DAVAO CITY – Mainstream print media’s coverage of recent events in Mindanao is manufacturing consent for war.
As Mindanao reels yet again on the brink of another all-out war, sections of mainstream print media may be helping push it closer to the edge.
A quick round-up of their coverage tells us what in their view has been happening: A rogue commander not supported by the rest of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and who is coddling “al-Qaeda linked” Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah members started it all by attacking the military. The military had no choice but to retaliate. Now things are spiraling out of control and it’s all the terrorist-coddling rogue commander’s fault.
Such a plot may well have been written by the public information office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). But it is precisely how the conflict is being passed off as truth to the public by certain sections of the press. The underlying message is hard to miss: the military are necessarily the “good guys” and they need our unconditional support.
Take for example veteran defense reporter Manny Mogato’s dispatch for Reuters on April 17: “Fighting between government forces and rogue Muslim rebels is spreading in the southern Philippines, shattering hopes for peace and threatening local support for a U.S.-backed campaign to flush out militants.”
Note that the word “rogue” — a value-laden adjective synonymous to “rascal” or “scoundrel” according to a thesaurus — was not enclosed in quotation marks. Editors, usually allergic to the faintest hints of editorializing, apparently let it pass. The word “alleged,” a convenient term for attributing a claim to a source, is missing. There is also no indication that the reporter was merely using a word used by the military to describe their adversaries.
The writer himself apparently believes — and leads his readers to believe — that the other actors in the conflict are indeed “rogue.” In another paragraph, Mogato describes the leader of the “rogue” rebels, Ustadz Habier Malik, as a “renegade” commander — again, without using quotation marks. The term “renegade” is likewise used without quotation marks by Anthony Vargas of the Manila Times and ABS-CBN’s online news.
Reporting for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Michael Lim Ubac, Christine Avendano, and Julie Alipala wrote: “President Macapagal- Arroyo… yesterday gave free rein to the Armed Forces of the Philippines to pursue Moro terrorists on Jolo island…” Note that the word “terrorist,” a highly emotionally charged term, does not have quotation marks around it and there is nothing to suggest that the reporters were merely using Arroyo’s word.
It was their own. The headline, “GMA tells AFP: Pursue MNLF rebel,” proclaims who they are referring to. They also describe Malik as a commander of a “rogue faction” of the MNLF but without indicating that such a description was bestowed by the government, not something that they found out on their own. If such glaring editorializing was an oversight, there was no erratum the following day.
Alipala, in another Inquirer article published April 25, wrote: “Military clashes against Abu Sayyaf terrorists and their coddlers have triggered fresh evacuation of residents in nine towns on the island.” Having reported that the AFP has been running after the MNLF’s “rogue faction” because it is accused by the military of coddling the Abu Sayyaf, Alipala and her editors seem to have gone one step farther.
They explicitly accept the military’s avowed rationale for the war and inform their readers that yes, indeed, without any doubt, the MNLF has been coddling the Abu Sayyaf and that this is truly the reason why the military is hunting them.
In this case, Alipala outdid even the AFP itself because as late as April 21, AFP Chief Hermogenes Esperon himself was quoted by the Inquirer as saying that they are still “validating” reports about the MNLF linking up with the Abu Sayyaf. If Alipala had other sources of information to support her contention, she did not disclose them.
The above is, with few exceptions, typical: reporters have taken to appropriating the military’s explanation in their narrative and to adopting the military’s labels and adjectives as their own. Journalists normally attribute claims to their sources and take pains to put quotation marks around their sentences or phrases.
For example, instead of saying, “fighting between government forces and rogue Muslim rebels,” one could have, at the very least, said “fighting between government forces and Muslim rebels described as ‘rogue’ by the military.” Or “Moro fighters described as ‘terrorists’ by the government” instead of “Moro terrorists.” (To be fair, one must also ensure that the Moro fighters’ own description of the military should also be included.)
But choices are rarely innocent: that attribution has been deemed unnecessary points to just how much the world-views of the military and the reporters covering them have melded.
Another basic journalistic practice, that of allowing the other party to air its side, was, in all of the articles above, casually abandoned. No one bothered to find out what Malik or anyone who could speak for his group had to say.
It was no secret, even then, that the MNLF and other independent sources from Sulu had, from the very beginning, maintained that it was the military’s attack on an MNLF camp the previous week, the killing of a Moro youth and other unresolved abuses they blame on the military, and the postponement of the tripartite meeting seven times in a row that, they claim, provoked them to fire back.
There is also no mention that the MNLF has consistently denied allegations that they are sheltering the Abu Sayyaf nor is there any reference to the military’s failure to present proof to support its allegation. There is not even a passing mention of the MNLF’s claim that, contrary to the AFP’s pronouncements, Malik has not been disowned by the group.
There was no mention of all these because those with the MNLF were not even asked. Article after article on the situation lacked the customary “other side”. If it was because Malik or anyone who could speak for him couldn’t be found — an unlikely possibility — there was no mention that “Malik or any other representative from his group could not be reached as of press time.” Interestingly, there was a reference to MNLF chairman Nur Misuari supposedly distancing himself from Malik in an ABS-CBN article. But who was the source? Not Misuari himself but a police superintendent. The other side does have a voice; the media allows the military and the police to speak for them. 
This is not to say that the MNLF should be given the final word. Beyond presenting both sides, the media is also expected to verify their claims independently because two contradictory sides can’t both be true at the same time. But how can the MNLF’s claims even be scrutinized when they are not even given the chance to air their side? That reporters ignored the need for balance, an elementary requirement of any news article, not only betrays complete faith in one side’s pronouncements and a lack of any interest in finding out the truth.
Such faith is confounding given the military’s record of contradiction. That the military has in the past claimed to be pursuing “terrorists” only to backtrack later is documented. In February 2003, for instance, the military adamantly claimed that the target of their offensives was the Pentagon gang in central Mindanao only to publicly admit later that they were actually going after the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) all along.
As early as 2001, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales had accused the MNLF of getting cozy with the Abu Sayyaf. But up to November last year, when the AFP again claimed to be fighting the MNLF because it was coddling the ASG, Esperon contradicted his own superiors and subordinates by saying that they had no confirmation to back-up their allegation.
When clashes broke out in the past, the military had repeatedly presented itself as the aggrieved party that was only provoked to fire back in response. Such was the case in February and November 2005. It turned out that, according to locals, the former began when a group of soldiers massacred an entire defenseless family in Kapuk Punggul and the latter started when the military knowingly attacked an MNLF camp.
A more systematic and more comprehensive content-analysis of media’s reportage could yield interesting findings. But its coverage of recent developments in Mindanao’s long-drawn out war is most likely not an aberration. This is not the first time, for example, that the media had adopted the military’s labels.
When fighting broke out in November 2005, article after article reported that the military was going after a so-called “Misuari Breakaway Group” — the name the military gave their enemies at that time — even when those who were being chased claimed to be with the mainstream of the MNLF and even as no other faction within the MNLF contested their claim. Question: if Juan wants to call himself Juan but Jose wants to call him Pedro, should the media follow Jose and call Juan not Juan but Pedro instead?
The media’s coverage of the barbaric beheading of seven construction workers also raises a lot of issues. The Inquirer devoted its front- page banner article discussing the heart-breaking killing of innocent civilians with simple dreams and on how Muslim leaders roundly condemned the crime.
Rightly so. But when was the last time the Inquirer — or any newspaper for that matter — devoted a banner article, or even one on the inside pages, on the beheading of innocent Moro youths blamed on the military? When was the last time reporters solicited the Catholic hierarchy’s condemnation of Catholics who are accused of beheading Moros? Or are young Moros’ dreams worth less in the calculus of newspaper lay-out? Is their religion irrelevant when the killers are Christian?
Interestingly, with the Abu Sayyaf probably mentioned in more news reports these days than any other group or individual, when was the last time a reporter bothered to interview someone from the group? Given that, in Sulu, the Abu Sayyaf seems to be whoever the military claims it to be and given that those who are labeled Abu Sayyaf, being buried six feet under, could no longer contest the military’s claims, did the media have any other independent source of information on the beheadings apart from the military?
With all the speculation and the unresolved reports that the Abu Sayyaf is colluding with the military and local warlords, isn’t it high time that someone in the media actually tried to find out who they are and what they have to say and why they do the things they reportedly do? Or shouldn’t we talk to the “enemies” and just allow the military to be their spokespersons?
Speaking of the Abu Sayyaf, no mention of the group now seems to be complete without the phrase “al-Qaeda linked.” News report after news report point out that the Abu Sayyaf is linked to Osama bin Laden’s worldwide network and leave it at that — as though such a claim has once-and-for-all been established and is not to be questioned any longer. Except for the occasional reference to unnamed “intelligence officials,” there is often no mention as to who makes the claim and no discussion as to the bases of their claims.
We are never told that such a claim — which is central to the rationale for the “war on terror” — is hardly undisputed. In fact, even the Arroyo government is on record as saying that such a connection has not been adequately proven and the US Congressional Research Service has pointed out that the government’s claims are conflicting. Other researchers have raised a lot of unanswered questions over the allegation.
If they are unable to go to the bottom of things, then, at the very least, reporters could add a cautionary line or two saying that the ‘al-Qaeda-linked’ claim is still the subject of an ongoing debate. Such a disclaimer is rarely found. The phrase “al-Qaeda-linked” has become a permanent, self-perpetuating fixture that is questioned by no one and repeated by everyone.
What explains reporters’ cavalier abandonment of the basic tenets of journalism in covering the war? The pressures of the news-cycle? The perils of parachute journalism? What makes among the most skeptical of professions suddenly accept what they are told without any question? Is there an underlying “us versus them” jingoism and prejudice underlying the coverage? Is there a confluence of interests between the military and the reporters “embedded” with them? These issues could be exciting academic questions in the field of media studies.
But it is an academic question only if lives were not on the line. For just as the media played a large part in justifying and rallying public opinion in favor of the invasion of Iraq by their failure — or refusal — to look into Bush’s claim regarding Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction — and indeed the New York Times later apologized for this failure, the Philippine media’s coverage of developments in the South has been fanning the flames of war.
The unchallenged story-line that the military is purveying and the media is uncritically reporting to the public — i.e. that a “rogue” faction “coddling terrorists” started it all and that the military are necessarily the “good guys” who can do no wrong and who were left with no other choice — is precisely what is required to draw public support for aggressive military solutions to the complex problems in the south.
The other possibilities — that hawkish military commanders backed up by other interests with the material incentives to kill the peace agreement have taken over Arroyo’s embattled government, that Moros are being driven to a corner because of the atrocities being committed against them — will never be explored because they will not make it to the news.
It is not reporters who are dropping bombs in Sulu. But by uncritically covering the war from the perspective of the military, they may be cheering on those who do.
 Manny Mogato, “Fighting Spreads in southern Philippines,” Reuters, April 17, 2007.
 Michael Lim Ubac, Christine O. Avendano, and Julie S. Alipala, “GMA tells AFP: Pursue MNLF rebel,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 18, 2007.
 Juliet Labog-Javellana, “Beheadings Outrage GMA, Islamic Scholars,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 21, 2007.
 “Palace defends Sulu offensive vs Moro rebels,” abs-cbn.com, April 17, 2007; “Beheadings spur AFP to press hunt for Abu Sayyaf,” The Manila Times, April 21, 2007; “Sulu fighting uproots more than 40,000: WFP,” abs-cbn.com, April 19, 2007.
 “Sulu fighting uproots more than 40,000: WFP,” abs-cbn.com, April 19, 2007.
 Dona Pazzibugan, “MILF, not Pentagon gang, real target, says military,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, Feb 17 2003.
 “I didn’t oust Nur, I was part of the process,” Newsbreak, December 5, 2001.
 Roel Pareno, “2,000 Sulu folk flee fighting,” Philippine Star, November 15, 2005.
 See for example Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Julie S. Alipala, Edwin O. Fernandez, Nash Maulana, “New fighting erupts in Jolo,” Inquirer News Service, November 17, 2005, www.inq7.net, Sam Mediavilla, Al Jacinto and Anthony Vargas, “Jolo offensive to drag on until Christmas,” abs- cbn.com, November 18, 2005.
 Julie S. Alipala and Cynthia D. Balana, “Dreams of 2 Zambo Teeners end in Jolo,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 21, 2007.
 Julie S. Alipala, “9 soldiers, civilian slain in Army base shooting rampage,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 8, 2007; Julie S. Alipala, “Military probes Sulu misencounter,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, March 5, 2007; Andrew Marshall, “The Philippines’ Unending Guerilla War,” Time Magazine, Jan. 25, 2007.
 Larry Niksch, “Abu Sayyaf: Target of Philippine-US Anti- Terrorism Cooperation,” CRS Report for Congress, Jan 25, 2002.(Contributed by Herbert Docena, a researcher with Focus on the Global South, an international policy research and advocacy institute, who has been following the war in Mindanao.)
DAVAO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 28 Apr) – Motorcycle gunmen killed a regional coordinator of the Alagad party list group in an attack in the southern Philippine city of Davao, police said.
Police said three gunmen were involved in the shooting of Josephine Buca just in front of the South Villa Apartelle in the village of Pampanga at dawn Sunday.
Buca was with her husband, Felix, in their mini-van when the gunmen attacked. Police said the husband tried to fight off the attackers, but was whipped with a pistol on the head.
The trio escaped after the shooting. The motive of the attack is still unknown, except that the woman was a coordinator for the Alagad party list. The party list was founded in November 1997. Its current representative to Philippine Congress is Rep. Rodante Marcoleta.
Dozens of people, mostly with police records, had been summarily executed in Davao City by so-called members of a vigilante group called Davao Death Squad , but relatives of those slain accused authorities as behind the extra-judicial killings. (With reports from Juan Magtanggol and Romy Bwaga)
QUEZON CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 28 Apr) – Bagamat umamin na si Juan Dontugan na siyang pumatay kay United States Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell ay sisiyasatin pa umano ng pulisya ang naturang krimen.
Sinabi kanina ni Philippine National Police Chief Director General Oscar Calderon na kinakailangan pa ring siyasatin ang mga naging salaysay ni Dontugan sapagkat maaari rin umanong gumawa ng palusot ito upang makaiwas sa mas mabigat na kaparusahan.
Inaangkin ni Dontugan na aksidente lamang ang pagpatay nito kay Campbell na napagkamalang kanyang kaaway.
Ngunit, ayon kay Calderon, mahalaga ring makumpirma ang tunay na mga nangyari, batay sa mga ebidensyang nakalap ng pulisya at sa testimonya ng mga testigo.
Inuungkat na rin ng PNP kung sino ang sinasabing nakaaway ni Dontugan at kung saan nag-ugat kung kayat tila napraning ito at napagkamalan si Campbell.
Si Dontugan ay sinampahan na ng kasong pagpatay ng Ifugao Provincial Police Office.
“We do not take his statement hook, line, and sinker. It was a doubtful statement. We base our findings on investigation, physical evidence. Kaya nga murder. Otherwise it is a homicide case,” ani Calderon.
Sa pagharap sa suspek sa mga mamamahayag, hindi napigilan ni Dontugan na maiyak ngunit nananatiling tikom ang bibig.
Sinabi ni Calderon na nakunsensya umano si Dontugan kung kayat minabuti nitong kusang sumuko sa mga awtoridad. Subalit ang pagsuko nito ay walang timbang sa anumang kaparusahan ipapataw sa kanya.
Sumailalim na rin sa drug test ang suspek para alamin kung gumagamit ng ipinagbabawal na gamot si Dontugan na maaring nakaimpluwensya sa pagsasakatuparan nito ng krimen, bukod pa sa eksaminasyon sa ibang ebidensya.
“Mr Dontugan’s blood and urine specimen have been taken for laboratory analysis, as well as the bloodied shirt and ballcap, piece of firewood, and a bolo which the suspect claimed he used as tool to move soil to cover the victim’s body. This examination will be useful in establishing our case,” dagdag pa ni Calderon. (Juley Reyes)
JOLO ISLAND (Mindanao Examiner / 28 Apr) – The Moro National Liberation Front rebels on Monday denied military allegations that it was sheltering members of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group and Jemaah Islamiya in the southern Filipino island of Jolo.
“We have no links whatsoever with the Jemaah Islamiya. We don’t even know who were behind this group. How can they link us with the Jemaah Islamiya or Abu Sayyaf?” said MNLF leader Ustadz Khabir Malik.
Troops were battling Malik’s forces accused of attacking a marine base and the town hall of Panamao town on April 13, killing three soldiers and a civilian, said Philippine military chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon.
The military said Malik’s group is sheltering Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya terrorists on the island, about 950 km south of Manila.
“We have ordered troops to pursue the terrorists and the fugitive Malik. Our operation is now called Oplan Ultimatum 2,” Esperon said.
But Malik accused the military of attacking MNLF forces and killed civilians in the guise of pursuing the Abu Sayyaf and the Jemaah Islamiya.
The military said it was targeting Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya hiding in the camp controlled by the MNLF. Last week, soldiers shelled a base of Khaid Ajibun, one of the most influential rebel leader allied with jailed MNLF chieftain Nur Misuari.
Misuari is facing rebellion charges after his forces attacked a major army headquarters in Jolo island in 2000. The MNLF signed a peace agreement with Manila in September 1996, but Misuari accused the Arroyo government of failing to honor the accord.
Malik said the military violated the peace agreement. “Since they have not respected the MNLF and the September 1996 peace agreement and with all those unprovoked attacks against us, it is now better to have no cease-fire at all.”
“Those who want to attack should attack now. They have been attacking the MNLF. So it is now up to them. We will take care of ourselves.”
Esperon said it was Malik’s group started the hostilities in Jolo.
“Malik attacked military and civilian targets without provocation. Malik attacked the marine base with mortars and also attacked the Panamao town hall, which is 31 kilometers away,” he said.
“Malik remains the subject of our hot pursuit. It is very clear that he committed homicide. We now consider him as a fugitive,” Esperon said.
Malik said: “Do not believe what the military say about the MNLF, we have not done anything wrong. It is the civilians who are suffering from these attacks of the military. There is no peace at all here. The blame should fall on the military and the Arroyo government, not us.”
The military said it killed and wounded dozens of rebels since the fighting broke out in Jolo, a claim strongly denied by the MNLF.
Some 8,000 soldiers are involved in the operation against about a thousand MNLF rebels and Abu Sayyaf members and a dozen Jemaah Islamiya militants, including Dulmatin and Umar Patek, who were both implicated in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people. (Mindanao Examiner)
MANILA (Mindanao Examiner / 28 Apr) – Ipinag-utos ngayon ni Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. ang pagdaragdag ng mga checkpoints sa ibat-ibang bahagi ng bansa upang labanan ang krimen na nauugnay sa halalan.
Ayon kay Public Information Office Chief Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro, ito’y alinsunod na rin sa direktiba ng Pangulong Arroyo sa militar na tulungan ang Philippine National Police na tiyakin ang mapayapang halalan sa Mayo 14.
Gayunman, nilinaw ni Bacarro na kakailanganin ang opisyal na direktiba o basbas rin mula sa Commission on Elections (Comelec) bago ang deployment ng mga sundalo sa mga lugar na maituturing na hotspots.
Ito’y bunsod ng umiiral na memorandum of agreement sa pagitan ng Department of National Defense at Comelec na naglilimita na sa trabaho ng AFP tuwing halalan.
“The Chief of Staff has directed the chief of operations to direct all units to increase our checkpoints. Actually, these checkpoints can be done independently or in tandem, jointly with the PNP and the Comelec,” ani Bacarro sa pahayagang Mindanao Examiner.
Sinabi pa ni Bacarro na matagal na ring pinaghandaan ng AFP ang posibleng deputization ng Comelec para tugunan ang mga seryosong armadong banta sa seguridad.
“The bottom line is we are ready to provide said assistance once we are deputized by the Commission on Elections based on the recommendation of the Philippine National Police,” dagdag nito.
“We are ready and willing to do that, but of course, we will need the deputation coming from the Commission on Elections,” hirit pa ng opisyal.
Maging ang PNP ay magpapatupad ng bente-kuwatro oras na checkpoints sa buong bansa, lalo na sa mga lugar na mainit ang pulitika.
Samantala, patuloy na tumataas ang bilang ng mga napapaslang o nasasaktan habang papalapit ang eleksyon.
Sa pinakahuling tala ng pulisya, umaabot na sa 31 ang napapatay habang 59 ang sugatan sa ibat-ibang insidente ng pananabotahe o paglikida sa mga kandidato.
Ngunit mas mababa pa rin umano ito kumpara noong 2004 at 2001 elections.
Sa gunban monitoring naman, umakyat na sa 1,999 ang na-neutralized o naaresto, 1,820 ang nakumpiskang mga armas, 182 mga eksplosibo at 302 iba pang deadly weapons.
Samantala, itinaas naman ng Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) National Capital Region Command (NCR Com) sa red alert ang puwersa nito kaugnay sa paggunita ng Araw ng Paggawa bukas.
Nabatid kay NCR Command Chief Major General Ben Dolorfino na epektibo alas-12 ng tanghali ay inilagay na sa pinakamataas na alerto ang Metro Manila sa harap na rin ng inaasahang dagsa ng mga kilos-protesta.
Kasabay nito, tinatayang 2,000 sundalo ang nakaantabay lamang bilang ayudang puwersa sakaling hindi kayanin ng Philippine National Police (PNP) na kontrolin ang mga raliyista.
“We will place on standby our CDM [civil disturbance management] units. In addition, our quick reaction units will also be placed on standby,” ani Dolorfino sa hiwalay na panayam.
Ang Labor Day ang nagsisilbing rallying point ng mga anti-government forces partikular na ang madugong pagpapatalsik kay dating Pangulong Joseph Estrada noong 2001.
Gayunman, sinabi ni Dolorfino na malabo itong maulit sa ngayon at walang ispesipikong banta sa seguridad o kahit sa puwesto ni Pangulong Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. “We do not foresee such thing will happen again,” dagdag ng heneral. (Juley Reyes)
QUEZON CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 30 Apr) – Tuloy pa rin si Armed Forces National Capital Region Command Chief Major General Mohammad Dolorfino sa kampanya nito para sa malinis na halalan bagamat pinagsabihan na ng liderato ng militar na maghinay-hinay.
Inaangkin ni Dolorfino na may basbas ni AFP Chief of Staff General Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. ang kanyang media advocacy laban sa dayaan sa eleksyon at responsableng pagboto.
Sa isang pulong balitaan, hinamon pa ni Dolorfino ang publiko na gamitin ang karapatan ng mga botante sa matalinong pagpili ng mga kandidato.
Noong nakaraang linggo ay inihayag ni Esperon, sa pamamagitan ng tagapagsalita nito, ang babala kay Dolorfino na magdahan-dahan sa media campaign at sa halip ay tumutok sa paghahanda sa posibleng deployment ng mga sundalo bilang deputy arm ng Commission on Elections (Comelec) sa May 14.
Gayunman, nakakuha aniya siya ng go-signal kay Esperon matapos tiyaking hindi ito makakaapekto sa operasyon ng NCR Command.
“It will not affect their [troops’] operational activities and preparedness. I took this up with the Chief of Staff… It will be just me to include other heads of organizations tha are parties to this covenant,” ani Dolorfino.
Una nang umani ng pagbatikos ang nasabing kampanya ni Dolorfino sa paniniwalang magiging daan lamang ito upang mapulitika ang militar.
Ngunit, giit ni Dolorfino, walang masa sa kanyang hangarin dahil hindi naman ito nag-eendorso ng ispesipikong kandidato kundi naglalatag lamang ng mga kuwalipikasyong dapat iboto ng taumbayan.
“I call on our country men, the responsibility of promoting good governance starts in each one of us. Let us exercise our right to suffrage wisely. Let us not be part of efforts to influence the outcome of the election, let’s not get involved in violence,” dagdag ng heneral. (Juley Reyes)
ZAMBOANGA CITY- With barely two weeks left before national and local elections, a local civil society group called the Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace (IRSMP), is staging a round-table forum for local politicians on Thursday in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines.
IRSMP lead convener Rev. Fr. Angel C. Calvo said the forum, which would be held at the Lotus Restaurant of the Grand Astoria Hotel, will focus on major, selected public issues relevant to the group’s peace-building advocacy and as a voter’s education exercise.
Filipinos are to elect their senators, congressmen and local officials on May 14 polls.
Calvo said the forum, which will start at 1:30 p.m., will center on two main issues: Peace-building, peace and security; and ecology and natural resources.
“May 14 is election day. The next set of mid-term elections that will mold our city’s future will occur on that day. We would like to hear our local politicians and aspirant candidates’ views and programs if ever they will be elected or re-elected,” he said.
Invited guests are limited to candidates running for congressional and mayoralty seats.
The candidates will have two minutes to give an initial statement. They will also have the chance to speak more in response to questions during the open forum, which will be attended by IRMSP members, special guests and media.
IRMSP is a loose movement made up of Islam, Protestant and Roman Catholic religious leaders and lay people who regularly meet to discuss current public issues to foster a culture of dialogue and peace. It also implements small community development projects to promote inter-faith bonding.
“We hope that with this forum, we can learn about our candidates’ plans and platforms,” said Jaafar Kimpa.
Rev. Ronald Bilang also aired a similar statement. Both Kimpa and Bilang are conveners of Islam and Evangelicals, respectively. (Darwin Wee)
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Jocelyn Lambac (center), 28, together with fellow recipients of General Santos City Youth Achievers Awards 2006, Donald Louie Monteclaro (left), 20, and Engineer Abdul Gafur Kudarat (right), 27, will be featured June on youth leadership on ABS-CBN television in General Santos City in southern Philippines.
GENERAL SANTOS CITY – The last bottles of soft drink had been drained, the plates of rice cleared, and only a leg of garlic chicken left.
“Each one of us must have knowledge of the Holy Qur’an,” said Jocelyn Lambac, 28, a government employee, clad in a seemingly tight black shirt, pair of black pants and a black headscarf. “I should have had good knowledge of the Holy Qur’an.”
“When he was still bedridden, I would repeatedly chant by his side the Al-Fatiha,” she said, referring to the first chapter of the Muslim Holy Scripture. “It’s all I know.”
Her eyes turned red but she braved crying. “Please, no crying,” she said turning her eyes to one corner of the room, refusing to look straight at the eyes of each person at the table.”
“Gandhi and I have good news for you,” said Jovar Pantao, 24, a community organizer. “Remember what I told you before?”
“I was somewhat expecting for a wheelchair,” she said. “Not that one.”
“During my time, it wasn’t live. We did taping,” Jovar said.
“Shall I wear a headscarf that time? Oh, I should wear an outfit with videocam-friendly colors,” she said.
“You still have a time to go for foot spa, body scrub and diet,” he said. “Plus 10 pounds on TV, you know.”
“Gandhi, you should give me a copy of it,” she said, her voice somewhat excited, her eyes as if telling to herself: “I will be fine. I should be fine.”
“I will take a video of the TV while you’re live on air,” said Gandhi Kinjiyo, 33, her cousin.
“No, I want a copy of the video by the television station,” she replied.
This coming June, she and her co-awardees of General Santos City Youth Achievers Awards (GSCYAA) for 2006 will be featured on a local television channel. GSCYAA is an annual distinction conferred by the local government of General Santos to young people in the city who have manifested sterling performance in their respective fields of endeavor.
In the middle of her acceptance speech in December 15, 2006, her voice cracked and tears trickled down her face. “My mom must be very happy for me. Wherever she is now, I know my mom is very proud of me.”
“I’m neither a perfect daughter nor a perfect sister, but deep inside me I’m trying to be one,” she said. She was wearing a colorful headscarf and a dress with long sleeve. A friend would tease her later as the Megawati Sukarnuputri of the Philippines.
She is vice president of Young Moro Professionals’ Council, a non-government youth-serving organization that operates in South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos.
Her engagements in myriad community services and volunteer works have convinced the GSCYAA board of adjudicators that she deserved the award.
During the 5th Regional Qur’an Reading Competition last April 16, she was supposed to introduce as keynote speaker Lieutenant Colonel Abubakar bin Abdmalek, the team leader of Headquarter Site 4 of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines ─ Moro Islamic Liberation Front – International Monitoring Team (GRP-MILF-MT), which overseas the implementation of the ceasefire agreement between the rebel group and the Filipino government.
She did not appear.
We didn’t know why. It was not the kind of occasion that she will take for granted. Another lady took her place to introduce the 47-year-old officer from the Royal Malaysian Navy.
A few hours later, a friend approached me and asked: “Will you join us to visit Jo?”
“Why?” I asked back.
“Her father died,” he replied. “I’ll go with you.”
Tears kept falling off her bulging red eyes when we saw her. Comforts of friends were to no avail.
She stood to get some coffee and breads for us. Some days after her father passed away, she called me. “Do you want an ice cream, or you want to eat outside? My treat.”
At the restaurant, she appeared in all black. Together with her is Kim Limjap, 31, her best friend.
“It hurts inside,” she said. Tears wanted to fall from her eyes. She defied it. “But I’m already happy for Ama. When I talked to some ustadzes (Islamic scholars) on separate occasions and told them what happened, they have told me that all happened in good time. The Islamic rituals were all followed properly somehow.”
“I’m afraid of corpse,” she said, “but I still managed to kiss Ama while his body was at home. I couldn’t forgive myself if I wasn’t able to do so.”
She held her mobile phone. “I whispered to Ama how much I love him.”
“So with my dad,” Jennifer Andiam-Kamid, 30, her officemate said. Her voice cracked. She tried to hold back her tears but to no avail. “I’m also afraid of corpse but I braved the morgue when Dad died.”
“When Dad was still alive, we would always fight. I would chase him with bolo out of anger,” she said. “My husband Misuari even witnessed how Dad and I fought.”
“But when he died, I realized that I was the one closest to his heart than my other sibling in Mom and in Dad’s other families.”
Two friends bade goodbye first. Moreb Dalama, 24, has visitors at home. Jehanna Tin, 23, lives in a far off municipality in Sarangani province, an adjacent place.
“Bring home to your kids the left over chicken leg,” Kim told Jennifer.
While leaving the restaurant, Jocelyn handed me something she bought from the restaurant attendant. “Give this to your Ama,” she said.
Wrapped in brown thin paper bag. Three pieces of cupcake.
Jovar and I walked together to some distance to where we will move as under: I, to wait for a jeepney, and he, to walk alongside another streets leading to his rented place.
While we were walking, Jocelyn and Kim passed by our side, riding on a motorcycle.
“She has no other outlet, that’s why she talked to us,” Jovar said when the two were already about 10 meters away from us.
“She looks relieved, happy for her dad,” I said.
The first jeepney that stopped by happened to be the one I’m waiting for. It wasn’t a starry, starry night. The city was somber, the streets dusty. (Contributed by Norodin M. Makalay)
COTABATO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 29 Apr) – Philippine soldiers detonated a homemade bomb Sunday in the restive North Cotabato province, south of Manila, officials said.
Officials said the bomb was left near a police post in Tacurong City, but had been discovered before it was to explode. “Soldiers detonated the bomb after police manning the post discovered the explosive,” Maj. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, told the independent regional newspaper, the Mindanao Examiner.
No group claimed responsibility for the foiled attack, said Col. Danny Garcia, the local army commander.
“We are still investigating who is behind this failed bombing attempt,” Garcia said in a separate interview. “At this point, we cannot pinpoint to any group, but we have tightened security around Tacurong.”
He said the bomb was made from C4 explosive and rigged to a timer. “It had steel pellets and some components taken from a mortar rocket that would trigger detonation,” Garcia said.
The discovery of the bomb came just a day after the United States warned its citizens against traveling to Mindanao island and the Sulu Archipelago in the southern Philippines because of heightened terror activities.
Aside from the United States, Canada an Australia also told their citizens not to travel to the troubled region, where security forces are battling members of the al-Qaeda affiliate Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya and Moro National Liberation Front rebels.
A grenade attack last week in North Cotabato’s Pikit town injured three people working for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Unidentified men tossed two grenades on the USAID field office and fled. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.
Another bomb attack last week in Midsayap town also in North Cotabato also injured one civilian. A man was also killed after a bomb he was transporting exploded in Cotabato City in Maguindanao province near North Cotabto.
Abu Sayyaf militants also beheaded six construction workers and a fisherman they kidnapped in Parang town in Jolo island in the Sulu Archipelago two weeks ago. (With a report from Mark Navales and Juan Magtanggol)