Archive for the ‘peace process’ Category

NPA leader: Military behind daughter’s slay

March 9, 2009

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:55:00 03/09/2009

ka-parago

DAVAO CITY—If the killers of elementary teacher Rebelyn Pitao wanted to shatter her father, Commander Parago of the communist New People’s Army’s Pulang Bagani Command, they apparently failed.

Parago, whose real name is Leoncio Pitao, said the killing of his daughter might have devastated him but did not weaken his cause—the “revolution of the people who have been suffering from the hands of an oppressive government.”

Pitao granted selected journalists an interview in an upland village known to be an NPA stronghold in southern Mindanao on Sunday—three days after the body of his daughter was found in an irrigation ditch in Carmen town, Davao del Norte province.

Wearing a Mao cap and the NPA’s signature black shirt, Parago appeared calm but his eyes were somber. He exchanged jokes with NPA cadres.

The military has consistently denied involvement in Rebelyn’s abduction and killing.

“What they did to my daughter was painful but we must not stop. I am here not only as a father to her but a father to many other poor daughters and sons of the oppressed. Am I devastated? I am not. I am even inspired by her death to be relentless in fighting for the freedom of the poor,” Parago said.

He added: “I will not abandon the people because of this loss. Instead, I will continue the people’s revolution.”

His oldest son, Ryan, also an NPA cadre, said the death of his sister was unacceptable. But like his father, Ryan said, Rebelyn will now become their source of courage and strength to move forward.

“She is now our inspiration to broaden the democratic people’s revolution. My sister will now always be with all of us as we struggle against a bankrupt government,” said Ryan. He joined his father after surviving an attack of suspected government agents three years ago.

Parago said he had expected the military to target his family as government forces continuously failed to capture him. He claimed that the 10th Infantry Division’s military intelligence group was behind the abduction and killing of Rebelyn.

“No one has the intention, motive and track record of the MIG [military intelligence group]. They did this to my brother. They almost got my son. My other daughter, Rio, was tailed by elements of MIG when she was still studying and this continued even when she was already working. It was the 10th ID who said they wanted to get me … now who has the desire to see me weakened or dead?” Parago said.

But he said the NPA would not retaliate and follow the approach of the military. He, however, said that time will come for those who were behind the killing of Rebelyn to pay for their debts.

Rebelyn, 20, was on her way home on board a tricycle from St. Peter’s College in Toril District when she was snatched by armed men. She was forced into a white van and was overheard by the tricycle driver as screaming for help.

Her body bore torture marks and five stab wounds. Rope marks were also found around her neck, which could mean she was strangled.

The medico legal also found injuries in her genitals, believed to have been caused by a hard object.

The militant women’s group Gabriela took the killing as the government’s gift to them on International Women’s Day.

“She becomes the symbol of the entire Filipino women whose equal footing with men has been undermined by the Arroyo regime,” said Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan.

“What made it more outrageous was the fact that Rebelyn Pitao has dedicated her life to teaching, a profession that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has taken for granted over the years,” Ilagan said.

“Her only fault was being her father’s daughter,” Ilagan said.

In Manila, Anakpawis party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano in a statement blamed the President, specifically her anti-insurgency program, Oplan Bantay-Laya on the murder of Rebelyn. Jeffrey M. Tupas with reports from Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao, and Gil Cabacungan Jr. in Manila

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)

Informal Oslo talks collapse

December 3, 2008

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:33:00 12/03/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Informal peace talks in Norway between the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) have apparently collapsed.

The NDFP accused government peace negotiators of “sabotaging” the talks by insisting on a ceasefire between government forces and the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels as a precondition for the resumption of formal peace negotiations.

The government negotiating panel led by former Labor Secretary Nieves Confesor and the NDFP group headed by Luis Jalandoni met in Oslo, Norway, from Nov. 27 to 30 to explore the possibilities of resuming the stalled peace negotiation as a way of ending four decades of insurgency in the country. The informal meeting was hosted by the Norwegian government.

In a statement e-mailed to the Philippine Daily Inquirer Tuesday, Fidel Agcaoili, NDFP peace panel spokesperson, said their group had proposed a draft joint statement for the resumption of formal negotiations but the government panel rejected it by insisting on a prolonged ceasefire as a precondition for the talks.

Surrender negotiations

“This precondition is calculated by the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) to convert the peace negotiations into negotiations of surrender and pacification under the pretext of ceasefire,” he said.

The NDFP is the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, whose founder—Jose Maria Sison—is in exile in Europe.

Agcaoili added that “the GRP seeks to prevent the serious and sustained negotiations on social, economic, political and constitutional reforms as the basis of a just and lasting peace.”

He said “all illusions must be cast away as the current administration is not at all interested in peace negotiations.”

Agcaoli said that what they have been offering since August 2005 was a ceasefire for the duration of every formal meeting of the negotiating panels as a goodwill and confidence-building measure.

He argued that their ceasefire proposal would be an “incentive to substantive meetings by the negotiating panels.”

Prolonged ceasefire

“But what the GRP wants is a prolonged ceasefire to serve mere pacification of the people’s resistance and to block substantive peace negotiations in violation of The Hague Joint Declaration. This solemn declaration requires that no side shall impose on the other any precondition which negates the character and purpose of peace negotiations,” he said.

Agcaoli said it was “highly unlikely” that there would ever be a formal negotiation under the Arroyo regime, which would continue “to escalate its brutal campaigns of suppression against the people.”

The government panel has not yet issued a response to the NDFP statement.

Peace talks between the government and the communist rebels were stalled in 2004 after the insurgents protested the government’s alleged inaction in having them removed from the terrorist lists of the United States and the European Union.

The negotiating panels earlier held informal talks in Norway from May 13 to 15.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has given security forces until 2010 to defeat the NPA, which, according to military estimates, had 5,700 fighters at the end of 2007. Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon

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)

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)

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)

Arroyo’s DDR policy OK, says MILF

September 7, 2008

But secessionist group wants item last on agenda if peace talks resume

COTABATO CITY, Philippines—The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Saturday said it was amenable to having the government’s “DDR policy” be a guiding principle should another round of peace negotiations be held anew but said that it should be the last item to be taken up in the talks.

The rebel group, which has been fighting for a homeland for Muslims for decades, said it was willing to go back to the negotiating table but there should be no prerequisites of the kind Malacañang had set.

Malacañang has announced it would only talk to the MILF again if the latter agreed to disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation (DDR).

The peace talks with the MILF collapsed after the Supreme Court ruled against the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain that would have allowed the group to carve out a homeland for Muslims in the South, and the subsequent armed incursions of rogue MILF groups in several provinces in Mindanao, provoking a counteroffensive by government troops.

“The DDR should be tackled as the last item in the stalled government and MILF peace negotiation, in case it resumes,” Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF political affairs chief, said.

Jaafar said the MILF central committee had firmed up its stand during a recent meeting.

“For the MILF to lay down its arms, by force, as a precondition for the resumption of the talks would be construed as the government using its military might rather than the political approach that most civilized countries use,” Jaafar said.

He said the MILF also wanted the word “rehabilitation” in the DDR changed to “reintegration.”

In a five-point policy statement called the “MILF Declaration Manifest” that was officially released on Friday, the rebel group described President Macapagal-Arroyo’s DDR as “the new government road map to peace” that many countries in the world use in resolving armed conflict with the underground.

Jaafar said the MILF acknowledged that the DDR “forms part of the comprehensive peace settlement.” But, he said, it should be the last item, and not in the forefront, of the talks.

“When the DDR is taken up ahead of the comprehensive peace settlement, it is interpreted to be a military approach. Not in the way of a political approach that President Arroyo promised in 2001 when she replaced the all-out war policy of President Joseph Estrada to the all-out peace policy,” Jaafar said.

Peace groups alarmed

Renewed hostilities in Mindanao have alarmed peace groups, who said they could lead to a full-blown war.

An official of the International Committee of the Red Cross on Saturday admitted that the renewed conflict in Mindanao “has been extremely violent.”

“Mindanao has suffered its worst fighting since 2003,” Dominik Stillhart, ICRC deputy director for operations, told reporters here.

Stillhart flew in as the ICRC stepped up assistance to displaced civilians. He said the number of the displaced could run up to half a million people.

Deteriorating situation

The National Disaster Coordinating Council reported that the number had exceeded 200,000 individuals from Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato and Maguindanao as throngs sought safety from the resurgence of violence.

“I visited evacuation sites and seeing the deteriorating situation of the IDPs (internally displaced people), we see it fitting to step up our aid,” Stillhart said. He visited the village of Libungan Torreta in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato, on Friday.

“We could see in their eyes that these people have been displaced many times over,” Stillhart said.

More Red Cross workers

Bai Fatima Sinsuat, the local Red Cross official, said the number of people working in the Red Cross relief operations center had been increased in the face of the need for greater evacuation assistance.

Perry Proellochs, in charge of ICRC relief operations for Central Mindanao, said the number of Red Cross field personnel had also ballooned to about 50 from only five or six before the armed conflict started in July.

“There were so many people that need humanitarian aid and that’s our main concern, their health, hygiene and food,” he said.

Suara Bangsamoro, a militant Moro group, said the only way to prevent hostilities from spreading was to resume the peace negotiations. Charlie C. Señase, Edwin O. Fernandez and Jeoffrey B. Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao

===========

My Take:

At least the rebels are still willing to talk.

Editorial Cartoon: (Mindanao War) Vigilantismo in High Ground

September 5, 2008

Now we know where they learn to hack and kill the dove.

Arroyo’s Policy Shift in Peace Negotiations Will Intensify Conflict in Mindanao

September 2, 2008

BY ATTY. BEVERLY SELIM-MUSNI
Initiatives for Peace In Mindanao
DEMOCRATIC SPACE
Posted by Bulatlat
Volume VIII, Number 30, August 31 – September 6, 2008

Mrs. Arroyo’s policy-shift in her administration’s peace negotiations to ‘disarmament, demobilization, and rehabilitation’ will spell more disaster than bring about peace especially in Mindanao.

Already, Malacañang has hinted at reneging on its Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front through a policy of ‘review’ and ‘non-renegotiation.’  Now, government reportedly wants to directly relate with communities, side-stepping revolutionary organizations if they refuse to lay down their arms.

Disarmament and demobilization should logically be at the tail end of any negotiated political settlement, after the more substantive agenda such as economic, social, and political rights and welfare are resolved. Mrs. Arroyo wants to shortcut the substantive agenda in its talks with the MILF and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). This policy practically shatters the building blocs that were conscientiously built by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and other protagonists in the armed conflict.

At worse, this policy negates confidence-building with parties across the negotiating table which is direly needed at this hour. At worst, it is totally abandoning the framework that political and social justice are prerequisites to peace.

This move, like Arroyo’s reported laptop-throwing fit in Malacanang, shows that she wants swift, militarist solutions.  Arroyo is showing contempt against legitimate armed social movements of the MILF and the NDFP that have existed for decades because of poverty, hunger, and repression.

In other words, Arroyo is adopting an ahistorical approach to peace; and for this she would repeatedly fail like previous administrations, which have adopted an all-out war approach to the armed insurgency.

By abandoning the peace process with the MILF and NDFP, Arroyo is laying the ground for localized martial rule in many conflict areas. Arroyo’s plan to “directly talk to communities” instead of revolutionary movements representing constituencies is a mere cover up for “localized peace talks,” an approach that has sought to divide-and-rule  communities instead of address the roots of insurgencies.

Arroyo’s localized peace talks dovetails into sinister moves of local governments and landowners to arm civilian populations supposedly to deter armed attacks by Moro rebels. Armed vigilantism is a throwback to the days of Martial Law when landlords and politician-warlords fanned Muslim-Christian conflict to their benefit. We fear that instead of pushing for GRP and MILF accountability for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, arming civilians will lead to the further breakdown of law and order.

Peace advocates insist that the negotiating table, not all out war, is the most viable option to ease tensions on the ground and properly seek justice and indemnification for slain and displaced civilians. The people of Mindanao refuse to be dragged into anarchy and a contrived discord between Muslims and Christians.  The people likewise refuse to be dragged into Arroyo’s Cha-Cha dance floor. We say ‘No to All-Out War!’ Posted by Bulatlat

Peace in Mindanao – At What Price?

September 2, 2008

The peace process can bring about a simulated peace – but not the final solution to the Bangsamoro people’s historic and just grievances.

BY THE POLICY STUDY, PUBLICATION, AND ADVOCACY
Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)
ANALYSIS
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 30, August 31-September 6, 2008

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 MNLF 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. Japan, besides joining the International Monitoring Team (IMT), has committed $400 million 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. Posted by Bulatlat

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(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.

Gov’t woos MNLF as peace prospects with MILF hang in balance

August 30, 2008

To pursue full implementation of ’96 peace deal

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:05:00 08/29/2008

MANILA, Philippines — With prospects of peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) hanging in the balance, the government said it will work for the full implementation of the 1996 peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

“We have to clutch at points of certainty, and that is the Tripoli agreement and the 1996 agreement and all other subsequent agreements that can be made as terms of reference,” Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. told a news conference in Camp Aguinaldo Friday.

“While at the same time, we cannot proceed on the other side, on the MILF, because we don’t know what their position is,” he said.

Teodoro and Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno met with Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, who is also MNLF chairman, on the disarming and demobilization of MNLF fighters and their integration into the military and police.

Sema, who was at the news conference, also denied allegations they connived with MILF forces who staged attacks on civilian communities in Central Mindanao that triggered ongoing hostilities in the south.

The fighting erupted after the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against signing of a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) between the government and MILF which would expand the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) into the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

The ARMM was created under the 1996 peace agreement with the MNLF.

“We begin by going back to the 1996 peace agreement, I don’t think well have a problem within the MNLF. What were trying to do is complete the obligations for everyone and ensure compliance of everyone to the terms of the agreement,” Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said.

Teodoro said the MNLF has “kept its peace, kept its side of the agreement,” and government would “make it work in the face of uncertainty.”

Referring to the Central Mindanao fighting, Teodoro said the MILF has not made its position on the “authority of the government to enforce its law” and on the “countenancing or non-countenancing of atrocities committed by some of its members.”

The military is pursuing two MILF commanders — Ameril Ombra Kato and Abdurahman Macapaar, alias Commander Bravo — blamed for the North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte attacks, respectively.

“Our message to the MILF is to surrender Bravo and Kato. If they don’t, we will get them,” the defense chief said.

Puno explained that “disarmament” and “demobilization” were not the exact wordings of the 1996 agreement but that these meant MNLF members’ turning in their firearms and their integration into the government security force.

While no estimate of armed MNLF members was given, Puno said 1,600 former rebels have been integrated into the Philippine National Police (PNP) and 5,000 others into the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Denying that the MNLF was in cahoots with the MILF in the current hostilities, Sema said: “We would like to say that there is no truth to that. The MNLF remains to be a partner of the] national government in the implementation of peace and development for many, many years until today.”

While he admitted that his organization was not consulted when the government and MILF negotiated the terms of the MOA-AD, Sema said he hoped that the government would find a way to “harmonize” any agreement with the MILF with the one it forged with the MNLF deal.

“There was no consultation with the MNLF, we were not party to the talks, we were not involved. We [are] not opposed also to the peace efforts of the government,” he said.

“As to when finally there will be an agreement with government and the MILF, if it will work, how it will work with the present agreement between the MNLF and the government, ask the government, because we have to harmonize if ever there will be an agreement,” he said.

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My Take:

Now this government wants Muslims to fight Muslims.  Sick!

Editorial Cartoon: (On Mindanao War) Bloody Peace

August 25, 2008

Peace

The MOA, the Cha-Cha, and the US Ambassador

August 17, 2008

So much controversy has surrounded the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on ancestral domain between the Arroyo government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Instead of engendering peace, it has led to the escalation of the conflict; instead of bringing about unity and the community of peoples, it has led to tensions between the MILF and the affected communities of North Cotabato. Events became clearer when suddenly the Arroyo government began pushing for charter change purportedly to achieve peace in Mindanao; and US ambassador Kristie Kenney showed up in the aborted signing of the MoA in Malaysia.

BY BENJIE OLIVEROS
ANALYSIS
Vol. VIII, no. 28, August 17-23, 2008

So much controversy has surrounded the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) on ancestral domain between the Arroyo government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). In stead of engendering peace, it has led to the escalation of the conflict; in stead of bringing about unity and the community of peoples, it has led to tensions between the MILF and the affected communities of North Cotabato, no less aided by the word war between Vice Gov. Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol and ‘peace’ adviser Hermogenes Esperon.

The controversy came to a head with the declaration of the Arroyo government that it’s “all systems go” for charter change, purportedly to initiate the shift to federalism to accommodate the demands of the MILF for autonomy. This stirred the hornet’s nest.

Meanwhile, Sen. Joker Arroyo raised questions regarding the presence of US Ambassador Kristie Kenney in the aborted signing of the Memorandum of Agreement with the MILF in Malaysia. Quick to the defense was Justice Sec. Raul Gonzalez who castigated people for questioning the presence of Ambassador Kenney, which to him was normal.

Clearly, there are three interested parties in the ongoing negotiations between the government and the MILF.

First is the MILF and the Bangsamoro people.

The struggle of the Bangsamoro people for their right to self-determination dates back to the American colonial period. It was revived with the Jabidah massacre and the formation of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1968. The armed conflict between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the MNLF erupted upon the declaration of Martial Law. The Organization of Islamic Conference intervened and pushed for peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the MNLF.

Talks between the GRP and the MNLF gained some ground with the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, which declared the ”establishment of Autonomy in the Southern Philippines within the realm of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines.” The “areas of autonomy for the Muslims in the Southern Philippines”, as provided for by the Tripoli agreement are Basilan, Sulu, Tawi Tawi, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, North Cotabato, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Davao del Sur, South Cotabato, Palawan, and “all the cities and villages situated in the above-mentioned areas.” The autonomous government would have had a Legislative Assembly and an Executive Council. Courts implementing the Islamic Shari’a laws would have been set-up. And they should have had their own economic and financial system. In addition, a “reasonable percentage” derived from revenues from mines and mineral resources should have been allotted “for the benefit of the areas of autonomy.”

But it was only in 1996 when the Final Peace Agreement was signed. According to the agreement, Phase 1, lasting three years, began with the issuance of the Executive Order establishing the Special Zone of Peace and Development and the Southern Philippine Council for Peace and Development. Phase II should have involved the amendment or repeal of the Organic Act of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) or RA 6734. In a plebiscite in November 2001 only Marawi city and Basilan (except Isabela city) elected to be part of the ARMM.

It took 20 years from the signing of the Tripoli agreement before a Final Peace Agreement was sealed. And after more than ten years after the Final Peace Agreement was forged, seemingly the implementation has barely gone beyond Phase 1. The implementation or non-implementation of the Final Peace Agreement has been a constant source of tension between the GRP and the MNLF and has led to sporadic fighting between AFP and MNLF forces.

Without settling the problems in the implementation of the Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF, the Arroyo government entered into a MoA with the MILF covering the same areas. The past few weeks manifested the sincerity, or rather the lack of it, of the Arroyo government in responding to the historic demand of the Bangsamoro people for self-determination. The Arroyo government made a show of insisting on the MoA with the MILF while leaving the MNLF – which is waiting for the long overdue review of the implementation of the peace agreement – hanging in the balance, and at the same time, pushing through with the ARMM elections with its political allies in Mindanao taking control over the ARMM. By doing so it is dividing the Bangsamoro people.

Worse, it is trying to provoke a conflict between Moro and Christian communities by making the MILF believe that the MoA is a done deal while keeping the provisions of the agreement a secret thereby unsettling Christian and Lumad communities.

And for what? A lot of people think the Arroyo government is merely providing an excuse for pushing for charter change to keep itself in power beyond 2010. Obviously, the Arroyo government is the second interest group. It claims that its only purpose in pushing for charter change is to achieve peace in Mindanao. But its actions belie its supposed intentions.

If it genuinely wanted to achieve peace in Mindanao, it could have settled the unresolved issues with the MNLF early on. This is not to say that the MNLF and MILF are one and the same and that solving the problems with the implementation of the MNLF peace agreement would likewise resolve the conflict with the MILF. But if the government was not able to implement the peace agreement with the MNLF, which required less concessions from it, how can it be relied on to implement the MoA with the MILF? Besides both the MNLF and the MILF are working for the benefit of the whole Bangsamoro people. Which brings us to the next point.

Why is it that after more than 30 years of the Tripoli agreement and more than ten years after the signing of the Final Peace Agreement, the Bangsamoro people remain marginalized, oppressed and in a deteriorating state of poverty? How could things be different if the MoA and a final peace agreement is signed with the MILF? If the government is serious in working for peace and development in Mindanao it could have addressed the problems of marginalization and poverty besetting the Bangsamoro people early on. But it did not. And now it is suddenly concerned with peace in Mindanao. Did it experience an epiphany of sorts that it suddenly decided to become magnanimous or is the government taking the MILF for a ride? Why is it in a hurry to forge a deal with less than two years before it is supposed to step down? Why is there a sudden urgent need to shift to a federal system of government?

This government has never been known to uphold democratic processes or people’s rights. On the contrary, during the last seven years of its rule, all it did was to keep itself in power at all costs through political maneuvering and through bribing, rewarding and accommodating politically its allies, and harassing, killing and abducting its critics. Perhaps that is not all it did because it has also been involved in numerous corruption scandals. That is why, it is to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s interest to keep itself in power beyond 2010 or to at least ensure that an ally would succeed her

The third interested party is the US. More than half of aid from the US government is pouring into Mindanao. US troops have established a continuous presence in Mindanao since 2001 through the Balikatan joint military exercises as well as for “trainings” through the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines. The US is as interested in bringing democracy and development to the Bangsamoro people as much as it does with the Iraqi and Afghan people. After all, the Philippines was declared by the US as the “second front in the war against terror.”

The positioning of the US in Mindanao is all about geopolitics, securing US interests in the region, and access to the island’s rich natural resources, including oil and natural gas. The report that Eid Kabalu of the MILF hinted that US authorities approached them to secure their agreement to the establishment of US bases in Mindanao once a final peace agreement is forged is not surprising.

The Bangsamoro people is dealing with forces that have oppressed it for centuries, the US and the GRP. Worse, it is dealing with an administration that knows no bounds in its greed for power and wealth, and does not respect any institution or process in its efforts at political survival. It is also dealing with the almighty US that is deeply in crisis and is preoccupied not with spreading democracy and development but with asserting its political-military hegemony and protecting its economic interests. The involvement of the US in Mindanao is not about development, it is about its self-proclaimed “war on terror.” The motive of the Arroyo government is not to grant genuine autonomy to the Bangsamoro people but to perpetuate itself in power. And they have been pitting the Bangsamoro and the Filipino people against each other to achieve this. How can the Bangsamoro people then achieve genuine peace and development under this government? Bulatlat

Critics Hit US ‘Intervention’ in Peace Talks

August 17, 2008

After a High Court justice branded as “patently illegal” the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, the U.S. Ambassador was quick to deny any involvement in the aborted signing of the pact. But critics have pointed to the prominent role that the U.S. had played in the GRP-MILF peace negotiations.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 28, August 17-23, 2008

After a Supreme Court (SC) justice declared as “patently illegal” the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), United States Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney was quick to deny any involvement in the aborted signing of the agreement.

Based on news reports, Kenney said she was merely invited to witness the signing of the MOA-AD by the peace panels of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Lying

In a statement sent through email, Prof. Jose Maria Sison, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), said that Kenney was “blatantly lying” when she said that the U.S. government had nothing to do with the GRP-MILF peace negotiations nor with the controversial MOA-AD.

Sison said that Kenney has worked closely with the Philippine Facilitation Project (PFP) of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in “steering the course of GRP-MILF peace negotiations for the sake of US interests.”

The USIP is a quasi-government institution funded by the U.S. House of Representatives. The chairman of the board is J. Robinson West who is chairman of PFC Energy, Washington. Members ex-officio are Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The executive director of the Philippine Facilitation Project is G. Eugene Martin, a retired diplomat who once served as the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Manila.

Sison said that the Special Report 202 by the USIP, titled “Toward Peace in the Southern Philippines” http://www.usip.org/pubs/specialreports/sr202.html proves that Kenney is lying. The said report is a summary and assessment of the USIP Philippine Facilitation Project (PFP). The report declares, “In 2003 the US State Department …engaged the USIP to facilitate a peace agreement between the GRP and the MILF.”

The report states, “Despite the challenges, USIP managed to build productive relationships with both the GRP and MILF, helped the parties come up with creative solutions to stubborn issues of ancestral domain, and started dialogue between disparate Moro ethnic groups… Through its activities, USIP introduced concepts and approaches that were useful to both government and MILF peace panels.”

In a separate statement, Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) said the USIP used examples of ancestral domain conflict resolutions of the Native American Indians, the Inuit tribes in Canada, the Maori in New Zealand and other experiences that did not require secession from an oppressive regime. He said, “The USIP advocated an ancestral domain arrangement that would remain friendly with U.S. interests.”

U.S. interests

Sison slammed the U.S., saying it is not interested in a just and lasting peace in either the Bangsamoro land or the entire Philippines. “It is interested solely or mainly in advancing U.S. interests amidst conditions of armed conflict. It merely pretends to facilitate the GRP-MILF peace negotiations when its sees big advantages in doing so.”

Sison noted that the USIP report is quite frank in admitting the selfish interests of the U.S. The report states, “Today’s complex diplomatic landscape increasingly requires new tools and techniques of conflict management, including quasi- and nongovernmental actors, to accomplish U.S. foreign policy goals. Because of its ability to deal with non-state actors and sensitive issues underlying civil conflict, USIP can be a useful instrument for advancing U.S. interests.”

Sison said that Kenney frequently travels to Mindanao and oversees U.S. interests there, including U.S. direct investments, military forces and pseudo-development projects. “The Filipino people know that the U.S. covets the oil and other natural resources of Mindanao and wants to establish U.S. military bases there to protect U.S. imperial interests,” he said.

Bayan’s Reyes cited the $100-million off-shore oil exploration in Sulu by American oil giant Exxon Mobil as an example of the interests being protected by the U.S.

Reyes also noted that the USIP report also states that the U.S. embassy coordinated with the U.S. Pacific Command in counter-terror training and in ensuring high visibility of US troops in Mindanao.

The report, Reyes said, describes U.S. policy instruments in Mindanao to include ‘diplomacy, conditionality of U.S. economic and military assistance programs, and more punitive measures on the counterterrorism front.’

The Bayan leader said that this could mean that the U.S. government is also open to direct military intervention.

Arroyo, liable

Reyes said that the Arroyo regime welcomed and fully-supported U.S. intervention in peace talks between the GRP and the MILF.

Reyes said, “Arroyo and her subalterns must be investigated and held accountable for their actions.”

Citing the USIP report, Reyes said Arroyo had three meetings with the USIP officials.

Based on the report, a PFP delegation met with Arroyo in August 2003. It also states that when Arroyo visited the United Nations in September 2003, several senior advisers and USIP staff members met with her and her delegation to review the status of the peace process and the role of the Institute.

The report also cites that Ambassador Frank Wisner and USIP representatives also met with Arroyo in California after her 2004 election “to encourage a renewed GRP-wide effort to conclude an equitable settlement with the Moros.”

”The Arroyo government is guilty of allowing such brazen intervention,” said Reyes.

Cha-cha

He deemed, “Arroyo and U.S. interests likely intersected on the issue of charter change and the prospect of U.S. investments in Mindanao.”

Reyes said the USIP report already anticipated the issue of charter change. The report states that some provisions in the MOA-AD might be declared as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Reyes said, “The Arroyo government pounced on the opening for cha-cha as an opportunity to advance its own self-serving agenda of term extension.” Bulatlat

Editorial Cartoon: On MILF-GRP M.O.A.

August 4, 2008

Naisahan ang MILF

Muslims, Christians to stage protests vs gov’t-MILF deal

August 4, 2008

Mindanao Bureau
First Posted 18:21:00 08/03/2008

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines–Muslims and Christians in the Southern Philippines have assailed the “landmark deal” between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that seeks to expand Moro autonomy in Mindanao.

None other than Sultan Esmail Kiram, the heir of Sultanate of Sulu, expressed disgust over what he called government’s insensitive action of offering the areas which have been part of the ancestral domain of Sultanate of Sulu, to the MILF without prior consultation.

“I feel really very bad. What we know prior to the agreement, the MILF was claiming ancestral land somewhere in Central Mindanao. The government committed a very drastic move by offering areas, including our ancestral domain which, unfortunately, the MILF approved,” Kiram said in an interview.

“Ano ba talaga ang aim ng Philippine government, papag-awayin ang mga Muslim at Kristyano dito sa Mindanao? [What is the true aim of the Philippine government? Get the Muslims and Christians to fight each other?] Do they want us here to fight each other over ancestral domain?” Kiram said.

Kiram said he had nothing against the MILF. “We support them, but for Allah’s sake, no one has full authority to seek historical rights or encroaching over it,” Kiram said about the impending agreement on ancestral domain.

In a press conference on Saturday night, Sheikh Abdul Wakil Tanjil, deputy mufti for Western Mindanao and executive director of Salamat Islamic Institute, also questioned the memorandum of agreement (MOA).

Tanjil said even the Sultanate of Sulu, which “has all the rights for Ancestral Domain claim, respected certain territories.”

“People have the right to be consulted before agreeing and signing any deal,” he said.

Datu Albi Julkarnain, chair of the Council of Royal Datus, said the MOA on ancestral domain would “encroach in areas supposedly under the Sultanate.”

Kiram and the other Muslim leaders said they would support the protest action in Zamboanga City on Monday, a day before the signing of the MOA in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat said he was expecting thousands of residents, not just from this city but as well as from neighboring towns and provinces, to join the protest action to “dramatize our opposition to the inclusion in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (JBE).”

Spearheaded by Lobregat, the protest rally will coincide with the city’s formal filing of a case before the Supreme Court.

The case seeks for a stop to the signing of the proposed memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain.

The rally will be the first since the mass protest in 2001 when residents, then led by Celso’s mother, the late Mayor Maria Clara Lobregat, also marched on the streets expressing their opposition to the proposal to include Zamboanga City in the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD), the transition government for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“We, Christians and Muslims alike, have spoken and resoundingly voted against this,” Lobregat said.

Idjirani likened the MOA to modern colonization.

“Before Mindanao or the Philippines was colonized by foreigners. Now Muslim counterparts, not foreigners, are colonizing our own people,” he said.

Ustadz Shariff Mohsin Julabbi, chairman of the MILF in Western Mindanao, objected to the idea of giving parts of Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi to the MILF.

“I am an official of Moro Islamic Liberation Front. I am a spiritual leader. Now I can say that those agreeing to the territories given by the government are not MILF like me, they are Maguindanaoan Iranon Liberation Front,” Julabbi said.

Julabbi was referring to the MILF leaders who belong to the Maguindanao and Iranon Muslim tribes.

Citing the Quran, Julabbi said no one had the sole right to own a place except to take care of the resources.

In Zamboanga City, at least eight villages are included in the proposed BJE. There are Barangays (Villages) Zone 3, Zone 4, Landang Gua, Busay, Landang Laum, Manalipa, Pasilmanta and Tigtabon.

Covered by the BJE are Lobregat’s ancestral home, the Fort Pilar shrine, the Ateneo de Zamboanga University, the City Hall and the entire city center.

Teresita Sebastian, vice chair of the Mindanao Business Conference and regional governor of the Zamboanga Peninsula Philippine Chamber of Commerce, said the BJE would be “divisive and only sow confusion among the people.”

“When we were young, we did not highlight the differences in us. We looked at the commonalities and appreciated it. With this ongoing development, we are now seeing differently. The government should have done something to make people meet and see on common ground, not further divide them,” Sebastian said.

Sebastian said the business community did not deal with people based on differences. “We engage actively in business not because they are Muslims, Christians or Lumads [indigenous peoples]. In fact, our co-existence is not just mere toleration, but appreciation.”

But Eid Kabalu, MILF civil military affairs chief, assured that they would uphold the rights of people, particularly Christians, upon signing a deal with government.

“We are not barbaric. We guarantee that we will respect their rights. While we are in Islamic State, we will still follow a democratic form of government,” Kabalu said.

“We are asking the people of Mindanao to widen their thinking and not to entertain selfish desires. The past administrations tried but failed to address the Bangsamoro problem. Now, the agreement we will sign in Malaysia on August 5 will not benefit the people of Mindanao but the entire nation,” he added.

Despite Kabalu’s appeal for an open mind, protests will be held in various parts of Mindanao, including Iligan City on Monday.

Iligan City Mayor Lawrence Cruz said the protest action would be their way of expressing their opposition to the inclusion of eight upland villages in the proposed BJE.

The Iligan City villages that were included in the proposed BJE are Rogongon, Panoroganan, Mainit, Dulag, Lanipao, Kalilangan, Hindang and Diigkilaan.

Cruz said these villages have been engaged in agricultural food production.

“Why should we be included again in another referendum when Iligan City twice rejected the move to include the city in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)?” Cruz asked.

“We are not against the peace process nor are we against the expansion of the ARMM. However, we cannot allow divisions to destroy the harmonious relationship among Muslims, Christians and lumad,” Cruz added.

In North Cotabato, Vice Governor Manny Piñol said they would stage protests on Tuesday, the day of the MOA signing.

Reports from Julie S. Alipala, Richel V. Umel, Aquiles Zonio and Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao

Conflicting provisions between peace pacts, MNLF warns

August 4, 2008

By Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 20:51:00 08/03/2008

MANILA, Philippines–The impending signing of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) might spark a new wave of violence and armed confrontations in Mindanao, ranking officers of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) warned on Sunday.

MNLF officials, led by Dr. Parouk Hussin, likewise argued that the plan of the Commission of the Elections (Comelec) to push through with the August 11 elections in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) could further complicate the volatile security situation in the region.

“This is not a warning but a harsh reality,” Abu Ambri Taddik, MNLF’s deputy secretary general for military affairs, said in a press briefing in Quezon City.

The group lamented that while the government had yet to fulfill its obligations under the peace agreement it signed with the MNLF in 1996, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) was already embarking on a new peace treaty with another separatist group.

Hussin, the group’s chairman for foreign affairs, said the MNLF was never consulted by GRP representatives regarding the draft of the MOA between the government and MILF on the issue of ancestral domain.

Even their request for observer status during the GRP-MILF negotiations was not granted, he said.

He said MNLF leaders, including founding chairman Nur Misuari, expressed deep concern over the effects of the MOA on the existence of ARMM as the sole mechanism to implement the contents of the peace agreement between MNLF and GRP.

With the likelihood of the GRP-MILF pact to “superimpose” on the ARMM territory, Hussin said a renewed armed conflict across Mindanao would not be far-fetched.

“In an environment where everybody is armed, the breakout of violence is a possibility,” said Hussin.

Hussin, however, clarified that the MNLF would not be against the signing of a GRP-MILF agreement, but was only concerned about probable conflicts between the GRP-MNLF pact and the one with the MILF.

“The MNLF and the MILF are brothers. We have the same ideologies and aspirations for the Bangsamoro people… We’re hoping that the government will find a certain mechanism (to avoid conflict in territory),” he said.

Hussin also lauded President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for her “determination to bring genuine peace and development to Mindanao.”

“Unfortunately, bringing peace to Mindanao is very complex. The important thing is the President’s determination to move the peace process forward.”

Asked what could be done to avoid conflict between the MILF and MNLF leaders, Hussin said postponing the scheduled ARMM elections could help them set up a caretaker administration composed of leaders from both groups.

He, however, stressed that the chairmanship of ARMM should be given to the MNLF representative “in the spirit of the 1996 peace agreement.”

Taddik said a number of former MNLF combatants have already decided to join extremist groups after becoming disillusioned with how the government reneged on its promise to spur economic development in the region after the MNLF signed the peace accord.

He said “thousands of MNLF combatants” have been thinking of joining “MNLF lost commands and breakaway groups in pursuit of genuine peace in Mindanao” after learning of the recent suspension of the tripartite review of the peace agreement.

Taddik said a significant number of his comrades joined the group of MNLF commanders Habier Malik and Indama Furuji.

“Some even went with JI (Jemaah Islamiyah) and the Abu Sayyaf just because they were very disappointed,” Taddik said.

“We have been talking with our comrades to be patient and wait until the technical review of the tripartite peace agreement is finished,” he said.

“But many of them, especially the younger ones, are getting restless. We cannot control them anymore.”

“Many of them are asking, ‘Why are we still poor?’ or ‘Why are the roads in Mindanao still impassable?'” he added.

Mujahab Hashim, Hussin’s deputy, said stipulations contained in the proposed GRP-MILF agreement had legal and technical repercussions on the earlier accord they signed with the government.

Hussin said the MOA on ancestral domain would include the territory of ARMM consisting of Marawi City and the provinces of Sulu, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan.

Once approved, he said the MOA would virtually abrogate the contents of the GRP-MNLF peace pact.

“The government is moving so fast on signing agreements with sister organizations like the MILF. It’s not proper. The 1996 MNLF-GRP accord should take precedence before any other agreements,” Hashim said.

“We are willing to support other agreements if it will not result in the ejection of the MNLF in the equation.”

Hashim underscored the importance of ARMM as the primary and most potent tool for implementing political, socio-economic and military reforms as stated in the MNLF’s peace agreement with the government.

He said by signing a conflicting treaty, like the MOA with the MILF, the government would practically abolish the ARMM.

“If that happens, the Bangsamoro people will be like Palestine, a nation without a state,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Abdurahman Amin, MNLF’s permanent liason to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said the government should realize that MNLF was the “only recognized representative” of the Bagsamoro people to the 56-nation OIC.

“As such, we should be consulted on the MOA. The existence of ARMM should be respected,” Amin argued.

Taddik also lamented how officials of Malacañang intervened with the elections in ARMM. He said because of the Palace’s penchant for controlling the results of the elections in Mindanao through “controlled votes,” ARMM returned to the hands of old political clans in the region.

He said this was very different from what they envisioned when they decided to enter into a peace pact with the government.

At present, the MNLF only has a lone representative to the regionwide body, with MNLF vice chairman Hatimil Hassan sitting as board member in the 24-member ARMM regional council.

The MILF broke away from the MNLF after the latter signed its peace agreement with the government.

GRP-MILF draft pact on Bangsamoro homeland (Full Text)

August 4, 2008

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:18:00 08/04/2008

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) herein referred to as the “Parties” to this Agreement.

Terms of Reference

The context of referents follows:

The Agreement for General Cessation of Hostilities dated July 18, 1997 Between the GRP and the MILF, and its Implementing Administrative and Operational Guidelines;

The General Framework of Agreement of Intent Between the GRP and the MILF dated August 27, 1998;

The Agreement on the General Framework for the Resumption of Peace Talks Between the GRP and the MILF dated March 24, 2001;

The Tripoli Agreement on Peace Between the GRP and the MILF dated June 22, 2001;

The Tripoli Agreement Between the GRP and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) dated December 23, 1976 and the Final Agreement on the Implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement Between the GRP and the MNLF dated September 2, 1996;

Republic Act No. 6734, as amended by R.A. 9054, otherwise known as “An Act to Strengthen and Expand the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)”;

ILO Convention No. 169, in correlation to the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, and Republic Act No. 8371 otherwise known as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997, the UN Charter; the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law (IHL), and internationally recognized human rights instruments; and

Compact rights entrenchment emanating from the regime of dar-ul-mua’hada (or territory under compact) and dar-ul-sulh (or territory under peace agreement) that partakes the nature of a treaty device. For the purpose of this Agreement, a “treaty” is defined as any solemn agreement in writing that sets out understanding, obligations, and benefits for both parties which provides for a framework that elaborates the principles declared in the Agreement.

Have agreed and acknowledged as follows:

CONCEPTS AND PRINCIPLES

1. It is the birthright of all Moros and all Indigenous peoples of Mindanao to identify themselves and be accepted as “Bangsamoros”. The Bangsamoro people refers to those who are natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and its adjacent islands including Palawan and the Sulu archipelago at the time of conquest or colonization of its descendants whether mixed or of full blood. Spouses and their descendants are classified as Bangsamoro. The freedom of choice of the Indigenous people shall be respected.

2. It is essential to lay the foundation of the Bangsamoro homeland in order to address the Bangsamoro people’s humanitarian and economic needs as well as their political aspirations. Such territorial jurisdictions and geographic areas being the natural wealth and patrimony represent the social, cultural and political identity and pride of all the Bangsamoro people. Ownership of the homeland is vested exclusively in them by virtue of their prior rights of occupation that had inhered in them as sizeable bodies of people, delimited by their ancestors since time immemorial, and being the first politically organized dominant occupants.

3. Both Parties acknowledge that ancestral domain does not form part of the public domain but encompasses ancestral, communal, and customary lands, maritime, fluvial and alluvial domains as well all natural resources therein that have inured or vested ancestral rights on the basis of native title. Ancestral domain and ancestral land refer to those held under claim of ownership, occupied or possessed, by themselves or through the ancestors of the Bangsamoro people, communally or individually since time immemorial continuously to the present, except when prevented by war, civil disturbance, force majeure, or other forms of possible usurpation or displacement by force, deceit, stealth, or as a consequence of government project or any other voluntary dealings entered into by the government and private individuals, corporate entities or institutions.

4. Both Parties acknowledge that the right to self-governance of the Bangsamoro people is rooted on ancestral territoriality exercised originally under the suzerain authority of their sultanates and the Pat a Pangampong ku Ranaw. The Moro sultanates were states or karajaan/kadatuan resembling a body politic endowed with all the elements of nation-state in the modern sense. As a domestic community distinct from the rest of the national communities, they have a definite historic homeland. They are the “First Nation” with defined territory and with a system of government having entered into treaties of amity and commerce with foreign nations.

The Parties concede that the ultimate objective of entrenching the Bangsamoro homeland as a territorial space is to secure their identity and posterity, to protect their property rights and resources as well as to establish a system of governance suitable and acceptable to them as distinct dominant people.

5. Both Parties affirm their commitment to mutually respect the right to one’s identity and the parity of esteem of everyone in the political community. The protection of civil rights and religious liberties of individuals underlie the basis of peace and justice of their totality of relationships.

6. Both Parties agree that the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) shall have the authority and jurisdiction over the Ancestral Domain and Ancestral lands, including both alienable and non-alienable lands encompassed within their homeland and ancestral history, as well as the delineation of ancestral domain/lands of the Bangsamoro people located therein.

7. Vested property rights upon the entrenchment of the BJE shall be recognized and respected subject to paragraph 9 of the strand on Resources.

TERRITORY

1. The Bangsamoro homeland and historic territory refer to the land mass as well as the maritime, terrestrial, fluvial and alluvial domains, and the aerial domain, the atmospheric space above it, embracing the Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan geographic region. However, delimitations are contained in the agreed Schedules (Categories).

2. Toward this end, the Parties entered into the following stipulations:

a. The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as the Parties to this Agreement commit themselves to the full and mutual implementation of this framework agreement on territory with the aim of resolving outstanding issues that emanate from the consensus points on Ancestral Domain.

b. The Parties confirm their understanding that the mutual goal of reaching an agreement on Bangsamoro territory specific to mapping the outlying borders and the boundaries affecting local government units will lead to consolidation of the agreed texts on the Ancestral Domain Strands.

c. The Parties affirm that the core of the BJE shall constitute the present geographic area of the ARMM, including the municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in the province of Lanao del Norte that voted for inclusion in the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite;

d. Without derogating from the requirements of prior agreements, the government stipulates to conduct and deliver, within six (6) months following the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, a plebiscite covering the areas as enumerated in the list and depicted in the map as Category A attached herein (the “Annex”). The Annex constitutes an integral part of this framework agreement.

e. The areas covered by Category B has already been reflected on a map and officially agreed by both Parties.

f. Internal Waters:
The Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) shall have jurisdiction over the management, conservation, development, protection, utilization and disposition of all natural resources, living and non-living, within its internal waters extending fifteen (15) kilometers from the coastline of the BJE area.

g. Territorial Waters:
(1) The territorial waters of the BJE shall stretch beyond the BJE internal waters up to the Republic of the Philippines (RP) baselines south east and south west of mainland Mindanao. Beyond the fifteen (15) kilometers internal waters, the Central Government and the BJE shall exercise joint jurisdiction, authority and management over areas and [of] all natural resources, living and non-living contained therein. The details of such management of the Territorial Waters shall be provided in an agreement to be entered into by the Parties.

(2) The boundaries of the territorial waters shall stretch beyond the 15-km BJE internal waters up to the Central government’s baselines under existing laws. In the southern and eastern part of the BJE, it shall be demarcated by a line drawn from the Maguling Point, Palimbang, Province of Sultan Kudarat up to the straight baselines of the Philippines. On the northwestern part, it shall be demarcated by a line drawn from Little Sta. Cruz Island, Zamboanga City, up to Naris Point, Bataraza, Palawan. On the western part of Palawan, it shall be demarcated by a line drawn from the boundary of Bataraza and Rizal up to the straight baselines of the Philippines.

The final demarcation shall be determined by a joint technical body composed of duly-designated representatives of both Parties, in coordination with the appropriate Central Government agency in accordance with the above guidelines.

h. Sharing of Minerals on Territorial Waters:
Consistent with paragraphs 5 and 6 of the provisions on Resources, all potential sources of energy, petroleum in situ, hydrocarbon, natural gas and other minerals, including deposits or fields found within the territorial waters, shall be shared between the Central Government and the BJE in favor of the latter through production sharing agreement or economic cooperative agreement.

i. Activities Allowed on Territorial Waters:

(1) The Parties shall have authority to carry out the following activities within the territorial waters:

(a) Exploration and utilization of the natural resources, whether living or non-living within the territorial waters;

(b) Establishments and use of artificial islands, installations and structures;

(c) Marine scientific research;

(d) Protection and the preservation of the marine environment;

(e) Conservation of living resources;

(f) Regulation of shipping and fishing activities;

(g) Enforcement of police and safety measures, including interdiction of the entry and use of the waters by criminal elements and hot pursuit of suspected criminal elements;

(h) Regulation and control of contraband and illegal entry of prohibited materials and substances, including smuggling; and

(i) Such other measures as the Parties may otherwise mutually agree.

(2) Activities relating to exploration and utilization of non-living resources, as well as paragraphs (c) and (d) of the Authorized Activities will be carried out on a joint basis agreed by the Parties which may be in the form of production sharing agreements or joint development pacts.

j. Establishment of a Joint Commission:

(1) The Parties shall establish a Joint Commission, which shall elaborate the modalities for the implementation and the carrying out of the Authorized Activities and the measures adopted in cases of allegation of breach, and carry out any other functions which may be assigned to it by the Parties for the purpose of implementing the joint management of resources.

(2) The Joint Commission shall consist of one representative from each Party, who are assisted by advisers as may be needed. The conclusions of the Joint Commission shall be adopted by consensus and shall only be recommendatory in nature. Only when the conclusions of the Joint Commission are adopted by the Parties do they become binding on the Parties.

k. Demarcation and Status of Territorial Waters:

The demarcation and status of the BJE territorial waters shall be finally determined together with the demarcation and final status of Category B of the BJE.

3. From and after entrenchment of compact rights over the Bangsamoro homeland and the territorial jurisdictions for associative governance shall likewise embrace those under proclamation for agricultural and human settlements intended for the Bangsamoro people, all alienable and disposable land, pasture lands, timberlands together with all existing civil and military reservations, parks, old growth or natural forests declared as forest reserves, watersheds, mangroves, fishponds, wetlands, marshes, inland bodies of water and all bays, straits and channels found within the BJE.

4. All territorial and geographic areas in Mindanao and its adjacent islands including Palawan, and the Sulu archipelago that have been recognized, and/or delineated as ancestral domain and ancestral land of the Bangsamoro people as their geographic areas, inclusive of settlements and reservations, may be formed or constituted into political subdivisions of the Bangsamoro territorial jurisdictions subject to the principles of equality of peoples and mutual respect and to the protection of civil, political, economic, and cultural rights in their respective jurisdictions.

5. For purposes of territorial delimitation, the Parties have agreed to the joint determination of geographic areas encompassed within the territorial borders of the Bangsamoro homeland and territory based on the technical maps and data submitted by both sides as provided above.

RESOURCES

1. The Bangsamoro juridical entity is empowered with authority and responsibility for the land use, development, conservation and disposition of the natural resources within the homeland. Upon entrenchment of the Bangsamoro juridical entity, the land tenure and use of such resources and wealth must reinforce their economic self-sufficiency. Among the purposes or measures to make progress more rapid are:

a. Entry into joint development, utilization, and exploitation of natural resources designed as commons or shared resources, which is tied up to the full setting of appropriate institution, particularly affecting strategic minerals.

b. Stimulation of local economy by a range of mechanism, in particular the need to address unemployment and improvement of living conditions for the population in the Bangsamoro juridical entity;

c. Intensification of measures needed to uproot the cause of poverty in the Bangsamoro juridical entity through responsible harnessing and development of its natural resources; and

d. Undertaking program review of public services, industrial or trade-related and agrarian-related issues in situations of different sectors of the society in the Bangsamoro juridical entity, which acquire communal character deriving from the special nature of their industry.

2. The Bangsamoro People through their appropriate juridical entity shall, among others, exercise power or authority over the natural resources within its territorial jurisdiction:

a. To explore, exploit, use or utilize and develop their ancestral domain and ancestral lands within their territorial jurisdiction, inclusive of their right of occupation, possession, conservation, and exploitation of all natural resources found therein;
b. To conserve and protect the human and natural environment for their sustainable and beneficial enjoyment and their posterity;

c. To utilize, develop, and exploit its natural resources found in their ancestral domain or may enter into a joint development, utilization, and exploitation of natural resources, specifically on strategic minerals, designed as commons or shared resources, which is tied up to the final setting of appropriate institution.

d. To revoke or grant forest concessions, timber license, contracts or agreements in the utilization and exploitation of natural resources designated as commons or shared resources, mechanisms for economic cooperation with respect to strategic minerals, falling within the territorial jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro juridical entity;

e. To enact agrarian laws and programs suitable to the special circumstances of the Bangsamoro people prevailing in their ancestral lands within the established territorial boundaries of the Bangsamoro homeland and ancestral territory is within the competence of the Bangsamoro juridical entity; and

f. To use such natural resources and wealth to reinforce their economic self-sufficiency.

3. The Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, and the Central Government agree on wealth-sharing based on a mutually agreed percentage ratio in favor of the Bangsamoro juridical entity through an economic cooperation agreement or arrangement over the income and revenues that are derived from the exploration, exploitation, use and development of any resources for the benefit of the Bangsamoro people.

4. The Bangsamoro juridical entity is free to enter into any economic cooperation and trade relations with foreign countries: provided, however, that such relationships and understandings do not include aggression against the Government of the Republic of the Philippines; provided, further that it shall remain the duty and obligation of the Central Government to take charge of external defense. Without prejudice to the right of the Bangsamoro juridical entity to enter into agreement and environmental cooperation with any friendly country affecting its jurisdiction, it shall include:

a. the option to establish and open Bangsamoro trade missions in foreign countries with which it has economic cooperation agreements; and

b. the elements bearing in mind the mutual benefits derived from Philippine archipelagic status and security.

And, in furtherance thereto, the Central Government shall take necessary steps to ensure the Bangsamoro juridical entity’s participation in international meetings and events, e.g. ASEAN meetings and other specialized agencies of the United Nations. This shall entitle the said juridical entity participation in Philippine official missions and delegations that are engaged in the negotiation of border agreements or protocols for environmental protection, equitable sharing of incomes and revenues, in the areas of sea, seabed and inland seas or bodies of water adjacent to or between islands forming part of the ancestral domain, in addition to those of fishing rights.

5. Jurisdiction and control over, and the right of exploring for, exploiting, producing and obtaining all potential sources of energy, petroleum, in situ, fossil fuel, mineral oil and natural gas, whether onshore or offshore, is vested in the Bangsamoro juridical entity as the party having control within its territorial jurisdiction, provided that in times of national emergency, when public interest so requires, the Central Government may, during the emergency, for a fixed period and under reasonable terms as may be agreed by both Parties, temporarily assume or direct the operations of such strategic resources.

6. The Bangsamoro government-take or profit split from total production shall be shared with the Central Government on a percentage ratio of 75%/25% in favor of the Bangsamoro juridical entity. All royalties, bonuses, taxes, charges, custom duties or imposts on natural resources and mineral resources shall be shared by the Parties on a percentage ratio of 75%/25% in favor of the Bangsamoro juridical entity.

7. The legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people arising from any unjust dispossession of their territorial and propriety rights, customary land tenures, or their marginalization shall be acknowledged. Whenever restoration is no longer possible, the GRP shall take effective measures of adequate reparation collectively beneficial to the Bangsamoro people, in such quality, quantity and status to be determined mutually by both Parties.

8. All proclamations, issuances, policies, rules and guidelines declaring old growth or natural forests and all watersheds within the BJE as forest reserves shall continue to remain in force until otherwise modified, revised or superseded by subsequent policies, rules and regulations issued by the competent Bangsamoro authority or juridical entity.

9. Forest concessions, timber licenses, contracts or agreements, mining concessions, Mineral Production and Sharing Agreements (MPSA), Industrial Forest Management Agreements (IFMA), and other land tenure instruments of any kind or nature whatsoever granted by the Philippine Government including those issued by the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) shall continue to operate from the date of formal entrenchment of the Bangsamoro juridical entity unless otherwise expired, reviewed, modified and/or cancelled by the latter.

10. The Parties recognized an immediate need to establish a five-member Bangsamoro economic-expert mission (the “Mission”) bearing in mind that the functioning of the economy and the operation of institutions involve financial and other resource management as well as parallel or complementary means, by which the Bangsamoro Development Agency will manage and administer resources acquired for the above purposes, especially in coordinating strategies and programs for cooperation in all fields.

11. The said Mission acts as a link in the conduct of Bangsamoro juridical entity’s associative parallel relationships and shall cooperate fully with all organizations involved in implementation of the peace settlement. It shall launch a plan and joint international appeal for the repatriation and development of the conflict affected areas in Mindanao. Persons appointed thereto must be familiar with the specific economic, political and legal characteristics in the Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan region and must possess recognized competence, integrity, and high moral standing.

12. Cognizant that the Bangsamoro economic-expert Mission will benefit from international expertise, both the Central Government and the BJE hereby join the Third Party facilitator in inviting international funding institutions or equivalent entities for reconstruction and development to appoint two members and to designate one as the Chairman. The BJE shall designate one member as Co-Chairman. The remaining two members shall each be designated by the Central Government and the BJE.

GOVERNANCE

1. The recognition and peaceful resolution of the conflict must involve consultations with the Bangsamoro people free of any imposition in order to provide chances of success and open new formulas that permanently respond to the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people.

1. The ultimate objective of entrenching the Bangsamoro homeland as a territorial space is to secure their identity and posterity, to protect their property rights and resources as well as to establish a system of governance suitable and acceptable to them as a distinct dominant people. The parties respect the freedom of choice of the indigenous peoples.

3. The Parties agree to invite a multinational third-party to observe and monitor the actual implementation of the comprehensive compact which will embody the details for the effective enforcement of this Agreement. The participation of the third-party shall not in any way affect the status of the relationship between the Central Government and the BJE.

4. The relationship between the Central Government and the Bangsamoro juridical entity shall be associative characterized by shared authority and responsibility with a structure of governance based on executive, legislative, judicial and administrative institutions with defined powers and functions in the comprehensive compact. A period of transition shall be established in a comprehensive peace compact specifying the relationship between the Central Government and the BJE.

5. The modalities for the governance intended to settle the outstanding negotiated political issues are deferred after the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain.

The establishment of institutions for governance in a comprehensive peace compact, together with its modalities during the transition period, shall be fully entrenched and established in the basic law of the Bangsamoro juridical entity. The Parties shall faithfully comply with their commitment to the associative arrangements upon entry into force of a comprehensive compact between the MILF and GRP.

7. The Parties agree that the mechanisms and modalities for the actual implementation of this MOA AD shall be spelt out in the comprehensive compact to mutually take such steps to enable it to occur effectively.

Any provisions of the MOA on Ancestral Domain requiring amendments to the existing legal framework shall come into force upon signing of a comprehensive compact and upon effecting the necessary changes to the legal framework with due regard to non derogation of prior agreements and within the stipulated timeframe to be contained in the comprehensive compact.

8. The parties agree that the BJE shall be empowered to build, develop and maintain its own institutions, inclusive of, civil service, electoral, financial and banking, education, legislation, legal, economic, and police and internal security force, judicial system and correctional institutions, necessary for developing a progressive Bangsamoro society the details of which shall be discussed in the negotiation of the comprehensive compact.

9. The Parties further agree to undertake activities which will enhance the capacity of the government institutions during the transition through technical assistance, information-sharing and human resource development.

10. Matters concerning the details of the agreed consensus points on Governance not covered under this Agreement shall be deferred to, and discussed during, the negotiations of the comprehensive compact.

Only SC can stop deal now

August 4, 2008

RP, MILF set to sign pact in Malaysia

By Leila Salaverria, DJ Yap, Nikko Dizon, Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:45:00 08/04/2008

MANILA, Philippines—It’s all systems go for the signing on Tuesday of an agreement which critics say will pave the way for the creation of a new state out of a proposed expanded Bangsamoro homeland.

Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo and his Malaysian counterpart Rais Yatim are expected to witness the signing in Kuala Lumpur of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) on ancestral domain between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“It’s a go,” said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s peace adviser, Hermogenes Esperon Jr., unless the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order, which some Mindanao officials were seeking.

“It’s all systems go for the signing of the agreement on Aug. 5,” MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu also told Agence France Presse by phone from his base in Mindanao. “Our men on the ground want to see peace in Mindanao, and we have been talking for a long time already.”

Esperon, former chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said that after the signing, the government would launch an “all-out consultation” preparatory to the holding of a plebiscite in one year.

The MOA grants an expanded Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) its own basic law, an internal security force, a system of banking and finance, civil service, education and legislative institutions, full authority to develop and dispose of minerals and natural resources.

The government of the proposed MILF-controlled area would also have the power to send trade missions overseas and to enter into international arrangements, according to a draft of the agreement obtained by the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net).

Adel Tamano, spokesperson of the United Opposition, said that under the MOA, the President had “effectively ceded part of the territory of the Philippines to the MILF.”

Tamano cited Section 3 on concepts and principles of the MOA, which states that “ancestral domain does not form part of the Philippines’ public domain.”

“Obviously, GMA (Ms Arroyo) is not empowered to give up any part of our country to any group, only the Filipino people can do that in their sovereign capacity and only via amending the Constitution,” he said.

Declaration of independence

Tamano warned that the signing of the MOA would grant the MILF the “status of belligerency” and could open the door for a declaration of independence.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita dismissed claims that the MOA would violate the Constitution and constitute an impeachable offense against Ms Arroyo. He said the MOA was just one of three major undertakings in the peace agenda, the others being security and economic issues.

“There is no final agreement yet,” Ermita said in a phone interview.

The signing of the MOA will pave the way for the resumption of formal peace negotiations and from there, both panels will firm up a “comprehensive compact” of the final peace agreement, he said.

Referring to the petition in the Supreme Court seeking to stop the Kuala Lumpur signing, Esperon said government lawyers “will argue that the power of negotiations is with the executive branch.”

Enabling law required

Both Ermita and Esperon contended that the MOA was a “preliminary agreement” and pointed to provisions there stating that nothing would be executory unless there was a law enabling its implementation and everything must be done within the legal framework.
Ermita said this meant that any agreement between the government and the MILF had to be in accordance with the Constitution.

Both Ermita and Esperon stressed that the MOA called for the holding of a plebiscite in order to expand the Moro homeland.

“Any plebiscite will be pursuant only to an enabling law enacted by Congress,” Esperon said. “We are not giving away Mindanao.”

He also said the MOA only “defines the rights over the land” and thus, “it was not saying we will confiscate or revoke all land titles.”

Not impeachable

“That’s why I don’t see anyone can say that there is a violation and this would be an impeachable offense,” Ermita said, dismissing claims that the President was using the peace pact with the MILF to amend the Constitution so as to extend her term.

“I think we are extending our imagination too much,” said Ermita, who also expressed hopes that Congress would postpone the ARMM election scheduled for Aug. 11 as part of a “big confidence-building measure.”

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez also said that the MOA would undergo “constitutional processes,” including the requirement of an enabling law before it could be implemented.

“If Congress will pass something else, then the MOA will not hold. It’s up to Congress,” he said. “There are no shortcuts being taken here.”

Gonzalez also branded as “inaccurate” the news reports that a new state would be created under the MOA on ancestral domain.

No deal on secession

“What’s being given is an enlarged autonomous region. Never in the discussions have we agreed to secession,” he said. “There is no such thing as peace at any price. But we will give a chance to peace because peace is better than shooting,” he said.

The proposed ancestral domain, to be governed by the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE), is the last remaining hurdle for a final political settlement that is expected to end the four decades-old insurgency that has claimed more than 120,000 lives. This would include plans for the future of the MILF’s 12,000 fighters, many of whom have said they will not disarm.

Esperon also dismissed suggestions that the MOA amounted to making the proposed Moro homeland a state.

“In the highest form, it could be a state within a state, if it comes to that,” Esperon said. But he added that only a constitutional amendment would allow this to happen if there was a shift to the federal form of government.

“But if our lawyers will say that the BJE will be under an expanded ARMM that will be enough, then we don’t have to have an amendment in the Constitution,” Esperon said.

Aside from the current ARMM provinces of Sulu, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan, and city of Marawi, the proposed Moro region would include six municipalities in Lanao del Norte and hundreds of barangays (villages) in Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato, which voted to become part of the ARMM in 2001.

The proposed MOA also provides for the inclusion of the Bangsamoro’s “ancestral domain” in Mindanao, Palawan and Sulu.

Copies of the draft MOA were distributed to retired generals during a forum on July 24 in Camp Aguinaldo and made available to the Inquirer.

Shared authority

Under the MOA, the Philippine government and the BJE are to exercise “shared authority and responsibility” over the Bangsamoro homeland.

The details of the structure of shared governance will be defined in the “comprehensive compact.” A multinational third party will be jointly invited by the government and the BJE to observe and monitor the actual implementation of the “comprehensive compact.”

Peace negotiations between the government and the MILF have been stalled on the contentious issue of ancestral domain since December 2007.

Only on July 25, informal talks aimed at getting the peace negotiations back on track broke down in Kuala Lumpur, with the MILF panel accusing the other side of trying to “undo” provisions in the “breakthrough” agreement forged on July 16.

The MILF said the meeting had been intended to finalize the text of the draft agreement on ancestral domain, but that the government panel led by retired Maj. Gen. Rodolfo Garcia wanted certain settled issues reopened.

On July 27, the government and MILF panels led by Garcia and MILF’s Mohagher Iqbal, respectively, initialed the final draft of the agreement on ancestral domain, Malacañang said. With a report from Agence France-Presse

Bangsamoro Juridical Entity should not be used to divide the people of Mindanao

August 4, 2008

Press Statement
25 July 2008

Bangsamoro Juridical Entity should not be used to divide the people of Mindanao

The inclusion of several villages in Zamboanga City in the mapping of the Moro people’s ancestral domain should not appear as a threat to the people of Zamboanga. Rather it should be a venue for the people of Mindanao to assert their right to land and ancestral domain.

It is not new for the Moro people to hear landed families and politicians of Mindanao react to the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. However, politicians should know better than to fan anti-Moro hysteria by accusing their Moro brothers and sisters of reclaiming lands and inciting them to arm themselves the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The mapping out of the Moro people’s ancestral claim should undergo a process, and should not be forced on the people. The decision of which and how many villages should be included in the Moro people’s territorial claims should not solely be at the hands of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo or be limited at the negotiating table of the GRP-MILF peace talks.

It is the responsibility of the government to correct the pervading notion that the Moro people are out to forcibly take the lands of the Christian settlers and the Lumads. While plebiscite may be a venue for the people to decide whether they want to be part of the Moro people’s ancestral domain, the government should inform and educate the public by providing venues wherein the people can fully discuss not only the Moro people’s claim to ancestral domain, but the issue of ancestral domain and land rights of the people of Mindanao as a whole.

We may view the BJE as the Moro people’s way of correcting historical injustice, that of decades of forcible evacuation as a result of government policies on land ownership, forcible evacuation of residents due to decades of war and military operations and the accumulation of lands by the few business and landed elite families– Christians and Moros alike.

To correct our biases, we must learn lessons from our history. The settlers and the Lumads in Mindanao lost their lands for these same reasons. We were made to fight over what was left of the land, ravaged by multinationals and landed elite. Even in our small tracts we were reduced to being tenants, plantation workers with small pay and, worse, driven away.

The MILF and even the Moro National Liberation Front have yet to realize the aspirations of the Moro people’s right to self-determination. The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is a far cry to the genuine autonomy they agreed with the government, for it did not even give the right for the Moro people to utilize and manage their natural resources. ARMM remained tied to the economic polices of the national government, and deep in debt.

The national government and the politicians have had so many years to correct their policies, yet they chose the status quo. Under the Arroyo administration, lands remained at hands of the rich and being sold to multinational companies. Already the government has signed a deal with Exxon Mobil for the exploration of the oil-rich Sulu Sea and other multinationals lining up to get a chunk of the natural gas in Liguasan Marsh.

President Arroyo even intensified the mining policy which has flushed out thousands of Lumads out of their mountains, and continued the land conversion programs that has forced the Christian and Lumad farmers out of their lands. Only the multinationals rake in profit from the low pay of workers in the rubber, palm and fruit plantations in Mindanao.

We must unite to resolve the problem of the people of Mindanao. The people of Mindanao should respect the land of its fellow people. Let us put a stop to the monopoly of land by one clan, one government official and foreign businesses. Let us assert that the Mindanao lands should be for the people – for the Moro, for settlers and for the Lumads. #

Amirah Ali Lidasan
National President, Suara Bangsamoro
Telefax (064)421.5860; Mobile: 09196603839
email: suarabm@yahoo.com

Editorial Cartoon: On MILF Peace Talks

August 3, 2008

Unwitting Chacha Partner.

Now if all of us opposes again the admin-led chacha move, PGMA can easilly call us anti-Moro. Ang galing naman ng pamahalaang ito. Bwisit!

What I am afraid of is the religious war it my cause.  (Remember dude, the Catholic Church is anti-Chacha.)

Kawagib Moro Human Rights calls for the release of Basilan detainees

July 29, 2008

Kawagib
Wednesday, 23 July 2008 22:29
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COTABATO CITY (Kawagib/21 July) — The Kawagib Moro Human Rights appeal to the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City to be fair in deciding the fate of the Free Basilan73, Moro detainees who were victims of 2001 crackdown in Basilan, as the kidnapping case against the Abu Sayyaf will have its final hearing at the sala of a Pasig RTC judge that will be held at the Camp Bagong Diwa today.

Kawagib has stood for the innocence of Moro detainees who were illegally arrested, tortured and detained as a consequence of a intensive military crackdown conducted by the Philippine Army on July 13-15, 2001 in different areas in Basilan.

The crackdown was the response of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo against the rising Abu Sayyaf kidnapping, while the case filed against Free Basilan 73 was that of the kidnapping of a Claretian priest, teachers and students in Tumahubong, Sumisip in Basilan in 2000.

Bai Ali Indayla, spokesperson of Kawagib Moro Human Rights, believes that it is the Arroyo government who has to be held accountable for the reported human rights violations against those who were arrested during the crackdown, and as a proof that most of those arrested were innocent was the release of more than 16 Basilan detainees in year 2003 for lack of evidence.

Indayla believes that Atty Pura Calleja, the lead counsel of the Free Basilan73, has presented all evidence that will vouch for the innocence of her clients hence she has freed some of them in 2003.  Indayla hopes, that the rest will be freed next month as the Pasig RTC judge presiding the case will issue the final verdict on the accused.

Indayla believes that justice has long been overdue to the victims of crackdown.  In 2005 more than 11 of them died in an overkill operation lead by then DILG chief Angelo Reyes that aimed to quell the uprising of some Abu Sayyaf members inside Camp Bagong Diwa.  And throughout the seven years, six of them have already died because of sickness.

Indayla also prays that the Pasig RTC decision in August will be timely for the Muslim observance of fasting during the month of Ramadhan, and that their release is a gift that for the first time in seven years of incarceration, the Free Basilan73 will observe fasting as free men.

Reference: Bai Ali Indayla
KAWAGIB Spokesperson
#23 Oblates Drive, Rosary Heights 6
Cotabato City
email:
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SONA 2008: Mindanao peace process mentioned in passing

July 29, 2008

Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Tuesday, 29 July 2008 08:06
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In seconds, however, President Arroyo shifted to another topic, as if the initialing Sunday night of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, was not significant.

The President also said nothing about the postponement of the August 11 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which she endorsed to Congress on July 22.

“Wala akong narinig” (I heard nothing), Guiamel Alim, head of the council of elders of the Cotabato City-based Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society, told MindaNews. Guiamel was referring to the very quick mention of the Mindanao peace process in the President’s SONA.

Gus Miclat, Executive Director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) said,

“either she has nothing or doesn’t know what to say or that is how she views Mindanao – on the margins – as is our sad wont from leaders from imperial Manila. Why is this not surprising?”

Amirah Lidasan, president of Suara Bangsamoro party list, told MindaNews the President may be “weighing reactions re postponement of ARMM elections.”

“Either way, it is favorable to her most favored political ally because the term of (ARMM Governor Zaldy) Ampatuan will be extended (if the election is postponed),” she said.

Lidasan also said the President mentioned talked about the economic agenda in her SONA but from Zamboanga to North Cotabato, Maguindanao and Lanao are all plantations.”

She said the President mentioned “nothing about the plight of the Moro masses, especially the halaw (those deported from Sabah).”

In her speech, the President said, she named in her 2006 SONA, North Luzon and Mindanao as the country’s food baskets but “the sad irony of Mindanao as food basket is that it has some of the highest hunger in our nation. It has large fields of high productivity, yet also six of our ten poorest provinces.”

”The prime reason is the endless Mindanao conflict. A comprehensive peace has eluded us for half a century. But last night, differences on the tough issue of ancestral domain were resolved. Yes, there are political dynamics among the people of Mindanao. Let us sort them out with the utmost sobriety, patience and restraint. I ask Congress to act on the legislative and political reforms that will lead to a just and lasting peace during our term of office,” she said.

The President did not specify the “legislative” and “political” reforms she wanted, although she specified she wanted this done during “our term of office.”

“The demands of decency and compassion urge dialogue. Better talk than fight, if nothing of sovereign value is anyway lost. Dialogue has achieved more than confrontation in many parts of the world. This was the message of the recent World Conference in Madrid organized by the King of Saudi Arabia, and the universal message of the Pope in Sydney,” she said.

Zainudin Malang, executive director of the Bangsamoro Center for Law and Policy noted the “very short reference to peace process” in the President’s speech. “General marching order to Congress. Vague as to election postponement. Good thing she emphasized she wants changes in legal framework to implement peace pact during her term.”

Fr. Jonathan Domingo, publisher of the Mindanao Cross, said “I guess she just said on the peace process, appropriate legislative acts.”

The President is “focused on short-term, palliative solutions. The SONA lacks vision of hope that can inspire people.”

“Kailan ba naging totoo si Madame?” (Since when has she been genuinely concerned) asked Fatmawati Salapuddin of the Bangsamoro Women Solidarity Forum.

Fr. Bert Layson, former parish priest of Pikit, North Cotabato, a town visited by war four times from 1997 to 2003, said the President issued a “very general statement.”

”She could have elaborated it further for the public to understand and support it,” Layson said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

MOA on Ancestral Domain signing on August 5; plebiscite in August 2009

July 29, 2008

Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Tuesday, 29 July 2008 08:09
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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/29 August) – The Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will sign the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain on August 5 in Putrajaya, Malaysia.

The MOA was initialed Sunday night, two nights after the talks ended in an impasse.

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal and senior member Michael Mastura on Friday night walked out of the executive session with their government counterparts following a government proposal to reopen an issue that had already been previously agreed upon.

Government peace panel chair Rodolfo Garcia. accompanied by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon, returned to Kuala Lumpur on Sunday to “restart” talks, as Esperon put it, and by 8:20 that evening, had initialed the MOA that would be signed formally next week, in the presence of the Foreign Affairs secretaries of the Philippines and Malaysia,

The government last Friday wanted the conduct of plebiscite in the 712 predominantly Moro villages that both parties had identified to be contiguous to the member-provinces in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), be held after the comprehensive compact has been signed, not six months after the signing of the MOA on ancestral domain as agreed upon.

The final version agreed upon on Sunday was that the plebiscite would be held a year after the signing of the MOA on ancestral domain. That would be August 2009.

Both parties also agreed to complete in 15 months the negotiations on the comprehensive compact – the consolidation of all agreements on the three agenda items of rehabilitation and development; security; and ancestral domain and the political settlement that will be negotiated after the MOA signing. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

Will ARMM polls proceed as scheduled?

July 29, 2008

Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Tuesday, 29 July 2008 08:12
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The President mentioned nothing about the postponement in her State of the Nation Address (SONA) Monday, where she also certified as urgent bills extending the agrarian reform program but no mention on the ARMM election postponement which is exactly two Mondays after her SONA.

Arroyo announced her endorsement of the postponement on July 22, five days after MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal asked government peace panel chair Rodolfo Garcia at the end of their talks in Kuala Lumpur to have the election postponed “in deference to the GRP-MILF peace process.”

In her very short statement on the peace process in her SONA last Monday, Ms Arroyo said she will “ask Congress to act on the legislative and political reforms that will lead to a just and lasting peace during our term of office” but did not mention what these reforms are.

On July 19, two days after Iqbal’s proposal, House Speaker Prospero Nograles told MindaNews the House was “not inclined to postpone the elections.”

“What’s the factual and legal basis to postpone? To postpone we need at least two weeks to process bill which will amend. Senate must concur. It’s not certified urgent by Palace. Too late to postpone in ordinary legislative process. Commission on Elections has not asked us to postpone. If they are not ready, they will. They didn’t ask us,” Nograles said.

But asked to comment on the President’s announcement on postponement, Nograles told MindaNews on July 22 that “as Lakas President, I shall defer to and consult our ARMM loyal allies, the Ampatuans. Should they advice that postponement will speed up the Mindanao peace process, I shall personally try to fast track move to postpone.”

The ARMM Governor is Datu Zaldy Ampatuan, whose father, Datu Andal, is the Maguindanao governor.

Nograles added that “as Speaker, I have called for Mindanao congressmen and women caucus in the House on (July 29), 2 p.m. after the SONA (State of the Nation Address) and we (will) decide collectively to postpone or not.

Congress resumed session on July 28, when she delivered her SONA and announced the bills she certified as urgent.

Asked if the President’s silence should be interpreted as her abandonment of the postponement proposal, Nograles told MindaNews evening of July 28: “her position has been consistent. Leave the decision to Congress. She won’t dictate what Congress wants or does not want.”

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said, “she asked Congress to enact laws in support of peace process.”

Dureza said there will be a “congressional meeting re postponement and MOA.”

“The bottomline is Congress decides,” he said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

Peace talks between the government and NDF dims, says Esperon

July 28, 2008

Davao City- Peace talks with the Communist rebels is getting dim as government continues to insist on a ceasefire as a precondition of the peace talks while the rebel group pressures the government to drop it from European Union terror list.

Presidential Peace Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr, said the government still insists on a ceasefire before the holding of the peace talks so that the rebels can prove that they are not terrorists, after all.

“Peace talks cannot go on if rebels continue to burn buses and telecommunication towers,” he said. “It’s difficult if you just go to the negotiation table without a ceasefire.”

He also said that removing the rebel group from the list of terrorist organizations is something the government cannot do because the Philippines cannot dictate on other countries like Europe to drop off the NPA from the foreign terrorists list.

The Oslo-brokered talks between the government and the National Democratic Front were stalled after members of the NDF panel walked out of the negotiations in 2004 to protest the groups’ inclusion in the EU terror list.

Esperon said the government is still exploring ways to resume peace talks with the rebel group. Should the rebels stay firm in their conditions, it would really be hard, he said.

In a statement, the NDF blamed the government for putting up more obstacles for the resumption of the talks. The group said the government’s insistence on a ceasefire and the inclusion of the CPP/NPA in the terror list violated the agreement signed at The Hague, Netherlands between the government and the NDF.

“In demanding for a ceasefire as a precondition to the peace talks, the Arroyo regime violates The Hague Joint Declaration which requires that the peace negotiations address the roots of the armed conflict with social, economic, political and constitutional reforms,” said Luis Jalandoni, chairperson of the NDF negotiating panel. “The declaration said that no precondition whatsoever shall be imposed by one side on the other,” he said.

The NDF also cited the illegal “suspension” of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig); various human rights violations, including the persecution, murder, arrest and enforced disappearance of NDF consultants; and the refusal of the government to indemnify human rights victims under the Marcos regime, among the obstacles of the peace talks.

“It is the obligation of the government to comply with the agreements it has signed with the NDF, otherwise, it blocks the way for the resumption of the formal talks,” said Jalandoni.

The statement said that the Norwegian government facilitated informal talks between the NDF and the government in May this year to find ways for the peace talks to resume amidst all obstacles. But the NDF was disappointed at the results.

Esperon said that in the absence of the peace talks, government taps the Local Peace Security Assembly to entice the rebels to go back to the folds of the law.

The absence of peace talks also increased rebels’ offensives, which recently included the raid of municipal station in Banaybanay, Davao Oriental; the burning of a Davao Oriental cell site; the attack against the 3rd Special Forces Battalion-Philippine Army in Nabunturan, Compostela Valley; the attack against the Asares and JBMC mining firms in Mt. Diwata, Monkayo, Compostela Valley and the raid of police station in Dapa, Surigao del Norte in a span of two weeks.

Concerns over recent NPA attacks in the region and in other parts of Mindanao alarmed the business sector, particularly the members of Mindanao Business Council, who vowed to support all peace efforts of the government.

Esperon was in Davao in a forum at the Mindanao Economic Development Council where he also discussed the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. (Grace S. Uddin/ davaotoday.com)

Editorial Cartoon: Request

July 27, 2008

Editorial Cartoon: Peace Kill

July 26, 2008

The Bird Hunter

Anti-insurgency drive to focus on Compostela, Davao Sur

July 26, 2008

Mindanao Bureau
First Posted 04:06pm (Mla time) 07/26/2008

DAVAO CITY, Davao Del Sur — The government’s anti-insurgency campaign in Southern Mindanao has been directed to Compostela Valley and Davao Del Sur because these provinces have become a “priority area,” according to a military commander in the region.

Major General Jogy Fojas, commander of the 10th Infantry Division based here, said on Saturday that military operations have been intensified, especially in Compostela Valley, because it is there where the “degree of insurgency is very, very active, well developed, and well organized.”

Fojas said more troops from Luzon and the Visayas have already arrived to augment troops in Compostela Valley and in Davao Del Sur.

“Along with the 1st Mechanized Infantry Battalion and 3rd Field Artillery Battalion are 24 armored vehicles and 12 howitzer tubes,” he said.

Fojas made the announcement in the wake of attacks by the communist New People’s Army in the region and in nearby areas.

On Thursday, a village official was killed while three police officers were wounded in a landmine explosion after communist rebels attacked a banana plantation in the village of Luna Norte in Makilala, North Cotabato.

The attack occurred as Armed Forces chief General Alexander Yano proposed an indefinite ceasefire with the rebels to re-start the stalled peace talks.

Major Armand Rico, spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command based in Davao City, told the Inquirer by phone that about 15 rebels swooped down on the plantation of Dole-Stanfilco around 5:50 a.m. Thursday.

Rico said the rebels overpowered the guards at the plantation before burning the palletizing equipment.

“Shortly after the attack, a team of pursuing law enforcers on board a multi-cab (hit)… a landmine along the road, killing barangay (village) councilor Ricky Apolinario and wounding three other policemen,” he said.

Rico said the landmine explosion was aimed at discouraging troops from pursing the rebels.

North Cotabato Governor Jesus Sacdalan said despite the incident, soldiers went to pursue the fleeing rebels.

Rico said the rebels attacked Dole-Stanfilco because of the company’s refusal to give in to the rebels’ extortion demands.

Fojas said the concentration of troops in Compostela Valley and Davao Del Sur was the response of the military hierarchy “to the clamor from our local government executives.”

“(They wanted) more troops with the continued atrocities perpetrated by these communist New People’s Army turned criminals and bandits against our business and investment communities,” Fojas said.

The NPA, however, said the military was “patently wrong in its assumption that massive troop and artillery deployment would spell the difference in their fight against the revolutionary movement.”

Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesperson of the NPA’s Merardo Arce Command, said that the beefing up of government troops showcased the government’s “shock and awe method.”

“The intent is quite clear: Use an overwhelming force against the NPA and instill fear in the minds of the revolutionary mass base. But is this overwhelming force effective? A display of superior armament and troop strength by the AFP is inconsequential to the New People’s Army,” Sanchez said.

He said while tanks and artillery remained important weapons in conventional warfare, “they hardly play a significant role against a mass-based army waging guerrilla warfare.”

“For one, the NPA at the current stage of the people’s war is basically a mobile politico-military army. Thus, the AFP has no fixed military target to attack,” he said.

The government has said it will crush the insurgency by 2010.

Malacañang recently approved the release of P1 billion to the military to beef up its capability against the rebels, who have been waging a guerrilla war to establish a Maoist government in Asia’s oldest democracy.

The communists backed out of the Norwegian-brokered peace talks after it failed to convince the government to lobby for its removal from Washington and the European Union’s list of terror organizations.

Reports from Jeffrey M. Tupas, Jeoffrey Maitem, Dennis Santos, Edwin Fernandez, Eldie Aguirre and Orlando Dinoy, Inquirer Mindanao

War vs communists must be won with ‘military force’–Teodoro

July 26, 2008

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 12:23:00 07/25/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said the war against the communist insurgency should be “won with military force, not without,” as he rejected anew a military proposal to declare an “indefinite” ceasefire with the rebels to revive peace negotiations.

But at the same time, Teodoro played down his and General Alexander Yano’s contradicting positions, saying only President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would have the “last word” on the matter.

“I know what’s always said, the cliché that you cannot win it by military force alone, but it should be won with military force, not without, or else you will not be able really to have a clear settlement of the problem,” Teodoro said in an interview with reporters in Camp Crame on Friday.

Teodoro was asked if sustained military offensives were necessary to meet the President’s 2010 deadline to defeat the nearly four-decade-old communist insurgency.

In a statement, Yano said: “Until an official policy is given on the matter, the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] will not waver on its campaign to reduce the insurgency problem to an inconsequential level by 2010.”

Yano reiterated his position that a ceasefire would in fact “enhance” the counter insurgency campaign since the rebels would be given the choice to “take the better option” of “talking peace.”

But with or without a ceasefire, Yano said the AFP was “on track” to meet the President’s deadline.

Teodoro said the military offensives would not be “on a grand scale” but troops would apply “increased pressure” on the NPA that would lead to the dismantling of guerilla fronts.

“What I’m saying is until such time that there is a definite policy on the ceasefire, there is no ceasefire to talk about,” he said.

The defense chief said that Yano could have been “baited” by media into proposing a long-term ceasefire with the communist insurgents.

“I know him to be a professional officer, perhaps his views may not coincide with mine. That’s fine. We’re both professionals and we follow the directives to us,” Teodoro said.

Peace talks between the government and the communist rebels have been stalled since 2004 after the insurgents protested the government’s alleged inaction in having them removed from the terrorist lists of the United States and the European Union.(PDI)

No ceasefire with communist rebels

July 26, 2008

By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., Alcuin Papa, Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:09:00 07/25/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang on Friday ruled out a ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines or its 5,000-strong armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), and pledged a robust response to escalating guerrilla attacks on businesses.

“There is no change in the President’s policy,” President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s spokesperson Jesus Dureza told reporters.

Dureza said there were no talks with the CPP or the NPA, who had been waging a 39-year Maoist guerilla campaign.

The clear statement from the Palace regarding its position on the matter should put an end to the clash between Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro and Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Alexander Yano who each in recent days in public offered conflicting views on how to deal with the communist insurgency.

Yano had declared that the military was gearing up for an indefinite ceasefire with the rebels, a position that was quickly refuted by Teodoro, who claimed that the government was “on track” in fulfilling its goal of licking the insurgency problem by 2010.

The clash on Friday prompted former Armed Forces Chief of Staff and now Senator Rodolfo Biazon to urge President Arroyo to put her foot down to stop the public debate between the two top security officials.

“(The decision) cannot be made by the Secretary of National Defense, by the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or even the Presidential Peace Adviser, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon,” Biazon said.

“The national policy of pursuing either a ceasefire, peace talks or military actions can only be made by the President and, of course, after listening to her advisers. But the pronouncements to the public must be clearly a decision of the President, the Commander in Chief,” he said.

Biazon said the open display of clashing opinions between the government’s top defense and military officials only showed that the insurgency solution was “not well ‘strategized’ but is characterized by confusion among the decision-makers, program and policy implementers of the country.”

He said the dispute not only created uncertainty but might also cause demoralization in the military.

Teodoro on Friday restated his position, saying military force was the means to be taken to finally defeat the insurgency.

Rejecting Yano’s proposal to declare an “indefinite” ceasefire with the rebels to revive peace negotiations, Teodoro said the war with communist insurgents should be “won with military force, not without.”

“I know what’s always said, the cliché that you cannot win it by military force alone. But it (communist insurgency) should be won with military force, not without, or else you will not be able really to have a clear settlement of the problem,” Teodoro said.

He added that sustained military offensives were necessary to meet the President’s 2010 deadline of defeating the rebels.

For his part, Yano on Friday stood by his earlier statement that a ceasefire would hasten the government’s objective of ending the insurgency problem.

“The idea of a ceasefire will enhance the AFP offensive, allowing the CPP/NPA to take the better option of helping the country move forward by talking peace, thereby fast-tracking the ultimate resolution of the problem,” Yano said in a statement.

But Yano added, “Still, until an official policy is given on the matter, the AFP will not waiver on its campaign to reduce the insurgency problem to an inconsequential level by 2010.”

“We are on track and we can reduce the insurgency problem to a mere police problem,” Yano said.

On Thursday, Yano was asked by reporters if he agreed with former Armed Forces Chief and now presidential adviser on the peace process Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who earlier proposed a three-year ceasefire with the communist rebels to revive the government’s stalled peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF), the political arm of the CPP-NPA.

The question was asked after a breakthrough in the negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was reached last week that could pave the way for the resumption of the peace negotiations, which also ground to a halt because of the contentious issue on ancestral domain.

Peace talks between the government and the communist rebels have been stalled since 2004 after the CPP-NPA protested their inclusion on the list of terrorists groups of the United States and the European Union. Leaders of the CPP also said the government did nothing to take the organization out of the lists. With a report from Agence France-Presse(PDI)

Peace talks collapse — MILF

July 26, 2008

Agence France-Presse, Reuters, INQUIRER.net
First Posted 11:55:00 07/26/2008

ZAMBOANGA — Peace talks between the Philippine government and Muslim separatist rebels collapsed after Manila tried to go back on an earlier agreement, rebel spokesmen said Saturday.

The separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) charged that government efforts to back down on a draft agreement, recognizing the MILF’s “ancestral domain” in the southern Philippines, had led to the breakdown, preventing the resumption of formal negotiations.

Chief MILF negotiator Mohaqer Iqbal said “the talks collapsed because the government was undoing settled issues on ancestral domain.”

This forced the cancellation of a meeting to resume formal talks on August 5, Iqbal said in a statement issued from Kuala Lumpur, where informal negotiations were being held.

Sources from the government and the MILF told Reuters on Saturday that Manila’s negotiators tried on Friday to delay the referendum on enlarging a previous Muslim homeland until after a political agreement was reached.

That would have reneged on a previous commitment to hold the vote six months after a deal on territory was signed, originally scheduled for August 5.

Continuing peace process

Malacañang would not confirm this except to say that the “peace process is a continuing effort.”

“In the latest talks in Kuala Lumpur over the last few days to finalize the draft agreement, there remain some differences,” Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said in a text message Saturday.

But he said that while the “meeting did not immediately bring about progress in the ancestral domain issue, I am sure that the parties will continue to look for ways to hurdle the difficulties and move the process forward.”

MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said in Mindanao that the government had earlier agreed on a draft agreement on ancestral domain but it has backtracked now.

He said “this is the choice of the government, to go back to the issue of ancestral domain.”

“The MILF cannot be blamed on this,” he said.

“They should consider the consequences of their actions,” Kabalu said, warning that the MILF leadership could not always control hardliners among the guerrillas.

Moro homeland

Formal peace talks with the 12,000-member guerrilla group which signed a ceasefire with Manila in 2003, have stalled for months due to disagreements over what authority the MILF would exercise over areas they claim as their ancestral homeland.

The MILF has been insisting on the inclusion of at least 1,000 villages in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity but as to where these villages are located has been kept secret.

Both sides had hoped to wrap up the talks on an ancestral homeland this week in Kuala Lumpur ahead of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s annual state of the nation address on Monday.

About a week ago, government and MILF representatives reached a deal on the controversial “ancestral domain” issue that both sides said would lead to a resumption of formal negotiations.

More work needed

But Dureza said on Friday that a draft agreement with the MILF still needed a lot more work.

He also warned that any agreement would not be automatically implemented but would have to be enacted by law or by constitutional amendments.

Analysts say opposition among powerful Christian and Muslim families in the south and government hawks to a formal peace deal with the MILF and Arroyo’s reliance on their support mean Manila’s negotiating strategy is wobbly and easily thrown off course.

“Government has to get its act together,” said Camilo Montesa, policy adviser at the Institute for Autonomy and Governance at Notre Dame University on the southern island of Mindanao.

“It must have a more comprehensive and coherent strategy on how to deal with the Muslim problem in the south and do away with its more tactical approach on the peace negotiations.”

Not a total collapse

Rodolfo Garcia, a retired army general and Manila’s chief negotiator, said on Saturday the negotiations remained open, describing it as an “impasse not a total collapse”.

“We can still save it,” he told Reuters.

Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, Auxiliary Bishop of Cotabato, was similarly optimistic.

“Let’s not be prophets of doom, the collapse is temporary,” he said.

Based on statements he has been reading, Begaforo said the breakdown pertained only to the date of the next talks and not the entire negotiations.

“It’s the date that was postponed… no hurry. Things might be for the good of all. More time to look at the documents. Both parties can give it a second look,” he said.

Bagaforo said the quest for lasting peace should continue for better life for all in Mindanao.

“Ergo, let’s not kill it with all our threats but revive again with our support and encouragement,” he said.

Ending violence

While a deal on ancestral lands was no guarantee a final settlement to one of Southeast Asia’s most intractable conflicts was in the offing, it was an important step along the way to ending violence that has killed 120,000 people since the late 1960s.

Real progress appeared to have been made when Arroyo this week supported postponing August 11 elections in the Muslim south because progress in talks with the 11,000-member MILF made a new political setup a possibility.

Some lawmakers in Manila were opposed to the postponement and complained that they did not know what had been agreed with the MILF. They said Congress was not consulted on the issue.

“Some of these people were allies of the President and their opinions and sentiments may have somewhat affected government’s position,” Montesa, a lawyer, told Reuters.

Cementing the MILF, which has been observing a fragile truce with the government since 2003, into a political structure in the south would unleash a wave of investment into the resource-rich island of Mindanao and boost the entire country.

The two sides have been talking, on and off, since 1997.

With reports from Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, INQUIRER.net; Edwin Fernandez and Allan Nawal, Inquirer Mindanao(PDI)

Real ‘breakthrough’ in GRP-MILF pact is correcting historical injustices vs Bangsamoro

July 23, 2008

Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Monday, 21 July 2008 10:46
var sburl5082 = window.location.href; var sbtitle5082 = document.title;var sbtitle5082=encodeURIComponent(“Real ‘breakthrough’ in GRP-MILF pact is correcting historical injustices vs Bangsamoro”); var sburl5082=decodeURI(“http://www.mindanews.com/index.php?option=com_content&amp;task=view&amp;id=4774&#8221;); sburl5082=sburl5082.replace(/amp;/g, “”);sburl5082=encodeURIComponent(sburl5082);DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/20 July) – The real “breakthrough” in the government-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) agreement in Kuala Lumpur last week was not in the alleged “dropping” of the word “freedom” by the MILF because that word is already in previous agreements, but the fact that the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on Ancestral Domain that they will sign now that all issues have been settled, is going to correct historical injustices against the Bangsamoro people. Correcting historical injustices includes, among other issues agreed upon, the Philippine government’s recognition of the Bangsamoro as a distinct people with a homeland where they can govern themselves, have jurisdiction and control of their resources and realize their aspirations for freedom, self-determination, self-governance.

The government’s 1976 and 1996 agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) merely provided for “areas of autonomy” and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which was not a product of any peace agreement but a unilateral move by the government, was supposed to have served, along with the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Develompent (SPCPD), as the transitional implementing mechanism prior to what was supposed to have been the “expanded” autonomous region as agreed upon.

To date, the MNLF is still questioning the government’s implementation of the 1996 peace pact, claiming RA 9054, the law that was supposed to have incorporated the peace agreement rendered the present ARMM “less autonomous than it already was.”

While the MNLF got “areas of autonomy” the MILF managed to build on what the MNLF had been granted by negotiating for and getting the recognition of the Bangsamoro people and homeland, among others.

Father Eliseo Mercado, Jr., convenor of Kusog Mindanaw, told the group’s e-forum that the “real substance” of the soon to be signed MOA on Ancestral Domain is “found in the first strand which people have missed in their narrow reading.”

“Once the first strand is conceded, the other strands appear as only details and specifications of what is already granted in the first strand,” he said. Mercado gave permission to MindaNews to quote his comment to the group.

The first stand Mercado was referring to is “concept.”

Under “concept,” Father Mercado listed as among the “real issues” the recognition by the Philippine government of the following: that ancestral domain (AD) is the birthright of the Bangsamoro; that ownership of the AD is exclusively vested in the Bangsamoro; that AD is not part of the public domain; that the right to self-determination is rooted on ancestral domain with defined territory and system of governance, to allow them to fully determine their future political status by popular consultation.

“The other strands flow logically from these basic concepts recognized and respected by the Philippine Government in the proposed MOA. These are the real big stones… the rest are pebbles,” Mercado said.  \

Mercado was reacting to the “big stones” comment posted by lawyer Camilo “Bong” Montesa, policy advisor of the Cotabato-based Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) and Director General of the Liberal Party.

But Montesa wrote the e-forum a shorter version of what he wrote in his blog.

In his blog, the former chair of the government peace panel’s Technical Working Group who was involved in crafting the substantial agreements, said that while there was a “big buzz about the ‘breakthrough,’ there is actually a general public ignorance on what the purported agreement contains. Even so-called peace advocates, the stakeholders, the people of Mindanao, the political leaders – senators, congressmen, (local government) officials, are in the dark. Media gets its stories only from the official press releases or interviews by either GRP or MILF. But the question remains: what is contained in the agreement that will be signed next week? What will be the main agreements and what are its implications to Mindanao and to the Philippines at large? Should we rejoice or should we be afraid?”

Montesa (http://bongmontesa.wordpress.com/) summed up the “big stones” or the “major” agreements into four: that the Philippine government recognizes the Bangsamoro People as a distinct people; grants the Bangsamoro People their own distinct territory; grants the Bangsamoro People their own government; and concedes “historical” international recognition of the Bangsamoro People.

On the issue of territory, Montesa wrote that the territory of the Bangsamoro People, as agreed upon “shall consist of the present geographic area of the ARMM, including the municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in the province of Lanao del Norte that voted for inclusion in the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite.

Veteran journalist Patricio Diaz, a columnist of MindaNews, said reports that five provinces will be annexed to the ARMM is “not true, but provocative.”

“Only barangays or municipalities that are predominantly Muslim are being considered.  Instead of telling the media ‘five provinces,’ to be truthfully informative, the Malacañang sources should have enumerated the 712 barangays and towns included,” Diaz said.

A review of the past agreements shows that the two parties had earlier agreed upon ARMM as the core of the future Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

In the past, plebiscites were held in the then 13 provinces and nine cities that were listed as “areas of autonomy” in the government-MNLF Tripoli Agreement of 1976. In 1977, 1989 and 2001, voters in these areas (some transformed into new provinces or cities) were asked to vote yes or no to inclusion in the autonomous region.

Unlike the plebiscites in 1977, 1989 and 2001, what will happen after the MOA on Ancestral Domain is signed is that, after six months, a plebiscite will be held only in the 712 predominantly Moro barangays the two parties have identified to be contiguous to the ARMM areas — in Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato — to determine if voters there want to be part of the BJE.

The present ARMM comprises the cities of Marawi and Lamitan and the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Shariff Kabunsuan which was carved out of Maguindanao in 2006 but whose creation has been nullified by the Supreme Court.

The rest of the predominantly Moro villages that are not contiguous to the ARMM will be classified as “Special Intervention Areas” but will remain in their respective political units.

To recall, when the Arroyo administration re-started in March 2001 the peace talks that collapsed under the Estrada administration’s “all out war” against the MILF a year earlier, the two parties immediately focused on three agenda items: rehabilitation and development, security and ancestral domain.

Agreements on the first two items were reached in 2001 and 2002 but talks dragged when the parties tackled ancestral domain.

Ancestral Domain was then divided into four strands: concept, territory, resources and governance.

In a joint primer on the peace process in October 2006, the government and MILF listed as question number one why the government was negotiating with the MILF when it already signed a peace agreement with the MNLF in 1976 and on September 2, 1996.

The MILF did not recognize the 1996 pact as it also reiterated that the ARMM was “an experiment that had failed” and was not the answer to the Bangsamoro problem.

According to the joint government-MILF primer, the 1976 and 1996 peace agreements between government and the MNLF “have not fully addressed the Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination, self-governance and recognition of their ancestral domain, their identity, history and way of life.”

“Over the last 100 years, the Bangsamoro people and other indigenous peoples had been marginalized due to colonial and national government policies that encouraged and supported the waves of settlers from the Visayas and Luzon to settle in Mindanao. National integration programs failed to correct the resulting inequities. The Bangsamoro people want these historical injustices corrected and the Philippine government is willing to address these,” the primer added

The Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination, it said, is “anchored on historical, legitimate and just rights and is validated and affirmed by international and humanitarian laws as exemplified by the recognition as ‘First Nation’ of the Iroquois and Inuit peoples, by the USA and Canada, and the Right of Peoples to Self Determination as enshrined in the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other similar UN covenants.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

New crop of officers reject failed ‘Palparan solution’

July 10, 2008

QUINAPONDAN, EASTERN SAMAR—A top military officer admitted on Tuesday that the “Palparan solution” did not help any in solving the country’s communist insurgency problem.

Lt. Gen. Pedro Ike Inserto, commanding general of the AFP Central Command, was referring to retired Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, who became controversial for instigating an all-out war against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, New People’s Army (NPA).

Hundreds of alleged extra-judicial killings and human rights abuses took place in areas where Palparan was assigned.

“Nothing came out with this Palparan solution. Look at him, he has long retired from the service yet he is still being hounded by allegations of human rights abuses,” Inserto said.

Inserto mentioned the “Palparan solution” several times in his talks with the 801st Infantry Brigade commander, Brig. Gen. Francis Lanuza, other military officials and five town mayors in the province, but he declined to elaborate what he meant to local journalists.

“You know about it,” was Inserto’s curt answer.

The Central Command chief, however, belied claims of human rights groups that Palparan had enjoyed the support of Malacañang and the leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Inserto went to this town, the base of the Army’s 62nd Infantry Battalion under the command of Lt. Col. Jonathan Ponce, to assess the counterinsurgency campaign in Eastern Samar province.

Palparan served as the top Army officer in Eastern Visayas for eight months in 2005 and vowed to end the region’s insurgency problem.

According to the human rights group Katungod-Sinirangan Bisayas, 36 extra-judicial killings and 712 human rights abuses were committed during his stint. Palparan, however, denied any involvement in the allegations.

Palparan assumed command of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division based in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija province on Sept. 1, 2005. His first stint in Central Luzon was in 1981 when he was executive officer of the 24th IB based in Pampanga province.

New generation of officers

According to Inserto, there is now a “new and young generation” of AFP officers headed by Armed Forces chief Gen. Alexander Yano, who do not condone any human rights abuses.

“We have realized that winning the battle is not through an armed struggle but winning the hearts and minds of people. The (military) operations that we have conducted were one of the reasons why up to now, the insurgency problem still persists in the country,” Inserto said.

He urged the military to closely cooperate with other sectors in society, like local government units, church leaders, journalists and the villagers in their battles against the CPP rebels.

“We have to work especially with the Church. When a priest says that you are ugly, though you look like Fernando Poe Jr., people will believe him,” Inserto said.

‘Benevolent Torturer’ tag

As early as 1981, Palparan earned the tag “Benevolent Torturer” for releasing activists after interrogation and torture.

In an approach never done by commanders before him, Palparan expanded the theater of war by deploying special operation teams (SOTs) in about 200 towns and cities where suspected CPP front organizations flourished. The military called these white areas.

The human rights group Karapatan said at least 71 summary executions, five massacres, 14 frustrated killings and 46 disappearances occurred in all of Central Luzon’s seven provinces from February 2001 to August 2006 during Palparan’s 11-month stint. With a report from Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon

Group slams troop deployment in Armm

July 6, 2008

By Malu Cadelina Manar
Correspondent

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KIDAPAWAN CITY — The militant Suara Bangsamoro fears that deployment of additional Army troops in conflict-affected Shariff Kabungsuan province in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) may result to violence, which will lead to massive displacement of Moro people.

Amira Lidasan, national chair of Suara Bangsamoro, said the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion (SRB) was deployed near Camp Darapanan — one of the biggest headquarters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) located in Sultan Kudarat town in Shariff Kabungsuan.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

“Their (Army troops) presence in the area provokes conflict instead of peace,” said Lidasan.

The group has also questioned the troop movement as it was done “just in time for the Armm elections.”

Colonel Julieto Ando, spokesman for the 6th Infantry Division, said the troop movement in most areas in the Armm is part of their preparations for the upcoming August polls.

Ando said the Army’s 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion (SRP) in Sultan Kudarat is part of the 7,000 troops to be deployed for Armm elections.

The SRB’s base is at the 6th Division Artillery Regiment in Pigcalagan village in Sultan Kudarat, Shariff Kabungsuan.

The 6th ID Artillery Regiment is just few kilometers away from MILF’s Camp Darapanan.

“The movement does not mean we’re gearing up for a war in Mindanao. There’s no truth to that,” Ando said.

But the military, he stressed, maintains its defensive position.

“If they would be attacked, then of course, they will respond,” said Ando.

Ando meanwhile told Lidasan: It’s better for Suara to convince the MILF to stop its offensive so they would not doubt the 2nd SRB. Many civilians and business establishments are affected by (these) offensives.”(SunstarDavao)

MNLF, MILF want ARMM polls deferred after Isnaji arrest

July 4, 2008

By Roel Pareño
Friday, July 4, 2008

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ZAMBOANGA CITY – The two largest Muslim secessionist groups urged government to postpone the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) due to the arrest of Indanan, Sulu Mayor Alvarez Isnaji.

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) called for deferment of the regional elections next month, also citing the tensions brought by the attacks staged by some restive MILF groups in recent weeks.

Isnaji, a gubernatorial candidate in the regional polls, was arrested by the police after being implicated in the kidnapping of broadcast journalist Ces Drilon and her crew early last month.

Isnaji will be running in the ARMM election under the banner of the MNLF. His candidacy is being supported by one of the two dominant factions in the MNLF.

MNLF chairman and Cotabato City Mayor Muslimen Sema could not be reached for comment on the alleged unity call of the two fronts to postpone the election.

But Sema earlier urged the postponement of the ARMM elections and called on Malacañang to instead appoint the governor.

Sema said the appointment of the ARMM governor instead of holding an election for the position would be cost efficient and would abide by the 1996 peace accord that allowed the MNLF to govern the autonomous region.

ARMM administrator Norie Unas, concurrent regional secretary-general of the ruling Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, said they have received similar reports but could not confirm if the plan has been forwarded to Malacañang.

But incumbent and reelectionist Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan, the anointed candidate of President Arroyo, remained unperturbed by the calls to postpone the election.

“We respect anybody’s views not only concerning the election but also other issues confronting the ARMM region,” Ampatuan said.

Ampatuan believed the effort to cancel the regional elections would be futile since any postponement would need amendments to the law that has scheduled the ARMM elections on Aug. 11.

Unas also said it would be too late to amend the law to postpone the elections since Congress is on recess and would resume session on July 28, just 12 days ahead of the elections.

Unas said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has already prepared for the elections that will showcase the government’s efforts at full automation of the electoral process.

Comelec earlier expressed its opinion on the possible postponement of the ARMM elections, particularly in Sulu, citing the security situation stemming from military offensives against the Abu Sayyaf extremists.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said this would only be the “extreme measure” if the poll body cannot ensure the integrity of elections in ARMM.

He said Comelec has the power to recommend the postponement of the elections but only as an extreme measure.

Comelec Chairman Jose Melo also expressed concerns over the possible effects of military operations in the upcoming elections in Sulu and five other provinces under the ARMM.

Melo said the military operations might discourage voters from going out to vote, with other armed groups taking advantage of the situation to sabotage the elections.

The military has intensified the offensive against the Abu Sayyaf following the release of Drilon and two others held captive by the bandit group for nine days.

Isnaji, who acted as negotiator, was among those implicated by the police in the kidnapping.

Concerns over the recent attacks by some MILF factions in Central Mindanao were also raised.

A ranking military official said the attacks by the MILF were meant to force the government into accepting the ancestral domain issue and their demand for self-rule. – With John Unson(PhilStar)

NPAs raid Davao police station

July 4, 2008

By Edith Regalado
Friday, July 4, 2008

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DAVAO CITY – Suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels swooped down on the police station of Banay-Banay town in Davao Oriental yesterday morning, carting away several firearms and ammunition.

The guerrillas, numbering about 50, reportedly posed as rallyists applying for a permit and arrived in front of the Banay-Banay town hall at about 8:30 a.m. on board two Elf trucks and a Mitsubishi van, Chief Superintendent Andres Caro II, Southern Mindanao police director, said.

The rebels disarmed some of the lawmen guarding the town hall and then ransacked the police armory, taking six M-16 rifles, two 9-mm pistols and a caliber .22 revolver.

Other police officers put up a fight, later reinforced by government troops. A certain PO3 Pesian was reportedly wounded in the 30-minute firefight.

Caro said the rebels belong to the Front Committee 18 of the NPA’s Pulang Bagani Command led by a certain Danilo Nodalo, alias Kumander Benjie.

Caro said elements of the 1106th Regional Mobile Group and the Army’s 67th Infantry Battalion are pursuing the raiders.

Davao Oriental and the neighboring provinces of Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur are considered to be NPA strongholds in this part of the country.

The NPA rebels have intensified their attacks against police and military personnel in the region in the past six months.

NPA rebels were also suspected to be behind a grenade explosion in Nabunturan, Compostela Valley past midnight yesterday, killing at least three people and injuring 11 others.

Last week, insurgents raided two town halls and police stations on Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte, stealing firearms and communication equipment, but soldiers caught up with them, killing 15 and capturing a dozen others.

Meanwhile, the military discovered late Tuesday the shallow grave of Josefino Estaniel, a pastor of the Seventh Day Adventist Church who was kidnapped by the NPA in May, a regional military spokesman said.

Estaniel was “tortured before he was executed and buried,” said Lt. Col. Kurt Decapia.

Civilian informants led the military to the grave on the outskirts of Davao City.

The pastor was apparently killed because of NPA suspicions he was helping the military with its anti-insurgency operations, Decapia said.

In Cagayan Valley, Army units have been placed on heightened alert in the wake of intelligence reports, corroborated by seized documents, that NPA rebels would launch attacks and other terrorist acts starting this month.

The Army’s 5th Infantry Division based in Gamu, Isabela said the alert came after guerrillas torched a Globe Telecom cell site in remote Barangay Kabayabasan in Lallo, Cagayan last Saturday.

“It (cell site burning) was (perpetrated) by seven armed men. That is their handiwork and they made the burning of cell sites simultaneous with other (attacks elsewhere in the country),” said Maj. Gen. Melchor Dilodilo, chief of the 5th ID which has jurisdiction over the Cagayan Valley, Cordillera and Ilocos regions. With Charlie Lagasca(PhilStar)

Gov’t receives MILF reply to draft agreement

July 3, 2008

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/02 July) – The Philippine government received Tuesday the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) reply to its draft memorandum of agreement on the ancestral domain, government peace panel chair Rodolfo Garcia announced.


Garcia, who retired as Armed Forces vice chief of staff, told MindaNews the MILF has counter proposals he cannot as yet divulge.

But he quickly added “there are good possibilities.”

“Once cleared by our side, I believe talks will then be scheduled,” he said.

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal told MindaNews Wednesday morning that their “proposal this time is multiple choice. Three options for GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) to choose one, for each of the remaining three issues on governance.”

“I can’t go into details,” Iqbal said but he acknowledged the “three governance issues” are the only kinks that need to be ironed out.

Iqbal, like his counterpart Garcia, sounded optimistic. “I think the gap will eventually close if GRP really wants to sign (the agreement on ancestral domain).”

The MILF received the government peace panel’s draft through the Malaysian facilitator, on June 25 and sent its reply last Sunday, June 29.

The Philippine government’s peace panel received a copy on July 1.

No date has been set for the government and MILF peace panels to meet in Kuala Lumpur.

This as the government’s policy on the “primacy of the peace process” was put to test again Tuesday with military commanders holding on amid harassments from the MILF and calls for engagement from their own men.

“If (Major) General (Raymundo) Ferrer (commander of the 6th Infantry Division) will commit my battalion, the situation will be irreversible,” a field officer in one of the areas that were reportedly harassed by MILF forces, told MindaNews.

Ferrer, a division commander who adheres to the primacy of the peace process and whose leadership is marked by peace-building seminars within his command, did not.

The field officer said the MILF central committee “must not be ambiguous in what they are talking about and what they are doing on the ground.”

”Tell them to be patient and just adhere to the ceasefire agreement. The Malaysians (the facilitator of the talks ) will not lose. We will lose when fighting ensues,” he said.

Last week, a paramilitary element was killed and hundreds were displaced in Maitum, Sarangani when MILF forces swooped down on the area.

On June 30, a farmer was injured in Barangay Malamote, Matalam town. On July 1, an unidentified farmer was killed when suspected members of the MILF clashed with elements of the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion in sitio Tugal, barangay Pagangan-Uno in Aleosan, North Cotabato.

Iqbal said “the serious provocation is coming from the government by dilly-dallying, not complying with the signed documents… We will look deeply into the larger picture,” he said.

Iqbal said they were “on our way home from Kuala Lumpur.”

“We submitted our reply to the GRP draft,” he said. Only the MILF panel representatives went to Kuala Lumpur. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

Civil society groups launch campaign to bring nego panels together

July 3, 2008

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/02 July) – Alarmed with the growing tension and sporadic skirmishes between government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forces, civil society groups here have designed a 16-day campaign plan that they hope would culminate with the convening of the peace panels. “Each day counts. We dread the sight of more people trooping to the evacuation center everyday. We do not want to hear more people dying,” representatives of organizations working in the conflict-affected areas, said.

Among those who met are the Peacebuilders Community, Mindanao PeaceWeavers (MPW) and Mindanao Peoples’ Caucus (MPC), including the grassroots ceasefire monitor, Bantay Ceasefire, and representatives from Overseas Development Agencies.

The campaign will be launched on July 7, shall culminate on July 22 with CSOs convening the peace negotiators of the government and MILF.

“We will just call them to a meeting that will merely bring them together to discuss whatever it is that they have to talk about. We will not interfere with their agenda,” said lawyer Mary Ann Arnado, the secretary-general of the MPC

Rexall Kaalim, coordinator of Bantay Ceasefire, said that since the government and the MILF have yet to scheduled the resumption of the talks despite persistent calls for them to immediately go back to the negotiating table, “we, the people, will schedule a day for them to come together.”

Kaalim said they will use the scheduled meeting as reason to “persuade the restive forces on the ground to hold their fire, go back to their respective camps and give us 16 days to bring the panels together.”

Within the period, peace groups vowed to solicit the broadest support they could muster to help them pressure government and the MILF to go back to the negotiating table and sign the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain.

The peace groups will call on the Bishop-Ulama Conference, business groups and Overseas Development Agencies (ODA).

Elwyn Neri of the Peacebuilders Community said they would call preliminary conferences with military generals, church leaders, businessmen and foreign donors who have projects in Mindanao to convince them to support their plan.

Neri said that “while we are preparing the communities, our colleagues would also meet the opinion-makers and other stakeholders of peace in Mindanao.”

Kaalim said that if both panels would not heed their call to meet on July 22, they may ask “businessmen to close shop for a day or two. We will also request ODAs to suspend their operations in Mindanao until the government and the MILF resume talks.”

He explained that because of the tension happening on the ground, the ODAs could not really do what they want to do because of travel advisories. “This has happened in the past. When ODAs threatened to momentarily pull-out their staff in Mindanao and for the time being suspend their operations, the government and the MILF listened to them,” Kaalim added.

The government and MILF peace panels were supposed to have met in December to sign the agreement on ancestral domain but the MILF peace panel opted not to meet with the government when it saw government’s draft veered away from the consensus points earlier agreed upon.

The MILF peace panel received government’s revised draft on June 25 and submitted its reply on June 29. The government panel received the MILF’s reply on July 1. (Romy B. Elusfa/MindaNews)

MILF: Gov’t dragging the peace talks

June 22, 2008

THE Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) described government’s approval of the draft proposal on the ancestral domain issue in Mindanao as another scheme of the government to make fool of the Moro rebels.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

Calling it as a “paikut scheme,” the MILF said the government is simply dragging the peace talks “inconclusively until President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo steps down in 2010 and passes on the legacy of war in Mindanao to the next president.”

The government is proposing to submit to Congress at least six points in the said proposal for legislation before the whole memorandum of agreement (MOA) on ancestral domain can be implemented or enforceable.

These include the redefinition of the word “freedom,” control over natural resources, including strategic minerals, self-governance, and territorial waters.

In a report posted at http://www.luwaran.com, Khaled Musa, deputy chairman of the MILF committee on information, said the MILF does not want the government to violate its Constitution by undertaking whatever necessary legal steps to implement any agreement with the MILF, but this should not be done on piece-by-piece basis.

“We can sign the memorandum on agreement on ancestral domain and then let the government undertake a constitutional process as its internal requirement to comply with commitment. That is perfectly good,” Musa said, adding that there must be timetable to do that in order to have accountability and fixed timeline to comply.

Reacting to statements that the proposed draft practically sealed by the parties after the Malaysian chief facilitator made his last shuttle between Manila and Darapanan on February 19 to 22, 2008 is “unconstitutional,” Musa retorted: “Even ordinary resolutions presented to Congress are unconstitutional until they are passed into law. How much more for agreement, which is extra-constitutional right at the start.”

He also cited the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States of America, saying before it was ratified, it was not constitutional.

Musa urged the government and its leaders to be fair enough and open their eyes and use their good senses to look around and see for models around the world, in Northern Ireland, in Sudan, in Bougainville, and even in Aceh, Indonesia.

“Why can Sudan do this thing and the Philippines can’t, because the Sudan government is Muslim and the Philippines Christian?” he asked. (BOT)

Randy Felix Malayao: Jailed But Still Defiant

June 19, 2008

Randy Felix Malayao, political and peace adviser of the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Cagayan Valley, was illegally arrested, tortured, detained and slapped with a string of criminal charges. For four days and four nights of relentless interrogation, Malayao told his captors, “Pipiliin ko na lang hukayin ang sarili kong libingan. Wala kayong makukuha sa akin.” (I’d rather dig my own grave. You will get nothing from me.)

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 19, June 15-21, 2008

TUGUEGARAO CITY, CAGAYAN (440 kms. North of Manila) – Randy Felix Malayao, consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Isabela province has been detained at the district jail in this city for almost a month.

Malayao was abducted on May 15, around 9 p.m. That day, Malayao just alighted from a G-Liner bus in front of a mall in Cainta, Rizal when six unidentified men who came from different directions abducted him. Two immediately handcuffed him. The rest held both his feet and forced him inside a vehicle. One of the armed men quickly covered Malayao’s eyes, first with a pair of goggles and then with a scarf.

The account of Malayao’s arrest was based on his affidavit and on statements issued by human rights group Karapatan-Cagayan Valley.

For four days and four nights, Malayao’s relatives and friends searched for him. On the fifth day since his disappearance, the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army surfaced him at the Camp Melchor dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela.

During the gathering of Free Randy Malayao Movement and Friends of Randy at the San Pablo Church in Isabela, June 8, elder sister Perla related, “Ilang gabi akong hindi makatulog. Iyon pala, nakakaranas na ng physical at psychological torture ang kapatid ko.” (I had sleepless nights. Later, I learned that during the same time, my brother was being subjected to physical and psychological torture.)

Tortured

During the visit of Malayao’s relatives, former classmates and friends on June the same day, Malayao was asked about the torture he endured. He said, “Relentlessly, talagang na-interrogate ako nang apat na araw, apat na gabi. Deprived ako ng tulog. At siyempre, may mahalagang impormasyong gusto nilang alamin. Sabi ko, pipiliin ko na lang hukayin ang sarili kong libingan… Kilala n’yo na ako. ‘Yung mga nalalaman ko, dadalhin ko na lang sa hukay.” (Relentlessly, I was interrogated for four days and four nights. I was deprived of sleep. Of course, they wanted to extract important information from me. I told them, ‘I’d rather dig my own grave. You already know who I am. I will just bring everything I know to the grave.)

Malayao’s affidavit details the kind of torture he went through, “My captors covered my head with a plastic bag which caused me to suffocate. I was made to lie down on bare cement purportedly to simulate how it feels dying that way. On several occasions, they forced me to raise my two feet while sitting on a chair until my feet got stiff and my muscles tired and ached. I was never allowed to sleep during the entire duration of my captivity except for the couple of hours they allowed me to take a nap so that my eyes would not appear puffy when presented to the media during the press conference. On those occasions when I seemed to doze off, they would repeatedly slap or box my shoulders and upper torso or continuously beat my legs with a flat wooden stick which caused pain on those parts of my body; But so as not to leave any mark of injury, the interrogator’s companions would massage the parts of my body that were either slapped, boxed or beaten.”

Each interrogation session usually lasted for two hours. During 30-minute breaks though, Malayao was treated to what he calls ear-drum shattering sounds from a speaker placed just beside him. There were times when wiretapped conversations of people were played. Karapatan-Cagayan Valley Secretary General Neil Galoy said that the song Impossible Dream was played repeatedly.

Malayao was also subjected to extreme temperatures. “My captors would turn off the air conditioner and cover me with blankets, making me sweat profusely. Then, they would set the unit in extremely cold levels and send me freezing to the bones.”

Not a criminal

Malayao was charged with murder for the killing of the late Congressman Rodolfo Aguinaldo and his close aide, and with frustrated murder of Aguinaldo’s secretary. He was also charged with murder for the ambush of some military personnel in Balgan, San Mariano, Isabela; for allegedly killing three more men including a barangay (village) captain of the same town, Benjamin Olalia, Jr. of Ilagan, Isabela and an Army personnel in the same place.

Malayao said, “Wala naman silang ebidensya. Puro imbento lang. Baka nag-iimbento pa sila ng iba pang kaso, di ko pa alam.” (They have no evidence. Everything is just made up. They may be inventing other cases, I still don’t know.)

Manang Perla, as what Randy calls his elder sister, could not believe the charges filed against her brother. She described her brother as thoughtful, caring, obedient and industrious. She said that an early age, Randy helped the family by selling ice candy in the neighborhood.

At the San Pablo Church in Isabela, Manang Perla told the crowd, “Talamak ang graft and corruption sa gobyerno kaya maraming katulad ng kapatid ko. Ipinaglalaban lang niya ang karapatan ng mga inaapi. Saludo ako sa kanya.” (Graft and corruption is rampant in government that is why there are many activists like my brother. He is only fighting for the rights of the oppressed. I salute him.)

Manang Perla works as the municipal development officer under the regional office of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Raymund Villanueva, Randy’s childhood friend and colleague at the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), depicted Randy as a good and brilliant son of San Pablo (Randy’s hometown).

In his speech, Bayan Muna Representative Teodoro Casiño Jr., said, “Kung may maituturing mang kasalanan si Randy, iyon ay ang pagtulong sa kapwa.” (Randy’s only crime is that he helped others.)

Casiño and Malayao met during their college days. When Casiño was elected CEGP national president, Malayao served as the Guild’s vice president for Visayas. “Magaling na organizer si Randy. Bilang vice president for Visayas, halos mag-isa niyang itinayo ang mga chapter sa maraming probinsya ng Visayas.” (Randy is a good organizer. As vice president for Visayas, he organized – almost single-handedly – the chapters in many provinces in the Visayas.)

Casiño revealed that Randy’s favorite song is You’ve Got to Do More than That. “It became his personal slogan. Para sa kanya, hindi sapat na tayo ay naaawa, nagagalit. Kailangang may aktwal na pagtulong.” (For him, it’s not enough that we sympathize or we are enraged. We must concretize this with acts of helping.)

What is more telling though is the influx of Malayao’s visitors. The Tuguegarao City District Jail was swamped with more than a hundred relatives, former classmates and friends on that Sunday afternoon. Some of his visitors came all the way from Quezon City. Each set of ten to twenty visitors was given ten minutes to talk to Malayao.

When egged on to sing, Malayao sand his favorite song You’ve Got to Do More than That. He was smiling and laughing during most of the short visit. When childhood friend Raymund handed over books, a MP4 player and magazines, Malayao jokingly said, “Gusto n’yo atang tumagal pa ako rito ah.” (It seems you want me to stay here longer.) He quickly added that he spends his day reading most of the time.

Defiant

On a serious tone, Malayao said, “Ang pagkabilanggo ay isang hamon. Susubukin ang katatagan ng aking pananaw. Ipinapangako ko sa inyo na kung ano ako ngayon ay panghahawakan ko. Lagi’t lagi, ang aking pinapanguna ay ang interes ng sambayanan bago ang interes na pansarili.Doon ko ibabatay ang lahat ng aking mga hakbangin.

(Detention is a challenge. It will test the firmness of my principles. I pledge to you that I will hold on to what I am now. I will always prioritize the interest of the people before my own interests. That is the basis of all my actions.)

In his message read by Villanueva at the gathering of Free Randy Malayao Movement, Malayao criticized himself for his laxity in security that led to his arrest. He called it a temporary setback.

But he quickly added, “Hindi titigil ang pagmumulat, pag-oorganisa at pagpapakilos sa kilusang bayan dahil nasawi o nadakip ang isang kasama. Ang bawat martir ay magsisilbing inspirasyon para sa ibayong pagkilos samantalang sa pagkakabilanggo, tanging pisikal na katawan ang nakapiit, ang diwa’t kamalayan ay lubos na malaya’t lumalaban!” (The mass movement will not stop raising the awareness of, organizing and mobilizing the masses just because a comrade died or was captured. Every martyr serves as an inspiration for continuing the struggle. While in detention, only the physical body is confined, the consciousness remains free and fighting.)

Malayao thanked all who have supported him. He asked them to support other political prisoners. The last part of his message reads, “Release Elizabeth Principe! Surface Leo Velasco!”

Malayao never missed the chance to give tribute to the late Anakpawis Representative Crispin Beltran. He called Ka Bel as an outstanding representative of the toiling masses and a great leader of the Filipino workers.

He also never forgot to mention the Arroyo regime. “Sa gitna ng tumitinding kahirapan, kaliwa’t kanang korapsyon at katiwalian, walang humpay na karahasang militar at pasistang pananalakay, lalo lamang nag-aalab ang paglaban ng mamamayang Pilipino. Sa malao’t madali, walang ibang tunguhin ang rehimeng Arroyo kundi ang kanyang pagkabagsak.” (Amid the worsening poverty, widespread corruption and irregularities, relentless military violence and fascist attacks, the resistance of the Filipino people ignites even more. Sooner or later, the Arroyo regime would face its downfall.) Bulatlat

Peace Adviser Esperon on Sulu kidnap: “It’s a terrorist problem; it’s a police matter”

June 16, 2008

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/13 June) – “I don’t see it as a threat to the peace process. It’s a terrorist problem. It’s a police matter. So we’ll leave it at that,” retired Armed Forces Chief of Staff, now newly-appointed Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon said on the June 8 kidnapping in Sulu of a Moro peace advocate and a Manila-based television crew.

“I must tell you at this point I treat the matter as a matter for police action,” Esperon told a noontime press conference at the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MedCo) office.

Esperon, who has been moving around as PAPP since June 6 but will formally take over from Jesus Dureza on June 16, told peace advocates a similar line in a two-hour meeting late Friday afternoon at the Waterfront Insular Hotel.

Professor Octavio Dinampo, chair of the Mindanao Peoples’ Caucus (MPC), ABS-CBN senior reporter Cecilia Victoria “Ces” Drilon and her cameramen Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderrama were abducted Sunday by still unidentified armed men. Valderrama was freed Thursday night upon payment of ransom. Reports of how much was paid ranged from P2 million to P5 million although Indanan Mayor Isnaji Alvarez, whom the abductors accepted as negotiator, was reported to have said only P100,000 was paid for “board and lodging.”

Chief Supt. Joel Goltiao, chief of the Philippine National Police in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) denied in an interview over ABS-CBN, that ransom was paid.

The group was abducted allegedly by the Abu Sayyaf group. But an Inquirer.net report quoting Sulu police chief, Senior Supt. Julasirim Kasim said the driver of the vehicle Drilon hired to bring them to Maimbung told them a “military agent” named Juamil “Maming” Biyaw who was with the group from Jolo to Maimbung and who stopped the vehicle and guided the group to walk towards the interior of Labbah, could be behind the abduction. Hours later, Biyaw returned alone to where the vehicle stopped, to tell the driver to go home.

Esperon told peace advocates the report should be “subject to verification” and should “not be taken hook, line and sinker.”

“I don’t know if real agents really tell the people that they are agents. So subject to verification yan, that should not to be taken hook, line and sinker…Usually real agents don’t say they are agents, especially if they are doing something that is in violation of law.”

“I am not ruling that out,” he said, but stressed it should be “subjected for verification.”

Cocoy Tulawie, chair of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) in Sulu said he hoped Esperon could have Biyaw picked up for interrogation as he might be able to provide answers.Tulawie told MindaNews in a telephone interview that they received information that there were smokers among the abductors. “The Abu Sayyaf don’t smoke,” he said.

Lawyer Mary Ann Arnado, MPC secretary-general, told MindaNews that Professor Dinampo had been allowed to talk to his wife, Hainatul, through mobile phone Friday afternoon, though only briefly.

“Be strong enough. Don’t lose hope. Take care of our children,” the professor was quoted as saying.

The MPC’s Council of Elders was among the peace groups that met with Esperon. The Council in the evening held a prayer ritual for the safety and immediate release of Dinampo, Drilon and Encarnacion.

Two chickens were freed to symbolize their collective desire for the hostages to be freed immediately.

The Council of Elders also agreed that Timuay Melanio Ulama, a Teduray and co-chair of the MPC, take over as presiding chair while presiding chair Dinampo is in captivity.

The other MPC co-chair, Father Roberto Layson, OMI, is presently on sabbatical.

At the noontime press conference, Esperon was asked if he, as former Armed Forces Chief of Staff, would recommend a military operation to rescue the hostages in Sulu.

Esperon replied: “I will not suggest at this point any military operation. If, indeed, there will be a need for such, it should come from the negotiating panels and the crisis management group. As it is, I’m not inputting yet into the matter because I don’t see it as a threat to the peace process. It’s a terrorist problem. It’s a police matter. So we’ll leave it at that.”

To the peace advocates, he said they are leaving the handling of the crisis to the provincial crisis management group.

“As it is, it is a serious situation but the primary responsibilities should be very clear….You know how it is. This is negotiation. So you could not just butt in and join the work there. That is contrary to negotiations. But largely it is a serious concern but .. it should remain as a police matter at this point. It becomes a security problem because again the terrorists, initially, are reported to be involved. When members of terror groups like the Abu Sayyaf are involved, then we take cognizance at the security level from a security point of view,” Esperon said.

“Sa akin naman sa Peace Process, it affects me because Prof. Octavio is involved and he’s one of our supporters in the peace process so it is in that matter that the peace process is affected but insofar as the involvement of the MNLF is concerned – this is the group we are monitoring because we have a peace agreement with them – we have not come to that point. So it is a national security concern because it involves a group that could sow terror and fear amongst us and it is a police problem. It should be addressed by police authorities. All these are being done at the level of (Sulu) Governor (Sakur) Tan,” he added.

The alleged kidnappers were initially reported to be led b y Albader Parad of the Abu Sayyaf and Gafur Jumdail of the Moro National Liberation Front faction which the military refers to as “Misuari Breakaway Group.”

Nur Misuari signed the “Final Peace Agreement” with the Philippine government on September 2, 1996, Misuari, jailed from November 2001 to January 2002 in Malaysia for alleged illegal entry and in Laguna and later Quezon City for alleged rebellion since January 2002, has been out on bail since April 25,

Esperon said he has contacts in Sulu and can directly to the military commanders there so “I know more or less what’s going on there.”

But Esperon was obviously still trying to find ways on how to handle the kidnapping issue in relation to his new job as Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

“Ang peace process nga ba ay damay dito?” (Is the peace process adversely affected by this issue), he asked. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

Anwar Ibrahim: “Malaysia should stay put”

June 8, 2008

Gus Miclat*/Special to MindaNews
Saturday, 07 June 2008 20:32
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Ibrahim’s comments on the reported pullout of the Malaysian contingent in the International Monitoring Team (IMT) in Mindanao was on MPW’s specific request for him to “help us (MPW) convince your government to please continue to stay on as the leader of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) in Mindanao and to be in general patient with our peace process.”

In an exclusive interview, Ibrahim said the quest and accompaniment for peace must be paramount even if there may have been compelling reasons for Kuala Lumpur to think about pulling out as the peace negotiation has continued to drag and some initial agreements on the framework of the talks had been reneged upon.

The Mindanao Peaceweavers,  the broadest coalition of civil society peace networks in the island, sent their letter to Ibrahim saying it was awed by what he represented and epitomized “not only in your beloved Malaysia but also in this region and the Muslim world in general.”

“We understand that it may be very disappointing for Malaysia to facilitate and broker the talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front without seeing any huge strides, but the IMT has definitely contributed to the relative silence of the guns in Mindanao. Trust and harmony among the combatants and more so among the general population could also be attributed to their presence.  Leaving the IMT, or even a hint of downsizing your presence has released a deep anxiety among our people. And we know that anxiety can lead to hostilities,” the MPW said.

The Malaysian IMT contingent is set to end its mission in August. Its tour of duty can be extended according to the Terms of Reference but only upon the request of both the Philippine government and the MILF. The Philippine government has sought more Libyan presence at the IMT.

Both panels have yet to meet after its last exploratory talks in November 2007.

Earlier, in September 2006, the talks ended in an impasse which was finally broken 13 months later, in October 2007.

In December 2007, when both panels were supposed to finalize the draft memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain, the MILF peace panel refused to meet with its counterpart after receiving a government draft that the MILF claimed, veered away from the two sides’ consensus points.

Ibrahim arrived in Manila last Thursday to address a colloquium on Islam, Politics and the Prospects for Peace sponsored by the De La Salle Graduate School and the Asian Institute for Democracy.  Deposed President Joseph Estrada tendered a dinner in his honor, with former President Corazon Aquino among the guests.

Ibrahim could become Malaysia’s next Prime Minister as the People’s  Justice Party he founded and led by his wife chalked up a hefty number of seats in the recent parliament elections and is reportedly on the verge of forming a government along with defectors from the ruling  Barisan coalition which he also once led along with his mentor, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad.

Mahathir sacked him after Ibrahim questioned certain policies related to fiscal reforms prior to the 1997 Asian financial crisis and sent him to jail on sodomy and other graft charges which the courts dismissed after six years in detention. Mahatir meanwhile retired from his post and resigned from the ruling party after a row with his successor and incumbent Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Mahathir’s choice to replace Ibrahim then and eventually anointed him his successor as well.

Ibrahim’s three-party alliance won an unprecedented 82 seats in the March 8, 2008 elections, shaking the ruling national front’s grip on power for the last 40 years.  They only need another 30 seats more to form a government. Malaysia’s parliament has 222 seats. Ibrahim thinks he can form the government by September but wants the transition to be peaceful and democratic. September is symbolical, as September 16, 1963 was when the Malaysia Federation was formed.

Ibrahim said that if his party takes over the government, the dynamics will entirely be different, thus, the approach and role of the Malaysian government in the Mindanao peace process will also be one that is more pro-active and inclusive.

He said he would have loved to meet with and listen to leaders of the MPW and civil society in general and offer anything to help achieve peace not only in Mindanao, but apologized that his visit to the country was brief. He promised to do so in the next opportunity. The MPW has meanwhile invited him to come to Mindanao.

Ibrahim also met last Friday with former President Fidel Ramos, former Speaker Jose de Venecia, Senate President Manny Villar, administration senator Edgardo Angara and other officials from both the current and past administrations and the opposition.

Ibrahim was in the country last September to keynote the second assembly of the World Forum for Democratization in Asia (WFDA).  The Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), a Davao-based regional advocacy and solidarity organization and Mindanao Peaceweavers’ lead secretariat, organized and hosted the assembly. (*Gus Miclat is the Executive Director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue).

Assassination by Hired Killers Failed Twice

June 3, 2008

The Philippine government tried to get rid of Communist leader Jose Maria Sison in Utrecht. The Philippine government sent hired killers to The Netherlands to kill the Communist Sison. Details are coming out now

BY FOLKERT JENSMA
NRC.NEXT
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 17, June 1-7,2008

The Hague.  They stayed in the Amsterdam budget tourist hotel Tourist Inn at the Spui [downtown Amsterdam], the members of the Filipino ‘hit team’ which came to The Netherlands in October 1999 in order to perpetrate a political murder. Their target was Jose Maria Sison, the rather elder Filipino Communist leader who has resided in Utrecht as an exile since 1987. Two men, with several thousand dollars cash and travelers  checks. They had landed in Frankfurt and travelled by train to Amsterdam.  There they bought two prepaid mobile cards and rented a car at Avis.

But the assassination of Sison was not committed. A second attempt with a second team, a few months later, also failed. The aspirant-killers first had difficulty in finding Sison. When they had found out his home, office and routes, they almost came into action twice. One time against the wrong person.  another time they got afraid and withdrew because Sison was walking, holding a child. Their rented car was also broken into – luggage gone. They gave a notification of this to the local police because of the insurance.

The killing was supposed be carried out with a knife and an axe. But it took so long  The teams lost courage, felt literally cold in The Netherlands and they got worried about home. They also found that they were conspicuous. The Utrecht people walked around in the cool spring weather just in T-shirts. They had thick jackets. And they had to hide therein the axe. Why did Manila anyway want that it had to be done with a knife? A real gun, that’s what they wanted!

The details come from the interrogation conducted by the Nationale Recherche [National Criminal Investigation] in the end of February 2008 at the American army base, Clark, in the Philippines with Jose Ramos (53). This person stayed for weeks over seven years ago in The Netherlands with the objective to kill Sison. He dropped out because he heard that back home he had been put on record as “deserted” [AWOL “away without leave”]. That made him afraid. He feared that the secret service would kill him after the assassination.

Sison himself had in the meantime found out about everything. His sources in Manila had informed him by letter. And he gave a detailed notification to the Utrecht police. This latter warned the AIVD [General Intelligence and Security Service], and after this everything remained still. No one was arrested. “Too few reference points,” says the Public Prosecutor’s Office later.

Until last week. Then the current lawyer of Sison, Michiel Pestman, came back from vacation. He found six new folders with testimonies on his desk. It looked like “the nth installment” in the procedure of the Public Prosecutor’s Office to get Sison in jail for a double murder in the Philippines. For against Sison there are the necessary complaints (see sidebar). But in the dossier there was a little gift: the curious declaration of Ramos – who appeared to incriminate himself, and so delivered the first proof that the attack [assassination attempt] earlier was real.

Ramos had kept the hotel bill and gave this willingly to the Nationale Recherche. The witness Ramos had contact with the [Philippine] secret service, from whom he received money and travel papers. And thus there was a connection with the Philippine government. Even a failed attempt at political assassination, according to Pestman, is a violation of the Dutch sovereignty by a foreign power.  Since when does a friendly country send death squads, to Utrecht, by the way?

The new information is for him also a chance to give a new turn to the Sison case. This Ramos and his travel companions must be extradited to The Netherlands. Or at least, in his estimation, they should be prosecuted in the Philippines. The Public Prosecutor’s Office says that the assassination was not carried out and thus it is not criminally punishable. But Pestman rejects the juridical argument of ‘voluntary withdrawal” [“vrijwillige terugtred”].  A ‘defective attempt’ remains criminally punishable if it is a grave crime which is committed ‘in association’. That was the case here. He now demands criminal prosecution.

In the dossier there was still something crazy. In one of the murders of which Sison is suspect, the police have discovered another suspect. A certain Edwin Garcia, also with connections to the secret service, who was supposed to also be in Utrecht. This man is supposed to have been recognized at the assassination of a renegade member of the party of Sison, a certain Kintanar. This person had gone over to the government side and appears to have organized the attack in Utrecht.

In that way, the ‘James Bond film’ was complete. The killing of Kintanar in the Philippines  could have been organized in order to put the blame on Sison. Sison is supposed to then have a double motive. Revenge against a traitor from one’s own circle who also tried to kill him in Utrecht.

Did Sison really do it or was he caught? There is no concrete proof for this. Only indications. Pestman points to official Philippine requests to The Hague to have Sison prosecuted. The suspicion against Garcia precisely takes the burden off his client. Just like the attack [assassination attempt] in Utrecht, it proves that the Philippine state wants to go very far to put Sison out of the way. However, the Public Prosecutor’s Office sees no connection between the cases.

Pestman calls the whole case a “stinking game” [“onwelriekend spel”]. Pestman is still making complaints against all the steps that the Public Prosecutor’s Office takes against Sison. Up to now, he is declared correct by the judges.  Against Sison there were insufficient serious complaints to seriously consider him a suspect. Pestman thinks that the case of the state is so weak that he would consider an interim dismissal disappointing. He prefers most a complete acquittal.

On June 10 the judge will issue a ruling on his complaint against the ‘notice of further prosecution’. Depending on that, the spokesman of the national office of the prosecutor says, “we are again evaluating the case”.

Sison on the EU-terror list

Jose Maria Sison causes a headache to the US and the Philippines already for decades. Since last year, the national office [of the Public Prosecutor] in Rotterdam tried to get Sison behind bars for the killing of two renegade members of his party in the Philippines.

The national office acknowledges that Sison was not in the Philippines during the time of the killings and that he has not spoken with the actual perpetrators. But because of his leading political role, it finds Sison to be a ‘functional perpetrator’ [‘functioneel dader’].

The Nationale Recherche, with American and Philippine support, carried out extensive investigation in the Philippines. Sison is since 2002 on the US and EU terror list. His bank account was blocked.

The EU Court of First Instance, part of the European Court of Justice, decided in 2007, that the listing on the terror list is unjust. The Council of Ministers however keeps him [on the list]. Sison was refused asylum in The Netherlands, but is tolerated because he cannot be expelled. Posted by Bulatlat

* This article is an unofficial translation sent to Bulatlat of an article that was published in a Dutch news magazine NRC.NEXT May 30, 2008.

We Did Not Attack Gov’t Troops in Basilan – MILF

June 3, 2008

MILF welcomes ceasefire violation rap by AFP, says they will also protest

The MILF through its chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, denied taking part in a May 25 attack on a Marine outpost in Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan that left two Moro fighters dead and 17 Marines wounded. The Moro revolutionary group also “welcomed” the filing of a ceasefire violation complaint against it by the AFP, and announced that it will file its own protest.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 17, June 1-7, 2008

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), through its chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, denied taking part in a May 25 attack on a Marine outpost in Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan that left two Moro fighters dead and 17 Marines wounded. The Moro revolutionary group also “welcomed” the filing of a ceasefire violation complaint against it by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and announced that it will file its own protest.

Marine commandant Lt. Gen. Ben Dolorfino had pointed to both the MILF and the bandit Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) as the instigators of the May 25 firefight. According to Dolorfino, the MILF’s 3rd Brigade and the ASG attacked the Marine detachment in Barangay (village) Tongbato, Ungkaya Pukan at around 5:45 a.m. on May 25. Ten Marines were wounded in the first attack, Dolorfino said, while another was wounded when a V150 commando vehicle was fired at in Brgy. Materling, Ungkaya Pukan.

Soldiers on the way to Tongbato as reinforcement were also attacked, Dolorfino said. Six Marines were wounded and two Moro fighters were killed in the ensuing encounter.

“They (MILF) always join (ASG attacks) so indeed that’s a violation of the ceasefire agreement,” Dolorfino told reporters on May 25. “They are supposed to help us against the Abu Sayyaf.”

But Iqbal denied that the MILF took part in the attack on the Marine outpost in Brgy. Tongbato.

“There were two separate firefights last May 25,” Iqbal said. “The first was between Marines and the ASG at Brgy. Tongbato; the second from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. between MILF forces and Marines, which took place in Brgy. Materling. The first was initiated by the ASG, while the second took place right inside an MILF territory. The Marines were the ones who started the second firefight.”

He also denied Dolorfino’s claim that the MILF “always joins” ASG attacks. “ASG is a separate group, their ways of doing things are mostly contrary to our ways,” Iqbal said.

“The MILF has a very clear and legitimate agenda to pursue,” Iqbal also said. “We do not resort to anti-people or ‘terroristic’ methods of pursuing our cause.”

The AFP filed a ceasefire violation complaint against the MILF before the Joint Committee on Ceasefire and Cessation of Hostilities (JCCCH) on May 26.

“The reasons why the protest was filed are the following: one is to know the reason why the attack was carried out, and second is to determine the perpetrators of the incident,” said Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres, AFP information chief, at a news briefing on May 26.

Iqbal said the MILF “welcomes” the filing of the protest. “We welcome the filing of the protest in order to ferret out the truth of the incidents, especially the second,” Iqbal said. He added that the MILF would be filing its own protest before the JCCCH.

First clash after Malaysia pullout from IMT

The May 25 encounter is the first firefight between government troops and MILF fighters since Malaysia started pulling out its contingent from the International Monitoring Team (IMT), which is tasked to observe and monitor the cessation of hostilities between the two parties to the negotiations as well as the implementation of socio-economic projects in the areas of conflict.

The IMT – which is composed of delegates from Malaysia, Brunei and Libya – was deployed to several areas in Mindanao in 2004. Malaysia, which facilitates the GRP-MILF peace negotiations, had the biggest contingent in the 60-member IMT.

An initial group of 29 Malaysian delegates left Mindanao on May 10. The remaining 12 are set to follow by August.

Malaysian facilitator Othman Abdul Razak was reported as saying on May 3 that the GRP-MILF peace negotiations “will not move forward” if the GRP kept insisting that the talks be conducted in accordance with “constitutional processes.”

Last December, the GRP-MILF peace negotiations reached a deadlock over the ancestral domain issue.

The ancestral domain issue, which was first discussed only in 2004 or some eight years after the talks started, has turned out to be the most contentious issue in the GRP-MILF peace negotiations.

The MILF last year was proposing a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) that would be based on an ancestral domain claim of the Bangsa Moro over Mindanao, Sulu, and Palawan.

The GRP had insisted that areas to be covered by the BJE other than the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) should be subjected to a plebiscite. This repeatedly led to an impasse in the peace negotiations.

The impasse was broken only in November last year, when the GRP and the MILF reached an agreement defining the land and maritime areas to be covered by the proposed BJE.

Things seemed to be looking up after that, causing lawyer Eid Kabalu, then MILF spokesperson, to make media statements to the effect that they expected a final agreement to be signed by mid-2008.

But all hopes for forging a peace pact between the GRP and the MILF were dashed last December, when the peace talks hit a snag following the government’s insistence that the ancestral domain issue be settled through “constitutional processes” – a phrase which, according to Iqbal, had been inserted into the agreement without their consent.

Roots of conflict, prospects for peace

Moro historian Salah Jubair traces the roots of the present conflict in southern Philippines to the U.S. annexation of Mindanao and Sulu into the Philippine territory in 1946. Jubair argues that the Bangsa Moro is a people with a socio-political, economic, and cultural system distinct from that of the Filipino people.

The inclusion of Mindanao and Sulu in the scope of the 1946 “independence” grant to the Philippines paved the way for large-scale non-Muslim migration to the two islands. This large-scale migration, which began in the 1950s, brought with it the problem of land grabbing.

At some point the government even instituted a Mindanao Homestead Program, which involved giving land parcels seized from Moro peoples to landless peasants from the Visayas islands and Luzon and also to former communist guerrillas who availed of amnesty.

This was intended to defuse the peasant unrest and the revolutionary war that was staged in the late 1940s and early 1950s by the communist-led Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB or People’s Liberation Army), which was basically a peasant army.

The Jabidah Massacre triggered widespread outrage among the Moros and led to the formation of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that same year. The MNLF, led by former University of the Philippines (UP) professor Nur Misuari, waged an armed revolutionary struggle against the GRP for an independent state in Mindanao.

The Marcos government, weighed down by the costs of the Mindanao war, negotiated for peace and signed an agreement with the MNLF in Tripoli, Libya in the mid-1970s. The pact involved the grant of autonomy to the Mindanao Muslims.

Conflicts on the issue of autonomy led to a breakdown of talks between the GRP and the MNLF in 1978, prompting a group led by Dr. Salamat Hashim to break away from the MNLF and form the MILF. Since then, the MILF has been fighting for Moro self-determination.

In 1996, the MNLF signed the Final Peace Agreement with the GRP, which created the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as a concession to the group. That same year, the MILF began peace negotiations with the GRP.

While the peace agreement with the MNLF supposedly holds, armed skirmishes between the AFP and MNLF did not stop. On Nov. 19, 2001, Misuari declared war on the Arroyo government for allegedly reneging on its commitments to the Final Peace Agreement. The MNLF then attacked an Army headquarters in Jolo. Misuari was subsequently arrested in Sabah, Malaysia for illegal entry and was turned over to the Philippine government by Malaysian authorities. He is currently under house arrest in New Manila, Quezon City.

Meanwhile, the recent armed encounter between government troops and MILF rebels seems to confirm what Iqbal said earlier that with the pull-out of the IMT, the peace talks are “shaky on the ground.”

When asked whether the May 25 fighting could lead to a renewed escalation of fighting between government forces and the MILF, Iqbal said it depends on the government. Bulatlat

CHR probes NDF consultant’s torture claim

May 29, 2008

By Villamor Visaya Jr.
Northern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 21:49:00 05/29/2008

CAUAYAN CITY, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights in Cagayan Valley has started looking into the arrest and detention of a National Democratic Front peace consultant, who was allegedly tortured while in the custody of military and police personnel.

Lawyer Jimmy Baliga, CHR regional director, said the commission began investigating the case of Randy Felix Malayao, 39, without the prodding of nongovernment organizations and human rights advocates.

“This investigation is motu propio, [we’re doing it] on our own [initiative],” he said.

Baliga said CHR Chair Leila de Lima instructed them to look into the circumstances of Malayao’s arrest and detention to see if his rights were violated.

Police and military officials earlier denied reports that Malayao was tortured or maltreated while in their custody.

Senior Superintendent Manuel Piñera, regional director of the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, said Malayao, spokesperson of the NDF Northeast Luzon, has been under “tight security” within the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Tuguegarao City.

Major General Melchor Dilodilo, commander of the Army’s 5th Infantry Division, said Malayao’s rights were never violated when he was arrested by CIDG personnel and members of the Army’s 502nd Infantry Brigade intelligence unit inside a bus in Cainta, Rizal, on May 15.

Malayao, according to Dilodilo, was arrested following the issuance of warrants for two murder cases and a frustrated murder case in Tuguegarao City.

According to Senior Superintendent Dominador Aquino Jr., Isabela police director, Malayao is among the accused in the June 12, 2001, murder of former Cagayan Representative Rodolfo Aguinaldo, a former military colonel.(PDI)

Tulungan Natin si Randy

May 26, 2008

Dear Fellow Guilders,
We all probably know by now what happened to Randy Malayao, a sterling activist who served as CEGP Vice President for the Visayas from 1991-95. To summarize, he was abducted last May 15, illegally detained, held incommunicado and tortured for five days and then presented by the AFP and PNP to the media on May 20 as an alleged ranking CPP-NPA-NDF official in the region.
In what appears to be a case of guilt by association, he is currently charged for various crimes in several courts in Isabela and Cagayan by virtue of his alleged position in the revolutionary movement. (For more details, please refer to the attached Karapatan Urgent Action Alert).
Randy has denied the charges against him. For its part, the NDF in Cagayan Valley asserts that Randy is an unarmed NDF political consultant covered by immunity under the GRP-NDF peace process.
Whatever the case, WHAT IS CLEAR IS THAT RANDY NEEDS OUR HELP. His rights have been violated, he continues to be under threat of physical or mental harm, and the government appears to be unjustly charging him with a slew of common crimes (including six murders!) to demonize him and stop his political activities.
What we can do
In a meeting last Thursday (May 22), a number of Guilders met and agreed to take all steps to ensure that Randy’s rights are respected, that he is accorded due process, and that his safety and well-being is assured. In this regard, we decided to embark on the following:
1. A delegation to visit Randy in the Cagayan Provincial Jail, Tuguegarao on June 7-8.
2. A fund-raising activity for Randy’s legal defense fund on June 14, Saturday, 7:00 p.m. somewhere in Quezon City.
Tickets will be priced at P300 but we appeal to everyone to please give more. We are scouting for pro-bono talents who can render music or poetry, visual artists who can donate some works that we can sell, and of course, donations or sponsorships of food and/or drinks so that we can raise more funds. If you also know a place where we can hold the activity for free or with minimal cost, please inform us.
We encourage alumni Guilders in other regions and provinces, especially in the Visayas, to hold similar activities for our dear Randy.
Who you should contact
If you are interested in joining or helping in any of these two activities, or if you have any other ideas, please contact Jaz Lumang at mobile no. +639277404663 or email <jaz_buncan@yahoo.com>.
Fellow Guilders, tulungan natin si Randy!
Thank you very much. Please pass this letter to other Guilders you know.
Rep. Teddy Casiño
Bayan Muna Party LIst
CEGP National President, 1991-94
————–
i deleted parts of Teddy’s letter (regarding the delegation to visit randy). if you are an alumnus of the guild, kindly contact the above-mentioned names and numbers for the detail.

Looking for Randy Malayao: Guilder’s exchanges

May 26, 2008

Hinggil sa paghahanap ng abogado ni Randy:

–> si romy capulong ba pala, ndi ba pwede makausap para mahawakan ang kaso ni randy? i think he’s the expert pagdating sa ganitong kaso. nakausap na ba sya? — Lahlee T.

–> we need siguro to gather muna ang lahat ng briefs regarding randy’s many cases sa cagayan valley before we can ask for an appointment with rtc.  pero sa bahagi ng legal struggle, we defer to his defense counsel atty ephraim lasam.

we know of 6 murder cases in two provinces.  baka mayroon pang iba.  the hr workers are still checking sa ibang mga rtc. — Raymund V.

–> Malabo si RTC. He’s too busy with the cases of other Guilders, namely me and Satur. Ha ha ha. Paborito talaga ng mga pasista ang Guilders. Palibhasa mga “tall, dark and handsome” ayon kay Tonyo. — teddy c.

–> I have sought assistance from a Beta Sigma friend from UP Diliman — Melvir Buela. they got a lawyer naman siguro. Nangangalap sila.

I suggest to the brods of Randy in UPV-Miag-ao hasten efforts to help on that end. Loaded talaga ang PILC lawyers natin. — Vince B.

–> ano ba, teddy boy… paborito lang talaga ng mga pasista ang guilders. period. kay randy mag-aapply ang tall, dark and handsome. ewan ko lang sa ‘yo. 🙂 — Ruzanne R.

–> What are the updates kay Randy Malayao?

For the information of those who care (meron ba!), Randy stayed with my family for like — forever!!! — in 1994, tended to my mama’s flower garden, cooked and cleaned the house, and most of all, witnessed the birth of my eldest son, si Gian (a.k.a. Bayan), and stood, along with teddy and bency, as my son’s “tatay” sa binyag.

nataranta nang konti si randy when i proposed ang ipangalan kay Bayan: Felix Teodoro Cyrus (after teddy, him and bency). hahaha.

last time we saw each other in 2002, and by sheer chance na nasa manila ako and he was with our “original kagandahan and kapogi-han” group sa 90s guilders, randy and i spent lots of time together. coffee, kain, coffee, kain. tapos parati remind  me to stop with the yosi.

anyways, randy’s stay with my family brought us so much joy and social consciousness. na-appreciate nang family ko why i am me bec. of randy and his words of wisdom…

please keep me posted. gotta stop here. mangiyak-ngiyak na me. feeling gretchen kasi. as usual! — Ruzanne R.

— > ruzanne,

I’ll be in malaybalay on wednesday, kita ta. my number is 09292146198. text or miskol me. am contacting sila ni former political detainee stan (i think sa batch natin, si stan was the first pol det, april 1996). he is working for an NGO in butuan. am also trying to contact sila oliver, he is now connected in the Provincial Gov’t. of Mis. Or., Atty. Felwina Opiso, who is now with the Court of Appeals. sorry my sched is very busy but we should try to get something on the ground. i’ll track on others whom randy had worked with when he stayed here in NM in 1994 in preparation of the 1994 CEGP Congress where we co-chaired the COC. -bency

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Panawagan sa mga brod ni randy sa UP-Miag-ao: maaari nyong kontakin yung brod nyo sa UP-D na nabanggit ni Vince, para mas madali ang inyong koordinasyon.