46,000 displaced by Mindanao fighting
MANILA, Philippines—More than 46,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in Mindanao, the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) said Tuesday.
In its latest report released Tuesday, the PNRC said a total of 46,350 persons or 11,734 families from nine provinces in Mindanao have been displaced because of renewed clashes between the military and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The PNRC served food and essential household items to 20 evacuation centers in Cotabato, Lanao del Norte, Iligan City, General Santos City, Basilan, Sulu, Misamis Occidental, Sultan Kudarat, and Bukidnon, its report said.
In Bukidnon, the PNRC reported that there were four canon shellings that occurred at plaza Kalilangan. In Cotabato, continuous fighting was also reported, resulting to more or less 30 “torched and razed houses” in Datu Piang.
“There were many damages to civilian houses as well as public buildings. Armed groups belonging to a certain Commander Kato occupied the town hall of Masampano, Maguindanao,” the PNRC noted.
In Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat, 1,230 families have been displaced.
The PNRC said it has started rebuilding homes for displaced families in Mindanao. In the municipality of Kolambugan, 12 houses have been completed, while seven out of 12 shelters in Kauswagan were being constructed.
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer at http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/nation/view_article.php?article_id=172970
Crisis prompts Arroyo gov't to pursue peace with rebels
MANILA - The Philippines is seeking peace talks with both Muslim and communist rebels in an effort to bring stability and security to the country at a time of economic crisis, a top presidential advisor said on Tuesday.
The two rebel groups are the biggest security threats in the Philippines and a major risk to doing business in the country.
"We don't expect to move forward in these difficult times if we have elements that impede the advance of business in the countryside," Hermogenes Esperon, a former military chief, told reporters.
The Philippine economy is largely dependent on exports and remittances from overseas workers and both sectors are likely to be badly hit by the global economic crisis. The government says GDP growth is likely to slow to 4.1-4.8 percent in 2008 from a record 7.2 percent last year.
Foreign investment is low compared to other Southeast Asian nations, with the poor security situation cited as one of the main reasons for the deficit.
Esperon said the government was sending negotiators to Norway next week for an open-ended informal meeting with Philippine communist leaders based in Europe to end attacks by Maoist-led rebels on businesses.
"The attacks on mining companies and cellphone sites have gravely affected the economies of the countryside," Esperon said. The Tampakan mine on the southern island of Mindanao owned by Xstrata Ltd has been attacked by rebels twice this year.
"We want to stop the New People's Army (NPA) attacks on mining companies, cell sites, construction areas in far-flung areas and killings in the countryside," Esperon said, adding he hoped the informal meeting could lead to formal talks.
The 5,000-member NPA, active in 69 of the country's 81 provinces, have been waging a protracted guerrilla war for the last four decades that has killed more than 40,000 people.
Peace talks between the government and the communist leaders in Europe broke down in August 2004.
Earlier, Esperon told Reuters that he hoped the government would be able to resume formal peace talks with the country's largest Muslim rebel group early next year.
As a first step, the government has asked Malaysia to keep a peace monitoring team stationed in conflict areas in the south for another three months, he said.
"We expect to complete our peace consultations with various stakeholders in the south by the end of the year and probably decide by then to resume negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)," Esperon said in the interview.
"We believe that three months would be sufficient enough for us to restart the whole peace process. We need the peace monitors in the south because they have helped prevent the fighting from escalating and spilling over to other areas."
The Malaysian-led monitors were due to return home on Nov. 30 at the end of an extension of their tour of duty. Most of the monitors had been moved out of sensitive areas after fighting broke out between soldiers and rogue rebels in mid-August.
Almost 300 people have been killed in about three months of fighting.
Peace talks have been in limbo since July, and the process was dealt a blow when the government dissolved its negotiating panel in September. The talks have not been formally called off, however.
The four-decade-old Muslim conflict has killed more than 120,000 people, displaced 2 million and stunted growth in one of the country's most resource-rich regions, believed to be sitting on large untapped deposits of minerals, oil and natural gas. by Manny Mogato
Yano: No deal with soldier's NPA captors
Armed Forces chief Gen. Alexander Yano stressed this point yesterday amid ongoing military efforts to secure the safe release of 1Lt. Vicente Cammayo whom the New People’s Army (NPA) has declared a “prisoner of war” following his capture in Compostela Valley early this month.
As far as the military is concerned, Yano said Cammayo is only missing and if there are reports that the NPA is holding him captive, the military, as a matter of policy, will not negotiate his release.
“We don’t negotiate with terrorists,” he said.
“They want to glamorize the activity into a prisoner-of-war thing to gain some belligerency status. I feel that there is no serious ideology that is involved here. (These are) pure and simple money-making activities…,” he added. – Jaime Laude
Source: Philippine Star http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?ArticleId=416536&publicationSubCategoryId=67
3 MILF rebs killed, 2 hurt in Maguindanao
By Edith Regalado Updated November 19, 2008 12:00 AM
DAVAO CITY – Three Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels were killed while two others were wounded in an encounter with government forces in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao last Monday.
Maj. Randolph Cabangbang, spokesman of the Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) based here, said men of the Bravo Company of the Army’s 64th Infantry Battalion clashed with rebels belonging to the MILF’s 105th Patrol Base for nearly two hours in Barangay Malingaw.
Followers of wanted MILF commander Ameril Ombra Kato also clashed with government troops in Barangay Pusao in Mamasapano, Maguindanao yesterday morning.
A number of guerrillas were killed and wounded in the fighting that also resulted in the capture of their “food center,” said Brig. Gen. Orlando Ortiz, head of the Special Operations Command.
The soldiers were reportedly on a clearing operation when they chanced upon the MILF guerrillas in Shariff Aguak town.
Cabangbang identified the slain rebels as Samer Udtag, Maula Pegkaulan and Sadat Abdulah and those wounded as Suaed Pegkaulan and Raheb Madidis.
Cabangbang said two soldiers, Pfcs. Rex Reynaldo and Laureano Japson, were also wounded in the firefight.
Troops recovered two automatic rifles, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, MILF uniforms and ammunition.
The government suspended peace talks with the MILF after Kato and Abdurahman Macapaar alias Commander Bravo attacked several villages last August after the aborted signing of an ancestral domain deal. – With Jaime Laude
Source: Philippine Star at http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?ArticleId=416535&publicationSubCategoryId=67
Rebel supplies recovered in Maguindanao
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer at http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/nation/view_article.php?article_id=172971
House bars inclusion of Moro homeland accord in impeachment proceedings
Voting 35-4, the House Committee on Justice on Wednesday ruled against the inclusion of the “complaint-in-intervention” filed by political analyst Manolo Quezon and two other complaints filed by lawyers Oliver Lozano and Guillermo Sotto against President Arroyo.
“The chair rules that the same be returned,” panel chairman Matias Defensor said of the three complaints that followed the first impeachment complaint filed national broadband deal star witness Jose “Joey” de Venecia III and opposition lawyer Harry Roque.
With objections from opposition solons, the matter was put to a vote. Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño appealed the ruling of Defensor and sought the consolidation of Quezon’s complaint-in-intervention with the one filed by de Venecia.
"We should allow other people to include other causes of action against the President. Such should not be merely put aside," Casiño said.
The de Venecia complaint accused the President of culpability in the US$329-million national broadband deal with Chinese company ZTE Corp., the P728-million fertilizer fund mess that was purportedly used to finance her 2004 presidential bid, the alleged bribery of House members and human rights violations under her administration.
On Tuesday, the committee unanimously declared the complaint as “sufficient in form.” The committee will now move on to the more challenging part, which is to determine the complaint’s sufficiency in substance.”
Quezon’s complaint-in-intervention seeks to include the alleged constitutional violation of Mrs. Arroyo by allowing government negotiators to enter into a Moro homeland accord with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The agreement that allows for a Bangsamoro Juridical entity was declared by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said that the said complaints could not be labeled as supplemental complaints, amended complaints, or complaints of intervention, given that all were subject to the one-year bar rule. Under Section 3, Article 5 of the Philippine Constitution, no impeachment complaint against the same official may be entertained more than once within a period of one year.
"The Sotto complaint and the Quezon complaint in intervention, as well as the Lozano complaint in intervention, belong to this class of prohibited pleadings. Consequently, this committee has no jurisdiction or competence to consider these complaints," Lagman said
“Regardless of the title, the nomenclature cannot excuse itself from the one year ban,” said Baguio City Rep. Mauricio Domogan in agreement with Defensor.
“Otherwise, there will be no end to the litigation. It will be an endless impeachment proceeding,” added Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga.
Defensor said Quezon’s complaint-in-intervention may only be entertained once the principal complaint—referring to the de Venecia complaint—has been declared “sufficient in substance.”
Grave abuse of discretion?
Quezon, who was present in the committee hearing, expressed disappointment with the majority decision.
“The majority is hiding behind technicalities. It shows that they don’t want to face the issue and make the proceedings longer. It’s grave abuse of discretion,” he said.
Quezon maintained that the Moro homeland accord is a strong case against President Arroyo. “If they will discuss the Memorandum of Agreement on the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, they will surely lose,” he said.
“Congressmen are like fiscals. If there is a case, it is their obligation to strengthen the case,” he said.
as of 11/19/2008 12:07 PM
Ex-chief of police survives NPA ambush in Albay
A former chief of police survived a New People's Army (NPA) assassination attempt in Ligao City, Albay, early Wednesday.
Police said Superintendent Arnel Rabe was driving along a road in Barangay Binatagan around 6:15 a.m., when three motorcycle-riding gunmen blocked his way and fired several shots at him.
The gunmen, believed to be members of the NPA's Special Partisan Unit, fled after Rabe fell from his vehicle.
Police said a bullet grazed the left portion of Rabe's head. He also sustained a gunshot wound in his left shoulder.
Rabe has been declared safe by doctors.
The police officer was the former chief of the Ligao City police. He is currently a member of the Bicol regional police office's community relations unit. -- Rose Olarte-Orbita, ABS-CBN Albay at http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/regions/11/19/08/ex-chief-police-survives-npa-ambush-albay