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Tag Archives: Mindanao

By CHERYLL D. FIEL
Davao Today

DAVAO CITY — Election violence erupted this early right in the heart of Maguindanao, a province long wrought by political killings.

Forty persons, including lawyers and journalists on their way to Maguindanao’s capital town of Shariff Aguak, were reportedly taken by armed men at around 9:30 am on Monday, November 23.

Combined military and police search team recovered 21 bodies in Barangay Salman, Ampatuan town later in the afternoon, according to Colonel Jonathan Ponce, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson.

Ponce said the bodies were believed to be part of the convoy led by Genalyn Mangudadatu, on her way to Shariff Aguak town to file the certificate of candidacy of her husband, Buluan town Vice Mayor Ismael Mangudadatu.

The Buluan vice mayor is running for governor in Maguindanao, a post currently held by incumbent governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr. a close ally of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Maguindanao, one of the provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, is about 160 kilometers from this city.

Ponce, however, said the bodies have not yet been positively identified. He also believed there could still be more.

Buluan Mayor Ibrahim “Jong” Mangudadatu, brother of the Buluan vice mayor, earlier told the media that among those killed were his relatives, two women lawyers and some media persons. The Buluan mayor earlier went on air over a Cotabato City station to report that six members of the party led by his wife, Genalyn, had been beheaded.

Among the persons initially identified in media reports as missing are Genalyn Tiamzon-Mangudadatu, wife of Buluan vice-mayor, Bai Eden Mangudadatu, vice mayor of Mangudadatu town and sister of the Buluan vice mayor and Lawyers Connie Brizuela and Cynthia Oquindo. NUJP confirmed 12 of their colleagues to have died but did not yet identify the names.

Reports from the NUJP local chapters in Mindanao named the journalists abducted to include a certain Ian Subang, president of a broadcasters’ association in General Santos City; Leah Dalmacio, Gina dela Cruz from General Santos City; Marites Cabutas, print reporter from General Santos City; Bart Maravilla, Bombo Radyo Koronadal chief reporter; Joy Duhay; Henry Araneta of DZRH Cotabato; Andy Teodoro, publisher of a local paper based in Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat; Bong Reblando, reporter of Manila Bulletin; Mac-Mac Areola, Jimmy Cabillo and Neneng Montano of radio station DXCP.

“There are still persons who have not been identified, so we are not sure yet if this is the complete list of journalists abducted and beheaded,” the NUJP said.

The Mangudadatus are also a powerful political family in Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao provinces while the Ampatuans have closely been identified with Arroyo.

Governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan of ARMM has recently been appointed as regional chairman of Arroyo’s newly-merged Lakas-Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino-Christian Muslim Democrat (Lakas-Kampi-CMD) political party. He is the son of Andal Ampatuan, the Maguindanao governor.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the abduction and killing, calling it “a brazen challenge” to efforts in strengthening the country’s fragile democracy.

“Running for office and voting are as much exercises of free will and expression as covering and reporting the news,” the NUJP statement said.

NUJP’s statement said the military confirmed the involvement of a mayor and a police officer in the abduction.

“The Ampatuan massacre goes beyond the issue of freedom of the press and of expression and strikes at the very foundations of democracy,” the NUJP statement said. “This incident not only erases all doubts about the Philippines being the most dangerous country for journalists in the world, outside of Iraq, it could very well place the country on the map as a candidate for a failed democracy.”

Buluan mayor Mangudadatu confirmed in a radio interview with the Notre Dame Broadcasting Corporation that 12 journalists were killed. He also said that six of those abducted were beheaded.

“If it is true that a local government official and a police officer are involved, then it says a lot about how far government has gone to eradicate the warlord politics that continues to reign over many of our provinces,” the NUJP statement said.

The media group called the hostaging of journalists an “assault to the Constitution” and demanded swift action from the government to resolve the crisis.

“We expect nothing less from this government than the swift apprehension and punishment of everyone involved in this gruesome assault on the national body politic, including the masterminds, regardless of who they might be,” the statement said.

“Anything less would mean that the impunity that has emboldened those who would silence the press has spread to embolden those who would subvert our democracy for their own selfish interests.”

The NUJP demands that the abductors release the hostages, including the journalists, unconditionally.

“Should any harm befall our colleagues, we will hold accountable the civil and security officials of Maguindanao, the ARMM and the national government for their failure to end the culture of violence and warlordism,” the NUJP said. (Cheryll D. Fiel, davaotoday.com)

For Immediate Release

June 8, 2009

Reference: Katrina Abarcar, Coordinator, Katarungan: Center for Peace, Justice, and Human Rights in the Philippines, email: katarungan@comcast.net

DC Summit Unites Human Rights Advocates for Greater Cooperation for the Philippines

Washington DC—Representatives from key institutions, networks, and organizations spanning the country convened at the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill last Saturday for an Emergency Human Rights Summit on the Philippines. Sponsored by Katarungan: Center for Peace, Justice, and Human Rights in the Philippines, the successful summit brought together advocates from California, Illinois, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and Washington, DC for a one-day meeting on the human rights situation in the Philippines and ended with a high unity amongst the participants to share resources and collaborate on initiatives. (A full list of co-sponsors can be found below.)

“This is not a summit in the traditional sense, meaning a meeting of government heads,” stated Katarungan Coordinator Katrina Abarcar at the opening of the summit. “This is a summoning of the people to come up with solutions to a problem that government heads have refused to address in a meaningful way.”

Human Rights Crisis in the Philippines and Tactics for US-based Advocacy

The day started with presentations offered by Dulphing Ogan, Secretary-General of Kalumaran, an alliance of indigenous peoples in Mindanao in the Southern Philippines, who spoke of the reality of killings, abductions, and militarization in resource-rich Mindanao, where multi-national corporations engage in mining for natural resources such as gold and oil and other forms of “development aggression” that lead to the massive displacement of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who live there.

“The War in Mindanao is not about religion, it’s about Mindanao’s rich resources. Only the big corporations have benefited,” Ogan explained. “Filipinos who choose to resist the multinational monopolization of resources are the ones that are killed.”

Another presentation by Dr. Kenneth Bauzon, a professor from St. Joseph’s College, linked the current Arroyo counter-insurgency operation known as Oplan Bantay Laya to the historical role of the US government and the CIA to crafting covert low-intensity conflicts in Southeast Asia, beginning with a presentation of CIA memos from the 1960s-70s on Operation Phoenix in Vietnam. In his presentation, Bauzon exposed the CIA’s rationale in crafting of operations to train Vietnamese nationals to assassinate other Vietnamese rather than US operatives conducting the killings themselves. This same pattern is applied to the situation in the Philippines today.

Reverend Goel Bagundol of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), Northwest Mindanao Jurisdiction spoke of his experience working with members of the church victimized by political repression in the Philippines. Lastly, lawyer Brian Campbell of the International Labor Rights Forum spoke of ways US-based advocates could engage all three branches of the US government in effecting the human rights situation in the Philippines.

Summit participants included Tim and Linda McGloin of the Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines (EANP), who shared their experiences pressuring for the 2007 US Senate hearing on the Philippines that led to human rights conditions tied to a portion of the subsequent US military aid package to the Arroyo government by the US Appropriations Committee. Representatives from the New York and San Francisco Committees for Human Rights in the Philippines (CHRP) and National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) spoke of working amongst the overseas Filipino community in the US, whose dollar remittances keep the Philippine economy afloat, to educate and mobilize them for the cause of human rights in their home country. While Derek Duncan of the Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ spoke of collaborations between US and Philippine Churches to respond to the killings of pastors and other clergy in the Philippines.

A Call to Unite for the Philippines

DC participant Elizabeth Palmberg, Ph.D, who shared tips for media strategies during the summit, stated, “I’m appalled by the torture and killings of pastors and other nonviolent people – and, as a U.S. taxpayer, I’m deeply angry to see U.S. government aid go to the very Philippine armed forces which have innocent blood on their hands. I’m glad to see so many groups starting to network and come together in the U.S. to help make a difference.”

A presentation by Reverend Marma Urbano, a minister of the UCCP currently helping in the National Association of Filipino-American United Methodists’ (NAFAUM) Paglago program, proposed a national US framework for greater cooperation between US-based advocates working for the Philippines. The framework was unanimously approved and areas of collaboration were identified by the summit participants. One proposed collaboration was the formation of a US delegation that would participate in the 2010 Philippine elections’ International Observers’ Mission. An ad-hoc committee was also formed at the end of the summit to propose the mechanics of coordinating future efforts of the participants and co-sponsoring organizations.

Bagundol shared his thoughts on diversity of the summit’s participants, “We are different springs who came together to become one stream! We are now one big stream that can be seen, can be heard, and can make a change!”

The summit comes at a critical time with the recent release of United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Philip Alston’s follow-up report on the Philippines in Geneva which confirms the failure of the Arroyo government to decisively stop the killings and abductions in the Philippines, the release of the UN Committee Against Torture’s report on the Philippines confirming the military’s usage of torture, and the May 19th abduction and subsequent torture of Filipino-American human rights advocate Melissa Roxas in the Philippines.

Meetings of the US Appropriations Committee deciding on next military aid package to the Philippines are also nearing their close. In response, the participants vowed to coordinate actions to educate and mobilize constituents to tighten human rights conditions and reduce aid amounts for foreign military assistance to the Philippines.

The full of list of co-sponsors for the Summit includes: the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, the Ecumenical Advocacy Network-Philippines, the Episcopal Church, the Fellowship of Filipino Migrants of Chicago, the Filipino Ministry-Diocese of San Bernadino, the Friends of the Filipino People, the Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ, the Holy Child and St. Martin Episcopal Church in Daly City, the International Labor Rights Forum, the Migrant Heritage Commission, the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, the National Association of Filipino-American United Methodists, the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, the Philippine Independent Church-Diocese of USA and Canada, the Portland Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, the San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Share Foundation: Building a New El Salvador Today, the United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministreis, USAPAN: USA-Philippines Ecumenical Advocacy Network, the US Committee for the Protection of Workers’ Rights, and the Philippine Partnership Committee-Presbyterian Church USA.

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