DAVAO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 31, 2008) – Communist rebels on Monday warned of more attacks against government and military targets in the southern Philippines.
The rebels, belonging to the New People’s Army, also vowed to execute soldiers and policemen who committed serious violations of human rights and civilians working as spy for the Philippine military.
“Combatants of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, and their intelligence officers and operatives, those who have committed serious violations of human rights, worst plunderers, persons who have blood debts against the people and the revolutionary movement and the most horrible type of criminals have all the reason to worry about the New People’s Army,” Rigoberto Sanchez, a rebel spokesman, said.
The NPA also took responsibility for the killing of a militia leader, Nelson Sam-o, in a raid March 28 in Compostela Valley province. Sam-o was also the village chieftain of San Jose, a hamlet in Monkayo town.
Sam-o was the second village chieftain killed in just ten days in Mindanao. On March 18, rebel forces also executed Custodio Varona, of Fatima village in Paquibato district in the outskirts of Davao City.
“Combat troops of the AFP, PNP and paramilitary forces are legitimate military targets. Under the Geneva Convention and its Protocols, the members of parties in armed conflict, except their medical personnel and chaplains and those considered hors de combat, are legitimate military targets,” Sanchez said.
The outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) last week ordered the NPA, its military wing, to intensify attacks on government and military targets as part of its new offensive. It said the main purpose of the offensive is to seize weapons and increase the number of rebel forces in the country.
The CPP broke off peace talks with Manila in 2004 after the United States on the government’s prodding, listed the communist groups as foreign terrorist organizations and froze their assets abroad.
Last week, more than 2,000 people, mostly members of the anti-communist group called the National Alliance for Democracy, held an indignation rally in Tambulig town in Zamboanga del Sur province.
Major Gamal Hayudini, commander of the military’s 4th Civil Relations Group, said more and more people are joining anti-communist rallies in the southern Philippines to denounce the NPA atrocities.
“The NPA is just echoing its frustrations; it is act desperation of the part of the CPP and NPA. It is just a deception, it’s an old story. The people are supporting us, they are supporting the government and as a matter of fact, many rebels and their supporters have returned to the folds of the law,” Hayudini said.
The NPA, which celebrated its 39th anniversary March 29, is still fighting for the establishment of a Maoist state in the Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)
MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 30, 2008) – Filipino lawmakers have endorsed a bill that would give the public easy access on government information and contracts.
The proposed Freedom of Information Act, House Bill 3732, explicitly mandates all state offices to make available for public scrutiny all information regarding official acts, transactions or decisions, as well as statistics used for policy development, regardless of the format in which the facts are stored or contained.
The 29-member House committee on public information headed by Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. has endorsed the bill for floor debate and approval.
Cotabato Rep. Emmylou Mendoza and CIBAC party-list Rep. Joel Villauneva, two of the bill’s principal authors, lauded Abante’s panel for its prompt action.
“Once enacted, the bill will surely give a whole new meaning to the constitutional right to information, reinforce public accountability and repel malfeasance,” Mendoza said. “We are absolutely certain this will go a long way in promoting spotless transparency and improving governance,” she said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.
“We are definitely now counting on the entire House as well as the Senate to give the highest priority to the bill’s passage,” she added.
The Senate and Malacañang have been wrestling over the executive privilege to withhold supposedly sensitive government information, particularly with respect to the controversial national broadband network (NBN) project and the joint oil exploration accord sealed by the Philippines and China.
The Supreme Court recently upheld the executive privilege when it blocked the Senate from apprehending and compelling Romulo Neri, the erstwhile socio-economic planning secretary, to answer questions on President Macapagal-Arroyo’s purported involvement in the NBN project.
The tribunal ruled that the Senate committed “grave abuse of discretion” when it cited Neri in contempt.
Information exempt from the bill’s coverage include those declared by the President as “classified,” compiled for internal or external defense and law enforcement, obtained by Congress in executive session, on medical and personnel records that may constitute invasion of privacy, and pertaining to current treaty negotiations, among others.
Representatives Joseph Emilio Abaya (Cavite), Juan Edgardo Angara (Aurora), Teodoro Casiño (Bayan Muna), Del de Guzman (Marikina City), Raul del Mar (Cebu), Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales (CIBAC), Risa Hontiveros (Akbayan), Liza Maza (Gabriela) and Lorenzo Tañada III (Quezon) co-authored the bill.
Mendoza said the committee actually limited the executive privilege to withhold sensitive information only in times of war and emergency.
The lawmaker from Mindanao earlier lamented that more than two decades since installation of the 1987 Constitution, “we still do not have a law providing the means for the effective and orderly implementation of provisions concerning the right to information.”
The House bill proposes to make possible the efficient execution of the following provisions of the Constitution: Section 7, Article III provides: “The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents, and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.”
Section 28, Article II provides: “Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State adopts and implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest.”
Section 22, Article VI provides: “The heads of departments may, upon their own initiative, with the consent of the President, or upon the request of either House, as the rules of each House shall provide, appear before and be heard by such House on any matter pertaining to their departments. Written questions shall be submitted to the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives at least three days before their scheduled appearance.”
“Interpellations shall not be limited to written questions, but may cover matters related thereto. When the security of the State or the public interest so requires and the President so states in writing, the appearance shall be conducted in executive session.”
Dating sikat ang Golf Beach Resort sa Barangay Upper Calarian na nahawakan ng Philippine Tourism Authority ngunit sa kabila ng mataas an singil nito sa bawat isang pumapasok sa resort ay nanatiling sira-sira ang mga daan nito at halos walang tubig sa mga banyo.
Napipilitan tuloy ang maraming mga picnickers na magtungo sa La Vista Beach Resort na pagaari naman ng pamilya ni Mayor Celso Lobregat. Walang choices ang maraming nais na magsaya dahil may mga libreng resort nga ngunit malalayo naman at mabato.
Sa R.T. Lim boulevard naman na sikat na pasyalan at paliguan ng marami ay matindi naman ang polusyon sa tubig dahil sa e-coli bacteria. Ang masakit pa nito ay walang mga sign boards sa kahabaan ng boulevard na nagbibigay babala sa mga manlalangoy ukol sa matinding polusyon.
Ang tapat pa ng naturang beach ay ang Brent Hospital at doon rin lumalabas ang waste water ng lungsod. Nawala na rin ang ibat-ibang kulay na mga ilaw sa lugar na siyang nagpasikat dito nuong dekada 90.
Karamihan sa mga development projects sa Zamboanga City ay sa tuwing sasapit ang pangangampanya ng mga pulitiko. Marami rin mga Muslim at island-barangay ang walang sapat na development projects at inirereklamo ang kakulangan sa street lights, sira-sirang kalye at halos walang mga heath centers sa kabila ng limpak-limpak na pondo ng Zamboanga City mula sa income nito at Internal Revenue Allotment na mahigit sa isang bilyong piso.(Mindanao Examiner)
Some 2,000 people join an anti-NPA rally Saturday, March 29, 2008 in Tambulig town in Zamboanga del Sur province in southern RP. (Photos by Armed Forces’ 4th Civil Relations Group)
More political fuel was added this month to the crisis surrounding Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. There were accusations that her administration had betrayed the country by signing a 2005 agreement with China and Vietnam to conduct a joint seismic survey of the disputed Spratly Islands chain.
The new allegations come on top of accusations of massive kickbacks involving the awarding of a now-cancelled $US329 million contract to a Chinese corporation, Zhongxing Telecommunication Equipment Co. (ZTE), to build a nationwide broadband network (NBN) in the Philippines.
While the agreement with China and Vietnam is not new, opposition politicians utilised an article in January/February 2008 edition of the Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER) to resurrect the issue. The payoffs contained in the 2006 ZTE contract, they claimed, were made in return for signing the Spratlys agreement in 2005.
The Spratlys, which sit aside key strategic sea lanes in the South China Sea and are believed to have significant reserves of oil and gas, have been the subject of bitter and long-running disputes between China, Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines and Malaysia.
The FEER article entitled “Manila’s Bungle in the South China Sea” was scathing in its criticism, declaring: “As details of the undertaking emerge, the JMSU [Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking] is beginning to look like anything but the way to go. For a start, the Philippine government has broken ranks with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN], which was dealing with China as a bloc on the South China Sea issue.
The Philippines also has made breathtaking concessions in agreeing to the area for study, including parts of its own continental shelf not even claimed by China and Vietnam. Through its actions, Manila has given a certain legitimacy to China’s legally spurious ‘historic claim’ to most of the South China Sea.”
Arroyo’s opponents—both left and right—immediately seized on the FEER article. In the lower house, Teodoro Casiño and Satur Ocampo from the Stalinist Bayan Muna joined with 12 other congressmen to declare that the JMSU agreement was “effectively giving away the national patrimony as it actually concedes the exploration and exploitation of natural resources to foreigners which, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), clearly fall within the archipelagic waters, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Philippines.”
In the Senate, Panfilo Lacson and Anna Madrigal, both right-wing allies of former President Joseph Estrada, and Antonio Trillanes, the leader of a failed 2006 military uprising, filed separate resolutions against Arroyo. Trillanes’s resolution defined the agreement as “treacherous” and an apparent attempt “to circumvent the constitution and to undermine the powers vested by the constitution upon the senate”. If proven, this “amounts to a betrayal of public trust and treason, for which Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and other responsible members of her Government should be held accountable,” his resolution stated.
It may appear odd that a three-year-old agreement has suddenly surfaced in the midst of a bitter faction row in the Philippine political establishment. In fact, the new JMSU “scandal” helps to clarify what lies beneath the allegations of corruption, nepotism and now treason against Arroyo that fill the pages of the Filipino press. Arroyo’s opponents speak for those layers of the ruling elite most closely aligned with the old colonial power—the United States—who are hostile to her administration’s developing economic and political relations with China.
In the tussle for the NBN contract, the Chinese corporation ZTE won out over an American rival ARESCOM. In the case of the Spratlys, even bigger interests are at stake. Ever since September 2001, the Bush administration has been intent on using its fraudulent “war on terrorism” to strengthen the US strategic position in South East Asia and counter its rising rival China.
Arroyo immediately sided with Washington and, with US military support, waged her own “war on terror” in southern Mindanao. At the same time, however, her administration has been increasingly dependent on aid and investment from China to boost the shaky Filipino economy.
US opposition to the JMSU deal was evident in 2005. The right-wing American think tank, the Heritage Foundation, was particularly incensed. It accused Arroyo of caving in to “bullies” and vehemently disagreed with her claims that the “agreement with China does not constitute a surrender of sovereignty over a potentially sensitive area near the Philippines’ coast”.
A similar note was sounded by Mark Valencia, currently a senior associate of the Nautilus Institute, who warned that the agreement “would seem to legitimise China’s occupation of Mischief Reef on the Philippines’ legal continental shelf, and also tacitly implies that both parties recognise the legitimacy of each other’s claims to the area to be ‘researched’, as well as to the nearby features”.
Not accidentally, Valencia is the “independent expert” cited in the FEER article. He has been a senior fellow at the East-West Centre funded by the US Congress, and a contributor to the right-wing Asian Wall Street Journal and Washington Times. He has consistently articulated US strategic interests in opposing the legitimacy of China’s maritime territorial claims in the South China Sea.
In a Japan Times article in 2000, Valencia branded China’s claims as a “serious, long-term threat to safe and secure passage” in the South China Sea. He argued that in basing its claims of sovereignty over the disputed sea as “historic waters”, China was, in effect, directly challenging US interests in the area: freedom of navigation, not just for international shipping, but more importantly for US military forces. “Freedom of navigation and overflight principles do not apply in historic waters,” he wrote.
US efforts to undermine China’s claims in the South China Sea stem from broader strategic considerations. The Bush administration has exploited its bogus “war on terrorism” to secure closer military ties with a number of countries in Asia, including India, Japan and in Central Asia.
However, many countries in the region, including the Philippines, have become increasingly dependent on China economically as a major market and source of investment and aid.
Philippine exports to China, 80 percent of which are electronic parts, have ballooned from $3.14 billion in 2000 to $30.62 billion in 2007.
By last year, the Philippines had become the fourth biggest trader with China among ASEAN members. China and Hong Kong together displaced the US as the Philippines’ largest biggest trading partner, representing 23 percent of the country’s foreign trade. On the other hand, Philippine exports to the US fell from more than 35 percent of total exports in 1997 to just 18.3 percent by 2006.
China is competing with Australian and US multinationals in the Philippine mining industry and has reportedly invested $1 billion in the Surigao del Norte province. It has also invested $476 million in the rehabilitation of the North Luzon Railway System. By contrast with the US, which had generated resentment by refusing to sign a free trade agreement and remove subsidies for US agricultural goods, China has signed major agreements committing the Philippines to set aside 1.5 million hectares for the production of agricultural goods exclusively for the Chinese market.
In 2006, according to a New York Times report, China offered “an extraordinary package of $2 billion in loans each year for the next three years from its Export-Import Bank”. The aid offer easily trumped the “$200 million offered separately by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank for that year alone” and “outstripped a $1 billion loan under negotiation with Japan”.
The Philippines hosted the second East Asian Summit in January 2007, linking ASEAN countries with China, Japan and South Korea. Australia, New Zealand and India were allowed to attend, but the US was notably absent. Concerns have been expressed in Washington that the East Asian Summit will become a means for Beijing to use its growing economic muscle to extend its regional influence. Arroyo, on the other hand, declared at the summit: “We are happy to have China as our big brother in the region.”
The rapid rise of China is profoundly destabilising economic and political relations in the Philippines. As popular opposition has grown over deepening social inequality, rising inflation and high unemployment, Arroyo and her backers have underlined her administration’s economic success story. Her claims, however, largely rest on the financial influx from China, which has contributed heavily to the relatively buoyant Philippine peso, allowing the government to pay off debts, cut the budget deficit and even pump prime the economy.
Chinese aid, investment and trade are cutting across economic ties to the US. The resurrection of the JMSU issue, and its linkage to the ZTE scandal, shows that sections of the ruling elite in Manila are concerned that longstanding strategic ties between the US and its former colony are being compromised. Growing global financial instability and economic uncertainty are compounding the tensions. The increasingly bitter factional disputes in Philippine ruling circles are not being fought out openly, but by means of a sordid scandal, now accompanied by lurid accusations of treason, with the aim of disciplining, if not removing Arroyo.
The key role in obscuring the issues and politically subordinating working people to the anti-Arroyo faction of the ruling elite is being played by the various Stalinist parties, who line up with right-wing figures in denouncing Arroyo and calling for her removal. All this plays a critical function for the ruling class in blocking the emergence of an independent political movement of the working class fighting for its own interests. (Dante Pastrana)
MANILA, Philippines (BBC)- Hundreds of US troops have been working in the southern Philippines since 2002. Their role is to help train local soldiers in the battle against insurgents, and their presence divides local opinion. The BBC’s Vaudine England reports from Manila.
US-trained troops at Jolo airport, file image, 2007Philippine troops have been battling insurgents for decades. It is one of the most ignored, but perhaps one of the most successful, fronts in the Bush administration’s so-called War on Terror.
As part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force, US troops train their Philippine counterparts in counter-terrorism and provide financial and logistical support.
Their presence coincides with a stepped-up US aid budget enabling better roads, schools, clinics, ports and more.
Officially the US troops are not involved in any combat operations. In US embassy words, the programme combines the “iron fist and hand of friendship”.
Yet there are many conspiracy theories about what the troops are doing – ranging from eavesdropping on Indonesia to buying the way back into a permanent military presence in the Philippines, which the US lost in 1991.
Tom Green of Pacific Strategies and Assessments, a Manila-based security company, argues that both of these theories are nonsense.
“The US is seeing a regional terror threat and sees the south [of the Philippines] as a potential free haven and incubation area for more radical elements,” said Mr Green, a former US military officer.
“The US role is training and assistance, as part of a long term effort to develop local capabilities.”
He says the US is taking a low profile because this approach is more sustainable.
“If you’ve got a constructive presence in a village, you’ve hopefully got a medium to long term contribution to employment, to health, to education,” he said.
“And, more tactically, with a constructive relationship with the villagers, they start talking to you.”
There is some support among Filipinos, but concerns persist – both about sovereignty and about what the US presence might be doing to already delicate relationships in the south.
Independence groups from the Muslim minority Moro people were fighting the Manila government three decades before the War on Terror was declared.
Peace talks are now in progress between the Moro Independence Liberation Front (MILF) and the Manila government. But the Abu Sayyaf group, long seen within Asia as a gang of kidnappers and smugglers, continues to pose a threat to law and order.
In the 1990s, Philippine military intelligence officers told me that hundreds of Indonesian militants were training with their Muslim brothers in the south.
Members of the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiah (JI) militant group have sought refuge and practiced bomb-making in the Philippines.
Earlier this month the Philippine authorities announced the arrest of three suspected militants plotting to bomb foreign embassies in the capital. The Rajah Solaiman Movement, a home-grown militant group, has also been linked to Abu Sayyaf and JI.
Sometimes opposition to the US troops is expressed as an ideological aversion to any foreign presence in the Philippines – which was once an American colony.
Julkifli Wadi, a professor at the Islamic Studies Institute of the University of the Philippines, argues that “neo-colonialism” is an inadequate word to explain the US role in his country.
Instead, he says, the south is suffering from “multiple colonialisms” with the War on Terror amounting to the “second coming” of the US.
“On the one hand, the Philippines government is able to make her presence felt on the radar screen of US foreign policy and therefore receive hefty financial assistance, making it appear that there is indeed a threat,” he said.
On the other hand, he believes that the US is “using the Philippines as a cover for its wider engagement in the region”.
To other analysts, the labelling of undesirables as Abu Sayyaf or other terrorists is imprecise and perhaps disingenuous.
“Our feeling is that Abu Sayyaf is decimated,” said Amina Rasul, director of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy think-tank.
“The other group they’re trying to hunt is Jemaah Islamiah, but already last year they were only talking about two possible leaders” hiding in the area.
“Is this something that requires the combined forces of the Philippine and US militaries? I’m not so sure,” said Ms Rasul.
She notes that, in Indonesia and elsewhere in the region, successful counter-terrorism has been led by local police, not foreign soldiers.
“The more we look at the situation in the south, the more many of us realise they should be strengthening the capacity of local police agencies.
“First, they are local, they know local intelligence, they are plugged into local networks. Any act they do against terrorists will never be seen as a move of the non-Muslim majority against a Muslim community,” said Ms Rasul.
Measuring the size of the threat against the size of the US presence is difficult – official numbers are not made public.
Mars Buan, a senior analyst with the Pacific Strategies and Assessments, estimates Abu Sayyaf had about 200 fully armed members at the end of 2007, down from about 400 in 2005-06.
US forces amount to about 500 troops on rotation, in addition to visiting “advisers” and other personnel for “training surges”.
Many of these are on civil-military operations, but the bulk of the US contingent is believed to be made up of special forces.
The apparent success of foreign troops in building infrastructure in the troubled region highlights, above all, a failure of local governance.
If Philippine government bodies could manage their resources to shelter and assist their own people, maybe all those special forces could go home.
DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 28, 2008) – Consumer groups and civil society organizations have assailed the Davao City Water District (DCWD) for allegedly terminating employees without due process.The Consumer Alert! (CA) and the Nagakahiusang Mamumuo sa Davao City (NAMADACWAD) have thrown its supports to the former employees and condemned their termination.“We sympathize for the workers and their families who are now in a desolate situation. We believe that the management’s move to terminate and suspend the employees annihilates these people’s aspirations and their only means for survival,” Leon Bolcan, CA spokesman, said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner. “What is more condemning is the fact that these employees were terminated and suspended without due process. They were denied of the chance to defend their innocence and the management is seemed unmoved with their arrogance and irrational stands,” Bolcan added.The two groups have previously opposed a plan by the utility cooperative to loan some P126 million from credit firms, saying, it would further put the DCWD in debts. It said DCWD should first put in top priority the welfare and benefits of employees.“Apart from the loan, the workers of DCWD have other issues that need to be addressed by the management. It is proper and legitimate that the workers demand for the benefits that are due to them. To deny them of this right, or worse, to order for their termination and suspension on the basis of their oppositions is unjust and absurd,” Bolcan said.The loan, DCWD said, would be used to repair pipelines and other projects.Bolcan said his group would appear to a plenary session of the Davao City Council to express support to DCWD employees and renew their opposition to the proposed loan.“We support the workers in the fight to protect DCWD and the water consumers of Davao City. We can not allow the management to continue on violating basic human rights and endangering the future of the city,” Bolcan said.