Datu Piang between the Philippine Army and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) under commanders Wahid Tondok and Badrudin Silongan an hour before the death of the civilians.

“Tapos may plane nag-reconnaissance na binaril ng mga MILF na naka pumpboat. Binalikan ito ng eroplano at tinira ng machinegun (The MILF fired at the military plane doing reconnaissance. The plane fired back using machinegun),” Rico said.

Luna added that the rebels withdrew on board motorized bancas and were spotted by military planes in the marshy area of Barangay Tee.

He further said the pilots were forced to fire back using machinegun after the rebels aboard the motorized bancas fired at the military planes.

According to Rico, the military is now investigating how the six civilians were killed. He surmised that they were caught in crossfire and not by the military plane strafing since the injuries of the civilians were believed caused by M16 rifles.

Rico said the military plane uses machinegun and not M16. Army helicopters and planes reportedly attacked rebel positions near a marshland after renegade members of the MILF had fired at military helicopters.

But Musib Uy Tan, a local official, told reporters the civilians were on their way to a temporary shelter area when their boat was hit by rockets fired from helicopter gunships.

“The boat was a total wreck,” Tan said, adding that the bodies of a 53-year-old farmer and his family, including a pregnant 17-year-old girl, had been pulled from the water.

Eid Kabalu, MILF civil military affairs chief, identified the fatalities in the military operation as Daya and Vilma Manunggal; the 18-year-old newlywed and pregnant Aida; Kim, 7; Adtaya, 7; and Faiza, all surnamed Mandi. He said two other civilians, Caharodin, 16; and Bailyn, 13; both surnamed Mandi, were wounded.

Kabalu said they were all killed by bombs from military OV-10 planes.

“There was no fighting in Datu Piang since Sunday. What happened was that the military launched air strikes. There are many soldiers right now in Datu Piang,” Kabalu said in a report.

Troops are pursuing Commanders Kato and Bravo, and government is offering a P20 million reward for anyone who could provide vital information that would lead to their arrest. (BPG/With BOT of Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)