ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 31 Jan) – A Saudi philanthropist accused by the Philippine authorities of channeling funds to Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines, has been killed inside his home in Madagascar, reports said Wednesday.
Jamal Khalifa, brother-in-law of al-Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden, was shot by gunmen who raided his home early on Wednesday in an apparent robbery, the al-Arabiya Arabic news network reported.
Khalifa helped established the International Islamic Relief Organization and the Al-Makdum University in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines in the 1990s, but abandoned them after Filipino authorities linked him to the terror group Abu Sayyaf and the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
He arrived in the Philippines in 1991, and by 1993 was listed at immigration as “financier of terrorists.”
Khalifa was also reported to have married a Filipino woman in Zamboanga City, but fled the country after the military linked him to the MILF and Abu Sayyaf.
He was reported hiding in the Middle East and Africa until the news of his killing broke out. Khalifa at one time even offered to help Manila negotiate with Filipino Muslim rebels and end the fighting in Mindanao.
The Philippine military said Khalifa’s relief organization and his university were used as a front to launder money and channel funds to terrorists in the southern island of Mindanao. Khalifa had previously denied all charges by the Philippine authorities.
Eid Kabalu, a spokesman for the MILF, admitted Wednesday that Khalifa, who mined and traded precious stones in Madagascar, came to Mindanao in the 1990s, not to finance the separatist Muslim rebel group or terrorists, but to build mosques and madrasah.
“I was shocked to hear that he was killed today. As far as I know, Jamal Khalifa was an Arab philanthropist, who helped built mosques and madrasah and health centers for poor Muslim community in Mindanao. He was a good man,” Kabalu told the Mindanao Examiner by phone from a rebel base in the Philippine south.
The rebel spokesman said Khalifa had visited the main MILF headquarters Camp Abubakar As-Siddique in Maguindanao province where he also helped finance the building of mosques and health centers.Khalifa was active in humanitarian missions in Mindanao, Kabalu said.
“What we knew about Jamal Khalifa was that he had helped thousands of Filipino Muslims and that even the Philippine government benefited from his being a philanthropist, from all those humanitarian projects” he said without further elaborating.
The rebel base was also home to thousands of Muslim supporters of the MILF until it was attacked and occupied by the Philippine military in April 2000 after peace talks with the Estrada administration failed.
Washington accused Bin Laden of masterminding the 9/11 attacks in the United States and listed the Abu Sayyaf as a foreign terrorist organization. (Mindanao Examiner)
The Mindanao Examiner in association with the Moro Films will conduct a week-long seminar and workshop on film making on February 24.
The workshop is a special hands-on intensive course designed for people who wish to study the art and craft of film making in an intense schedule. This seminar will also help corporate media people engaged in video productions.
For those with little or no film making experience, this workshop offers strong foundation skills through carefully crafted modules aimed at focused learning, hands-on production.
Workshop participants are expected to learn story development, scriptwriting, directing, lighting, editing, sound recording and producing and the opportunity to make fully-realized short films which could be exhibited at film festivals.
The workshop is structured in a way that participants will be able to produce their own 5-minute films towards the end course. To achieve this end, only 25 participants will be accepted on a first-come-first-serve basis.
The film making workshop shall be conducted by Gutierrez Mangansakan II, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and writer. His first work ‘House under the Crescent Moon’ won Best Documentary at the 15th Gawad CCP para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video in 2001.
His documentaries have been screened in various international film festivals in Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, US and Europe.
The workshop is inclusive of seminar venue in hotel in Zamboanga City, lecture kits, workshop IDs, and certificates of training, meal and snacks, projector, white board, sound system, back draft and television.
For details and reservation, please contact the Mindanao Examiner or training coordinator Al Jacinto at telephone & fax 062-9925480 or mobile 0918-9180895 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
MANILA (Mindanao Examiner / 31 Jan) – President Gloria Arroyo named Wednesday Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane as new Philippine Defense chief.
Ebdane, a former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, replaced lawyer Avelino Cruz, who resigned last year after criticizing Arroyo’s political allies over a proposed change in the Constitution that could prolong the president’s stay and her allies in power.
Arroyo’s spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, said the President has full confidence that Ebdane can implement the Defense Reform Program, which was strongly pursued in the past by former Philippine military chief Narciso Abaya.
Abaya, president of the government’s Bases Conversion Development Authority, was previously thought to head the Department of National Defense after the Philippine media reported that he would replace Cruz because of his clean and untainted records as a military man.
Ebdane’s Under Secretary Manuel Bonoan has been named as acting Public Works chief. Ebdane, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class 1970, was PNP chief from 2002 to 2004.
Many soldiers and military officials were unhappy over Ebdane’s appointment as Defense chief because of his alleged links to poll cheating in the May 2004 Presidential elections that won Arroyo a new term.
“We don’t want him in the Defense (Department). We want somebody like Secretary (Avelino) Cruz or perhaps General (Narciso) Abaya, who is one of the most respected in the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) organization. We want somebody whose integrity is unquestionable,” an army sergeant, who asked not to be identified, told the Mindanao Examiner in Camp Aguinaldo, the main military headquarters.
There was no evidence or charges against Ebdane in connection with the allegations of poll cheating. (Mindanao Examiner)
OPINION: “Deportation Gag” by Juan Mercado
The Bureau of Immigration hasn’t explained, up to now, why it barred an Irish Catholic priest who co-authored a devastating report on the mining industry, from re-entering the Philippines early January.
“It’s the prerogative of a sovereign country to exclude aliens,” mumbled Immigration regulation chief Gary Mendoza after agents denied entry to 52-year old Father Frank Nally. The Justice Department didn’t reveal why it ordered Nally to fly out, he added. Anyway, government is not duty bound to explain to a person why he landed on the blacklist.
No? We have diplomatic relations with Dublin. And what about reciprocal treatment for Filipino overseas workers? They’re flooding into a country that’s among the top five in the European Union today. And we have diplomatic relations with Dublin.
Equally important is the arbitrariness. Filipino taxpayers ask: how does a Catholic scholar, who heads the prestigious Columban Justice and Faith group in Britain, end up, on the same list, as Al’Qaeda or Abu Sayyaf operatives?
And why?Because Father Nally co-authored “Mining in the Philippines: Concerns and Conflicts”. That’s why. This is a 61-page report on the July-August 2006 fact finding mission led by the former UK Secretary of State for Overseas Development Clare Short. Prepared in cooperation with National University of Ireland and Philippine Indigenous People’s Link, that study is rocking government with its findings. Mining has a shoddy historical track record.
The Philippines is among “the worst countries in the world with regard to tailings, dam failures,” UN Environmental Programme records show. It has a legacy of 800 abandoned mines.
The Catholic Bishops Conference, in January 2006, skewered mines in Albay, Palawan, Nueva Vizcaya, South Cotabato, Zamboanga del Norte and Marinduque for massive ecological damage.
“I have never seen anything so systematically destructive as the mining program in the Philippines,” begins Member of Parliament Clare Short. “The environmental effects are as catastrophic as are the effects on the people’s livelihoods.
Government and mining companies should be challenged to demonstrate that (they will) adhere to their own laws and international mining best practice.She flayed the World Bank and the EU for spurring destructive mining.
EU’s “development interventions are failing in the Philippines to live up to (it’s declared) standards: protection of the rights of indigenous peoples and a strong commitment to sustainable development.
The investor community must behave more responsibly in their investment decisions in the Philippines.”
Would that qualify the Honorable Short for this blacklist too? Who draws up that list anyway? Who can scrub names from it? Is there an appeal or review process in what is basically a secret drill? “(We) recognize the external pressures on the Philippines as a deeply-indebted country to generate foreign investments,” the main report goes on to say. (But) the emphasis on export-driven mining” could diminish development prospects.
“Contrary to recommendations of the ‘Extractive Industries Review’, many of the proposed new mining sites are in areas of conflict, including Mindanao. Government should consider repealing the 1995 Mining Act, enact alternative legislation, as well as create a separate Department of Mines, Hydrocarbons and Geo-sciences.
The Philippines is one of 17 mega-biodiversity countries. But it is also a geo-hazard hotspot, whip lashed by typhoons, landslides, volcanoes, etc.It’s environmental stability is already under threat”, raising doubt whether it can meet the eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
“Government must therefore exercise extreme caution in authorizing large-scale mining projects.”
The books are relatively strong laws to protect indigenous peoples and communities. But these are honored more in breach than in practice. Mining in vital watersheds is approved. By law, indigenous people must give their free, prior, informed consent (FPIC) before any project starts within their ancestral lands.
But “this consent is often obtained through misinformation, misrepresentation, bribery and intimidation.”
Government agencies…are failing to fulfill their mandate to protect indigenous people’s rights. Many “view the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples as siding with mining companies”. Government should “end the contradictory practice of allowing mining companies to assert prior rights claims over ancestral land. And the Philippine Senate should ratify ILO Convention 169.
“Human rights abuses and misreporting are clearly associated with some current mining activities…” Companies should publish details of payments, taxes and royalties in accordance with the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative.
“Corruption is a serious problem. Plans for extensive mining operations in remote areas will make it worse. And those in government and international agencies seem to lack the capacity or inclination to challenge and end such misconduct.”
Consider setting up a Mining Ombudsman, the report suggests.The team doubts the benefits claimed, by mining companies, in exchange for incentives. “Once revenues are offset against costs – in particular, the environmental costs – the net gain will be far lower than that claimed, by companies and promoters of mining in government.”
In addition, “the country may be left with clean-up costs that run into billions of dollars.” In 1892, the Spanish colonial government sentenced Jose Rizal to destiero in Dapitan, to muzzle his truth-telling. That exile failed. And deporting, in 2007, a scholar who questioned this country’s mining industry, will flop. It will only embed abuses that sell Filipinos short. (Mindanao Examiner)
Asia Foundation Donates 25,000 Books To 500 Mindanao Schools
BUTUAN CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 31 Jan) – The Asia Foundation donated Wednesday over 25,000 books to some 500 schools in the southern Philippine province of Surigao del Norte.
The donation was part of the Books for Asia Program and benefited schools in Surigao City and those in Dinagat islands and from across Surigao del Norte, said Reynald Ocampo, assistant program officer for The Asia Foundation Philippines’ Books for Asia Program.
The U.S. Agency for International Development was also instrumental for the delivery of tons of books to the province.
Ky Johnson, Deputy Country Representative of The Asia Foundation graced the ceremony attended by school representatives and government officials at a gymnasium in Surigao City. (Mindanao Examiner)
Gregorio Rosal, spokesman for the Communist Party of the Philippines, denounces military-imposed food blockade in southern Philippine province of Surigao near where New People’s Army rebels raided a gold mining site in Mount Diwalwal. (CPP-NPA Photo/Caption Mindanao Examiner)
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 30 Jan) – Security forces mounted a fresh operation to capture a band of communist insurgents who raided a gold mining site in the southern Philippines, officials said.
Officials said some 40 members of the New People’s Army stormed the site on Mount Diwalwal, a gold rush area near Monkayo town in Compostela Valley province.
The weekend attack left a chilling warning that despite an all-out government offensive against the NPA, rebel forces continue its own campaign.
The raiders destroyed a bulldozer and carted away several weapons owned by security guards. There were no reports of casualties, officials said.
Troops have been deployed in the town to pursue the rebels.
Last week, security forces sealed off the southern Philippine town of Tagbina near Surigao del Sur province where it said had a senior NPA leader, Jorge Madlos, trapped.
Troops also imposed a food blockade on the village of Santa Juana to flush out Madlos and his group, said Gregorio Rosal, spokesman of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines.
“The AFP even has the gall to openly boast of its imposition of a ‘food restriction as it euphemiscally calls its food blockade,” Rosal said.
He said Army Col. Jose Viscarra, commander of the 401st Infantry Brigade, prevented villagers from gathering and carrying with them any food as these might be given to Madlos.
Rosal said denounced the food blockade as “a cruel imposition on the local population and a blatant violation of international humanitarian laws which give premium to the welfare and protection of civilians amid war.”
“Emboldened by Gloria Arroyo’s all-out war, the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) tramples on the people’s human rights with impunity and arrogance in complete disregard of the people’s welfare and total contempt of international humanitarian law,” Rosal said.
The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which is fighting the past three decades for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country.
The United States listed the CPP and NPA, including its political wing, the National Democratic Front as foreign terrorist organizations, on Manila’s prodding. (Mindanao Examiner)
The United States Embassy in Manila releases Tuesday 30 Jan 2007 a poster of Abdul Basit Usman, it says is behind the spate of bombings in Mindanao island in the southern Philippines. The U.S. also offered up to $50,000 bounty for Usman’s capture. (Mindanao Examiner)
OPINION: “Burdens of Disease” by Juan Mercado
“Health is the second blessing we mortals are capable of,” Izaak Walton once wrote.
I can’t recall the first. But fear of falling ill haunts all, specially the poor. That concern stems from their experience with government’s inadequate health systems. At local drugstores, some medicines are priced 5 to 18 times more than in other countries.
Those lusting for election exploit this anxiety. Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmena, for example, gave PhilHealth cards, valid for a year, to 35,000 beneficiaries (aka voters). Could this be misconstrued as politicking? “It’s not misconstrued,” he scoffed. “It is what it is.”
It is, in fact, far more. Health cards lapse after the votes are tallied. But many candidates ignore a critical issue: The “epidemiological transition” that is sweeping through Asian countries.
Harvard University and World Health Organization report that patterns of illnesses and deaths are drastically changing in poor countries like the Philippines – and straining health systems.
Where maladies of the poor once dominated, ailments of the affluent are emerging with a vengeance, Harvard and WHO note in their study: “The Global Burden of Disease” Tuberculosis, diarrhea, pneumonia, measles, dengue, infant malnutrition are being rapidly overtaken by stroke, diabetes, obesity, etc.
Only the very poorest countries have not started this transition to Western type diseases, University of Sydney’s Dr Bruce Neal writes in “Far Eastern Economic Review”.
Large scale studies, for example, found: “One in eight of those aged over 30 had diabetes. And an equal number showed prediabetes”. Strokes were spiraling. “Obsolete” diseases still ravage slums and uplands, of the Philippines, Indonesia, Nepal or Sudan.
But in affluent and urbanized Singapore, Germany, Korea or Hong Kong, as well as the “gated enclaves” of the rich here, fat-saturated diets, sedentary life styles, obesity boost incidence of chronic diseases. Cheek-by-jowl, the overfed and ill-nourished suffer their differing ailments.
“Potentates goodly in girth” popularized fat-reducing Xenia. But chronic hunger stunts 32 out of every 100 kids, “Philippine Human Development Report 2006” points out. And 20 percent of infants are puny under weights. In Cebu, 28 out of every 100 lack access to safe potable water.
Scientists have crafted new “burden-of-disease” indicators to track this transition’s effects.
Used since the mid-1990s, this new gauge adds up “life years lost due to diseases” and early graves, i.e. years wasted by pre-mature deaths, explain University of Ulster’s S.R. Osmani and A. Bhargaya from Houston University.
The novel tape measure is known as “Dalys” –shorthand for “disability adjusted life-years per thousand of population”. Among other things, “Daly’s” found that : Every one thousand Filipinos – like the 3.6 billion men, women and children who live in Asia today – lose the equivalent of 259 years from illness-linked disabilities and premature deaths.
Total life years lost, on the other hand, amounted to 259 years per 1,000 populations. Losses of such magnitude can beggar a nation. But political trapos do not factor such issues into their agendas. Hence, they are blind to implications of the Asian Development Bank warning: The two phases of this “transition in this burden of disease” do not follow in sequence, In fact, they interlock.
As a result, richer and poorer countries “share a common predicament: that of an overlapping health transition,” Dab’s Review points out. Nations like the Philippines do not have the option of solving one crisis at a time.
Instead, “they must tackle simultaneously problems the western world had the privilege of tackling sequentially. Emerging Asia will not have this “luxury” But problems spill far beyond casting of the ballot. Health will be costlier in the future, as populations’ age, ADB cautions.
Articulate groups, in cities, will seek to skew limited budgets towards treatment of their chronic diseases. “This will perpetuate disadvantage to the poor.” Indeed, needy countries should not “emulate Western style physician-driven programs,” adds Dr. Bryce Neal.
“(They) provide a high-cost solution for the wealthy few”. We allocate the equivalent of $174 per capita for health, Ump’s Human Development Report notes. The comparative figure for Malaysians is $374 and $1,074 for Koreans.
Over-worked, under supplied and underpaid municipal health workers close the health gap for most Filipinos, on a daily basis, in 81 provinces and 117 cities. They tap into the rich trove of traditional medicinal plants: from lagundi for coughs to amplaya for diabetes.
It’s an uphill fight. As an Inquirer “Talk of the Town” feature asked: Were multinational drug lobbies, with a few susceptible doctors, behind downgrading of ampalaya (momordica charantia), long listed as a scientifically validated medicinal plant?
That move bankrupted thousands of small ampalaya farmers. And it stripped municipal health workers of a tool in their kits. Now, Health Secretary Francisco Toque has dusted off scientific studies on ampalaya that were shoved under the rug.
He could reinstate the plant – and turn attention to the next 10 medicinal plants that health workers could use.“San Carlos University studies, in Cebu’s mountains, over 200 found medicinal plants,” Dr Franz Siedenchwarz reported. “But only one has been commercially exploited – marijuana.”
Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters, armed with machine gun and B40 anti-tank rockets, guard a village in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)
MANILA (Mindanao Examiner / 30 Jan) – The United States on Tuesday offered up to $50,000 bounty for the capture of a Filipino terrorist implicated in the spate of bombings in the southern Philippines.
The bounty on the head of Abdul Basit Usman is part of the U.S. Government Rewards Program. Usman was linked to deadly bomb attacks in Mindanao in recent months.
Usman has been linked to the Jemaah Islamiyah and believed responsible for bombings in Mindanao in October 2006 that killed eight civilians and left 30 others wounded.
He was also implicated in a series of bomb attacks in January in the Mindanao cities of General Santos, Kidapawan and Cotabato that killed seven people and wounded 37 more.
Philippine authorities previously linked Usman to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country’s largest Muslim separatist rebel group currently negotiating peace with Manila.
But the MILF has repeatedly denied the allegation and ordered rebel forces to hunt down Usman and bring him to justice.
A rebel spokesman Eid Kabalu said rebels were ordered to track down Usman and capture him dead or alive.
“Abdul Basit Usman is not a member of the MILF. Rebel forces were ordered to help Philippine authorities to hunt down and capture Abdul Basit Usman,” Kabalu told the Mindanao Examiner by phone from a rebel base in the southern Philippines.
Kabalu said the bounty offered by Washington only proves that Usman is a dangerous man.
“This really proves that Usman is a very dangerous man. The bounty offered by the United States will add more credibility in its anti-terrorism campaign in the Philippines and Southeast Asia,” he said.
He said the MILF would continue to help Philippine authorities track down terrorists even without financial reward. “Money is not all important to us, but to bring peace and stability to Mindanao,” he said.
Police charged 10 MILF members, including Usman and a rebel leader Wahid Tundok for the January 5 and January 10 bombings in Cotabato City that killed one Muslim man.
“Usman and Tundok are both included in the charge sheet, along with eight other suspected bombers,” Cotabato City police spokesman Insp. Waves Kasuyo said in a separate interview.
The U.S. Embassy in Manila said the identity of any individuals providing information about Usman will remain strictly confidential.
“It is time to bring this despicable terrorist to justice. Anyone with information on Abdul Basit Usman, or any other terrorist, is encouraged to contact the Anti- Terrorist Task Force by calling 117, (02) 528-9832, (02) 928-5778, or contact the U.S. Embassy in Manila at (02) 526-9832/9833/9834 or send a text message to 0918-948-6412,” it said.
The MILF also denied that Tundok was involved in the bombings in the southern Philippines. “Our doors are open for any investigation. We have no links with any terrorist groups and are sincere with the peace talks,” Kabalu said.
The MILF is fighting for an independent Islamic state in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner)