A Renewal of Vows! Journalists Light Candles To Remember Fallen Colleagues

May 31, 2006 at 9:59 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Candles in the dark. (Zamboanga Journal)

Today, May 31, colleagues all over the country wear black and gather to silently light candles to remember and honor our dead. But ours is not the silence of mourning or surrender, but of defiance, and the flames we light our steadfast determination to fend off the darkness descending on our land.

Since 2001, when the power of the people made Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo president, we have already seen 42 journalists murdered, a bloodletting that has far surpassed the combined toll under all her three immediate predecessors.

And lest we forget, this administration, which owes its existence to the supreme will of the people, is the first that has deigned to muzzle the independent Philippine press since the dictator.

Indeed, it is the supreme irony that the democracy we are supposed to have won back in 1986 has claimed more journalists – 79 thus far – than the 34 lost throughout the whole 14-year Marcos dictatorship.

And given this administration's generally callous disregard both to the killings – not just of our colleagues but of hundreds of dissenters as well – and to the calls for justice and respect for people's rights and liberties, we are afraid we have not seen the end of this murderous rampage.

But we will not be cowed into mute submission, neither by this government's indifference nor the dark schemes of those who wish to silence us.Today, with all our colleagues who join us nationwide, we renew our vow to be the voice of the voiceless, the succor of the dispossessed and the bane of the oppressors.

Our pens, microphones and cameras we consecrate to the cause of restoring the light of freedom and democracy to our benighted land!

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In Philippines, U.S. military finds model for beating terror

May 31, 2006 at 8:27 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

U.S. Army Colonel James Linder during a meeting with Filipino government officials in the southern Philippine island of Jolo. Linder, more popular with the local press as "G.I. Joe" named after a popular cartoon hero, is perhaps one of the most friendly U.S. military commander deployed in the southern Philippines and is active in humanitarian efforts in the troubled region. (Zamboanga Journal)

HONOLULU (Audrey McAvoy) When the commander of U.S. Special Forces in the Philippines talks about battles won in the war on terror, he does not list enemies killed and targets destroyed. Instead, U.S. Army Col. James Linder recounts jobs created and schools built.

"We just changed the dynamics of a very small community from one in which only a few years ago, Abu Sayyaf was coming down from the hilltop with weapons on their back and recruiting the schoolchildren, to one in which they can't come there anymore,'' Linder said.

Since 2002, U.S. Army Rangers and Navy SEALs have been training and equipping Philippine troops to oust al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf terrorists from Mindanao, a predominantly Muslim and largely poor part of the Southeast Asian nation. The militaries have used a combination of combat offensives and development projects with a heavy emphasis on the latter to isolate the terrorists and win over local populations.

Their successes in villages like the one Linder described contrast sharply with the U.S.-led effort in Iraq or Afghanistan, where terror attacks only seem to increase. Now, senior U.S. military leaders say their work in the Philippines may offer lessons for how the U.S. operates in the Middle East.

On Basilan island, where U.S. troops first started operating four years ago, improved security has allowed the Philippine military to shrink its presence from 15 battalions to two, said Maj. Gen. David Fridovich, the commander of U.S. Special Forces in the Pacific.

Fridovich said military operations are only 15 percent of what needs to be done. The rest is humanitarian, like Army engineers helping rebuild schools and military doctors giving residents shots. U.S. aid workers have helped build bridges and roads.

“We think there is a model here that's worth showcasing. There's another way of doing business,'' Fridovich told reporters at the Pacific Area Special Operations Conference in Honolulu recently.

Of course, circumstances in the Philippines are far different from the Middle East. Disparate cultures, history and geography would prevent any Philippine solution from being applied directly to either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Also, the U.S. and Philippine militaries can't take credit for all of Abu Sayyaf's failures. The group has marginalized itself by offending local populations with the use of tactics like beheadings, rape and torture.

But Linder, speaking on the sidelines of an anti-terror conference in Hawaii, said his interactions with people on the island of Jolo showed the troops are making a difference.

He recalled a visibly emotional woman who ran up to him because she wanted to show her gratitude for the sewing machine that has allowed her to earn a living. And the village leader who vowed to quit fighting for Abu Sayyaf and instead take up arms alongside Filipino soldiers against his former allies.

Rohan Gunaratna, head of terrorism research at the Singapore-based Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, said the U.S. has had “tremendous success'' on Basilan.

"The Americans did not take the shortcut in Basilan. They took the long road that's working with civilians. Their priority was to build bridges with the Muslim public rather than hunt the terrorists,'' Gunaratna said.

Iraq only became so violent because U.S. commanders focused too much energy on killing enemies when they should have done more to meet the basic needs of Iraqis, he said.

"The terrorists are also competing for the hearts and the minds of the people,'' Gunaratna said. "If you are able to do a better job, the terrorists are marginalized. No one will support the terrorists.''
The U.S. military effort in the Philippines has not been easy.

U.S. troops now numbering a few hundred, down from a peak of 1,200 do not participate in combat there. The U.S. military initially wanted to fight but President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's shaky administration refused to gamble with the politically explosive prospect of foreign troops fighting domestic insurgents on Philippine soil.

Still, nearly a dozen American troops died in a helicopter crash and a bomb attack in 2002. Muslim activists and residents have protested the U.S. presence, calling it a magnet for violence and a violation of Philippine sovereignty.

A few hundred mountain-based guerrillas continue to threaten Jolo. In March, suspected Abu Sayyaf members bombed a grocery store on the southern island, killing nine people.

Washington and Manila, meanwhile, are deepening their partnership. Last week, the two nations announced a new security arrangement expanding the grounds for American forces to stage exercises in the Philippines.

When asked if the Basilan experience was applicable to Iraq and Afghanistan, Gen. Bryan D. Brown, head of U.S. Special Operations Command, said every culture and situation was different, but many lessons could be learned.

"It's about working with the people, it's about building the infrastructure, it's about demonstrating good governance,'' Brown told reporters at the Hawaii conference. "It's about good medical care, it's about eliminating human suffering.'' (We are republishing this AP story because we are a witness to the transformation of Basilan after the Balikatan — from one strife-torn island, now to a peaceful destination in the southern Philippines — of course, local military commanders headed by Brig. Gen. Alexander Aleo, the government officials and the Muslim people helped a lot to make this come true. Ed. Zamboanga Journal)

Vice Mayor Sells Zambo In America

May 31, 2006 at 6:23 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

 Zamboanga City Vice Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco, 2nd from left, poses with Fr. Deny Toledo, SJ; Lizle Enriquez and Joe Ramos who is president of the Zamboangueno Association in New York City.

 

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 31 May) Vice Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco invited executives of various civic groups and organizations in the United States to visit and invest in Zamboanga City.

Climaco, who is in the US on official visit, said she met with Butch Meiley, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company Executive in New York City, to explore possibilities of improving local communications systems and setting up of call centers.

"Mr. Meily has sought to find possibilities how ties can be improved to set up communications system for a call center in the city. There is really a need to expand possibilities to utilize the talents of Zamboanga’s graduates in the Spanish speaking market as well as the English and even Arabic speaking countries,” she said.

The City Council has recently approved a resolution requesting the Commission on Higher Education to study the possibility of additional units for Spanish and English proficiency and Arabic language in the tertiary curriculum.

Call centers are flourishing in major cities like Manila, Cebu and Pampanga but most operators prefer to hire Zamboanguenos as call center agents due to their proficiency in the Spanish and English languages as most of their clients are either Spanish or speak in English.

Climaco attended last week's Women’s Global Connection forum in San Antonio, Texas and is currently meeting with representatives of different business groups and organizations in New York and other areas in the US to invite them to invest in Zamboanga City.

Arrested Terror Man In Sabah Trained Terrorists In Southern Philippines

May 31, 2006 at 4:58 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 31 May) Malaysian authorities said one of 12 terror suspects arrested in Sabah had trained terrorists in the southern Philippines, where Filipino security forces are battling members of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group.

The suspects were believed to have links to the Indonesian terrorist group Darul Islam have been detained and authorities were investigating their links with the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group operating in the southern Philippines.

Philippine troops were pursuing the Abu Sayyaf group, blamed for two cross-border kidnappings in Sabah in 2000 and the spate of deadly bomb attacks in the southern Philippines since 1994.

Malaysian police 10 Indonesians and two Malaysians were arrested off the coasts of Sandakan and Tawau in Sabah, southwest of Tawi-Tawi island in the southern Philippines after months of surveillance.

The Kuala Lumpur-based tabloid, The Star, reported Wednesday that one of the Indonesian suspects was trained by the al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and that he also trained other terrorists in Indonesia and the southern Philippines.

It said the man was described by the Malaysian intelligence as dangerous and is a strong source of influence on other Darul Islam members.

"The regional intelligence agencies had been keeping tabs on the group, particularly its link with the Abu Sayyaf, a small violent Muslim terrorist group operating in the southern Philippines. Several of its leaders had reportedly fought in Afghanistan during the Soviet war and were students and proponents of radical Islamic teaching," it said.

Malaysian police also seized from them several weapons and documents, including bomb-making instructions downloaded from the Internet.

It said the Darul Islam was planning attacks on several neighboring countries with Malaysia as its transit point. Malaysian authorities did not say if the Philippines is among the target, but suspected terrorists in the past have used the southern region to illegally cross into the Sulu archipelago and Mindanao.

Army Brigadier General Alexander Aleo, Jolo island military commander, said operations against the Abu Sayyaf are going on and that security forces were tracking down members of the group.

"There is an ongoing operation in Jolo and nearby islands and troops are tracking down members of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group," Aleo, who is supervising the hunt, said.

General Aleo said they would also investigate whether the Abu Sayyaf has any links with the Darul Islam. "We will look into that reports about the arrested terrorists in Sabah. We will coordinate with the proper authorities about this," he said.

Malaysian authorities said the arrest of the suspects was the biggest success against terrorism since their crackdown five years ago on Kumpulan Militan Malaysia (KMM) which had links with the Jemaah Islamiah terror network.

One of the arrested Malaysian is a religious teacher who graduated from Syria, while the other was a graduate from Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang.

The Abu Sayyaf is on a U.S. list of terrorist organizations and Washington has offered as much as $10 million bounty for the capture of the group's chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani and other known leaders.

Zamboanga Journal, E-World Career Center Scholars Begin Training

May 30, 2006 at 10:09 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

 

  

 Journalists, who are scholars of the online newspaper Zamboanga Journal and E-World Career Center Corporation begin a week long training on web design and development in Zamboanga City on Monday, 29 May 2006. (Zamboanga Journal)

ZAMBOANGA CITY –- Five journalists who are scholars of the Zamboanga Journal and E-World Career Center Corporation began a week long training on web design and development in Zamboanga City.

The five jornalists were Roel Pareno, Therence Koh, Cheng Ordonez, Charlie Saceda and Pami Wee.

The online newspaper has entered into a memorandum of understanding with the E-World Career Center Corporation to provide scholarship grants to local journalists and out-of-school youths and poor high school students here.

At least 5 journalists from different newspapers and radio and television stations would be given short courses training every month from basic computer operation to the more advanced Macromedia Dreamweaver and other related education.

"It is a partnership between us, Zamboanga Journal, and the E-World Career Center Corporation to help not only local media members, but also those deserving students and out-of-school youths who wanted to pursue computer education.

“We are happy that E-World is helping us fulfill this small endeavor, and Zamboanga Journal will continue its scholarship program in other field of education, and to make this available to as many journalists and students as possible,” Al Jacinto, editor-in-chief of Zamboanga Journal.

Jacinto said the scholarship grants are also open to deserving high school students, who wanted to learn, but cannot afford to pay the cost of the training. "We will help not only deserving journalists, but students as well, especially those who are really interested to learn," he said.

E-World is one of Zamboanga City's leading global providers of computer education. At least 60 journalists are expected to benefit from the scholarship grants during the first year of the trainings.

"On our part, we are glad to help and that is why we really strive more to become an industry leader, not only in Zamboanga City, but to the other parts of Mindanao,” said Juvy de Jesus, E-World Cereer Center manager.

E-World offers a variety of short courses training designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills in Information Technology. Its courses are also intended for corporate clients who have specialized training needs, De Jesus said. "We can customize any specific requirements for our clients or companies," she added.

Zamboanga Journal came about at first, just as a public service weblog after a photo session in December 24, 2005 in Lumbangan, a small village east of Zamboanga City, where the government garbage depot is located.

From a public service weblog, it soon became the online newspaper now called the Zamboanga Journal, and supporters and journalists from different parts of the country have pledged to help it run and turn the Zamboanga Journal into a tool to help the less fortunate, particularly the children and old people in Zamboanga City.

Jacinto said there are plans to come out with a monthly magazine. “Zamboanga Journal Magazine is now on the drawing board,” he said.

The monthly magazine will carry Special and Feature stories, Home, Food and Lifestyle sections, Tourism and Travel pages, People, Fashion and the Arts, among others.

Two Killed In Clash Outside Zamboanga

May 30, 2006 at 8:22 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 30 May) A former leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) turned government militia clashed with bandits killing two of them in the town of Dinas, east of Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines, police said Tuesday.

Police said the group of ex-rebel commander Norham Amil clashed with bandits in the village of Sambulawan . One of Amil's followers was also wounded in the fighting late Monday afternoon, said Superintendent Ramon Ochotorena, the chief of police in Zamboanga del Sur province.

"Two bandits were killed in the fighting. We have deployed police forces in the area to pursue the bandits and protect the villagers," Ochotorena told the Zamboanga Journal.

He said the militias were patrolling the village when they ran into a group of bandits led by Kamil Lao, tagged as behind the series of killings and attacks on civilians in the area.

Police said Lao's group was also implicated in the killing of the town's vice mayor Abdulbasit Maulana and five of his bodyguards. In March, troops killed one of Lao's henchman Bandino Albios in a clash in the village of Hakayan in Dinas town.

Albios and Lao were also linked to the killing in December of another Zamboanga del Sur town vice mayor Mujahid Andi and two town councilors Manuel Mira and Alejandro Estriba in October last year.

Malaysia Probes Links Of Arrested Terror Suspects To Abu Sayyaf, Al-Qaeda

May 30, 2006 at 6:20 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 30 May) Malaysian authorities have detained at least 12 people with suspected links to the Indonesian terrorist group Darul Islam and were investigating them if they have connections with the Jolo-based Abu Sayyaf group in the southern Philippines.

It said 10 Indonesians and two Malaysians were arrested off the coasts of Sandakan and Tawau in Sabah, southwest of Tawi-Tawi island in the southern Philippines after months of surveillance.

It was not immediately known if they had come from Indonesia or the southern Philippines, where security forces were pursuing members of the Jemaah Islamiya, tagged as behind two deadly Bali attacks in the past.

Malaysian police seized several weapons and documents, including bomb-making instructions downloaded from the Internet, the Kuala Lumpur-based tabloid The Star reported on its website Tuesday.

It said authorities were investigating whether the men have contacts or links with the al-Qaeda terror network or the Abu Sayyaf group, blamed for two cross-border kidnappings in Sabah in 2000 and the spate of deadly bomb attacks in the southern Philippines since 1994.

"Police are investigating if Darul Islam had links with the Abu Sayyaf terror group based in the southern Philippines and the al-Qaeda movement led by Osama bin Laden who orchestrated the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on the United States," it said, quoting unnamed police sources.

It said the Darul Islam could be planning attacks on several neighboring countries with Malaysia as its transit point. Malaysian authorities did not say if the Philippines is among the target, but suspected terrorists in the past have used the southern region to illegally cross into the Sulu archipelago and Mindanao.

Army Brigadier General Alexander Aleo, Jolo island military commander, said operations against the Abu Sayyaf are going on and that security forces were tracking down members of the group.

"There is an ongoing operation in Jolo and nearby islands and troops are tracking down members of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group," Aleo, who is supervising the hunt, told the Zamboanga Journal by phone.

General Aleo said they would also investigate whether the Abu Sayyaf has any links with the Darul Islam. "We will look into that reports about the arrested terrorists in Sabah. We will coordinate with the proper authorities about this," he said.

Malaysian authorities did not say when the 12 were captured, but said it was the biggest success against terrorism since their crackdown five years ago on Kumpulan Militan Malaysia (KMM) which had links with the Jemaah Islamiah terror network.

One of the arrested Malaysian is a religious teacher who graduated from Syria, while the other was a graduate from Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang.

The Abu Sayyaf is on a U.S. list of terrorist organizations and Washington has offered as much as $10 million bounty for the capture of the group's chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani and other known leaders.

Media In Black In The Philippines

May 29, 2006 at 11:48 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Let's make May 31 MIB (MEDIA IN BLACK) Day

Palawan broadcaster Fernando "Dong" Batul was gunned down early morning of May 22. He was the 5th journalist killed this year, the 42nd under the Arroyo administration and the 79th since 1986 when press freedom was supposed to have been restored. The hard-hitting journalist known as the "Bastonero ng Palawan" will soon be laid to rest.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) invites all our colleagues in media to join us in bidding Dong Batul goodbye through a candle-lighting ceremony on May 31 at the Boy Scouts Circle (Timog corner Morato streets, Quezon City) at 6 pm.

We also enjoin our colleagues to wear black t-shirts whole day of May 31 as our way of expressing our grief and outrage at the murder of another journalist.

We say: Enough is enough! Let us cease to be just observers and recorders to the death of democracy. Let us unite and fight back the threats to our lives and liberties.

Media organizations in various parts of the country will also hold simultaneous candle-lighting ceremonies.

Wild Pigeons In Zamboanga City

May 29, 2006 at 11:28 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

 Wild pigeons are many in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines. Bird flu has recently killed two people in Indonesia, south of the Philippines. (Zamboanga Journal)

Zamboanga Journal Magazine Now On The Drawing Board!

May 29, 2006 at 11:04 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Zamboanga Journal Magazine is now on the drawing board. The monthly magazine will carry Special and Feature stories, Home, Food and Lifestyle sections, Tourism and Travel pages, People, Fashion and the Arts, among others.

If advertisers can sustain the operation of the magazine, then we may go on publishing twice a month. Negotiations are going on with financial institutions for the funding of the magazine.

We welcome any suggestion for additional contents or sections of the Zamboanga Journal Magazine. We thank our valued readers, our partners and sponsors, for their continued support.

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