Japanese Ambassador Makoto Katsura and Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema. (Abdullah Cusain/Mindanao Examiner Photo)
COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 31, 2007) – Japan on Wednesday renewed its commitment to support the peace process in Mindanao island in the southern Philippines.
Japanese Ambassador Makoto Katsura flew to Cotabato City and met with the local mayor Muslimin Sema, also the Secretary General of the former Muslim rebel group, Moro National Liberation Front which signed a peace deal with Manila in 1996.
Katsura also inaugurated a center that offers women training on mat weaving.
“The Ambassador stressed that they are here to help in peace-building and that their assistance is open to all and not just limited to conflict-affected areas. Ambassador Katsura stated his admiration for the natural wealth of this place and said that it could have been richer if not for the armed conflict,” Sema said.
Katsura was also accompanied by Yasunori Nakayama, the Embassy’s political minister; Yoshihisa Ishikawa, the Embassy’s First Secretary and Nagaishi Masafumi, senior advisor for reconstruction and development of Mindanao program and also a member of the International Monitoring Team (IMT).
Manila is currently negotiating peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front which is fighting the past three decades for the establishment of a strict Islamic state in Mindanao. (Abdullah Cusain)
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CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 31, 2007) – A volunteer poll watcher was found murdered Wednesday inside a gymnasium in Butuan City in the southern Philippines, police said.
Police said Geraldine Cabardo’s body was discovered by civilians at around 5.30 inside the gym at the San Vicente Elementary School. The body of the 25-year old Cabardo bore stab wounds, it said.
It was not immediately known if the murder was related to the elections, police said.
Other reports said Cabardo worked for the Bombo Radyo’s poll watch during Monday’s Barangay (village council) and Sangguniang Kabataan (youth council).
“We are still investigating the murder. According to the SOCO (scene of crime officers), the body had multiple incise wounds,” Police Officer 2 Ethel Labi told the Mindanao Examiner by phone from Butuan City.
No individual or group claimed responsibility for the killing, Labi said.
More than two dozen people have been killed in poll-related violence in the country, according to the police, but it said the elections were peaceful compared in 2002 where 49 people had died. (Mindanao Examiner)
COTABATO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 30, 2007) – Patay ang isang Barangay captain matapos itong pagbabarilin ng di-kilalang salarin ilang oras ng siya’y tanghaling panalo sa Barangay elections sa lalawigan ng Shariff Kabunsuan sa Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Sinabi ng pulisya na hindi na umabot ng ospital si Samsudin Lumbos dahil sa tinamong balas a katawan matapos itong barilin sa Barangay Balut.
Patuloy naman ang imbestigasyon sa pagkakapaslang kay Lumbos, ayon sa pulisya. Umabot na umano sa 9 ang nasawi sa Barangay at SK polls sa naturang rehiyon.
Ngunit sa kabila nito ay sinabi ng pulisya at militar na mapayapa ang Barangay at Sanguniang Kabataan elections nuong Lunes.
Mahigit sa isang milyong kandidato ang tumakbo para sa 600,000 puwesto sa buong bansa. Huling ginanaop ang elections nuong 2002 matapos na mabalam ng ilang ulit dahil sa kakulangan ng pondo. (Mindanao Examiner)
IPIL, Zamboanga Sibugay (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 30, 2007) – Itinanggi ng pulisya kanina ang balitang 74 mga teenager na umano’y nasa educational tour ang dinetene ng isang alkalde sa lalawigan ng Zamboanga del Sur.
Naunang nabalita na nahaharap sa kaso si Mayor Nestor Loquias ng bayan ng San Miguel matapos na magreklamo ang ilang magulang ng mga bata sa pulisya nuong Biyernes.
Ito rin ang naging laman ng mga pahayagan ditto ngayon, ngunit mismong si Supt. Angelito Casimiro, intelligence chief ng pulisya sa Western Mindanao, ang nagsabing pawing mga tagasunod ng alkalde ang mga teenager.
“Mga followers ni Mayor ang mga yun. Hindi totoo na dinetene niya ang mga teenagers,” ani pa ni Casimiro sa Mindanao Examiner.
Hindi naman mabatid kung sino ang mga kandidato ng alkalde sa Barangay at SK polls.
Ayon pa sa ulat ay nailigtas umano ng mga parak at miyembro ng Department of Social Welfare and Development ang mga teenager matapos na magreklamo ng tatlong magulang ng mga bata na sina Leonardo Balbatro, Emiliano Alcurin Mondido at Leonides Dagaan. Sa bahay umano ni Loquias sa Barangay Tuburan sa Pagadian city natagpuan ang mga teenager.
Hindi naman natagpuan doon ang alkalde ngunit walo umano sa mga tauhan at kasama nito sa bahay ang diumano’y inaresto – sina Bonifacia Urro, Carlos Urro, Rolando Paragas, Leny Rosa Vergas, Ronald Pregino, Analiza Martinez, Alien Sumiling at Leonilo Calinaol – ayon pa sa ulat.
Nagtungo naman sa pulisya sa Pagadian City ang alkalde kasama ang kanyang abogado upang itanggi ang lahat ng paratang. Posibleng pakana lamang umano ng mga katunggali sa pulitika ang nasa likod ng ulat na pinigil nito ang mga teenager. (Mindanao Examiner)
Official Statement of the Institute for Studies in Asian Church and Culture.
MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 30, 2007) – On the surface, granting former President Joseph Estrada executive clemency may seem like an act of compassion. In reality, it is cheap grace.
A pardon is an act of grace. It is a concept borrowed by jurisprudence from the biblical idea of ‘unmerited favor,’ meaning that the offender is spared the penalty for ‘sin’ or breaking the law, not because of any merit in him nor of any circumstance that might lighten his case, but because the punishment has been paid for in his behalf by someone else – the Son of God himself. For God to forgive, his own son had to be sent to the cross.
The demands of justice had to be met before God could pardon our sins. Because he is just, he did not seek reconciliation by simply sweeping things under the rug. He did not issue a general amnesty and bury our guilt and grievances under a show of bonhomie.
Instead, in his mercy he stripped himself of immunity, took upon himself our humanity, and suffered the full horror of what it means to die the death that we deserve. As the writer to the Hebrews put it: “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.”
Forgiveness is costly. It is premised on repentance, on acknowledgment of wrongdoing. Estrada goes scot-free without bowing to the court’s judgment that he is guilty. We do not expect from our leaders a ‘moral revolution’; only that those who profess to have seen the light should, like Zaccheus, show signs of true repentance by admitting wrong, asking for pardon and making the necessary restitution.
Likewise, we deplore the undue haste with which Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has pardoned Estrada, betraying a gross moral callousness over the seriousness of his crime. Hot on the heels of the revelation that the President is implicated in the ZTE scandal, the timing.
Leaders set a moral benchmark for the nation. The President’s free-and-easy pardon, coming just a month after the Sandiganbayan declared him guilty of plunder, mocks our justice system and further erodes faith in the rule of law. It sends the signal that the powerful can commit a heinous crime and run free just because they can threaten mayhem on those who uneasily sit in power.
Justice and mercy go together. This is what the cross tells us. Without justice, compassion becomes collaboration. We call on our people to resist the drift towards indifference and moral corrosion and make our leaders accountable for the corruption of this nation. (ISACC is a research and training organization specializing in development, missiology and cross-cultural studies within an Asian context aimed at social transformation)
COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 30, 2007) – US and Philippine officials have signed an agreement that would strengthen the local solid waste management program.
Mayor Muslimin Sema, of Cotabato city, signed the agreement with representatives of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Growth for Equity in Mindanao (GEM) and the Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Foremost in the agreement is the reconstitution of the City Solid Waste Management Board for the proper implementation of a Ten-Year Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan.
“The project has been most awaited for. It will serve the interest of the local government of Cotabato City, particularly in the efforts to address environmental problems,” Sema, a former Moro rebel leader-turned politician, said.
Just this year, Sema also signed a 3-year contract worth P40 million for waste management project with Accion Contra El Hambre and Handicap International-Philippines. The project is bankrolled by the European Commission thru its Asia Pro-Eco Programme. (Abdullah Cusain)
Staff Sgt. Joseph F. Curreri, 27, died in an accidental drowning incident at Lake Seit in Panamao town in Sulu province on Oct. 26, 2007. (Army Photo/Mindanao Examiner)
SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 30, 2007) – The US Army Special Operations Command has finally released Tuesday the identity of an American soldier who died in the southern Filipino province of Sulu.
It said Staff Sgt. Joseph F. Curreri, 27, died in an accidental drowning incident at Lake Seit in Panamo town on October 26. He was a Special Forces Operational Detachment-Alpha team communications sergeant assigned to 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Lewis in Washington.
Curreri, a native of Maryland, volunteered for military service and entered the Army in July 2004 as an infantryman. He volunteered for and completed U.S. Army Airborne training, and then volunteered for Special Forces training at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
He was assigned to the 1st SFG (A) at Fort Lewis in 2006.
Hundreds of US soldiers under the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines are deployed in Sulu province and training local soldiers in various military tactics.
In February, a US Marine, Cpl. Timothy Lewis, suffered a heat stroke and eventually died from cardiac arrest in Sulu. It was the first reported death of a US soldier participating in this year’s joint military drill.
Lewis was part of a contingent from the Okinawa-based 3rd Marine Expeditionary Forces.
In February 2002, a US MH-47 Chinook helicopter with eight American crew and two soldiers on board crashed during a night flight in Bohol Strait in central Philippines. There were no survivors. The American troops were taking part in a joint military training with Filipino soldiers.
The helicopter was on a routine transit from the southern island of Basilan to the island of Mactan where the U.S. maintains a logistics air base.
In October of the same year, a US soldier was also killed after an Abu Sayyaf bomb exploded on a roadside restaurant outside a Philippine Army base in Malagutay village in Zamboanga City. (Mindanao Examiner)
Rated PG By Ike Seneres
EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYMENT
It is interesting to note that even the American companies that are doing business here in the Philippines are bound by their own laws to comply with Equal Opportunity Employment (EOE). America is several thousand miles away, but the power of their laws reach all the way up to here. In contrast, we do not seem to have EOE laws of our own, and if we do, nobody seems to be minding it.
In my work as Chairman of the Inter-Charity Network (ICN), I am always confronted with the challenge of finding jobs for people who are above 30. That’s right, 30 is not really old, but in this country, workers who are above the “calendar days” are already considered “old”, and therefore above the so called “age limits” here.
Again in contrast, even the local employment agencies that are recruiting for American clients from over here do not impose “age limits”, knowing that it is against American laws. The same is true for those that are recruiting for Canadian companies, indicating that these two countries are far more advanced in their respect for equal opportunity.
Imagine that if workers in their 30’s are already discriminated against, how much more for our senior citizens who are past their 60’s? The truth is, senior citizens are not the only ones discriminated against in this country, because the list also includes handicapped persons, cultural minorities and even women, yes women!
In the darkness of these very discriminatory practices, I have seen the light of day in the now booming business process outsourcing (BPO) industries. I think there is a lot of potential in having outsourced services provided by these marginalized sectors, in cooperation with companies that are committed to the fulfillment of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) objectives. Right now, I have a group of handicapped people who are ready to take on jobs as encoders, after being trained by a foreign foundation. Do we have any takers out there from the CSR programs?
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ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 29, 2007) – Rogue members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have become a major headache for the armed revolutionary group which is currently stepping up efforts to arrive at a peaceful solution to the centuries-old Moro problem in southern Philippines.
Major Benjamin Dolorfino, in a recent interview here, said renegade guerrillas have resorted to banditry, kidnapping, and extortion, criminal acts which are condemned by the fundamentalist MILF.
“Their devolution into banditry, kidnapping and extortion – all of which often end in murder – is not only and embarrassment to MILF but also undermines everythingit is attempting to achieve,” Dolorfino said citing the seriousness of the MILF peace panel to end the conflict in Mindanao.
“That is why the MILF is not merely helping the government tracks down these deserters, but in some cases is actually leading the effort to suppress them,” he said.
Dolofino said the MILF also joined government troops in searching for kidnapped Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi taken from his parish by Moro renegades on Mindanao in June. “They were leading the search,” he said.
The MILF is not the only Moro group to be plagued and embarrassed by former members who have turned to crime but also some lost commands of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), as well, which signed a peace agreement with the government after 30 years of fighting.
Unfortunately, not all of the MNLF unit commanders are ready to give up their arms, including Datukan Samad whom the MNLF refers to as the “lost command.”
In May, Samad and nine of his men kidnapped German treasure hunter named Thomas Wallraf, his wife and a Filipino couple they were entertaining, in Pikit town in North Cotabato province.
Even before police could intervene, the MNLF asked rival MILF chief Murad Ebrahim to send his men after Samad who was operating near the MILF territory around Pikit.
MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said the MILF fighters tracked and surrounded Samad near Pagalungan and asked him to surrender his hostage who refused at first but changed mind after MILF fired a rocket-propelled grenade near his position.
Norodin Matalam, vice mayor of Pagalungan town, praised the Moro groups for what he called their “spontaneous involvement” in recovering the hostages.
Samad’s Lost Command is but one of many such groups of former guerillas and terrorists that have left their parent organizations to turn independent contractors; they no longer fight for a cause –if they ever did – but for profit and to survive; some, like the notorious “Commander Kiddie,” who have turned to be professional kidnapper.
Commander Kiddie, or Abusalam Akiddin, as he is known when he led a Moro guerilla column, has a reputation for taking hostages and holding them for ransom. That reputation is so pronounced that even the Moro leadership believed it was he who had abducted Father Bossi, although the MILF leadership “pointed the finger” at Commander Kiddie, as Agence France-Presse noted, he had since denied playing any role in this particular incident
Major General Nehemas Pajarito, who as commander of forces in the area is well acquainted with the rogue commander, believed Akiddin did not hold the priest saying that authorities are “still investigating his possible involvement” in the kidnapping.
Commander Abubakar leads another Lost Command, lamented an MILF spokesman; Abubakar’s group is believed to be behind the bus and bus terminal bombings in May and June.
Major Randolph Cabangbang of the Eastern Mindanao Command told reporters that Abubakar’s lost command has sought to extort money from the Weena bus company, a family-owned business that operates at least 200 buses.
Abelerdo Gamilla, the company’s operation manager in Davao City, says the group has carried out 17 attacks on his company since 2002; at least nine people have been killed ang 48 others injured in three such bombings since May.
In each case, said Major Cabangbang, “extortion was the reason behind the attacks.” (Candido Aparece Jr.)