Archive for June, 2007

August 31, 2006
Updated 18:25:59 (Mla time)
Jeoffrey Maitem

COTABATO CITY — Japan’s minister of foreign affairs for Southeast Asia on Wednesday met with top leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in their camp in Maguindanao to personally relay his country’s decision to send a development expert to become part of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) in Mindanao.

Akio Isomata told the MILF leaders in Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao that the main function of their counterpart is to monitor relief, rehabilitation and development projects in conflict-affected areas.

As head for Southeast Asia, Isomata said he has to come to see for himself the real situation in Mindanao.

Minister Takeo Takashi and Yoshi Ishikawa of the Japanese Embassy in Manila accompanied Isomata.

MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim welcomed Isomata’s group, calling Japan a good partner in peacemaking in Mindanao.

“We thank Japan for its decision to join the International Monitoring Team (IMT) in its socio-economic aspect of monitoring,” Murad said in a statement.

The three foreign diplomats also met Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao, police director for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, in Camp SK Pendatun in nearby Parang, Maguindanao.
Inquirer Mindanao Bureau

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By Jeoffrey Maitem
Last updated 05:00pm (Mla time) 12/03/2006


COTABATO CITY — Leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have urged their fellow Muslims in Mindanao to practice the government’s birth-spacing program.

MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu told reporters Saturday there was nothing wrong with the program because it was supported by the Dar’ul Iftah, an organization of Islamic religious authorities.

Kabalu said the Dar’ul Iftah issued in 2004 guidelines on the birth-spacing program, which is intended to prevent the country’s population from reaching unmanageable levels.

The country is 85 percent Catholic. The Church allows only natural family planning methods and considers the use of artificial means of birth control a grievous sin.

But based on the 2000 census, the country’s population is growing at the rate of 2.36 percent each year.

In mid-2006, the population was estimated at over 87 million. By 2025, the number of Filipinos is projected to reach 115.7 million and, given the five-year-old census baseline, the population could hit 100 million in the next five to six years.

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which covers the provinces of Maguindanao, Shariff Kabunsuan, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Tawi-tawi, Sulu and Marawi City, is faced with the highest poverty rate in the country. Its 2.4-million population is growing by 3.86 percent with most families having an average household size of 6, the highest nationwide.

“We ask our sisters and brothers to coordinate with government health workers in their areas to learn more about birth spacing,” Kabalu said.

“This is necessary because it will help in all aspects of human life,” he added.

In 2004, more than 22 Muslim religious leaders led by Sheikh Omar Pasigan signed a Fatwah (opinion), affirming that “improved reproductive health conditions of the Muslim people benefit individual Muslims and strengthen the Muslim nation socially, economically, politically and in all other aspects of human life.”

They said a family planning program for the Muslim community in the Philippines should be anchored on the principles of non-coercion, responsible parenthood and informed choice.

The Fatwah also states that “all methods of contraception are allowed as long as they are safe, legal, in accordance with the Islamic Shariah, and approved by a credible physician preferably a Muslim for the benefit of both the mother and the child.”

Copyright 2007 Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Last updated 06:20am (Mla time) 06/30/2007
KORONADAL CITY—At least four children were injured in an explosion at the public market in Barangay Lamian in Surallah, South Cotabato around 5 p.m. on Thursday, police said yesterday.

Supt. Robert Kiunisala, South Cotabato police director, said the explosion was caused by a rifle grenade, which a group of children had earlier found in a garbage bin.

“After they found the grenade, they went to the public market, which is already empty at that time,” he said.

Kiunisala said the children, aged 7 to 9 years old, toyed with the grenade until it accidentally fell and went off.

He identified the victims as Edna Español, 7; Erap Tupas, 8; El-el Maribao, 9 and year-old Jona Jasper Brazil, all children of market vendors.

The four children were rushed to the hospital for shrapnel wounds but Kiunisala could not say if any of them was in serious condition.

He said they were investigating who placed the explosive in the garbage bin and what the motive could be.

Last month, a car bomb was left in the middle of a busy street in Surallah.

The car bomb, blamed on the Jemaah Islamiyah, was later disarmed by government bomb experts with the help of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents participating in the RP-US military exercises in Central Mindanao.

In Digos City, police authorities said they have already filed murder charges against a suspect in the June 15 explosion aboard a Weena bus in Bansalan, Davao del Sur.

The explosion killed eight people and wounded more than a dozen others.

Chief Insp. Royina Garma, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), identified the suspect as Abdul Ahad alias Rodel Abadia, a resident of Pagalungan, Maguindanao.

He said Ahad, who belongs to the Alkobar extortion gang, was positively identified by his neighbors through the artist’s sketch produced by the police from description of witnesses.

Ahad was also the subject of an earlier arrest order for allegedly extorting money from the bus firm in 1999.

Earlier in San Fernando City in La Union, a homemade bomb exploded at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, wounding a bystander, police said.

Investigators said the bomb was placed in a garbage can on Tavera and Burgos Streets in San Fernando.

The bystander, Lito Aragon, was hit by shrapnels sprayed by the bomb.

He was taken to the Ilocos Training and Regional Medical Center in the city and was declared out of danger. Police are investigating the incident. Jeoffrey Maitem, Eldie S. Aguirre and Orlando Dinoy, Inquirer Mindanao and Hanna Lacsamana, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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By Jeoffrey Maitem, Julie Alipala

Mindanao BureauLast updated 02:17pm (Mla time) 06/27/2007 

KIDAPAWAN CITY, Philippines — Moro gunmen holding Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi are demanding P15 million in ransom money in exchange for releasing their captive, Mohagher Iqbal, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator, said on Wednesday. 

Iqbal said their “troops on the ground” have reported the supposed demand. 

Bossi, 57, was taken at gunpoint while on his way to celebrate Mass in the town of Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay province on June 10.

His captors have reportedly brought him to the province of Lanao del Norte but have not established direct contact with anyone yet.

“They are demanding P15 million for Bossi’s freedom,” Iqbal said without saying how the demand was relayed. 

“But as far as we are concerned, we don’t entertain ransom demands from the kidnappers. Although in the first place, that’s their motive why they seized the priest,” Iqbal said by phone. 

A ranking police official in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said they too received report about the kidnappers trying to raise cash in exchange for releasing Bossi.

“What we know is that they are demanding ransom but it’s not specified how much,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. 

The source said he could not officially speak on the Bossi kidnapping because his office was not the lead agency. 

Brigadier General Benjamin Dolorfino, chairman of the government’s Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), said however that he was not aware of any ransom demand.

“We have not received such kind of information about the ransom demand by the kidnappers,” he said. 

Dolorfino had admitted that a government emissary told him about the need to buy medicine for the priest, who is suffering from hypertension. 

Iqbal said the MILF, which has volunteered to help rescue Bossi, was still trying to locate the exact hiding place of the kidnappers. 

“Our troops are still on the ground helping government forces in search of the victim. But the captors are highly mobile that’s why it’s difficult to tract them down,” Iqbal said. 

There are reports that Bossi is being hidden in remote areas of Sultan Naga Dimaporo in Lanao del Norte while there are indications he had been brought to Lanao del Sur already, according to a military source. 

Dolorfino meanwhile said the pressure in connection with the Bossi rescue operation has been increasing as the exact location of the kidnappers and their demands have yet to be ascertained. 

“We are not going to stop. All we need is to see all the different situations in a positive way, we have to be very optimistic all the time,” he said. 

Eid Kabalu, MILF spokesman, said their troops have also been making a lot of sacrifices to ensure that Bossi would be safely recovered. 

“Our forces are sleepless, sometimes without food and exposed to rain and sun, just to make sure that no one will slip out of the areas they are securing,” he said. 

Kabalu said what made the task difficult for the MILF was that they were “left out of the information and negotiation efforts.” 

In Zamboanga City, Father Gianni Battista Sandalo, Bossi’s superior, said they have learned to be patient even as the search for the kidnapped priest remained fruitless.

“We have to be very, very patient and we have been trying to be upbeat especially in dealing with the family of Bossi [in Abbiategrasso]. We have to paint great and beautiful pictures of what is being done by our authorities here [because] once they hear something good, it eases [their worries], but telling them a different situation pained all of us here,” he said. 

Dolorfino had also reported that he received information Bossi was still alive. 

But while Bossi’s superior and government negotiators wanted proof, a colleague of the kidnapped priest said he believed that he was very much alive. 

Fr. Luciano Benedetti, who also experienced being kidnapped in 1998, said Bossi could be doing well despite his predicament.

“Because these kidnappers are also human beings and with more than 15 days in captivity, I know Giancarlo has already established good relationship [with them],” Benedetti said. 

Sandalo said in the event that authorities located the kidnappers’ lair he would prefer the use of negotiation to secure Bossi than the use of force. 

“As much as possible, no unnecessary force should be used,” he said. 

Copyright 2007 Mindanao Bureau. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.  

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By Julie Alipala, Jeoffrey Maitem, Joel GuintoMindanao Bureau, INQUIRER.net

Last updated 03:58pm (Mla time) 06/26/2007 

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — The abductors of Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi have sent a text message to a government emissary that their captive was alive, a Marine general said on Tuesday. 

But Brigadier General Benjamin Dolorfino, chairman of the government’s Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), said they were still trying to get more confirmation. 

The Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), Bossi’s religious order, said it has not yet received “proof of life.” Father Gianni Battista Sandalo, PIME superior in the Philippines, also expressed surprise at Dolorfino’s statement about the contact with the kidnappers.

He said he was not aware of it. Earlier on Tuesday, Dolorfino said that three government emissaries have set out for the hideout of the kidnappers somewhere in northwestern Mindanao to secure “proof of life.” 

Once they reach the lair, the three will put Bossi on a mobile phone with someone who could recognize his voice, said Dolorfino who is leading the search for the 57-year-old Italian clergyman. 

Dolorfino claimed that he was involved in negotiations for the release of Italian priest Guissepe Pierantoni in 2002, several months after he was abducted, Dolorfino told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo Tuesday. 

They left Iligan City at around 1 p.m. on the same day for the undisclosed place “eight kilometers from the highway,” said Dolorfino, adding that Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace negotiating panel had approved the trip. 

The MILF had been helping the military in the search for Bossi, whom Dolorfino said was being kept somewhere along the boundary of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur province.

“The effort is to produce a proof of life,” Dolorfino said.

“This is just a probing effort. The important result is that we will know that [Bossi] is there, so we can focus our efforts in one area.” Dolorfino’s pronouncement on the whereabouts of Bossi was contradicted by Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command chief Lieutenant General Eugenio Cedo who said that Bossi was in Zamboanga Sibugay, where he was kidnapped last April 10 in Payao town. 

“They are just there to establish contact. Then assuming there is proof of life that will be relayed to the authorities. Then probably that will be resolved by those concerned in the national leadership,” he added. 

The general said he had asked the emissaries to tell the kidnappers “not to rush, because some things take time.” 

Dolorfino said he believed there was a “60 percent” chance that the emissaries would be able to contact Bossi’s captors. 

He said the emissaries were taking appropriate security measures since they were wary of “saboteurs.” 

Bossi is the third Italian priest to be kidnapped by bandits in the Zamboanga peninsula since Reverend Luciano Benedetti was kidnapped in 1998 and Pierantoni. Both were released by their captors. 

Originally posted at 1:52pm

Copyright 2007 Mindanao Bureau, INQUIRER.net. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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By Jeoffrey Maitem

Mindanao Bureau Last updated 02:31pm (Mla time) 06/26/2007  

KIDAPAWAN CITY, Philippines — Unidentified armed men attacked the home of a North Cotabato town mayor on Monday, killing a civilian, police said on Tuesday. 

The attack on the residence of outgoing Banisilan Mayor Floro Alladooccurred around 10:30 a.m. 

Allado was inside his residence during the attack but was injured, Inspector Joyce Birrey, North Cotabato police office spokesman, said. 

Birrey said an hour-long firefight ensued between the attackers andAllado’s security escorts. Kwas Dagandal, 40, was killed in the crossfire. 

Birrey said they were still investigating the incident. 

Allado and two security aides were arrested in November 2006 after they were accused of killing at least five people, including a 10-year-old boy.

The mayor said he and his bodyguards were only defending themselves when they were attacked. 

He claimed he was standing near the municipal hall when a truck arrived and several gunmen onboard opened fire, prompting his security men to return fire. 

But a survivor of the incident said they were delivering rice near the municipal hall when the mayor and his men fired on them. 

Allado and his aides were detained at the North Cotabato provincial jail and charged with murder. 

Recently, however, Judge George Javido of the Regional Trial Court Branch 18 in Midsayap, North Cotabato ordered Allado’s temporary release.

The mayor had petitioned the court to allow his release so he could undergo treatment for a kidney stone problem. 

North Cotabato Governor Emmanuel Piñol has questioned the temporary release order. 

He said he already ordered police to return Allado to jail despite the court order. 

Originally posted at 01:36 pm   Copyright 2007 Mindanao Bureau. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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By Jeoffrey Maitem

Mindanao Bureau, Last updated 01:58pm (Mla time) 06/26/2007

KIDAPAWAN CITY, Philippines — Former Armed Forces vice chief of staff Rodolo Garcia has been appointed the government’s new chief negotiator to peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the head of the rebel’s negotiating panel said Tuesday. 

“I was informed early today [Wednesday] by an official from Malacañang” about Garcia’s appointment, the MILF’s Mohagher Iqbal, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of INQUIRER.net. 

Iqbal said Garcia was appointed Monday night to replace Silvestre Afable, who resigned recently. However, Iqbal added, “We are still waiting for the formal communication from Malaysian secretariat before we can comment on his appointment.” 

Reached by phone in Germany, Jesus Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, said his office had recommended Garcia, who had also been military commander in Central Mindanao — during which he had been involved in the early stage of talks with the MILF — Armed Forces spokesman and Northern Luzon Command chief. 

“He was the next choice after Fr. Eliseo Mercado refused to head thenegotiating panel,” Dureza said. 

“What I know before the President [Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo] went abroad [to Singapore and Equatorial Guinea], she signed the appointment [of Garcia]. Now we are just waiting for the formal announcement of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita,” Dureza said. 

Copyright 2007 Mindanao Bureau. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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