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tnalak-getty2Tnalak-gettyKORONADAL, PHILIPPINES – JULY 18: Filipino natives wait for their turn to perform at the 2009 T�nalak Festival, showcasing South Cotabato Province tribal cultures on July 18, 2009 in the southern city of Koronadal, Philippines. T�nalak is an indigenous term for colorful cloth woven by women of the T�boli tribe that has brought recognition to the province in the national and international scene. US-trained Filipino security forces were placed on heightened alert over fears the country’s homegrown Islamists could try to emulate the Jakarta hotel bombings. Early this month, twelve people died and more than 100 others were wounded in separate attacks carried out by local militants in the region. (Photo by Jeoffrey Maitem/Getty Images)

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MANILA, PHILIPPINES - JUNE 19: Filipino Muslim kids, among the tens of thousands people displaced in the ongoing fighting between Philippine security forces and Muslim separatist rebels, study inside their tent night of June 19, 2009 in the restive Maguindanao province, 960km south of Manila. Fighting between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country's 11-900-strong rebel group and Philippine military troops began August 2008 when the rebels launched series of attacks across several villages due to aborted signing of a deal that would give them their homeland. Around 300 people died but displacing over half a million more in the initial attacks and fighting which has followed. The Norwegian Refugee Council, an independent humanitarian non-governmental organization engage in providing assistance, protection and durable solutions to refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide, recently reported the Philippines was the most neglected displacement situation last year. The council said the world's largest new displacement last year happened when 600,000 people fled fighting between Philippine troops and Moro rebels in Mindanao. The MILF Muslim separatist rebel group are fighting for an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines. (Photo by Jeoffrey Maitem/Getty Images)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - JUNE 19: Filipino Muslim kids, among the tens of thousands people displaced in the ongoing fighting between Philippine security forces and Muslim separatist rebels, study inside their tent night of June 19, 2009 in the restive Maguindanao province, 960km south of Manila. Fighting between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country's 11-900-strong rebel group and Philippine military troops began August 2008 when the rebels launched series of attacks across several villages due to aborted signing of a deal that would give them their homeland. Around 300 people died but displacing over half a million more in the initial attacks and fighting which has followed. The Norwegian Refugee Council, an independent humanitarian non-governmental organization engage in providing assistance, protection and durable solutions to refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide, recently reported the Philippines was the most neglected displacement situation last year. The council said the world's largest new displacement last year happened when 600,000 people fled fighting between Philippine troops and Moro rebels in Mindanao. The MILF Muslim separatist rebel group are fighting for an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines. (Photo by Jeoffrey Maitem/Getty Images)

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By Jeoffrey Maitem
Mindanao Bureau
Last updated 04:32pm (Mla time) 10/13/2007

 

COTABATO CITY — The government is setting up amnesty centers in rebel-infested areas in Central Mindanao as part of the Arroyo administration’s peace and reconciliation efforts, a regional police official said on Saturday.

Chief Superintendent Felizardo Serapio, Central Mindanao police director, said that the establishment of amnesty centers in municipalities where there are many active rebels “will encourage state enemies to avail of the government’s program.”

“It would also make the processing of their papers easier,” he said.

Serapio said the proposed program is part of Proclamation No. 1377, which entitles members of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front to avail themselves of amnesty.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed the amnesty program last month as uncertainty over the resumption of the stalled peace talks with the communists continues.

The NDF backed out of the Norway-brokered peace talks after the government declined to lobby for the removal of the NPA from Washington and European Union’s terror lists.

The amnesty covers “the crime of rebellion and all other crimes included therein or incident thereto in pursuit of political belief as defined by jurisprudence, whether punishable under the Revised Penal Code or special laws.”


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

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Mindanao Bureau
Last updated 03:33pm (Mla time) 10/01/2007

 

KORONADAL CITY, Philippines – A leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) said Allah’s wrath has hit Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos who has resigned amid allegations of bribery over the National Broadband Network project of the government.

Hatimil Hassan, interim vice-chairman of the MNLF, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that previous electoral processes in Mindanao were surrounded by controversies during his administration.

“I think you know that during his time as chairman, the elections in Mindanao were difficult. It’s right time that he resigned. We need to continue the impeachment case against him. We are supporting the impeachment,” Hassan said.

In Cotabato City, Rodolfo Maglalang, barangay chairman of Rosary Heights-5, said the resignation was long overdue.

“He could have done this during the start of the ‘Hello Garci’ scandal. His credibility as Comelec chair has been badly tarnished when more election scandals surfaced, including the involvement of Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol. [I] hope the Oct. 29 village polls will prove us wrong,” Maglalang said.

Felipe Bisnon, a businessman in Cotabato City, commended Abalos for resigning.

“Bravo! At last, there was delicadeza [a sense of propriety] left in him. That calls for a standing ovation,” Bisnon said.

North Cotabato Vice Gov. Emmanual Piñol said Abalos should be left on his own as “he knows his best way out.”

In Davao City, Ariel Casilao of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in Southern Mindanao, said his resignation must not exonerate Abalos from criminal liability.

“The inquiry on his alleged involvement in the controversial national broadband project must continue … That he resigned could be another handiwork of the Palace as a [form of] damage control, making him the ultimate sacrificial lamb in behalf of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband, Mike Arroyo. Abalos must squeal and expose his bosses,” he said.

In General Santos City, Prescillano Campado, dean of the college of social sciences and humanities at the Mindanao State University (MSU), said Abalos, “by his own act or pressure from Malacanang, probably could have thought that it’s the best way to defuse the bomb.”

“He probably thought it’s a graceful exit or escape from the quagmire. Why can’t he wait for his retirement which is due soon? Resignation does not mean that the impeachment case against him becomes automatically dead. Impeachment still applies even after an official resigned,” Campado said.

With reports from Jeoffrey Maitem, Charlie C. Señase, Jeffrey Tupas, Aquiles Z. Zonio


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 12:42pm (Mla time) 09/12/2007

 

SOUTH COTABATO, Philippines — A spokesperson for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said on Wednesday they were happy with the guilty verdict handed down on deposed President Joseph Estrada for plunder.

“I think it’s a fair decision. We cannot question the authority of the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court,” MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of INQUIRER.net.

“He [Estrada] used our Muslim brothers and sisters through his educational foundation for his own interest,” Kabalu said.

Estrada was said to have funneled hundreds of millions of pesos in commissions from the illegal numbers game “jueteng” to the Erap Muslim Youth Foundation.

In 2000, Camp Abubakar, the MILF’s former main headquarters at the border of Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur provinces, fell to the military after Estrada launched an all-out-war against the secessionist group.


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 02:55pm (Mla time) 08/09/2007

 

KORONADAL CITY, Philippines — South Cotabato Governor Daisy Avance-Fuentes has questioned the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for singling out Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol.

Fuentes said the Comelec should also include in the criminal and administrative case election supervisor, Lilian Radam, who was accused of having a hand in the alleged padding and shaving votes in her province.

Fuentes told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that they have filed a criminal case of economic sabotage against Radam but that nothing has happened.

Radam and North Cotabato election supervisor Yogie Martirizar were relieved from their positions in June pending an investigation of the alleged padding of votes for both TEAM Unity (TU) and Genuine Opposition (GO) candidates in their provincial certificates of canvass (CoCs).

“There was no action from the Comelec regarding our case. We have no updates also. She [Radam] was summoned but did not show up,” Fuentes said.

“The Comelec must take action. Private organizations can’t take any action because they are afraid. If the Comelec found out something wrong with their people, they must act,” she added.

Fuentes said they helped the camp of GO senatorial candidate Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III in filing 12 counts of electoral sabotage against Radam, who headed the provincial board of canvassers in South Cotabato.

“Until now, we have no communication with Radam who had gone missing after the issue of vote padding came out,” Fuentes said.

Pimentel III also filed two counts of the same offense against Martizar, who headed the PBC in North Cotabato. Also named respondents were two other members of the North Cotabato board — Jose Agerio de Guzman and Gloria Mudanza.

Pimentel had accused election officials of violating Republic Act 9369 which penalized “the tampering, increasing or decreasing the votes received by a candidate in any election, involving more than 5,000 votes.


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

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Mindanao Bureau
Last updated 05:50pm (Mla time) 07/10/2007

 

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — Heavy security in and around the Pryce Plaza Hotel, where the Mindanao Peace and Security Summit was being held, stopped militants from staging a protest there against the implementation of the anti-terror law.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo arrived here on Tuesday and addressed the participants of the summit, which was dubbed as the first leg of the public consultation on the implementation of the Human Security Act.

Around 150 protesters from youth, urban poor and workers’ organizations instead gathered at the Magsaysay Park in Divisoria, where they denounced the implementation of the law.

Kristin Lim of Bayan Muna (People First) vowed to stage similar protests around Mindanao before it takes effect on July 15.

“The law gives power to the Anti-Terrorism Council to ban legitimate organizations that are critical of the Arroyo administration by branding them as terrorists,” she said.

Lim said the HSA would legitimize what she called political repression being perpetrated by the Arroyo administration against legal organizations such as Bayan Muna.

The regional chapter here of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) announced it was set to conduct campaigns in campuses to raise the youth’s awareness of the law’s drawbacks.

“First and foremost, we have to educate the people on the implications of the law. Then the people themselves will move to junk it altogether,” Gerald Leigh Laquinon, NUSP secretary general here said.

Defense Secretary Ricardo Blancaflor told reporters here the law had enough safeguards to prevent human rights violations contrary to what the militants were claiming.

When asked to react to criticisms that the law was vague on the definition of terrorism, Blancaflor said the HSA’s definition was clearer than the one contained in the United States Patriots Act, which was passed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

“In other words the United States, which is the birth land of human rights, has even a broader definition of terrorism,” he said.

In Koronadal City, Islamic jurists in Mindanao have joined calls for the suspension of the implementation of the HSA.

Ustadz Esmael Ebrahim, senior associate of the Dharul Ifta (House of Opinion) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone, they were apprehensive about the law.

“Many of us are apprehensive. It could become a tool for more human rights violations,” he said.

Ebrahim said Muslim religious leaders like them were the most concerned about the law.

“From the start, the ulama have been stereo-typed as having links with terror groups,” Ebrahim said.

He said they wanted the government to review the law.

The influential Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on Monday also aired a similar call.

Blancaflor, also spokesperson of the Anti-terror Task Force and the Anti-terror Council, said he would welcome a review of the HSA to clear misconceptions.

He said the review would become a good opportunity to compare the HSA with other anti-terror laws adopted by other countries.

Blancaflor urged critics to give HSA a chance to work.

But Ebrahim urged the government to postpone the law’s implementation. “I think it is only right to reconsider the date of the effectivity of the law,” he said.

Lanao de Norte Representative Abdullah Dimaporo said any new security policy to be drafted should “jibe with the people’s ethnic differences and diverse cultures.” Reports from Ma. Cecilia Rodriguez, Jeoffrey Maitem, Grace Albasin and Charlie Señase, Inquirer Mindanao

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

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