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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Misuari wants to attend OIC meet
text Julmunir Jannaral

A DEFENSE counsel of detained Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuari on Monday urged the government to release the Moro leader before July in time for the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) tri-partite meeting.
Lawyer Dalidig Sumndad said the OIC called for a tripartite meeting with the MNLF and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) on July 19 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Sumndad said it would be beneficial if Misuari, who was one of the principal signatories on the first peace treaty with the GRP, could attend.
Sumndad said the OIC hinted that if Misuari, who was also a former Regional Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was released, the Philippine government’s application for observer status at the OIC might be considered after being rejected several times.
MILITARY BLOTTER

May 28: Unidentified gunmen shot and killed a policeman in Jolo, Sulu. The victim was identified as a certain PO2 Nadir Abbas, who was assigned with the 1514th Police Mobile Group. A belated military report said Abbas while on marketing together with his wife was shot to death by unidentified perpetrators at Hadji Butu Street in Jolo town. Captain Jose Ritche Pabilonia, Southern Command information chief, said the suspects withdrew towards unknown direction. Motive of the incident remains unknown and under investigation.
May 28: Villagers found a cache of explosives in a complex in Misamis Oriental. Captain Pabilonia said the explosives, including seven rounds of 60MM mortar and one landmine, were recovered at Dampalan area, Malindang town. Recovered items were turned-over to the detachment commander of the Army’s 13th MO CAA Coy base at Barangay Buenavista, Bonifacio. Pabilonia said the landmine may be use for ambush plot on AFP troops and the use of landmine is prohibited under International Humanitarian Law, which was further strengthen by the OTTAWA Treaty.
May 28: Three unidentified gunmen shot and killed two persons in Parang, Maguindanao. The victims were identified as a certain Abonita Dagalangit and Maru Buri. They were killed at a public market. Captain Pabilonia said a squad of troops backed by policemen rushed to the crime scene and caught up with the suspects. One of the gunmen escaped but two of them were wounded and taken to Cotabato City Hospital.
May 28: Ten New People’s Army (NPA) rebels surrendered and yielded firearms to the military in Malita, Davao del Sur. The communist surrenderees, all residents of Sitios Kigulay and Namunga in Barangay Danwata, surrendered to 66th Infantry Battalion. They were identified as Galsa Malon, Modesto Bago, Pepito Toceok, Danny Tago, Baldo Anyong, Kapia Macatunao, Amado Mangulayan, Bulag Lumbaran, Luis Calibay, and Pangalawan Kalibay. Firearms yielded by the NPA rebels were pieces of 12 gauge shotgun, one carbine, cal. 38 pistol, 15 rounds of shotgun ammos and 1 magazine.
May 29: Two persons were killed following an attack in a remote village in Dinas, Zamboanga del Sur. Captain Pabilonia said more or less 30 fully armed men equipped with two rocket propelled grenades and assorted high powered firearms led by Camel Lao also known as Robin harassed the group of Ramsey or Maulana group at Barangay (village) Butitian. Two followers of Lao were killed identified as Muhaymen Sulayman and Jun Lesondra. One M16 rifle with attached M203 and two Improvised Explosive Device were recovered from them. Captain Pabilonia said the body of the slain victims was turned-over to their relatives with the presence of village officials in the area. One platoon of the Army’s 53rd Infantry Battalion was deployed to the area and a gun running battle ensued where two followers of Lao were killed. Troops are still in the area conducting pursuit and combat clearing operations.
(Summary from the Armed Forces of the Philippines Southern Command Headquarters, Command Information Office’s Incident Report as of May 29, 2006)

Monday, May 29, 2006

What Muslims say about Dan Brown's novel, The Da Vinci Code? Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi is the president of the Fiqh Council of North America who delivered this Khutbah at the Islamic Society of Orange County, California, United States on Rabi` al-Thani 21, 1427/ May 19, 2006.

Prophet Jesus and The Da Vinci Code
text Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi

(Say ye: We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma`il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) Prophets from their Lord: we make no difference between one and another of them: and we bow to Allah (in Islam).) (Al-Baqarah 2:136)
(Behold! the angels said: O Mary! Allah giveth Thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah.) (Aal `Imran 3:45)
We believe in all the prophets and messengers of Allah. We respect and honor all of them without any discrimination. We believe that all prophets preached the message of tawheed (oneness of Allah) and all of them invited human beings to worship Allah alone and to live righteous lives.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was not the only prophet of God, but he was the last and final prophet of God. Prophet Muhammad was not the founder of Islam; all prophets submitted to God (Muslims) and followed the way of submission to God (Islam). We believe that Jesus was one of the great prophets of God.
In the Qur'an, Jesus is called `Isa. He is also known as Al-Masih (the messiah) and Ibn Maryam (son of Mary). He has many other honorable names and titles in the Qur'an. He is a highly respected religious figure. Every Muslim believes in him, honors him, and loves him. His mother Mary is also highly respected, loved, and honored. There are hundreds of thousands of Muslim men all over the world who feel proud and blessed to have the name `Isa, and there are thousands of Muslim women who feel honored and blessed to be called Maryam.
There is a big controversy going on all over the world at this time about Dan Brown's novel, The Da Vinci Code. This novel is a big thriller, and until now, more than 45 million copies have been sold. Today, a movie based on this novel will be released. Many Christians, especially Catholics, are outraged with this novel.
In several countries, Christians are protesting and asking their governments to ban this novel and its movie. Some bishops and cardinals referred to the Danish cartoons against Prophet Muhammad and said that if Muslims were angry with a few cartoons, we should be even more angry with this book. Some Muslims and non-Muslims are asking for our reactions to this book.
We as Muslims do not want to be known as people who react only when something wrong is done to the blessed name of our Prophet Muhammad. We stand for the respect of all religious figures of all religions. Furthermore, Jesus (peace be upon him) is also a blessed prophet for us. We believe in him and honor him. We also have something to say about this novel and movie.
There are two things that I would like to say about The Da Vinci Code. One is positive and the other is negative. The positive thing is that it says that for the first four centuries, Jesus was known only as a prophet of God, and not God. At the Council of Nicea around the year 325 CE, the Emperor Constantine and some bishops changed the true teachings of Jesus.
The Da Vinci Code also says that Jesus (peace be upon him) married one of his female disciples, Mary Magdalene, and had children and that his descendants still exist today. Although the Qur'an does not say anything about Jesus's marriage, his wife, or his children (neither does the New Testament), there is nothing wrong, from the Islamic point of view, if he were married and had children. Allah says in the Qur'an, (We did send Messengers before thee, and appointed for them wives and children: and it was never the part of a Messenger to bring a Sign except as Allah permitted (or commanded). For each period is a Book (revealed)) (Hud 13:38).
Some Christians consider this story about Jesus to be blasphemous. According to them, to say that Jesus was married means that he is not God. Although they say that God had a son, they say that Jesus could not have had a son. However, as Muslims, we say that just because Jesus wasn't married doesn't make him God. Prophet Yahya (John the Baptist), who was Jesus' contemporary, was not married, yet no one considered him to be divine.
Celibacy does not make any person divine. If Jesus were married, then this does not take away his honor because there were many prophets who came before and after him who were married and had offspring. It is interesting to see a number of books produced today by Christian writers that also say that Jesus was not crucified and that he never claimed to be the Son of God. This is what the Qur'an said a long time ago.
There is, however, a negative side of The Da Vinci Code, that we as Muslims should criticize. The Da Vinci Code is a novel, a work of fiction. It does not present facts about Jesus's life in a serious and respectful manner. It has fictionalized his life and story, and in this sense, it has downgraded this great messenger of Allah.
The author of The Da Vinci Code took some historical facts and then spun a mystery story to thrill and chill his readers. Allah's prophets and His messengers should not be treated in this manner. They are entitled to receive utmost honor and respect from us. It is for this reason that Islam forbids making pictures of Allah's prophets and messengers and also forbids creating fictitious stories and movies about them. Islam teaches us that we should present the prophets' life stories with great care, respect, and the utmost authenticity. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "Convey from me even if it is one verse. Speak about Bani Israel without any hesitation; but whosoever tells a lie about me, let him prepare his place in Hell" (Al-Bukhari 3202).
We hope that more and more truth will come out about the life and teachings of Jesus (peace be upon him). We totally reject those who abuse his person through fiction and falsehood. We as Muslims should use this opportunity to inform others about the Islamic position regarding Jesus (peace be upon him). Ameen.

MILF endorses banning of ‘Da Vinci’ movie
text Luwaran
In a show of religious respect, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has agreed with the Philippine government to ban the showing of the movie “The Da Vince” in the Philippine theaters, saying it promotes irreligiousness among the predominantly Catholics in this country.
Khaled Musa, Deputy Chairman of the MILF Committee on Information, told Luwaran that such abuse of discretion in the name of freedom of expression does not bring any good to the people.
He said that although the Muslims are not believers of Jesus Christ as God, but they still considers the movie as “blasphemous”, because it attributes to Christ such accusations not befitting him even as a Prophet.
He recalled the latest uproar over the cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) as a “terrorist” by a Swedish publicist that had resulted in the loss of scores of lives and millions worth of properties when Muslims protested, some violently, in several European, Asian, and African states.
“We agree with the government to ban the showing of the movie,” Musa stressed, adding that freedom of expression should not be allowed to invade the freedom of religion.
Earlier, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said that he considers The Da Vinci Code movie blasphemous and should not be shown in Philippine theaters.
He advised the Movie Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) to exercise prudence by not allowing the screening of the film, which is an adaptation from Dan Brown’s best-selling novel that says Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene, a prostitute, and started a sacred bloodline that still exists in secret.
The book has stirred up intense debate among Christian scholars, some of whom say the story line is blasphemous.
He feared the film could make negative impression on the minds of the youth about Christ, so “it would be better for us as good Catholics or good religious people of any denomination to discourage its showing.”
Archbishop Ramon Arguelles has already launched a campaign to have the film banned, ahead of its planned opening across Asia on May 18.
In 1988, the government banned screenings of The Last Temptation of Christ, another blasphemous movie.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

MILITARY BLOTTER

May 24: About 15 fully armed men attacked an island in Zamboanga City, wounding a civilian. The attack also killed a cow and injured three others. Wounded was a certain Said Laham. The incident took place at Barangay (village) Pasilmanta, Sacol Island. Southern Command information officer Capt. Jose Ritche Pabilonia said a 20-minute firefight between government militiamen and attackers, led by Jun Akilan and Mahadali Balaca, ensued. Troops from Task Force Zamboanga reinforced but their enemy had already left the area. Last April 3, Akilan’s two cousins were killed in an encounter in the said island. “Reportedly, Akilan arrived in Sacol Island to avenge the death of his cousins,” Pabilonia said.

May 25: Two unidentified gunmen shot and killed a person in Patikul, Sulu. Killed was Almujid Bandahala, 22. Capt. Pabilonia said the incident took place at Upper Kasanyangan Village. Bandahala was riding his motorcycle on the way to a mosque when the assailants using cal. 45 pistol shot him hitting his chest and neck through and through. Motive of the incident still undetermined and the case is being investigated, according to Pabilonia.

May 25: Two members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were killed while four government militiamen wounded following an ambush in Bayugan 1 in Agusan del Sur. A report said a certain Mela Ahan, chairwoman of Barangay Mount Carmel, was ambushed by undetermined number of communist rebels. The lady village official survived but four of her Cafgu escorts were wounded identified as Nilo Ahan, Corsio Dealde, Nilo Pontillas, and Elmo Gilmo. Capt. Pabilonia said reinforcing troops killed at least two NPA rebels in the ensuing firefight, which lasted for about 30 minutes. Soldiers recovered one of the slain NPA rebels, one cal 5.56MM, one M16 rifles, 3 magazines with ammo for M16, 30 meters detonating cord, jungle pack and 2 flashlight and personal belongings from the encounter site.
May 25: Joint elements from 604th Brigade, 64th Infantry Battalion and Sultan Kudarat Provincial Police Office led by Police Supt. Teng Tocao with Miss Carmen Nor, Secretary of Governor Datu Pax Mangudadatu jumped off Brigade Headquarters and proceeded to Palimbang town to negotiate and accept the surrender of a certainn Ugok Polinas Epek, a Manobo Tribe and leader of notorious armed group operating in the municipality of Senator Ninoy Aquino with sanctuary at Badiangon, Barangay Bambanen, Palimbang. The group of Ugok Epek is responsible for the series of armed robberies and other atrocities in Senator Aquino town. The same day, the group arrived in Palimbang and immediately had a meeting with officials of local government agencies participated in by Manobo Tribal Leader Sultan Guiamadin Maring, members of International Monitoring Team in the area headed by Colonel Rashak, Malaysian Army and local Ahjag IMT in the area and threshed out the mechanics of the surrender and conduct of coordination. Ugok Polinas Epek was fetched from Barangay Bambanen and brought to PPO for custody and tactical interrogation jointly conducted by intelligence personnel of SK PPO and 604th Brigade.
May 26: At least three people, including a soldier and two civilians, were killed and four others wounded when government troops clashed with communist rebels in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur. Capt. Pabilonia said more or less 10 fully armed men from the New People’s Army (NPA) attacked an outpost of the Army’s 29th Infantry Battalion based in Barangay (village) San Roque, triggering a 5-minute firefight. The two slain civilians were identified as Danilo Baisak and Lito Vigonte. The wounded civilian was Boying Libradilla.
May 27: Operating troops of 1st RDC, 6ID, Philippine Army while conducting combat clearing operations encountered undetermined number of communist rebels at vicinity Barangay Datal Anggas, Alabel, Sarangani Province. No casualty on the government side while undetermined casualty on the enemy side as of this report. Capt. Pabilonia said troops and two UH helicopters based in Awang, Maguindanao were sent to the area.
(Summary from the Armed Forces of the Philippines Southern Command Headquarters, Command Information Office’s Incident Report as of May 27, 2006)

Friday, May 26, 2006

IMAGE OF THE DAY
A Qur'an reading and recitation competition sponsored by the ARMM's Bureau on Cultural Heritage will be held on May 30, 2006 at the municipal gym of Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao.

ARMM to hold 1st Qur'an reading competition

Following the successful holding of a Qur’an Reading Exhibition during the celebration of the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival late last year, the Bureau on Cultural Heritage-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BCH-ARMM) spearheads yet another meaningful activity geared towards the promotion and preservation of Filipino Muslim’s important religious and cultural practices- the 1st ARMM Regional Qur’an Reading Competition.

The competition, which will be held on May 30, 2006 at the Municipal Gymnasium, Poblacion, Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, will draw in individuals who excel in Qu’ran reading throughout the region.

Each of the five component provinces of the ARMM including the City of Marawi will send in a pair of participant- a male and a female- to the competition.

The official line-up of participants includes Nurhadi Dasan and Aima Nawawi of Basilan, Majed Ahmad and Zainab Hanafe of Lanao del Sur, Lahmudin Makabuat and Suraidah Ampatuan of Maguindanao, Jaber Noor and Warda Alang of the City of Marawi, Benmunir Arip and Hurinnur Kisri of Sulu and Omar Muktar Burugan and Hasma Hassan of Tawi-Tawi.

”The BCH took it upon itself the noble task of institutionalizing the annual conduct of the ARMM Regional Qur’an Reading Competition as stated in its mandate under Article XVI Section 16 of the Organic Act,” said BCH-ARMM Executive Director Haron Felmin.

Although majority of the participants in other Qur’an reading competition held in the country come from ARMM areas, this should be first time for the ARMM Regional Government thru the BCH to conduct its own regional Qur’an reading competition.

The Office on Muslim Affairs (OMA) has always been the lead entity in most of these events. ARMM Regional Governor Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan has given full support to the activity.

“This will not only strengthen and promote our noble practices, but it will also instill stronger Islamic values among our people,” he said. (BPI-ARMM)

World's biggest hospital ship arrives in Zamboanga for humanitarian and civic aid

The U.S. Naval hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) arrived off the coast of Zamboanga City on May 25 to provide humanitarian and civic assistance to the people of Zamboanga, Jolo, and Tawi Tawi in the southern Philippines.
This mission reflects longstanding ties between the United States and the Philippines, as well as our continued commitment to work together to address mutual problems and concerns.
“The deployment of USNS Mercy to Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific exemplifies the United States commitment to working together with our friends, partners, and the regional community,” said Adm. Gary Roughead, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet. “By deploying the Mercy, we are training our medical crew in order to better prepare them to respond in times of disaster relief.”
The Mercy’s mission is being carried out in conjunction with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and in close coordination and partnership with local medical care professionals. Volunteers from the U.S. Public Health Service, Aloha Medical Mission, Project Hope, and the University of California at San Diego Pre-Dental Society joined Mercy in Manila, along with a contingent of medical specialists from the U.S. military and Canadian military. Medical personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines embarked the ship for the Philippine portion of the deployment, providing focused medical care in partnership with their American counterparts. Additionally, the crew onboard Mercy is partnering with assistance organizations who are working ashore such as ACDI/VOCA, Sahaya Foundation, Save the Children, and the Philippine Red Cross.
A number of U.S. and Philippine government, military, and civilian agencies have been involved in planning the myriad details that go into this month-long mission of medical, dental, and civic action programs to provide focused humanitarian assistance to the people of the Philippines.
For this deployment, Mercy has been configured with special medical equipment and a robust multi-specialized medical team of uniformed and civilian health care providers to provide a range of services ashore as well as on board the ship. The San Diego-homeported ship can support various services such as casualty reception, optometry screenings, eyewear distribution, physical therapy, burn care, radiological and laboratory services, dermatology, urology, obstetrics and gynecology, general surgery, ophthalmologic surgery, plastic surgery, basic medical evaluation and treatment, preventative medicine treatment, dental screenings and treatment, immunizations, public health training and assessment, vector control and veterinary services.
In addition, the 894-foot-long ship has embarked a small team of Sailors from the Naval Construction Force (known as the Seabees) to perform repair and minor construction projects in the host counties. Some of these construction projects can directly improve medical and sanitary situations. The U.S. Navy Show Band is also deployed aboard the ship, and will be performing in select locations in Zamboanga, Jolo, and Tawi Tawi.
USNS Mercy is uniquely capable of supporting medical and humanitarian assistance needs and can rapidly respond to a range of situations on short notice. Last year, Mercy deployed in response to the December 2004 tsunami that struck Southeast Asia. That deployment resulted in the treatment of more than 107,000 patients, including 466 surgeries, distribution of 11,555 pairs of eyeglasses and performance of more than 6,900 dental procedures in Indonesia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea. (PRESS RELEASE)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

OPINION
DURIAN

text AMINA RASUL, Former Presidential Adviser on Youth Affairs

Broken peace

This past week, representatives of the Organization of the Islamic Conference Committee of the Eight and the General Secretariat have been meeting with government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), to look into the status of the Final Peace Agreement (FPA). The Agreement laid to rest almost four decades of conflict by what was then the largest secessionist Muslim group in Mindanao. Headed by Ambassador Sayed Kassem El-Masry, Adviser to the Secretary General, the OIC Mission has visited Mindanao and met with the Moro National Liberation Front. Last Saturday, they dialogued with the group of MNLF General Kajid Ajibon in Jolo.
The GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement was signed almost ten years ago, with the help of the OIC. Two MNLF leaders have been elected ARMM Governor: MNLF Chair Nurullaji Misuari and Dr. Parouk Hussin. The ARMM Organic Act has been amended and the territory increased from four provinces to five and Marawi City. However, no visible economic or social progress is evident. Instead, Misuari is incarcerated on charges of rebellion while armed conflict between the MNLF and government troops have erupted in Sulu since 2004.
What is the true status of the implementation of the 1996 GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement? The GRP and MNLF perspectives were contradictory, not even a case of the half full/half empty glass. Government maintained that the FPA has been implemented in full while the MNLF and many Mindanao leaders claimed that the terms of the Agreement have been violated.
The government reports that the military and political aspects of Phase 1 of the agreement (which includes integration of former MNLF combatants to the Armed Forces and the police) have been fully completed. Further, Phase 2 has also been substantially implemented with the passage of a new Organic Act for an expanded ARMM. Government also cites the multi-donor Mindanao aid program.
However, the MNLF disputes the progress claimed by government. Rev. Absalom Cerveza, spokesperson of the MNLF Peace Panel, has said that the MNLF rejected the new Organic Act for ARMM because it violated terms of the Peace Accord. He frequently cites the failure of national government to remit the internal revenue funds in the first five years of the regional government, the intervention of Malacañang in the ARMM elections, and the fact that the law – contrary to what was agreed upon -- lays claim to all strategic minerals in the ARMM for national government, effectively depriving the ARMM of vital resources for development.
Part of the problem has been the emasculated institutions tasked with coordinating development efforts, according to former ARMM Executive Secretary Randolph Parcasio. First, the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD) was “tasked to cause the implementation of peace and development projects” in the conflict areas, as delineated by the Special Zone of Peace and Development.
Unfortunately, the control and regulatory powers of the SPCPD were not stipulated. Further, it was not involved in the peace efforts with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and it was not involved in the ARMM electoral processes, contrary to agreement. Fr. Eliseo Mercado Jr. (OMI), former President of Notre Dame University of Cotabato City, resigned from the SPCPD in protest.
Second, the ARMM is widely regarded as ineffective due to lack of resources and inefficiency. Even the United Nations Multi Donor Program Second Assessment Mission Report concludes that the Organic Act did not offer true autonomy. Between 1991-2005, former Regional Governor Hussin has lamented that only Php53-billion was actually released for the regional government, a small portion of ARMM requirements and what has been allotted. Furthermore, between 2002-2004, more than Php1-billion in ARMM funds were not released. Aggravating the funding problem, 86% of the ARMM budget goes to personal services, leaving almost nothing for infrastructure and development programs. Government funds released to ARMM is less than 1% of total provided to all regions. This belies government claim that ARMM is priority.
To make matters worse, ARMM has been criticized year after year for corruption.
It is astounding that no dialogue between the two parties has occurred over the past decade to solicit and exchange views, even as armed hostilities between MNLF and government troops occurred in Jolo last year. No joint evaluation has been conducted using an objective set of indicators either. Following the battles between the Jolo-based MNLF and government troops, Muslim civil society has called on the OIC to exert pressure on both the GRP and the MNLF to dialogue.Further, non-governmental groups - such as the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy, the Mindanao Peaceweavers, and the Muslim Women Peace Advocates of Sulu – have proposed that civil society be involved in the dialogue.
Thus, the visit of the influential OIC has been welcomed by the leaders of Muslim Mindanao. Ambassador El-Masry announced in Davao City that the OIC will convene the tripartite committee – government, MNLF and the OIC – in Jeddah to evaluate the implementation of the Peace Accord. The Ambassador has also called on the Philippine government to free Chairman Misuari, whose popularity has increased during his four year incarceration. Misuari’s regained popularity makes him a central figure in bringing the Jolo MNLF back onto the road to peace.
Will the experience with the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement have a significant impact on the GRP-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace talks? A failure in the 1996 agreement can become a blaring signal to the MILF about the sincerity of the government, and the effectiveness of implementation of whatever it is they agree to. Worse, the unaddressed grievances of the MNLF and the ARMM light a powder keg of renewed secessionist conflict. This can only spell disaster for Mindanao and the country, already reeling from political crisis.
A broken peace is the last thing our country needs.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

IMAGE OF THE DAY
Egyptian Ambassador Sayed Kassem El-Masry (in white long sleeve & black vest), adviser to Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), and Secretary Jesus Dureza (left), presidential adviser on the peace process, speak to reporters in Zamboanga City. Photo HADER GLANG
Islamic organization disappointed by Philippine government's slow implementation of peace accord with Moro front
text & photos HADER GLANG
The influential Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) on Friday expressed disappointment over the slow implementation of the 1996 peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
The OIC likewise urged the Philippine government to consider the immediate release of detained MNLF chairman Nur Misuari, saying that he can contribute a lot to the full implementation of the peace accord.
“The peace agreement of 1996 was not fully implemented until now. That’s why we are here,” Egyptian Ambassador Sayed Kassem El Masry, who led the 16-man OIC mission to Mindanao, told reporters in an ambush interview in Zamboanga City.
The negative observation by the OIC on the Philippines' failure to fully implement the provisions of the 1996 peace agreement could affect Manila's bid for observer status.
“Ten years have passed since the signing of the peace accord but it was not fully implemented. So we’re here to help implement the peace agreement…remove the obstacles. That’s why we are asking for a meeting of the three parties who signed the peace pact to look for ways and means to move forward,” El Masry said.
A member of the OIC’s Committee of the Eight, Bangladesh Ambassador Muhammad Abul Quashem also commented, saying that “though the peace process has gone well, there is somewhere to go to reach its full implementation.”
“We hope the implementation (of the 1996 peace agreement) and the release of Chairman Misuari will be expedited because he can contribute a lot to the full implementation of the peace accord,” Quashem said.
Misuari, who signed the peace agreement with the government on September 2, 1996, is detained in Metro Manila for rebellion charges after allegedly leading an attack against military troops in Sulu in 2001. (ZS)

Friday, May 19, 2006

IMAGE OF THE DAY
House Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Abdulgani “Gerry” Salapuddin (4th from right)distributes Philhealth cards to over 2,000 indigent families of Basilan in a simple ceremony at Boalan Farm Resort in barangay Sumagdang, Isabela City. Assisting Salapuddin in distributing Philhealth identification cards are Zamboanga-based Philhealth Regional Director Venus Bonifacio Gerun (3rd from right), some barangay officials and provincial health workers. The Basilan solon allocated P1 million for the health package as part of his socio-economic support to health services of the people under the congressional’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).The numbers of Philhealth cards that were distributed to beneficiaries are the following: 430 for Municipality of Tuburan; 362 for Isabela City; 358 for Municipality of Lamitan; 339 for Municipality of Sumisip; 316 for Municipality of Tipo-Tipo; 172 for Municipality of Maluso; and 172 for Municipality of Lantawan. (text & photo HADER GLANG)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

OIC mission team field visit in Mindanao
text LUWARAN
Representatives from the 57-member Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) will arrive in Manila today to start their 5-day visit to Mindanao with a courtesy call to Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alberto Romulo.
After the courtesy call, the OIC officials, numbering 16, briefing and a press conference will follow, and after which, the meeting with MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari at an apartment near the St. Luke Hospital, where he is under house arrest, will follow immediately.
The meeting with Misuari, who earlier requested the court to allow him to join the OIC delegation to Mindanao, will last only for one hour from 4 to 5 pm.
The OIC mission, codenamed as "2006 OIC Field Visit in Mindanao" has been decided following the 32nd Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers (ICEM) at Sana'a Yemen last year, where the Philippines and the OIC Committee of the Eight agreed to send a mission to Mindanao to check on the status 1996 peace accord between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
The delegation will proceed to Marawi City Thursday where they will meet some government officials including Lanao Del Sur Governor Manalao Bashir and Marawi City Omar Ali. They will also confer with some non-government officials including representatives of the Lake Lanao Watershed Protection and Development Council and National Power Corporation on the Integrated Development Plan (IDP).
From Marawi City, they will proceed to the town of Parang in Maguindanao province to meet with former MNLF rebels-turned-government soldiers and to disperse fingerlings at an undisclosed lake along the way.
The OIC officials would proceed to Cotabato City and stay thereat overnight where some government officials who would brief them on the current security situation and trade opportunities in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) comprising the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao Del Sur, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, and Sulu.
However, their itinerary did not include meeting with Cotabato City Mayor Muslimen Sema, who is also a senior leader of the MNLF. But a close aide of the mayor disclosed to reporters that he would meet with the visitors and discuss some provisions in the peace agreement that Manila allegedly failed to honor, among them the livelihood programs for former rebels.
"Mayor Sema will raise these issues to the OIC delegation because these are what former rebels are complaining about. Many former MNLF fighters are disgruntled and want government to fulfill and fully honor the 1996 peace accord they signed with the Philippine government," the source said.
Also in Cotabato City, the OIC delegation will meet ARMM Governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan, who will update them on the various projects funded by Muslim states and Islamic Development Bank (IDB) based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Late in the morning of Friday, they will motor to Midsayap, North Cotabato where they will offer their Friday prayers at the mosque inside the compound of the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) built by the late Director Macmod Mending.
Mending and two others were killed in a grenade blast while performing the Friday prayers, but until now after several years no one was arrested to answer for that heinous crime. The delegation will stop briefly in Matalam to meet one MNLF leader, a certain Datu Dima Ambil, to take a look at some success story of former MNLF commanders who benefited from the “Arms to Farms” program of the government.(PRESS RELEASE)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

IMAGE OF THE DAY
Department of Public Works and Highways officials of Zamboanga Peninsula led by Regional Director Pedro Herrera (3rd from left), Assistant Regional Director for Maintenance Operations Sharif Madzmo Hasim (2nd frm right), and Assistant Regional Director for Construction Operations Jorge Sebastian Jr. (2nd from left) launch the PGMA job creation/roadside maintenance program in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay. Also in photo are Zamboanga Sibugay Rep. Belma Cabilao (3rd from right), District Engineer Warfilo Militante (right) and Assistant District Engineer Rogelio Villafuerte (left).

DPWH-9 launches PGMA’s roadside maintenance program in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay
text & photos HADER GLANG
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) regional office 9 on Monday launched its job creation program/roadside maintenance under the “Programang Pangtrabaho ni Pangulong Gloria” in a ceremony held at Roderick’s Resort in Taway, Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay.
About 350 road maintenance workers from the cities of Dapitan, Dipolog, Pagadian, Isabela (Basilan), and provinces of Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga del Norte attended the launching, which was graced by Zamboanga Sibugay Rep. Belma Cabilao and with the presence of some local officials.
In her message, Cabilao, a close political ally of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, admitted that the job generation program of the President is not really sufficient to address the economic problem of the participants but in one way or another it can help their families.
In an overview of the “Programang Pangtrabaho ni Pangulong Gloria”, DPWH Regional Director Pedro Herrera said that the job creation/roadside maintenance program is launched nationwide except the NCR, Region 6, Central Luzon and Region 4.
One of the mechanics, Herrera said, the district engineer of each province would hire one person for every 3.5 kilometers. “The program is only an additional to the regular maintenance of roads for about four months, which is undertaken by DPWH.”
Meanwhile, DPWH Assistant Regional Director for Maintenance Operations Sharif Madsmo Hasim reminded the participants to do all they can to go forward with even greater dedication to their work. “Let’s us not be laxed in our work,” he said.
The Office of the Presidential Adviser for Job Creation (OPAJC), which was tasked to head a task force created to oversee and coordinate the implementation of the program, is also the lead implementing agency. DILG, LGUs and DSWD are also tasked to strictly monitor the implementation of program.
Workers hired for the road maintenance program began their work on May 15, 2006. They will handle road and drainage maintenance activities in strategic areas near airports, commercial districts and other areas, conducive for business.
The launching of the infrastructure-based employment-generating program – Batch I -- is in cooperation with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Philippine Information Agency (PIA), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and Philippine National Police (PNP).
It is a part of the 10-point agenda program of President Arroyo aims to generate labor and employment by way of creating new jobs and livelihood opportunities for underprivileged family members and out of school youths. (ZS)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Deputy Speaker Salapuddin commends President Arroyo for saving 667 OFW prisoners in Saudi Arabia
text & photo HADER GLANG

House Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Abdulgani “Gerry” Salapuddin on Saturday commended President Gloria Arroyo for her role in the release of hundreds of overseas Filipino workers who were imprisoned in Saudi Arabia.

At the same time, Salapuddin hailed President Arroyo for her effort in getting the nod and assurance of the King of Saudi for a continued supply of oil in case of any crisis in the gulf brought by US-Iran conflict over the nuclear issue.

President Arroyo secured the release of about 667 OFWs from Saudi jails during her four-day state visit to the kingdom in what political analysts described as a gesture of friendship and compassion of the King of Saudi Arabia and as a diplomatic fruit for Arroyo's visit to the country.

“The release of hundreds of OFWs that were languishing from the different jails in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is clearly indicative of the political will, the charisma and the good diplomatic relationship between the two countries,” Salapuddin said.

For saving the lives of the OFWs, Salapuddin said the President should be commended and appreciated by the entire Filipino nation, especially so those prisoners were coming from the different parts of the country, Muslims and Christians alike.

Salapuddin, however, warned Filipinos who work abroad saying that “they must learn and not forget that they are duty bound to follow the laws of that country and in that country they cannot bribe the authority and that the full force of the law will be applied to them.”


He cited ‘jueteng’ (illegal number game), peddling drugs and prohibited alcoholic drinks as the offenses committed by some of those OFWs apprehended by Saudi authority. “They should better know what are the dos and don’ts in that country before they do anything.”


On Thursday, a total of 138 OFWs who were previously convicted prisoners but now pardoned in Saudi Arabia arrived at the Villamor Air Base, south of Manila. They were among the first batch of Filipinos pardoned by King Abdullah sent home.


Many of them faced major cases, but the “blood money” requirement had been waived because the practice in Saudi Arabia of perpetrators paying victims or their families for certain crimes, according to Arab News.


In addition, the Saudi government has also allowed the immediate repatriation of 75 runaway Filipino women who had sought shelter at the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah, the report said.(ZS)

Friday, May 12, 2006

ARMM Regional Gov. Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan arrives at the NAIA Friday from Saudi Arabia as part of President Arroyo's four-day state visit delegaion. Ampatuan took the opportunity to meet with officials of the OIC and IDB in Jeddah with the help of Saudi Ambassador Ameen Mohammad Ameen Wali. Regional Solicitor General Frances Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, BPI Director Samson Gogo and other ARMM executives welcomed Ampatuan in Manila. (BPI-ARMM photo)
ARMM Governor Ampatuan arrives from visit in Saudi
Regional Governor Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on Friday expressed deep gratitude to the warn reception accorded to him by the Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Conference at the OIC Headquarters in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Ampatuan cited OIC Secretary-General Dr. Ekmeleddin Ihsanuglo for the latter's continued support to peace and development efforts in Muslim Mindanao.
Ampatuan, along with Secretary Jesus Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and ARMM Executive Secretary Oscar Sampulna paid a courtesy call to Ihsanuglo and other OIC officials on May 10, 2006.
Governor Ampatuan was met at the NAIA by ARMM Attorney-General Frances Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, Bureau of Public Information Executive Director Samson Gogo and other ARMM executives where Ampatuan briefed them about his meeting with the OIC and Islamic Development Bank officials.
Governor Ampatuan, Sampula, Maguindanao Provincial Health Officer Dr. Tahir Suleik and ARMM Manila Liaison Office chief Moslemin Bansuan were among the entourage of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in her 4-day state visit to oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Governor Ampatuan took advantage of the opportunity to meet separately the OIC officials and officials of the Islamic Development Bank headed by its President Dr. Ahmad Muhammad Ali and brieifed them about his development programs and reforms he is presently introducing the the ARMM.
"I was personally elated with the warm and brotherly reception accorded to us by the OIC secretary-general, His Excellency Dr. Ekmeleddin Ihsanuglo and I am happy that our brothers in the OIC clearly expressed their continued support to their brothers in the ARMM," Governor Ampatuan said.
He said the kind assurance of support by the OIC officials to the ARMM peace and development programs must be reciprocated with honest and effective leadership and strong support to the peace process being initiated by the OIC between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front.
During their meeting, Governor Ampatuan told Dr. Ihsanuglo that his administration in the ARMM is all out supportive to the full implementation of the GRP-MNLF peace agreement of September 2, 1996.
On the GRP-MILF peace negotiations, Governor Ampatuan said Dr. Ihsanuglo agreed with him that local government officials and all other stakeholders in Mindanao on the peace process between the government and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front must be properly consulted before any final peace agreement shall be reached.
On May 17, 2006, a high level mission from the OIC composed of ambassadors and other diplomats will arrive in the Philippines to assess the extent of the implementation of the GRP-MNLF peace agreement. The ARMM is preparing to receive the OIC officials at the Office of the Regional Governor in Cotabato City. (BPI-ARMM)
Peace advocates call for transparency in GRP-MILF peace talks
text & photo HADER GLANG

Peace advocates from Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi have called on for transparency in the on going peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Calling themselves the ZamBaSulta Coalition of Peace Advocates, on Thursday they urged the GRP and MILF panels to be transparent because the communities and the stakeholders would like to know even to contribute to resolve the conflict.
The peace advocates also asked the Local Government Unit (LGU) officials and their followers to be opened especially to those people who are having some leadership position in the community.
Last March 27, a forum on the GRP-MILF peace negotiations called by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process with the City Government of Zamboanga rejected the inclusion of the city in an area potentially called the “Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.”
“We have to look for the agreement…not only the parties (panels)…not only between the government and the representatives of the ‘Bangsamoro’ but between two or three or more communities that still exist in Mindanao,” said Fr. Angel Calvo, president of Peace Advocates of Zamboanga (PAZ).
“Everybody should be informed about the elements of the issues and participate in support of this process. We need a coalition. We need to continue analyzing historically the problem. We need to reinforce each other, looking for ways and avenues to solve the conflict,” he added.
Although the signing of a peace pact between the government and the MILF is one step that would help solve some legal problem, but Fr. Calvo believes the agreement is not the total solution of the conflict.
“It (the conflict) doesn’t end even if an agreement is signed. This is why, we need a society prepare in the role of the coalition of peace advocates. The role of peace education and understanding…looking for alternatives…this is why the peace process continues beyond the agreement.”
Earlier, a consortium of Inter-religious Solidarity Movement for Peace also called for interventions that are transparent, pursued by peaceful means, aim justice for all, and lead to reconciliation and healing.
The group said that the so-called Mindanao problem is not a conflict that involves only the Muslim communities, but also the non-Islamized peoples. “It is not a set of hostilities that affects only the Southern Philippines, but the entire country as well.” (ZS)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Sultan Pulalun to explore business ties with Brunei Sultan Bolkiah
text & photo HADER GLANG

Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo Sharif Mohammad Pulalun has bared his plan to visit Brunei Darussalam to explore the possibility to establish trading or joint venture with his majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.
Sultan Pulalun said his advance party tasked to formulate business proposals for the second visit is still in the planning stage. The Sultanate of Brunei recognizes Sharif Pulalun as the true and real descendant of Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo.
“Sulu and Brunei have been the majestic trading countries before. So it’s high time that we open again the door (business) for the betterment of our country, especially Mindanao,” he told local reporters.
“We are not taking any commitment blatantly now…the bottom line is, we are looking at the possibility that the business must go on because through this that the ties between Sulu and Brunei will have a good continuance.”
Sultan Pulalun also expressed confidence that his upcoming visit to Brunei will boost a symbiotic relationship between him and Sultan Bolkiah.“I’m hopeful that he (Sultan Bolkiah) will help the Sultanate of Sulu in terms of business and jobs for our people.”
Historically, on year 1658: The Sultan of Sulu was given the North East Coast of Borneo by the Sultan of Brunei in return for his help in settling a civil war dispute. Al-Marhum Sultan Mohammad Pulalun was the Sultan then by birthright since 1830 until his death in 1941.(ZS)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Philippine National Police Officers Attend U.S.-Sponsored Course on Investigating Terrorism. The 20 Philippines National Police (PNP) graduates of the U.S. Government-sponsored “Interdiction of Terrorist Activities” course received completion certificates on May 5 from U.S. Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney and Dr. Margarita Cojuangco, President of the Philippine Public Safety College where the three-week course was held. During her remarks, Ambassador Kenney noted that the challenges of international terrorism are unique because the enemy “does not care about borders, does not care about families, and does not care about homes. They care only about destroying the fabric of societies and making it impossible for citizens to live in peace and prosperity. What we’re doing here today is making sure that we stay ahead of that – making sure that we not only stop the acts of terrorists but that we create conditions in this beautiful country and in all the civilized countries throughout the world where terrorists are not welcome.” The three-week course, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, gave the PNP officers both classroom and field training in topics such as informant development and management; surveillance; and financial investigations in order to give them more skills to fight terrorism. This was the second class to graduate in the Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program, a partnership between the Philippines and the United States to train law enforcement officers in investigating and stopping terrorist acts. Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor, Office of the President, Anti-Terrorism Task Force and President Cojuangco also spoke at the ceremony. (NEWS PHOTO RELEASE)

Monday, May 08, 2006

Peace groups to discuss peace building efforts on May 10-11 in Zamboanga
text DARWIN T. WEE

Peace advocates from the provinces of Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Basilan and Zamboanga City will converge here this week for a conference to discuss issues and concerns relative to the peace-building efforts of different private sector civic groups and stakeholders on May 10 to 11 at the Marcian Garden Orchid Hotel.
According to Fr. Angel Calvo, president of Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ) and the lead convenor of the Interreligious Solidarity Movement for Peace (IRMSP), the conference aims to strengthen the peace programs and advocacy of the different peace groups in the three provinces Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Basilan and this city.
"The meeting intends to address the concerns of peace in our respective areas and for us to see how we can best help each other to consolidate our efforts as peace workers in Mindanao," he said in a statement.
He said the conference is the second consultative meeting in as many years. The first one came last year, wherein participants who attended the first conference consolidated themselves to realize what is now the Zambasulta Coalition of Peace Advocates (ZACOPA).
Fr. Calvo said the coalition was established to address several levels of conflictwithin the three areas by sharing vital information to the coalitions and dialogues.
ZACOPA also serves as the regional segment of the Mindanao Peaceweavers coalition."This activity brings together the members of the ZACOPA, with the hope that their interactions will give rise to fresh perspectives on the structures and mechanism of peace building," Fr. Calvo said.
"The holding of this activity shall allow a renewal of solidarity among partners, facilitate exchanges of information and experiences and provide opportunities to determine organizational prospects through re-visioning and action in view of the new developments that have emerged within a yard after the establishment of the ZACOPA," he added.
The confab will also serve as the venue wherein the network of peace advocates of the three areas will reassess and consolidate all their peace effort vis-à-vis recent developments in the local scene.
ZACOPA's rationale and background report said, among the topic expected to be discussed during the confab are the resurgence of violence in the province of Sulu during the first quarter of this year and the issue of American soldiers' deployment there; the assassination Luis Biel, mayor of Isabela City in Basilan province; the mining issue, and the implications of the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity which is being considered in the ongoing peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Fr. Calvo said Zamboanga Coalition of Peace Advocates and being thisyear's official host for the confab has invited two experts to provide accurate insights - Atty. Zainuddin Malang, chair of the Moro Lawyer's League, who will talk on the "Violence and Terrorism: legislative action and other responses and their implications for Peace in Mindanao"; and, Mary Ann Arnado, deputy director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue, who will touch on the critical issue of "the GRP-MILF Peace Talks: Prospects for Peace amidst Cha-Cha and the Overall peace Process." (PAZ)

Friday, May 05, 2006

IMAGE OF THE DAY

U.S. Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney (top photo) meets with the students in the “First Responder Training on Trauma Management” course on April 26 at Camp Bautista in Jolo City. The course, co-sponsored by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, taught emergency medical workers to handle cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, trauma management, intravenous placement and mass casualty assessment. Also in photo are Sulu Governor Benjamin Loong and some Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P)officials. (NEWS PHOTO RELEASE)

A U.S. Air Force medic with the JSOTF-P teaches students in the “First Responder Training on Trauma Management” course how to properly position a victim’s head to open their airway during the five-day course held at Camp Bautista in Jolo City. The course was taught by Armed Forces of the Philippines and JSOTF-P and brought together local emergency personnel to learn more about medical trauma cases. (NEWS PHOTO RELEASE)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Japan maintains support for ARMM's social dev't
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) expressed its continuing support for social development of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) during the visit of JICA Representatives at the Office of the Regional Governor on May 2, 2006.
The purpose of the visit according to Mr. Michimasa Numata, JICA Expert and ARMM ODA Advisor is to be able to understand the national and social condition of ARMM and to discuss with ARMM officials the priority projects and programs of ARMM for its social and economic development.
"JICA is serious in committing support for social development of ARMM. This is to further the cooperation of our government to the autonomous region," Numata said during a briefing on the Request Survey for Technical Cooperation (JFY 2007) and General Grant Aid (JFY 2008).
Numata inquired from the ARMM officials present during the briefing headed by ARMM Cabinet Secretary Atty. Mustapha A. Sambolawan who is also the ARMM focal person to the JICA, RPDO Executive Director Diamadel Dumagay, Technical Management Services Executive Director Bassit Accoy and Bureau of Public Information Executive Director Samson Gogo what are the primary concerns of the regional government today while acknowledging the ARMM presentation of concerns made by Director Dumagay is very comprehensive.
Dumagay said the regional government has specific listing on the programs and projects for the region anchored on the five (5) Key Priority Areas of Concerns expressed by ARMM Regional Governor Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan during his First State of the Region Address.
The five priority programs are on peace and public order and Security; Economic development; social services development; infrastructure and administrative support. The request survey activity is a process conducted annually by the Embassy of Japan in collaboration with the JICA Philippine Office and it is aimed at grasping the needs of the Government of the Philippines for Japanese Technical Cooperation and Grant Aid.
Priority issues and areas for GOJ-JICA assistance include strengthening of the economic structure for sustainable growth and the removal of impediments to such growth; mitigation of disparities which to include poverty alleviation and mitigation of regional disparities; environmental conservation and disaster management and human resources development and' institution building.
As part of the human resources development and institution building support of JICA to the regional government, Director Gogo said that most of the officials and some key staff of ARMM were able to attend management training courses facilitated by the Asian Management Institute (AIM) in Makati City.
GOJ-JICA's major cooperation schemes include Technical Cooperation Project (TCP), Development Study, Support for Grant Aid, Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers, Group Training in Japan and Follow-up Cooperation.
According to the briefing given by the JICA, the possible components of TCP include trainings (Training in Japan, In-Country, Third Country, Long Term), Expert Dispatch, Equipment Supply, Facility Development, Research Support and Community Empowerment while Grant Aid include construction and equipping of facilities, public health, medical care, agriculture, water supply and basic education and environmental conservation.
JICA representatives stressed during the briefing that JICA is not a funding agency and JICA does not provide cash grant. Qualified proponent agencies for the request survey are the national government agencies, state universities and colleges and local government units to include the autonomous region.
The JICA delegation includes Mr. Hiroyasu Tonokawa, JICA Assistant Resident Representative for Grassroots Program, Ms. Aya Kano, JICA Experts for Mindanao Concerns and Mr. Peter Carreon, JICA Program Assistant Grassroots Section. (BPI-ARMM)

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Learning to fight drug traffickers: A US-Philippines training partnership

With the goal of more successful investigations and arrests of drug traffickers, more than 40 Filipino police officers, counter-drug agents, and military personnel are attending a four-week intensive law enforcement-training course sponsored by the U.S. Government in Davao City beginning May 8.
Philippine agencies represented in the exercise are the Philippine National Police, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and National Bureau of Investigation.
The training course, called “Baker Piston,” is an Asia-wide program that helps improve the effectiveness of counter-drug agencies by training their law enforcement agents in ground operations – such as investigations and raids – that will lead to successful prosecutions of drug traffickers. It also gives participants a rare opportunity to participate in multi-agency exercises and develop contacts in other agencies.
The Baker Piston course in Davao City will include sessions on human rights awareness, cordon and search techniques, special reconnaissance, land navigation, medical procedures, advanced marksmanship, small unit tactics in urban terrain, mission planning, trail interdiction, and movement techniques.
There will also be small group sessions for managers and leaders on instructor training and training management, and international drug situation briefings for all attendees. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Joint Inter-Agency Task Force (JIATF) West sponsored the program.
U.S. counter-drug experts and military trainers are teaching the sessions that will all be held at the classroom and shooting range of Philippine Public Safety College Regional Training Center 11.
“Our Philippine counter-drug professionals appreciate intensive training such as this in order to strengthen the effectiveness of our anti-drug operations and enhance our ability to work jointly with other law enforcement and security agencies,” said Philippines Drug Enforcement Agency Regional Director Wilkins Villanueva. “We hope it will lead to increased arrests and prosecutions of the drug dealers who threaten our children, families, and barangays throughout the country.”
According to Tim Teal, Country Attaché of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, this program has proven extremely successful over the past few years. “This is the second Baker program we have sponsored in Davao, and the fourth that has been conducted in the Philippines. The previous locations were Zamboanga City and Baguio,” he said.
“The Baker course is a hands-on application of skills and tactics that counter-drug professionals need to be successful in a rural environment. Techniques of communicating, maneuvering, and shooting are taught to the participants to help them to conduct safe and effective joint operations. The U.S. Government is dedicated to assisting our partners in fighting drug producers and traffickers who harm the well-being of their innocent citizens.” (PRESS RELEASE)
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