Sunday, February 28, 2010

International Monitoring Team begins new work Feb. 28

by Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/27 February) – The Malaysian contingent of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) is arriving on Sunday afternoon (Feb. 28) in Cotabato City, the fifth batch of international personnel monitoring the implementation, among others, the ceasefire between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The new team from Malaysia, led by Maj. Gen. Datuk Baharom Bin Hamzah of the Malaysian Armed Forces, the new IMT Head of Mission (HOM), will arrive at 5:45 p.m. on Sunday at the Awang airport in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao (more popularly referred to as Cotabato airport) from Labuan in Malaysia.
Malaysia, which has been facilitating the peace talks between the Philippine government and the MILF, heads the IMT.

The IMT Head Of Mission will be accompanied by 20 Malaysian military personnel who will join the 20 others already in the Philippines – 10 military personnel from Brunei and eight from Libya, and Japan’s two development workers, Tomonori Kikuchi and Yusuke Mori – in IMT-5 or IMT Batch 5.

The team’s deployment comes 15 months after the IMT, renewed annually since 2004, left Mindanao on November 30, 2008, following the collapse of the talks after the aborted signing of the peace panels’ Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) on August 5, 2008.

It also comes barely two weeks after an eight-man Advance Team headed by Lt. Gen. Datuk Raja Mohammed Affendi bin Raja Mohamed, Chief of Staff of the Malaysian Armed Forces Headquarters, and the then incoming HOM, visited Mindanao to look into the team sites.

Shortly upon arrival in Cotabato City, the IMT will meet with the press at 6:30 p.m. at the Estosan Hotel. At 7:30, the government peace panel led by Ambassador Rafael Seguis will host a reception for the IMT at the hotel’s grand ballroom.

The reception will also be attended by members of the government’s and MILF’s Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH). MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal has been invited to the reception, a press statement from the government peace panel said.

Also invited to attend are officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

IMT-5 will not only monitor the security aspect as IMT 1 to 4 did, but also reconstruction and rehabilitation, socio-economic development, and will now include the Civilian Protection Component (CPC).

The IMT is to be composed of a total of 60 members. With the arrival of the Malaysians on Sunday, there will be 40 of them from Malaysia, Brunei, Libya and Japan. The 20 other slots will be divided among the CPC and two other countries invited to join the IMT.

The Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC) and the Non-violent Peace Force are members of the CPC. Other organizations seeking recognition as part of IMT’s CPC are the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), Saligan Mindanao, Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) and two others. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Maguindanao has new OIC governor

by Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 February) – Businessman Gani Biruar is the new OIC Governor of Maguindanao, vice Nariman “Ina” Ambolodto who retains her post as OIC Vice Governor, Haroun Alrashid Lucman, secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s Department of Interior and Local Government, said. Ambolodto was appointed OIC Vice Governor and was named Acting Governor on December 15.

Lucman told MindaNews Biruar was appointed OIC governor on 23 February and will assume the post “starting today.”

“The key to his appointment is his being neutral to Maguindanao politics,” said Lucman.

Biruar’s appointment was immediately questioned as reports said his wife, an Alonto, is allegedly related to the Acting ARMM governor Ansaruddin Alonto-Adiong, the appointing officer, and that he is also related to the Ampatuans.

Lucman said he is “not aware of his (Biruar’s) relation to the Ampatuans, except that his cousin is their in-law. Speaking of blood relations, everybody is related to everybody. Let us look at the brighter side of it. Gani (Biruar) was appointed by ARG (Acting Regional Governor) because nobody among the applicants fits the requirement of neutrality more than he does and that no undue advantage in favor of any gubernatorial candidate shall arise out of the appointment. There are no perfect decisions but we feel that ARG made a better decision given the present situation in Maguindanao.”

The late Saudi Ampatuan, eldest among the sons of Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr. and Bai Laila Uy, married Soraida Macarimbang Biruar, who is running for vice mayor of Parang town.

In Datu Saudi Ampatuan (town named after the late Saudi), incumbent mayor Saudi Biruar Ampatuan, Jr. (Ind), is seeking reelection while his wife, Jehan-jehan Lepail Ampatuan is running for councilor. Saudi Jr’s brother, Saudi Biruar Ampatuan IIlI is running for vice mayor.

In a press release posted on the Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG) website on January 28, Local Governments Undersecretary Marius Corpus said the search committee headed by ARMM Local Governments Secretary Lucman is “carefully pouring over the qualifications of some 27 nominees” for the position of OIC Governor until the new governor takes his/her oath of office by noon of June 30.

The press release added that among the requirements of the search committee is that “he or she should not be running for any elective position in the coming May elections; has the capacity to govern and ability to effect reforms in the province.”

Biruar was not yet on the list of seven applicants that Lucman sent to MindaNews as of 10:45 a.m. February 5.
Lucman’s list for Acting Governor then consisted of the following names: Asnawi Sinsuat Limbona, Nariman Abdullah Ambolodto, Dr. Bongarsa D. Tomawis, Datu Harris D. Mastura Al haj, Bai Mompong Sumagka Mentang, Armando Lidasan and Gumid Matalam.

Civil society representatives pushed for Ambolodoto’s retention as Acting Governor, arguing there is no need for a search as she reportedly meets all the requirements: she is not running for any post in May, she has the capacity to govern and the ability to effect reforms in the province, and has in fact set up basic governance systems in the province since she has been acting governor. Ambolodto was the first female Maguindanaon governor in history.

On February 2, at least 16 Bangsamoro civil society organizations and networks passed a resolution calling on ARMM Acting Governor Adiong through ARMM Local Governments Secretary Lucman to “continue supporting the efforts of Ina Ambolodto of enabling the provincial government to respond to the various pressing needs of our people and communities; intensify and optimize ARMM regional government agency operations in cooperation with the provincial leadership of Ina Ambolodto to address the displacement of our people as a result of fighting and natural calamities, as well as our staggering poverty situation; and retain and sustain Ina as the Provincial Vice-Governor acting provincial Governor.”

The Bangsamoro CSOs, all of them serving Maguindanao – Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society; Bangsamoro Center for Just Peace; Muassasah Ahliya; Kadtuntaya Foundation, Inc.; United Youth of the Philippines-Women; Interfaith Cooperation Forum; Kangudan Development Center, Inc.; Alliance of Bangsamoro for Peace and Sustainable Development; Bangsamoro Youth Leaders Forum; Kadtabanga Foundation, Inc.; Al-lhsan Foundation; Mindanao Homeland Development, lnc.; 4. Moro Integrated Community Development, Inc.; Moro Women Development and Cultural Center, Inc.; Mindanao Human Rights Resource and Action Center – said Ambolodto has been “doing justice and according pride to the trust and confidence bestowed by the Honorable Regional Governor, faithful to the tradition of transparent and accountable governance.”

Guiamel Alim, CBCS Council of Elders member, was saddened by the report of a new OIC governor. “We are not yet ready for change. I am fed up how Maguindanao has been run in the past. I thought Nariman (Ambolodto) was a symbol of change. I hope the appointed OIC would be able to plant the seed of change.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

PHILIPPINES: Tribute concert, online campaign launched on Maguindanao massacre

Asian Human Rights Commission

PHILIPPINES: Tribute concert, online campaign launched on Maguindanao massacre

(Hong Kong, February 23, 2010) The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has today launched an online campaign on the Maguindanao Massacre case, one of the worst acts of violence in the Philippines' recent history, aimed at documenting and monitoring the progress of the prosecution of the case in court.

The online campaign, titled: "Justice for victims of Maguindanao Massacre", was launched after the Department of Justice (DoJ) decided to prosecute the 197 individuals for charges of multiple murder on February 5, 2010 for the death of 57 people in the massacre - 32 of whom are journalists and two human rights lawyers.

Today also mark the three month anniversary of the massacre.

The AHRC is aware that one of the suspects, Datu Andal Ampatun Jr, a town mayor of Ampatuan and scion of a political clan in Maguindanao, has since been held in detention and is facing trial following his arrest in November 26, but it is only recently that the other respondents have been included in the murder charges.

"Seeking legal remedies in the Philippine's system of justice had been perpetually undermined by way of political interference, excessive court delays and failure by the prosecutors and investigators to ensure that the cases they are pursuing are effectively prosecuted", AHRC writes in its online campaign website.

In the Philippines, the filing of charges against the perpetrators of human rights violations is an initial and small part of the perpetually lengthy and tedious process of pursuing perpetrators in court to hold them accountable. Thus, the assurances are negligible, even if cases are filed in court, unless the progress in court is critically monitored and exposed to the public.

"(the online campaign) seeks to document, to conduct follow-up and to provide insights as to how the prosecution of cases involving violations of rights takes place within the Philippines' criminal justice system", its website added.

In addition to the launching of the online campaign, the AHRC also announces that a group of local publishers, the Publishers Association of General Santos City and South Cotabato (PAGES) in General Santos City, has hosted a tribute concert last night at 8pm for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre, particularly the 32 journalists who had been killed in performing their duty.

The tribute concert, dubbed: "Songs for Freedom and Justice", "aims to drum up public awareness in commemorating the three month anniversary of the November 23 Maguindanao Massacre", according to the PAGES's announcement.

One of the performers was Eric Gancio of Yano. His band is one of the alternative Filipino bands that saw the peak of its popularity in the Philippines in the 90s. Eric performed as the guest performer during the concert.

Apart from him, various local bands from Socsargen (South Cotabato-Sarangani-General Santos) have also been invited to perform. The concert was held at the Oval Plaza covered court in General Santos City.

# # #

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Posted on 2010-02-23

Friday, February 19, 2010

Gov’t, MILF reset talks for March

by Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/19 February) -- The Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels have postponed to March their February 18 to 19 meeting in Kuala Lumpur to review the drafts on the comprehensive peace settlement that they exchanged on January 27.

The postponement was upon the request of the MILF panel and also in deference to the Mindanao visit of the reconnaissance team of the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) on February 18 to 20.
Datuk Othman bin Abd Razak, the Malaysian facilitator announced on January27 that the IMT will be deployed back in Mindanao before end of February. The IMT left on November 30, 2008, when its mandate lapsed following the collapse of the talks after the aborted August 5 signing of the GRP-MILF Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD).

Mohagher Iqbal, MILF peace panel said the government’s draft peace agreement “essentially offers the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).”

“This offer was done in April of 2000 (sic) and repeated in February of 2003, just before the attack on the MILF Buliok complex in North Cotabato,” Iqbal said.

The two panels were supposed to meet on January 28 but the MILF opted against it. The panels instead met separately with the International Contact Group (ICG) which was represented by Hitoshi Ozawa and Yoshihisa Ishikawa, Minister and First Secretary of the Embassy of Japan in Manila respectively (Japan); Ambassador Boyd McCleary, British High Commissioner to Malaysia and Mr. Christopher Wright, Second Secretary, British Embassy in Manila (UK); and Yasin Temizkan, Chargé d’ Affaires, Embassy of Turkey in Kuala Lumpur (Turkey).

The INGO (international non-governmental organization) members who were present were David Gorman, Mediation Adviser of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HDC); Dr. Steven Rood, country director for the Philippines of The Asia Foundation (TAF); Herizal Hazri, Program Director in Malaysia; Thomas Parks, Regional Director for Governance and Conflict based in Thailand; Ms Cynthia Petrigh, Advisor on Peace Process, Conciliation Resources (CR, London); and Dr. Din Syamsuddin, President of Muhammadiyah accompanied by an adviser, Surwandono.

The MILF told the ICG that the government draft does not conform to the basic principles set forth on July 29, 2009, when the panels ended the year-long impasse in their talks.

The two panels then agreed on the following:

- Mutual effort to sustain both the Government’s Suspension of Military Offensives (SOMO) and the MILF’s Suspension of Military Actions (SOMA);

- Acknowledgment of MOA-AD as an unsigned and yet initialed document, and commitment by both parties to reframe the consensus points with the end in view of moving towards the comprehensive compact to bring about a negotiated political settlement;

- Work for a framework agreement on the establishment of a mechanism on the protection of non-combatants in armed conflict;

- Work for a framework agreement on the establishment of International Contact Group (ICG) of groups of states and non-state organizations to accompany and mobilize international support for the peace process.

Iqbal said they explained to the ICG that the government’s draft is on the ARMM which, the MILF stressed, is a “failed forumula.”

Though not explaining what kind of political package it was offering the MILF, Seguis in his January 28 press statement said the government’s draft peace agreement is “compliant with the Constitution and pertinent laws” and is “also guided by the Supreme Court decision on the aborted MOA-AD.”

Seguis said the government’s 2010 draft peace agreement “mostly identities executive ‘doables’, proposed legislative actions to strengthen regional autonomy, and openness to hear MILF proposals for constitutional change.”

“The GRP draft is clear that discussions that will concern legislative and other policy actions will still be proposals which would be submitted to Congress,” he said.

“There is no mention of any ‘Bangsa Moro’ sub-state in our draft,” Seguis added.

Iqbal told MindaNews the MILF has proposed a “State – Sub-state relationship” that would require amending the 1987 Constitution’s Article 10, Section 15-21.

Sections 15 to 21 of Article 10 on Local Government, focus on the autonomous regions. In the 1987 Constitution, these sections provided for the creation of autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras but only the autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao has been created. The Cordillera region has remained an administrative region.

The arrangement, Iqbal said, would be “similar to Sarawak” in Malaysia. Malaysia has a federal form of government.

But lawyer and peace advocate Soliman Santos, author of “The Moro Islamic Challenge: Constitutional Rethinking for the Mindanao Peace Process,” told MindaNews , “we can amend the Constitution’s provisions on ARMM only and place in the amendments something like the Sarawak sub-state arrangement.”

Santos said the Constitution “can be changed in any way as long as the process is proper” and that there is no need to shift to a federal system of government “wholesale, across-the-board (nation).”

He said what can be amended are “provisions for a special region as was done with ARMM (& CAR) but this time of higher degree of self-determination like the Sarawak sub-state arrangement if that is agreed upon. This would already place it on the same constitutional level as the rest of the Constitution, and therefore obviates any issues of unconstitutionality.”

Santos, whose masteral law thesis at the University of Melbourne in 1999 was on the “Constitutional Accommodation of a Moro Islamic System in the Philippines,” said there are several ways of adopting a “State- Sub-state relationship” in the Philippines: by amending the autonomous region provisions of the Constitution or by “appending to or incorporating by reference in the Constitution whatever comprehensive peace agreement is reached” between the Philippine government and the MILF.

Still another option, Santos said, is to craft a “new organic act for the ARMM or whatever new name, enacted by Congress acting as a constituent assembly, and therefore that organic act will be on the same level as the Constitution.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

New IMT head of mission determined to do his job

by Romy B. Elusfa/MindaNews contributor
Thursday, 18 February 2010 23:30

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/18 February) -- The expanded task of the International Monitoring Team is “a tall order,” but Maj. Gen. Datuk Baharom bin Hamzah, the new head of mission of the IMT is determined to “do the job.” Gen. Hamzah, a member of the eight-man Reconnaissance Team sent by Malaysia’s Ministry of Defense to do a final check on the facilities of the 60-man IMT contingent that will be sent to monitor the implementation of the ceasefire agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), announced his optimism on the peace process in front of around 50 representatives of various peace organizations.

The four batches of IMT contingents sent to Mindanao had managed to reduce violent incidents involving government soldiers and guerrillas of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, the armed group of the MILF, from more than 700 in 2004 to only about seven in 2008.

Unlike IMT-1 to IMT-4 which were tasked to monitor only the truce, Hamzah’s team, IMT-5, has three added tasks: Humanitarian, rehabilitation and development; Socio-economic Assistance; and Civilian Protection.

“It is a tall order, but we have to do the job,” he told representatives of peace organizations in an “informal welcome” dinner with the members of the Reconnaissance Team headed by LGen. Datuk Raja Mohamed Affandi bin Raja Mohamed Noor, the chief of staff of the Malaysian Armed Forces.

Noor’s short message to representatives of 18 peace organizations was filled with optimism on the success of the peace process despite an apparent deadlock in the peace negotiations with the MILF rejecting government’s offer described as “no more than the ARMM” (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao).

“When I walked around here, I felt there is this strong spirit that everyone is looking for a long and sustainable peace,” he said while thanking the government for trusting the IMT tasks to Malaysian soldiers. “Thank you so much to the Philippine government for trusting the Malaysians to do this task.”

Noor expressed confidence they would be able to provide an “environment conducive for the talks” to continue, adding they will deploy the “best 20” Malaysian soldiers who will be joining the IMT with other delegations from Libya, Brunei Darussalam, and Japan.

“We have our best team of 20 people here, but they cannot perform their best without the support of the non-government organizations,” he said while asserting that “in any peace process, it is the NGO that serves as the backbone—it (peace process) is driven by NGOs.”

Col. Dickson Hermoso, once head of the secretariat of the Joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (JCCCH) and commander of the 7th Infantry Battalion during the war in 2008, said “there are only two secrets” to a successful ceasefire monitoring: “First, you have to involve the civil society organizations (CSO) and, second, a well-placed IMT.”

Hermoso explained that an active participation of the CSOs will help push the peace process forward amid the fact that “there are powder kegs in the minds of many Army and MILF forces.”

With the active participation of the CSOs in the peace process, Hermoso told the IMT contingents that “there will no longer be lonely days for IMT—doing the job will be a lot of fun.”

Maj. Carlos Sol Jr., head of the secretariat of the government panel in the JCCCH, said “we will do everything to make Mindanao peaceful and developed” while also announcing that they already have “reactivated and strengthened the local monitoring teams” that government and the MILF organized in all conflict affected areas of Mindanao.

Atty. Mary Ann Arnado, secretary-general of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC), host of the “informal welcome” for the Malaysians, also assured her group’s support to the IMT, saying there are still other organizations willing to help the peace process and among them are those whose application for membership in the civilian protection component (CPC) are still pending approval by the peace panels.

The MPC and the Non-violent Peace Force are part of the CPC. Other organizations seeking recognition as part of IMT’s civilian protection task are the Initiatives for International Dialogue, Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society, Saligan Mindanao and two others. (Romy B. Elusfa/MindaNews contributor)

International Monitoring Team’s advance party arrives

by MindaNews
Wednesday, 17 February 2010 06:55

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/17 February) – The Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) is back.

Its advance party, the IMT Reconnaissance Team is arriving in Cotabato City February 17 to conduct an ocular inspection of the proposed IMT Sites in preparation for the deployment of a new batch to Mindanao, IMT-5, the fifth batch since 2004.
The IMT’s mandate, renewed yearly upon the request of both the Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels, lapsed on November 30, 2008 and could not be renewed then because government disbanded its peace panel in early September that year and had not set up a new one by November.

The Reconnaissance Team, headed by Lt. Gen. Datuk Raja Mohammed Affandi bin Raja Mohamed, Chief of Staff of the Malaysian Armed Forces Headquarters and accompanied by Maj. Gen Datuk Baharom Bin Hamzah, the incoming Head of Mission of the IMT; and seven others from the Malaysian Armed Forces and Ministry of Defense.

The team will proceed to the cities of Iligan and Zamboanga from Cotabato and will meet with officials of local government tunits, the military and police and MILF officials until February 20.

Representatives from the GRP-MILF Joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (JCCCH), the Philippine National Police, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and the Armed Forces of the Philippines will accompany the team throughout its Mindanao sorties.

The IMT serves as the Third party whose mandate is to monitor the implementation of the ongoing Agreement on the General Cessation of Hostilities (AGCH) of 1997 and the Agreement on the Rehabilitation and Development of the Conflict Affected Areas in Mindanao (CAAM).

The new mandate of the IMT, renewed by the GRP – MILF Peace Panels on December 8, 2009, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, now includes the Civilian Protection component of the IMT.

The IMT Reconnaissance team after the visit will decide on the actual deployment of the IMT to Mindanao.

Aside from Malaysia, the other members of the IMT are Libya, Brunei Darussalam, and Japan, which has been sending a development expert instead of armed troops. (MindaNews)

It’s still all in the family in Mindanao’s political landscape

by Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
1st of a series

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/15 February) – Thousands of Mindanawons are vying for 4,944 posts across Mindanao’s 26 provinces, 56 congressional districts, 33 cities and 422 towns but as in previous elections, it’s still all in the family in the island’s political landscape, records of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) show.

Up for elections are the posts of 26 governors, 26 vice governors and 250 provincial board members; 56 congressional representatives; 33 city mayors, 33 city vice mayors and 300 city councilors; 422 town mayors, 422 town vice mayors and 3,376 town councilors.

In 2007, a total of 12,395 Mindanawons, many of them bearing the same family or middle names, vied for 4,930 posts across what were then Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 27 cities.

The 27th province, Shariff Kabunsuan, was abolished in early 2009 and returned back to Maguindanao after the Supreme Court ruled that its creation by the Regional Legislative Assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao was unconstitutional.

Six new cities were created after 2007: Tandag in Surigao del Sur, Lamitan in Basilan, Bayugan in Agusan del Sur, Mati in Davao Oriental, Cabadbaran in Agusan del Norte and El Salvador in Misamis Oriental.

The pre-election period was marred by what turned out to be the worst election-related massacre in Philippine history – the Ampatuan massacre of November 23, 2009 where at least 58 persons, including 32 media workers, were killed. Except for six commuters who happened to pass the highway at the wrong time, the rest were part of a convoy from Buluan, Maguindanao to the provincial office of the Commission on Elections in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao to file the certificate of candidacy for governor of Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu. The convoy was stopped by armed men reportedly led by Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan, Sr., who would have wanted to run for governor of Maguindanao, unopposed.

Ampatuan’s father, Andal Ampatuan, Sr., ran for governor of Maguindanao in 2007, unopposed with his youngest brother Sajid as running mate and their slate of provincial board members, unopposed. Twenty of 22 town mayors under Maguindanao then (at that time there were 11 towns under Shariff Kabunsuan) had candidates running unopposed.

Sixty-eight Ampatuans, 50 of them carrying the surname (at least 23 of whom are directly related to the Ampatuan patriarch) are running for top posts in the province. The patriarch himself is running for vice governor as an Independent, against three others, including his daughter Shaydee Ampatuan—Abutazil.

The Ampatuans were Lakas-Kampi (LK) leaders until a day after the massacre when the LK leadership expelled them from the party.

Fifteen Mangudadatus are running for top posts, most of them under LK.
But it’s not only in Maguindanao where candidates come from the same families, the same clans.

In Agusan del Norte and del Sur, it’s still the Amantes and the Plazas with the Aquinos now making their presence felt in both provinces.

Erlpe John Malbas Amante (LK) is running for a third term as governor with Vice Governor Enrico Raymundo Corvera (LK) as running mate.

Amante’s opponent is Roger Macabali Patanao (Ind). While Corvera’s opponent is Mercedes Bacalso Atupan (Ind).

Amante’s sister, Angelica Malbas Amante, who was governor for three terms before Erlpe John became governor in 2004, is running for second district representative against Independent candidates Jovitte Cabrera Calo, Van Amelio Dolofina udalan and Jore Maceda Lomongsod.

In Butuan City, Leonides Theresa Borja Plaza (LK) is running against Ferdinand Magdamo Amante, Jr., (LP), Romeo Cuenca Buyan (Ind), Teodoro Alutaya Emboy (Ind), and Roberto Gillera Rosales (LM).

Plaza is married to incumbent mayor Democrito Galido Plaza II, brother of the Plazas dominating the political scene in Agusan del Sur.

Mayor Plaza’s son, Randolph Borja Plaza (LK) is running for councilor of Butuan City while another son, Roscoe Democrito Borja (NP), is running for mayor of Nasipit town against reelectionist mayor Roy Orlando dela Riarte Doyon (LK).

Rep. Jose Sabijon Aquino II (Lakas-Kampi) is seeking reelection as first district representative of Agusan del Norte against Angelo Azuar Jimenez (LP).

Aquino’s brother, Roberto (LP) is running for first district representative of Agusan del Sur against Maria Valentina Galido Plaza (LK), the incumbent governor.
In the second district, the governor’s sister, Evelyn Plaza-Millana(LK), is running for 2nd district representative against Bienvenido Macapal Cebuala, Ceferino Salva Paredes Jr. (LP) and Reynaldo Mordeno Quijada (PDP-Laban).

Their brother, Adolph Edward “Eddiebong” Galido Plaza, is running for governor against Dominador Cebuala Miolata and Isoceles Piencenevaes Otero.

Another brother, Rodolfo, who is ending three terms in Congress, is running for senator while another brother, Victor, is running for provincial board member in the first district.

In Basilan, Jum Jainuddin Akbar (LK), first wife of the late Basilan Gov. Wahab Akbar, is seeking reelection as governor against five others, including Anak Mindanao party-list Representative Mujiv Sabbihin Hataman (LP).

The lone seat of Basilan in Congress is being contested by 11aspirants, among them a Rajam Mujamad (Aksyon) and Hadiiman Sabbii Hataman-Salliman (LP).

In Isabela City, Akbar’s third wife, Cherrylyn Santos Akbar (LK), is seeking reelection as mayor, against Alan Ritchie Bisquera Biel (Ind), Arnulfo Gregorio Dans (LP), Sihon Anji Indanan (Ind), Edwin Alvarez Pantaleta (NP).

Biel’s brother, Luis Bisquera Biel VI (Ind), is running for vice mayor against five others. The incumbent vice mayor is another brother, Luis B. Biel IV.

In Bukidnon, three-term governor Jose Ma. Zubiri is running for vice governor (LK) against Emma Puertas Asok (LP), Joevy Madero Baldevarona (Ind) while his vice governor, Alex Padua Calingasan (LK) is running for governor against Delfina Dorman Bicatulo (Ind), Diosdado Fredluces Tabios (NP), Ernesto Nazareno Tabios (LP) and Romeo Klem Zuce (Ind).

Former Rep. Socorro Olaivar Acosta (LP), is running for 1st district representative against Daniel Jambalon Onahon (PMP), Candido Pios Pancrudo, Jr. (LK), and Jesus Emmanuel Magbag Paras (NPC).

Acosta’s son, Neric, is running for senator under the Liberal Party.

In the second district, three-term Malaybalay City mayor, Dr. Florencio Flores (LK), is running for reprsesentative against Wienfiredo Eduave Agripo, Fernando Ma. Tiongson Carrascoso III, Joan Mae Tarnate Dichosa and Erwin Abales Marte.

In the third district, Rep. Jose Ma. Fernandez Zubiri III, is seeking reelection against Delia Saloay-ay and Salvador Garcia Galon.

In Malaybalay City, Vice Mayor Inigo “Inaki” Wuthrich Zubiri is running for mayor against Provo Balicao Antipasado, Jr. (Ind) and Glorio Dagacdac Sajulga (LP).

In Valencia City, Mayor Leandro Jose Hallazgo Catarata (LK) is running for relelection as mayor against former mayor Jose Magallanes Galario, Jr. (NPC) and Susan Calva Bangis (Ind).

In Camiguin, the Romualdos’ division in 2007 remains but the family continues to lord it over. The patriarch, former Rep. and former Governor Pedro Palarca Romualdo (LK) is running for representative of the lone district against Forencio Aranas Narido, Jr. (LP) while his son, Governor Jurdin Jesus Modina Romualdo (NPC) is seeking reelection for governor against Rogelio Adaniel Gallardo (LP).

Another Romualdo is running for vice governor: Nicolas Vicente Romualdo Elio (Ind) who is running against LK’s Leo Gales asacar and Juan Margarito Edon Neri.

In Mambajao, Noodin Efigenio Modina Romualdo is running for mayor against his sister-in-law, the incumbent mayor, Ma. Luisa dela Fuente Romualdo, wife of Jurdin Jesus. [Tomorrow: All in the family, too, in Davao, Lanao] (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

It’s still all in the family in Mindanao (2): the ties that bind in ComVal, Davao
by Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews

2nd in a series

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/16 February) – Compostela Valley Governor Arturo “Chongkee” Tao Uy (LK) and Davao del Norte Governor Rodolfo del Rosario (LP) need not campaign for reelection. They are running unopposed.

Compostela Valley Vice Governor Ramil Lao Gentugaya, is assured of victory, too. Like his governor, he is running unopposed.

Compostela Valley 1st district representative Manuel “Way Kurat” Zamora (LK) who became famous for biking his way to Congress and for carrying the ballot boxes during the canvassing of votes in Congress, is ending his three terms. His only daughter, Maria Carmen Zamora-Apsay (LK), two-term provincial board member and President of the Lady Local Legislators of the Philippines (Four-L) and the National Vice-President for Mindanao of the National Movement of Young Legislators (NMYL) is running for the post he is vacating, against Cezar Ochoco Mancao II (Aksyon) and Jaime Monforte Lopoz (LP).

Mancao is a former police officer who fled to the United States in 2001 allegedly on the advice of his former boss at the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force, Senator Panfilo Lacson. Mancao last year, turned his back on Lacson and former President Joseph Estrada by implicating them in the November 2000 kidnapping and murder of Salvardor “Bubby” Dacer and his driver, Emmanuel Corbito. Mancao was among those charged for murder.

Lacson and Estrada have denied involvement in the crime.

Monforte’s brother, Rex Jasper Monforte Lopoz (Ind) is running for 2nd district representative against three-term ComVal governor Jose Rufo Caballero (LP) and reelectionist Rep. Rommel Canos Amatong (LK), son of former Davao del Norte Governor, OIC Compostela Valley governor and ComVal representative to Congress Prospero Amatong.

Caballero ran for the same seat in 2007 but lost to the young Amatong.

In the capital town of Nabunturan town, a Caballero relative, Councilor Raul Benoya Caballero (Aksyon) is running for mayor against Romeo Calamba Clarin (LK) while in Pantukan town, Juan Rufo Caballero, Jr., (LP), brother of the former governor, is running for councilor.

The former governor’s daughter, Kristina Mae Taytayan Caballero, a former provincial board member who ran for governor in 2007, is running for provincial board member in the second district.

Another Lopoz brother is running for provincial board member in the first district, Arvin Dexter Monforte Lopoz.

In Davao del Norte, Governor Rodolfo Pagua del Rosario (LP) and his nephew, Rep. Antonio Floirendo Lagdameo, Jr. (LK) of the second district are running unopposed.
Vice Governor Victorio Suaybaguio, Jr. (LP) is running against Rogelio Esguerra Israel (LK).

Del Rosario’s son, Antonio Rafael Garcia del Rosario (LP), a former vice governor, is running for 1st district representative against Emelita Apostol Alvarez (NP), wife of former Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez.

In Tagum City, Mayor Rey Tao Uy or Chiong Uy (LP) brother of Compostela Governor Uy is seeking reelection against former governor Gelacio Gementiza (Ind), three-term district representative Arrel Reyes Olano (Ind), Cesar Bangayan Cuntapay (Ind) and Charlieto Piencenavez Amespero, Jr.. (Ind).

In the Island Garden City of Samal, Mayor Aniano Paraiso Antalan (LK), brother of former three-term mayor Rogelio Antalan, is seeking reelection against Austerio Flores Obenza (Ind), Orly Adarmeo Amit (LP), and Armando Balintong Sanano (PDSP).
Running under LK for councilor in Babak is Gemma Sahitarios Antalan, wife of the incumbent mayor; for councilor in Samal is Teresita Buchan Antalan, wife of the former mayor.

In Davao del Sur’s political landscape, it’s still Cagas, Bautista, Llanos, Almendras, Latasa.

Governor Douglas Ralota Cagas (NP) is seeking reelection against Claude Peralta Bautista (NPC) , Dominador Fiel Carrillo (Ind), Rosemarie Chavez Villamor (Ind) and Alex Bangoyan Wangkay.(PMP).

Governor Cagas’ wife, Mercedes Chan (NP) is running for provincial board member in the 1st district.

The couple’s son Marc Doug Chan Cagas IV (NP) is seeking reelection as 1st district representative to Congress against Wilhelmina King Almendras (LMWPP) and provincial board member Erwin Soriano Llanos (NPC). Another Llanos, Nonito Avila Llanos III (Ind) is running for 1st district board member.

Two Latasa brothers are slugging it out for the vice governorship: Vice Governor Simplicio Agonia Latasa (PMP) who is seeking reelection, and three-term Digos City mayor Arsenio Agonio Latasa (NPC).

The brothers are running against Lorna Bautista Bandigan (LK), Merlin Beltran Bello (NP), an dablo Cambarejan Villaber (Ind).

In the second congressional district, Rep. Franklin Peralta Bautista (LK) is running for reelection against Alberto Uy Baliota(NP) and Jimmy Yatco Renovilla (PMP).

In Malita, Davao del Sur, Mayor Benjamin Peralta Bautista (LK), brother of Claude and Franklin, is running for reelection against Alberto Uy Baliota II (NP), brother of the congressional candidate. Another Bautista, Bradly Llido Bautista (LK) is running for vice mayor against Aberto Salang Mante (NP).

In Digos City, Governor Cagas’ cousins, Alejandro Cabahug Almendras, Jr., (LP) and Josef Fortich Cagas (NP) are running for mayor against Joseph Roble Penas (NPC), and Romeo Leyson Vicariato (Ind).

Alejandro Almendras’ brother, Sta. Cruz vice mayor Alexis Almendras, is running for reelection. Alexis used to be a Davao City councilor. The Almendras brothers are sons of the late Senator Alejandro "Landring" Almendras.

Wilhelmina King Almendras’ sibling, Alejandro King Almendras (LMWPP) is running for board member of the 1st district against 11 others, among them Aileen Condevillamar Almendras whose brother, Alvin Rey is running for councilor of Sta. Cruz town.
Michael Latasa, private secretary of last-termer mayor Arsenio Latasa, is running for councilor.

In Hagonoy, Davao del Sur, Presidential Adviser for Mindanao Jesus Dureza’s son, Jesus “Jay” Salutillo Dureza, Jr (PDSP) is running for mayor against reelectionist Franco Calida (NP), Davao City’s police chief in the late 1980s who claimed to be the “godfather of the Alsa Masa;” Leonilo Palmero Junsay (Ind); Jose Manoza Superales, Jr. (NPC).

Jay Dureza’s uncle, Jimmy is running for councilor of the 2nd district in Davao City. Jay’s father was a former congressional representative of Davao City’s first district.

In Davao Oriental, Vice Governor Joel Mayo Zosa Almario and Rep. Nelson Lechoncito Dayanghirang (NP) are assured of reelection. They are running unopposed.

The vice governor’s mother, Thelma Zosa Almario is running for reelection as representative of the second district.

Governor Corazon Nunez Malanyaon (NP) is seeking reelection against Ruben Orinza Feliciano (PMP).

Mario Jose Toroba Palma Gil, son of former Governor Marlene Pama Gil, is running for provincial board member.

In Manay town, Jon Marco Mendoza Dayanghiran (NP), president of the Association of Barangay Captains in the area and son of Mayor Antero Dayanghirang, is running for mayor against Jurgen delos Reyes Ompang (LP).

Mayor Dayanghirang, Jr.(NP), brother of Rep. Dayanghirang, is running for councilor. A Samuel Castillo Dayanghirang is also running for councilor.

Mati City mayor Michelle Marie Denise Nakpil Rabat, daughter of former Governor Francisco Rabat and Edith Nakpil, is running for reelection against former Mati mayor Edgardo Endriga Lopez (Ind) .

Vice Mayor Cesar Del Rosario De Erio (LK) is running for reelection against Carlo Luis Peralta Rabat of LDP. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews) [Tomorrow:In Davao City, It’s Duterte vs Nograles; councilors’ kin are candidates, too]

It’s still all in the family in Mindanao’s political landscape (3):Davao City, Dinagat and Lanaos
by Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/17 February) – In Davao City, it’s Duterte versus Nograles and in the City Council, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, wives and husbands are running for the post their loved ones are vacating.

Post-EDSA six-termer mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte (1988 to 1998; 2001 to 2010) is not running for congressman of the first district as he did in 1998 when he “graduated” from his first three terms as mayor. Duterte (LP) is running for vice mayor, the post currently held by his daughter, Sara Zimmerman Duterte (PDP Laban) who is running for mayor against House Speaker Prospero Castillo Nograles (LK) and three others.

Nograles’ son, Karlo Alexei Bendigo Nograles (LK), his chief of staff, is running for the post he served for three terms.

The elder Duterte is facing two opponents in the vice mayoralty race: his former city administrator and later vice mayor, Benjamin de Guzman (LK) who was the mayor from 1998 to 2001 and Roberto Viloria Macaraeg (Ind).

The younger Nograles is facing six opponents, including the estranged sister of Duterte, Jocelyn Roa Duterte (Ind), three-term councilor Maria Belen Sunga-Acosta (LP), Bernard Sabino Custodio (Ind), Anacleto Belleza Millendez (Ind), Robert Elnar Olanolan (Ind) and Juan Resemilla Zamora (Ind).

In the second congressional district, three-term Rep. Vincent Garcia’s sister Mylene De Joya Castillo (Ind) is running against Dexter Antonio Alcebar (Ind), Joji Ilagan Bian (LK), and councilors Danilo Castillo Dayanghirang (LP), and Diosdado Angelo Abello Mahipus (PDP Laban).

In the third district, Rep. Isidro Ungab (LP), is facing five other candidates: Wilberto Echavez Al-ag (PDP Laban), Gerardo Caalaman Braganza (Ind), Gregorio Chavez Canada (NP), and former Rep. Ruy Elias Lopez (NPC).

A total of 100 candidates are running for the city’s 24 council seats in three districts -- the biggest number in Mindanao: 41 in the 1st district, 29 in the 2nd and 30 in the 3rd.

In all three districts, the sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands are running for the posts their relatives are vacating.

Among those running in the first district are: Nilo Abellera’s son, Nilo, Jr. (LP); Leo Avila’s son, Lester Lawrence (Ind); Bonguyan’s daughter Joanne Mendoza (LK); Peter Lavina’s wife, Evelyn Gonzales (LP); Angela Librado’s sister, Leah; Bonifacio Militar’s son, Napoleon Tac-an.

In the second didstrict, two Alterados are running: Ernie Ilagan (PDP Laban) and Senforiano Ilagan Jr (Ind); two Aportaderas: Angelo Arancel (LK) and Michael Protacio (LP); two Orcullos: Nenita Roldan and her brother-in-law Beethoven; former councilor and former vice mayor’s son Louie John Jose (LP); In the third district, two Dalodos are running: Myrna Gerolin Dalodo-Ortiz (PDP Laban) and her brother Doming Gerolin Dalodo (Ind).

Karlo Santos Bello, grandson of former Davao City mayor Luis Santos and son of former Justice Secretary Silvestre Bello, a senatorial candidate, is running for reelection as councilor; Rene Elias Lopez is also seeking reelection while his brother Ruy Elias, former representative to Congress, is running for the same seat in Congress.

Ecleo Islands

Dinagat Islands province is still the Ecleos’. Glenda Buray Ecleo (LK) is running for governor against Harry Echin Meso (LP); her daughter Geraldine Ecleo Villaroman (Ind) is running for vice governor against Elvis Arrocena dela Merced (LK) and Sangkil Ham Park (LP); and her son Ruben Ecleo, Jr. (LK) is running for the lone representative to Congress against Francisco Gorres Rojas, Sr.

One Ecleo is running for first district provincial board membership: Romeo Palapo Ecleo (LK); while three Ecleos are running for the second district: Joslyn Itable Ecleo (LK), Jurry Echin Ecleo (Ind) and Lordes Gersalino Ecleo (Ind).

Three Ecleo children need not campaign. They are running unopposed: Alan Buray Ecleo I (LK) for mayor of Basilisa town; Gwendolyn Buray Ecleo (LK) for mayor of Dinagat town; Alan Buray Ecleo II (LK) for mayor of San Jose.

In Dinagat, it is not just the mayoral candidate who is running unopposed but her running mate, Lilibeth Diegas Edradan (LK) and her entire slate of eight candidates for the eight-seat municipal board.

In Cagdianao, Ruben Alborja Ecleo (LK) is running for vice mayor against Orlando Lazaro Oyales (Ind).

In San Jose, three other Ecleos are running for councilor: Elvin Palapo (LK), Jessie Dagairag (LK) and Michael Angelo Madron.

In Lanao del Norte, the Dimaporos are still the family to beat.

Governor Mohammad K. Quibranza Dimaporo is running for reelection. His mother, Imelda Quibranza Dimaporo is running for 1st district representative against Independent bets Rangiit Gedren Llorente Amisola and Macarupung Butong Dibaratun and Romulo Cailing Rizalda (LP) while his sister, Fatima Aliah Quibranza Dimaporo is running for 2nd district representative against Tingagon Ampaso Umpa (LP).

The incumbent 2nd district Rep is her father, Abdullah who also once served as governor of the province.

In Lanao del Sur, Governor Mamintal Alonto Adiong, Jr., (LK) is running for reelection against six other candidates: former three-term Marawi City mayor Omar Macabalang Ali (NP), Ahmadjam Marogong Abdulcarim (Ind), Abohamadmahmod Tuan Abdullah (Ind), Jiamil Maruhom Dianalan (LM), Muhammadomar Sarip Malawad (Ind) and Bashier Dimaalaang Manalao (PMP).

In the first congressional district, Rep. Faysah Dumarpa is ending her three terms in office with her husband Salic Biston Dumarpa (NP) running for her post against Abul Khayr Abul Alonto (Ind), Salic Ayo Mundir (PMP), Mohammed Hussein Pacasum Pangandaman (LK) and Princess Johayra D. Pacasum Pangarungan (Ind).

Pangandaman is son of Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pagandaman and grandson of former ARMM governor Liningding Pangandaman while Diamond is wife of former OIC Lanao del Sur Governor Saidamen Pangarungan. [Tomorrow: Same faces, same family names in Maguindanao, Misamis, North Cotabato] (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

It’s still all in the family in Mindanao’s political landscape (4)
by Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews

4th of a series

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/19 February) – Iligan City’s mayoralty race is a contest among nine – the incumbent Lawrence Lluch Cruz (LP) against former mayor Franklin Quijano (PMP), former Rep. Alipio Badelles (NP), Samuel Yacomba Acut (Ind), Voltaire Bugnay Lluch (Ind), Ismael Aragon Naga, Jr., (PDSP), Alberto Loquez Ong, Jr. (PGRP) and Yuri Monsanto Taongan (Ind).

Rep. Vicente Florendo Belmonte, Jr. (LP, 1st district, Lanao del Norte) is running for the lone seat of Iligan in Congress, against Samson Nisperos Dajao (Ind) and Jose Cagalawan Pantoja (PMP).


In Maguindanao, Datu Unsay mayor Datu Andal Ampatuan, Jr., may have dug his own political grave in Ampatuan town with the November 23, 2009 massacre of at least 58 persons, 32 of them from the media, but it may not be the end as yet for the rest of his clan.

Ampatuan, Jr., wanted to be governor of Maguindanao, like his father, three-term governor Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr. And like his father, he wanted to run unopposed.

Ampatuan, Sr., his running mate Sajid (his youngest son with first wife, Bai Laila) and their provincial board slate, ran unopposed in 2007. And so did candidates in 20 out of then 22 towns in Maguindanao (before Shariff Kabunsuan was declared unconstitutional and its 11 towns transferred back to Maguindanao).

This is also why Lakas-Kampi partymates were trying to dissuade Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Gaguil Mangudadatu, from running for governor. The “Ampatuan formula” of fielding unopposed bets had been tried and tested. It promised “peaceful” elections, as did the other “Ampatuan formula” of creating new towns to give rival politicians their own territories to govern.

The “Ampatuan formula” also guaranteed a “command vote” for national candidates.

In a survey on Muslim Mindanao Attitude Towards Democracy and Elections done on February 1-7, 2008 by the Social Weather Stations and The Asia Foundation, 62% said “it is good to have an unopposed candidate in an election since it reduces campaign violence and insecurity,” while 38% said “it is important to have at least two candidates for every position so that everyone has a choice.”

The ARMM areas voted 65% favoring unopposed candidates against 35% while the non-ARMM areas of Zamboanga City, Cotabato, Isabela, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Lanao del Norte voted 49% against 51%.

In the ARMM areas, Maguindanao posted the highest approval on having unopposed candidates at 86%. Only 14% said there must be at least two candidates per position.
With Ampatuan, Jr., out of the electoral race (the massacre came on the fourth day of the filing of certificates of candidacy; he was “arrested” on 26 November), and the Ampatuans expelled by the Lakas-Kami, the family and supporters gathered to discuss their next moves.

Sixty-eight Ampatuans are running for elective posts, at least 23 of whom are directly related to the patriarch, Datu Andal Salibo Ampatuan, Sr. (see previous story).

Ampatuan Sr., is running for vice governor against his daughter Shaydee Ampatuan-Abutazil and two others.

Like his junior, Ampatuan Sr. has been charged with multiple murder for the Nov. 23 massacre.

In the first congressional district, Rep. Didagen Piang Dilangalen is running for reelection against Bai Sandra Ampatuan Sema, wife of Cotabato City three-term mayor, Muslimin Sema.

In the second congressional district, Simeon Ampatuan Datumanong is assured of another term: he is running unopposed.

Misamis Occidental and Oriental clans

In Misamis Occidental, it's still all in the family for the Parojinogs, Ocampos, Tans, Claretes and Almontes.

Governor Loreto Leo Solis Ocampos (LP) is running for 2nd district representative against Ozamiz Mayor Reynaldo Ozamiz Parojinog (LK), Tangub City mayor Jennifer Wee Tan (NPC) and Alfredo Agad Paglinawan (Ind).

Ocampos’ wife, Geogina (LP) is running for Tangub City mayor; Parojinog’s daughter ova is running for mayor and his brother, Ricardo, is running for provincial board member while Tan’s husband, a former mayor, is running for the post she will be vacating.

Rep. Herminia de Mesa Ramiro (LK,2nd district) is ending her three terms and is running for governor against Carlos Patricio Cruz Bernad (LP), Francisco Tac-an Paylaga, Jr. (NP) and Carlo Dalogdog Zafra (PMP).

In the first district, Oroquieta Mayor Jorge Taghap Almonte is running against Ernie Dulalas Clarete, former governor and husband of Rep. Marina Clarete.

In Oroquieta City, Almonte’s son, Councilor Jason Paredes Almonte (LK) is running for mayor against Leuel Meyrick Mananggit Acosta (NP).

In Ozamiz City, Councilor Nova P. Engracia Parojinog-Echavez (LK), daughter of outgoing mayor Parojinog, is running for mayor against Ma. Constanceia Corominas Lim (LP).

In Tangub City, Philip Tiu Tan, husband of incumbent mayor Jennifer Wee Tan, is running again for mayor. Mrs. Tan is now running for 2nd district representative.

In Misamis Oriental, Governor Oscar Serina Moreno (LK) is seeking a third term against Michael Angelo Guibone Paderanga (PMP) and Manuel Azcuna Go (Ind).

Moreno’s brother, Genaro Jose Serina Moreno, Jr. (LK) is running for 1st district representative against Jennifer Artadi Lagbas (LP), Wevino Agcopra Palamine (Ind), Peter Mamawag Unabia (PMP) and Romeo Salvana Zagado (KBL).

Lagbas is the daughter of Rep. Danilo Lagas, who passed away in June 2008.

In the second district, Rep. Yevgeny Vincente Beja Emano (NP) is seeking reelection against former Rep. Augusto Hojas Baculio (LP) and Julio Tadoy Uy (LK).

Baculio’s brother, Pedrito (LP) is running for mayor of El Salvador City against Felipe Candones Cabaron (Ind), Alfredo Quilab Tan (LK) while the incumbent mayor, Emelita Baculio-Almirante (LP) is running for vice mayor against Nilo Tan Pates (LK).

Vice Governor Norris Babiera Casino Sr. (LK) is seeking reelection against Victorico Vicente Valderrama Chaves, Jr., (PMP), son of former three-term Rep. Victorico L. Chavez.

In Cagayan de Oro City, Vice Mayor Vicente Emano (PMP) who had earlier served as three-term Governor of Misamis Oriental and three-term city mayor, is running for mayor against 1st district Rep. RolandoAdlao Uy (LK), Berchmans Daing Abejuela (LP), Felix Frias Borres, Jr. (Ind), Sulpicio Bete Illana (Ind), Romerico Nunez LLoren (Ind) and Jasper Fernandez Uy (Ind).

Rep. Uy’s son, Raineir Joaquin Velez Uy (LK) is running for the post he is vacating, against Jose Banjamin Abrio Benaldo (PMP), Lourdes Candy dela Rosa Darimbang (Ind), Tito Pontino Dichosa (Ind), and Dulcisimo Balandra Ytem, Sr., (Ind).

2nd district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (PMP) is seeking reelection against Samuel Aloysius Magdadaro Jardin (LP) and Alrhoy Velasco Naliponguit (Ind) [Tomorrow: The Pinols, Chiongbians, (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

It’s still all in the family in Mindanao’s political landscape (5): 7 of 11 Pinol brothers running
by Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/20 February) -- North Cotabato Vice Governor Emmanuel Fantin Pinol (NPC) wants to reclaim the post of governor which he held from 1998 to 2007. His younger brother Bernardo Jr., (LP) also wants to retain his seat as representative of the second district.

But they are not the only Pinols running. Seven out of 11 Pinol brothers are running for top posts in May 2010: one for governor, one for representative, three for town mayor, one for city vice mayor and one for municipal councilor.

Patricio Fantin Pinol (LP), the executive secretary of the Vice Governor, is running for vice mayor of Kidapawan City against Joseph Arellano Evangelista (LK). Evangelista was elected number one councilor in 2007 but assumed the post of vice mayor in late November 2008 when Vice Mayor Luis Malaluan passed away.

Magpet Mayor Efren Pinol (NPC) is seeking reelection against Reuben Camanao Lebrillo, Sr., (LK) while another brother, Ferdinand Sr. (NPC), chief of staff of Rep. Pinol, is running for mayor of Matalam against reelectionist Oscar Moreno Vadevieso (LK).

In M’lang, hometown of the Pinols, another brother, Joselito (LP) is seeking reelection as mayor against Tadeo Paluay Andres (LK), while another brother, Gerardo (LP) is running for councilor of M’lang.

The Pinols’ late father, Bernardo, Sr. was a provincial board member.

Vice Governor Pinol is running against outgoing 1st district Rep. Emmylou Talino-Mendoza (LK), Kier Guiaman Labog (PGRP) and Sucre Parael Romancar (Ind). Rep. Bernardo Pinol is running against Nancy Alaan Catamco (LK).

The youngest Piñol brother, Socrates, is serving as ex-officio member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan representing the Association of Barangay Chairman in North Cotabato.

Vice Governor Pinol, however, has dismissed criticisms about the Pinols building a dynasty.

No dynasty

In the elections of 2007, he said his brothers’ fate at the polls depends on the people.
“We are 11 in the family. I think it is not bad to field my brothers in politics. People will decide on my brother’s fate in politics, not me,” he said.

Pinol challenged his critics to field their candidates instead of accusing him of building a political dynasty.

“If my political critics believe that they have better candidates then why don’t they field them and let the people choose the best leader?” Piñol asked.

Pinol’s running mate is Romeo Daruca Arana (NPC) who will run against former Makilala mayor and former 1st district Rep. Gregorio Tocmo Ipong (LK), and Baculudan Pandi Talib (Ind).

Still in North Cotabato, Governor Jesus Sacdalan is running for 1st district represntative against former Rep. Anthony Pabiona Dequina (NPAC), Dan Omawas Ebo (Ind), Ronaldo Bertumen Pader (LP) and former three-term Kabacan mayor Luzviminda Jumuad Tan (GAD).

In Carmen town, Rogelio Talino (LK), who had earlier served as three-term mayor of Carmen town, is running again for mayor, against Hector Monsale Salvador (LP).
In Kidapawan City, Mayor Rodolfo Yamyamin Gantuangco (LK) is seeking reelection against Ponciano Umpan Bangcas, Sr., (Ind) and Francis Ela Palmones (NP).

In Kabacan town, Mayor George Tan is seeking reelection (Ind) against Wilfredo Villa Bataga, Sr. (LP), Ludencio Amerila dela Cruz (NP), and Tanny Masukat Sultan (Ind). Tan’s wife Luz is running for 1st district representative.

In Matalam, it’s a Valdevieso – Valdevieso team-up for mayor and vice mayor, under Lakas Kampi: Oscar Moreno Valdevieso for reelection as mayor and Cheryl Valdevieso Catamco for vice mayor. Catamco is running against Tranquilino Fusilero Pulanco, Jr. (NPC).

The Chiongbians

In Sarangani, Governor Miguel Rene Alcantara Dominguez (LK) is running for his third term against Juan Domingo Domino of PCM (People’s Champ Movement).

Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao aka the boxing champ, Manny Pacquiao (PCM), is running for congressman against Roy Lopong Chiongbian (Sarro), younger brother of outgoing Rep. Erwin Chiongbian.

The Chiongbian’s nephew, Steve Chiongbian Solon (LK), is seeking reelection as Vice Governor, against Fredo Pandian Basino (PCM).

In South Cotabato, three-term Rep. Arthur Yusay Pingoy, Jr. (LK) is running for governor against three-term Koronadal City mayor Fernando Quirao Miguel (PMP) and Ferdinand Ledesma Hernandez (NPC).

Miguel’s son, Peter Bascon-Miguel (PMP), a doctor, is running for the post his father is vacating. The younger Miguel is running against Efren Hiponia Biclar (Ind), Vicente Reyes De Jesus (LK), Vicente Reyes De Jesus (LK) and Abdullah Jess Mangudadatu.

Two former governors who also served as former representatives are running for the 2nd district seat Pingoy is vacating: Hilario Lutero de Pedro III (LK) and outgoing governor Daisy Avance-Fuentes (NPC).

The Acharons

In the first district of South Cotabato, six candidates are running: outgoing mayor Pedro Busgano Acharon, Jr. (NPC), Aldwin Bernae ANgangan (Ind), Franklin Mabini Gacal, Jr. (Ind), Rogelio Valmores Garcia (PDP Laban),. Ramon Razo Melliza (Ind) and Abelardo Serrano Plaza (Ind)

Acharon’s brother, Loreto (LK), is running for mayor against Vice Mayor Florentina Lopez-Congson, former Mayor Rosalita Nunez (PDP Laban), and outgoing1st district Rep. Darlene M. Ricasa Antonino-Custodio (NPC).

Custodio is the daughter of former General Santos City mayor Adelbert Antonino and former Rep. Luwalhati Antonino.

Another Acharon brother, Honesto, is running for councilor while Jose Orlando Remolana Acharon (AIM). is running for vice mayor against Shirlyn Legario Banas (PCM), and Benjur Salazar Mongao of PDP—Laban.

The Mangudadatus

In Sultan Kudarat province, Governor Suharto Tan Mangudadatu (LK) is seeking reelection against Ephraim Baldomero Defino (Ind), Rodolfo Villaceran Estorque (Ind) and Carlos de Leon Valez, Jr. (NPC).

Mangudadatu was former congressman of the 1st district. His father, former three-term governor Pax Pakung Sandigan Mangudadatu (LK) is running for a second term as representative. He is running against Raden Camlian Sakaluran (Ind), former Lutayan his son-in-law who was former mayor. Sakaluran’s wife, Ruth, the incumbent mayor of Lutayan, is Mangudadatu’s daughter.

In the second district, Rep. Arnulfo Fegarido Go (LK) is running for reelection against Reynaldo Forro Arguelles (Ind), Roberto Esteta Examen (Ind), former governor and former Rep. Nesthur Raymundo Gumana (Ind) and Jaquelien P. Villagracia Talmadge (LP).

In the race for vice governor, Ernesto Fontanilla Matias, elected number one provincial board member in 2007, is assured of victory. He is running unopposed.

In Lutayan town, however, the entire slate does not need to campaign. They are all running unopposed: Ruth Mangudadatu Sakaluran (LK), sister of the governor and daughter of the 1st district representative for yet another term as mayor; Felix Lechonsito Lavilles (LK) for vice mayor and all eight LK candidates for councilor. [Tomorrow: The clans of Sulu and Surigao] (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Buliok 7 years after the war: Painful imprints still linger

by Keith Bacongco/MindaNews
Saturday, 13 February 2010 09:51

BARANGAY BULIOK, Pagalungan, Maguindanao (MindaNews / February 12) - The rubble, the bullet-riddled walls, the bomb craters have remained. And though not visible, the wounds of war have yet to heal for thousands of residnents who were forced to leave their homes when government forces bombarded this village during the Eid’l Adha congregational prayer on February 11, 2003. A village official narrates their hardships at the evacuation center in nearby Pikit town in North Cotabato, some 15 kilometers from here.

Villagers recall the incident as “treacherous attack against the Moro people,” happening as it did on Eid’l Adha, the Islamic feast of the holy sacrifice.

The barangay official took a deep breath before describing the first bomb dropped beside the mosque where they were holding the congregational prayer.

“The Imam never finished the prayer; they ran for their lives from the rain of bombs and mortar shells,” he recalled as he took another deep breath and bowed his head. The explosions reportedly left three persons dead.

Seven years ago, government forces attacked Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) positions here as well as in nearby villages of Pikit. The government earlier said that they were hunting down members of the dreaded Pentagon kidnap-for-ransom gang who were reportedly hiding in Liguasan Marsh. Later, government forces went out to flush the MILF in the area.

The fighting displaced thousands of people from several barangays of Pagalungan and Pikit. About a hundred evacuees, mostly children, died in the evacuation centers due to diseases.

For 60-year old Tuwaw Abdulrhakman, the war in 2003 left nothing but hardship as they lost farm animals and their houses were destroyed due to relentless aerial and artillery bombing.

“We have not fully recovered from the war even if it was seven years ago. Look at our house, this was not like this before the war. We have not availed of the rehabilitation program,” Abdulrhakman told MindaNews as she points to the dilapidated walls of their shanty.

She recalls that two days before the attack, they were advised by the village chief to evacuate because the military was already in nearby Barangay Rajahmuda and would launch ground assault anytime. “Hindi na namin kayang magpaiwan kasi wala na ring pumapasok na supply ng pagkain kasi hinaharang ng mga sundalo sa Rajahmuda,” (We couldn’t stay behind because food supply was getting scarce as this was barred by soldiers in Rajahmuda), she recounted. “Ayaw na namin ng gulo para makabawi na talaga kami.Nakakapagod mag-bakwit” (We don’t like war so we can move on. We’re tired of evacuating).

Abdulrhakman stayed at the evacuation center for four months. She had to sell their farm animals when the food supply at the evacuation center dwindled.

Traces of War

How can one forget the war in 2003 when the war’s rubble is a daily reminder?
The village official points to what was once a Marine detachment just about a hundred meters from the Islamic Center. Several knee-deep foxholes and bunkers are still in place but now covered with grasses and dried banana leaves.

He also pointed to a former prison cell of the MILF. The cell’s floor area is 12 square feet, its walls made of about six inches of concrete and the ceiling, also concrete, about 15 feet high. The cell has two windows of 1 by 4 feet.

“This is where the MILF used to lock-up those who violated the laws of the MILF here, such as drug addicts, thieves and murderers,” he explained.

Now it’s riddled with bullets from .50 caliber machine guns of government troops . A hole one foot in diameter, is a reminder of what an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) is capable of doing.

When the Marines occupied the area, the prison cell was reportedly converted into a makeshift disco house. A hut was also built on top, where they occasionally partied, villagers said.

The barangay official disclosed there was an attempt by the MILF to recapture the area.

Across this village is Barangay Buliok, Pikit (North Cotabato) side, which was the object of aerial bombings and artillery shelling in 2003.

Bomb craters are still visible in some areas near the riverbanks of Pulangi River.

What used to be a warehouse constructed through the Special Zone of Peace and Development program, is now a rubble. The warehouse has been left unrepaired despite the government’s rehabilitation program in the area and residents have left the 6-foot deep bomb crater beside the rubble, uncovered.

Remembering 2/11

Earlier in the morning of February 11, 2010, a peace forum was held at the Mahad (Arabic school) in Pikit poblacion, where at least 100 people gathered to commemorate the Buliok attack.

Ustadz Abdul Nasser Musa said the future generation must never forget this day. “Marami nang nagawang kasalanan ang gobyerno sa Bangsamoro. At ang pangyayaring ito noong 2003 ay isa sa pinakamasakit para sa atin na mga Bangsamoro. Hindi nila kinilala ang ating karapatan sa pananampalataya” (Government has committed so many sins against the Bangsamoro. What happened in 2003 was so painful for us Bangsamoro), he told the crowd.

In a separate statement, Nasser Ali, lead convenor of the 2/11 Movement, asked local and national government officials to “refrain from using the GRP-MILF peace process to bolster their political and economic interests. “

Ali also appealed to any group or individual to wait for the results of the peace process before pursuing their interests in the Liguasan Marsh, which is touted to be rich in natural gas.

“The Bangsamoro people, being the rightful owner, must be included and always be part of the every effort to develop the Liguasan Marsh,” he stressed.
The 2/11 Movement is composed of 14 Moro peoples organization binding themselves to lead the move in seeking justice “not just for those who were killed in the Buliok attack but (also for) other victims of injustices at the height of the 2003 war.” ( Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)

With pictures:

Civilian protection in peacekeeping

By Jun Mercado, OMI
Friday, February 12. 2010

On the 27th of October 2009, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed an Agreement on Civilian Protection.

The agreement reconfirms the parties’ commitment to observe the Human Rights Law and the International Humanitarian Law.

By signing this important agreement, both the GRP and the MILF assume all the obligations under the Convention on Human Rights and the International Humanitarian Law.

This, in a special way, has elevated the peace talks between the GRP and the MILF into a higher plane.

What is Civilian protection, especially in areas of conflict?

By definition, Civilian protection refers to all activities aimed at obtaining full respect for the rights of the individuals and communities in accordance with the letter and spirit of the relevant bodies of law, international humanitarian law, and refugee law.

The objective of civilian protection agreement is to reduce the risk and extent of harm to civilians and non-combatants during the actual conflict or during military operations.

The protection of civilians and non combatants is a foremost duty of government and the liberation front.

Both the Human Rights Law and the International Humanitarian Law impose duties on all the parties to the conflict. They also set limits on the methods and means of warfare, particularly as they impact the vulnerable groups.

Worldwide, there is a growing concern over the impact of internal conflict on the non combatants, especially women and children.

Today, the international community requires combatants, government and rebels alike, to respect the dignity and right to life of non-combatants, the wounded and sick, and the prisoners of war.

The principle of civilian protection is anchored on human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the four Geneva Conventions, the additional Protocol II covering non-international armed conflict, and the Philippine Constitution.

In short, the agreement on civilian protection takes the protection of the civilian population as the cornerstone.

With this agreement the question now centers on the so-called ‘collateral damage’ to non-combatants.

Concretely, the debate revolves around the issue of whether or not a degree of ‘collateral damage’ is acceptable.

In the past, the legitimacy of ‘collateral damage’ was premised on the ‘greater’ good and proportional damage.

The theory was debunked following the lost of the Americans in the Vietnam War.

The slogan, “In order to save the village, we had to destroy it,” was the epitome of the abandoned principle of collateral damage.

In view of the on-going discussion on the terms of reference (TOR) for the combatants on the civilian protection, there are basic questions that need to be answered.

1. Should combatants avoid military encounters in civilian communities?

2. In times of population displacement, do the protagonists provide safe passage to fleeing non-combatants?

3. Do the protagonists allow the non-combatants and the internally displaced unhampered access to relief and rehabilitation assistance?

4. Do the protagonists allow or assist in the return of the displaced to their areas of origin?

Notwithstanding the outcome of the present talks, the Civilian Protection (CP) is a good development and should become more robust as more people participate in the process, particularly of the Local Government Units and Civil Society, including the Private Sector (Business).

The Agreement on Civilian Protection, no doubt, provides challenges to both the protagonists and the stakeholders.

The protagonists and stakeholders must think through and beyond the conflict with a view to a common vision of individual rights and responsibilities.

From peace and development perspective, the more the process is coherent and has integrity, the better it becomes in terms of protecting lives and respecting rights.

Peace and development prospects for Southern Philippines

By Jun Mercado, OMI
Friday, February 5. 2010

We are at a crossroads to decide whether to move forward or to ‘freeze’, albeit temporarily, the peace talks with both the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the MNLF’s ‘official’ review of the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Accord has remained uncertain and directionless despite three sessions held in Jeddah, in Turkey, and in Manila.

The end remains as nebulous as when they started the review of the implementation of the Final Peace Accord.

The two remain poles apart and that any possible convergence of views and reading of the realities on the ground is almost an impossible dream.

The disagreements between the GRP and the MNLF remind me of the challenge posed by the then Indonesian Foreign Minister, Hon. Ali Alatas, who said that “the real hard work begins after the signing of the agreement. For a peace agreement, or any other agreement for that matter, does not implement itself.”

The same can be said with the GRP and the MILF Peace Talks.

Since 1997, the talks have seen the changes and vagaries of three administrations with no real progress on the ground.

In reality, any peace agreement assumes concrete reality only on the accretions of activities completed on the ground.

The challenge for many, particularly on the leaders, lies on the solid ‘implementary’ achievements, contributions, cooperation and often inevitable sacrifices by all those who are supposed to make the peace agreement work.

In the Southern Philippines, we all have traveled far through long and at times circuitous path to peace.

The 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 Final Peace Accord are products of patient and insistent peacekeeping and peacemaking.

This is the issue we need to grapple with as we ask the question how to make peace truly sustainable in our homeland.

No doubt, the past and present paradigms, including the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain (MOA AD), need re-drawing to be able to build a new culture, a new way of seeing, and a new way of relating to each other.

The efforts and attempts at peacebuilding, peacemaking, and peacekeeping seem NOT to lead to an acceptable formula that would engender a culture of peace.

It is the culture of peace that will, ultimately, transform and replace the prevalent culture of war.

Peacebuilding is often a more difficult task.

It concerns itself not only on a task of reconciliation but more so on finding and developing positive alternatives to the root causes of war.

This makes peacebuilding a vast project.

It is linked to: (1) building a New Paradigm or politics of living together; (2) a wholesale re-construction [development] of areas affected by conflict; (3) a new understanding of ‘security’ and safety; and (3) a new culture – a culture of peace.

In the past, our community has resembled an armed camp.

Today, there is a movement to reduce reliance on military power and to take steps towards re-construction and disarmament.

The conversion from military to civilian production and trade can make available the resources for programs of human development needed to provide economic and political security.

For peace to be sustainable, it is linked to development which is endogenous, equitable, and sustainable.

Human security and democracy can be provided by institutions and behaviors which ensure that the conflicts inherent in all human societies do not destroy the integrity and effective functioning of the society.

Within the human security framework, disagreement and conflict are managed through a process of participation, dialogue, mediation, and compromise, and political solutions are sought from which all can benefit.

For the next 5 months, the Arroyo administration faces a formidable challenge to pursue with ‘boldness’ peace and development alternatives or simply leave the existing ‘no peace and no war’ policy in the Southern Philippines.

To pursue peace and development with boldness would require not only a coherent national policy on Southern Philippines but also a shared vision of peace.

Sad to say, that these two have been lacking in our pursuit of peace in the land.

With the National elections in May 2010, the temptation is to simply dribble the ball and leave the peace process to the next administration.

It is tragic to simply ‘dribble the ball.’

Perhaps, what the GRP, the MNLF and the MILF can do is to focus and agree on the possible ‘doables’ to create the good climate and prepare a fertile ground for the peace talks under the new administration.

This may be the wiser option given the conflicting policies and views on Mindanao.

The challenge for the peace stakeholders is to engage the two leading political parties, Liberal Party and the Nacionalista Party.

Noynoy Aquino and Manny Villar need to define their vision of peace and development for the Southern Philippines.

No need to engage the former President Estrada since he believes that the solution in Southern Philippines is to imply go back to the ‘all out war policy’.

God forbid that he wins again the presidency!

The prospects of ARMM for 2010

By Jun Mercado, OMI
Tuesday, January 5. 2010

There are several questions people ask about the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM. They wonder why the whole experiment on self-governance seemingly does not work.

The five component provinces (Basilan, Lanao Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi) remain the poorest in the country.

The region is a place where good local governance is, in fact, almost an ‘oxymoron.’ It would be worse if the region is measured by the standards of ‘autonomy.’ In fact, the provinces within the ARMM feel and believe that they are less autonomous as compared to the provinces outside of the ARMM.

It is high time for all — the government and the Bangsamoro — to call the experiment a ‘failure’ in self-governance and development.

No doubt, there are one thousand and one reasons for the failure. And there will be no end to finger pointing to who was responsible for the failed governance within the ARMM.

The 2010 elections of new sets of national leaders may pave the way towards the ‘abolition’ of the ARMM.

The year 2010 may, in fact, be a golden opportunity to go back to the drawing board and‘re-invent’ our paradigm of autonomy and governance in Southern Mindanao.

With the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the GRP and the MNLF and the seeming substantial consensus points between the GRP and the MILF negotiations, we have good elements to shape a transitional structure that is all inclusive of all stakeholders in the area regardless of minority or majority status of inhabitants.

The ARMM as it stands is exclusive, by design and operations, of the Muslims. This is, perhaps, one of the major reasons why the Christian majority provinces or territory averred even the thought of ‘integration’ into the said political geography.

The history of ‘partition’ of the empire province of Cotabato in the 50s was premised on a separate province/territory for Muslims and Christians.

In many ways this was a concept that is at work in the political ideology behind the concept of apartheid (separate development and governance).

The same reason was at work when the powers that be ‘gerrymandered’ the then North Cotabato Province in 1971.

The re-drawing of the map of the then North Cotabato was based on the principle of putting together, with few exceptions, all Muslim dominated towns into one province that gave birth to Maguindanao.

Pikit was the exception, because the political elite then in Pikit Municipality was dominated by Christians hence the opposition to a possibility of inclusion to Maguindanao.

Thus Maguindanao became a Muslim Province, by design and operation!

Following the principle behind the said partition, the Muslims could do whatever they want in their area so long as they do NOT interfere in the Christian dominated provinces of the present North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

Following the partition, Marcos appointed Col. Carlos Cajelo as the governor of North Cotabato, Col. Songco (later Gen. Benjamin Duque) as ‘governor-general’ of Sultan Kudarat and Simeon Datumanong as the governor of Maguindanao.

The Muslims, the Christians, and indigenous peoples began coming together, again, in an experimental government structures following the 1976 Tripoli Agreement between the GRP and the MNLF.

Marcos came out with a ‘transitional structure’ of self-governance akin to a ‘work in progress’ until the 1987 Constitution that mandates the establishment of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM.

The first structure was the creation of two autonomous and coordinative ‘Commissions’ one for Region XII and another for Region IX.

Simeon Datumanong was appointed “Commissioner” for Region XII and Admiral Romulo Espaldon for Region IX.

The commission-type self-governance and development was supplanted by the creation of two autonomous regions with complete trappings of executive (Lupong Taga Pagpaganap or LTP) and legislature (Regional Legislative Assembly or RLA).

The two autonomous Regions (IX and XII) included eleven provinces and all cities therein out of the 14 provinces enumerated in the Tripoli Agreement (less Davao del Sur, South Cotabato, Palawan).

In 1989, of the 14 provinces subjected to a referendum, only four provinces (Lanao Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi) favored inclusion to the autonomous region under Republic Act 6734.

The ARMM has seen two Maguindanao Governors (Candao and Ampatuan), two Taosug Governors (Misuari and Husin), and two Maranao (Pangandaman and now acting Governor Adiong).

The ARMM has gone full circle in terms of “ethnic governance” by the dominant Muslim groups.

The experiments do NOT work! Regardless of reasons, the time has come to come up with a major revision both of the blueprint design and operations.

2010 is a new beginning not only for new sets of officials but also for the medium term development goals.

I thought, for a while, that the crisis in the ARMM and the province of Maguindanao would have given that “impetus” and courage to put an end to the ‘failed structure’ that would have paved the way for a new transitional mechanism that is inclusive of all stakeholders and truly accountable to all constituents of the region.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Document - Philippines: Candidates need to divulge their positions on human rights



AI Index: ASA 35/001/2010

9 February 2010

Philippines: Candidates need to divulge their positions on human rights

The worst pre-election violence in Philippine history – the Maguindanao massacre – has focused global attention on the human rights situation in the country. Now more than ever, candidates in the 10 May presidential elections need to clarify how they will address key human rights issues facing the country.

Today as the presidential campaign period officially begins, Amnesty International calls on all of the presidential candidates to make clear, public commitments on the actions they will take in the first 100 days of office to address serious human rights violations. In a public letter to the candidates, Amnesty International called on them to affirm their commitment to:

1) Revoke Executive Order 546, and ensure full accountability over all state-sponsored militias and paramilitary groups.

Despite the mass killing of 63 civilians on 23 November in Maguindanao, members of state-armed local groups and private armies are still free to operate in other parts of the country The Philippine government’s continued failure to establish accountability for members of these armed groups undermines the rule of law and denies human rights protection for civilians.

Within 100 days, the new Philippine president should revoke Executive Order 546, which allows for militia and paramilitary groups to provide active support in counterinsurgency operations. In practice, these groups have been ill-trained, unaccountable, poorly integrated into the military chain of command, and responsible for serious human rights violations. In some provinces, Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs) effectively function as private armies for local politicians, heightening the risk of pre-election violence.

2) Establish a presidential commission aimed at preventing and prosecuting enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions.

In the last decade, at least 200 Filipinos have been subjected to enforced disappearance, and as many as 1,100 have been executed in political killings. The incoming president needs to establish an impartial and independent commission to review these cases, with the aim of enabling timely and effective investigations and, where warranted, prosecutions.

The new president should initiate legislation that specifically criminalizes enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions. He or she should sign the UN Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.

3)Order the administration to fully implement the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement in order to ensure the safety and well-being of the displaced.

Despite the ceasefire in Mindanao, more than 125,000 people remain displaced by the 2008 armed conflict alone. To address this grave humanitarian situation, the incoming president should publicly instruct the administration to ensure that policies comply with the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.

Under the Guiding Principles, the government must ensure that the displaced are provided with adequate food, water, shelter, and clothing, as well as essential healthcare and sanitation. It must also guarantee unimpeded humanitarian access to areas under its control. In addition, the government must implement a sustainable plan of action so that the displaced can return to their villages, safely and voluntarily.

As commander-in-chief, the new president will be directly responsible for ensuring that the armed forces comply with international humanitarian law. As a core principle, this law explicitly prohibits direct or indiscriminate attacks against civilians, and this includes displaced persons and all other non-combatants.


Public Document


For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566 or email:

International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK

Philippines: Keeping the peace

The Philippines has the highest rate of gun-related homicides in Asia. In this edition of 101 East, we ask if the Philippines National Police has taken on the role of judge, jury and executioner, all in the name of keeping the peace.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bangsamoro CSOs: “retain and sustain” Acting Gov Ina Ambolodto

by Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Wednesday, 03 February 2010 11:05

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/03 February) – At least 16 Bangsamoro civil society organizations and networks passed a resolution Tuesday calling on ARMM Acting Governor Ansaruddin Alonto Adiong to “retain and sustain” Bai Nariman “Ina” Abdullah Ambolodto “as vice governor concurrent acting governor of the province of Maguindanao.”

In a two-page resolution, leaders of the Bangsamoro CSOs who convened a caucus on February 2, said they “very humbly respectfully request” Adiong through Haroun Al-Rashid A Lucman, ARMM Secretary of Local Governments and head of the Search Committee that would select the person who will serve as Acting Maguindanao Governor until June 30, to “continue supporting the efforts of Ina Ambolodto of enabling the provincial government to respond to the various pressing needs of our people and communities; intensify and optimize ARMM regional government agency operations in cooperation with the provincial leadership of Ina Ambolodto to address the displacement of our people as a result of fighting and natural calamities, as well as our staggering poverty situation; and retain and sustain Ina as the Provincial Vice-Governor acting provincial Governor.”

The Bangsamoro CSOs, all of them serving Maguindanao – Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society; Bangsamoro Center for Just Peace; Muassasah Ahliya; Kadtuntaya Foundation, Inc.; United Youth of the Philippines-Women; Interfaith Cooperation Forum; Kangudan Development Center, Inc.; Alliance of Bangsamoro for Peace and Sustainable Development; Bangsamoro Youth Leaders Forum; Kadtabanga Foundation, Inc.; Al-lhsan Foundation; Mindanao Homeland Development, lnc.; 4. Moro Integrated Community Development, Inc.; Moro Women Development and Cultural Center, Inc.; Mindanao Human Rights Resource and Action Center – said Ambolodto has been “doing justice and according pride to the trust and confidence bestowed by the Honorable Regional Governor, faithful to the tradition of transparent and accountable governance.”

Ambolodto was sworn in as OIC Vice Governor on December 15. But Local Governments Secretary Ronaldo Puno also named her concurrent Acting Governor. December 15 was exactly ten days since then OIC Maguindanao Governor Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr., was arrested.

Many applicants… but where’s the list?

Reports about a search committee started coming out just as Ambolodto was earning praises for having steered the province and putting in place basic governance systems in post-Ampatuan Maguindanao. (The Ampatuans were implicated in the November 23 massacre of at least 58 persons, 32 of them media workers. Datu Unsay mayor Datu Andal Ampatuan, Jr., principal suspect in the massacre, is facing charges of multiple murder while the patriarch former OIC Maguindanao governor Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr. and his son, ARMM Governor Datu Zaldy, were among those charged for rebellion).

A January 28 press statement posted on the website of the Department of Interior and Local Government quoted Local Governments Undersecretary Marius Corpus as saying the ARMM leadership has created a search committee for 27 nominees for Acting Maguindanao governor.

ARMM Executive Secretary Naguib Sinarimbo told MindaNews in a telephone interview Monday morning that most of the 27 “nominees” had actually applied for the post, that Ambolodto was not among the nominees “but she can apply or be nominated.”

Asked who nominated the 27, the Cotabato City-based Sinarimbo said “most of them applied” for the post. “There are many applicants for governor,” he said.

MindaNews has been asking for a copy of the list of 27 nominees and applicants since Monday but the ARMM has yet to release the list.

“Vacant” seat

On Tuesday afternoon, ARMM Bureau of Public Information chief Ali Macabalang, sent a news release quoting ARM M officials as saying “the issue at hand is not a matter of replacing Ambolodto but to fill up a vacancy in the office of the Maguindanao governor, which is still vacant.”

Macabalang said he met with local officials and was told that after the national government installed him as Acting ARMM Governor on December 14, Adiong had appointed Engr. Nasser Sinarimbo (elder brother of the ARMM Executive Secretary who now heads the ARMM Social Fund project) and Amboldto, an incumbent board member, as OIC- governor and OIC-vice governor, respectively to fill the top Maguindanao leadership vacancies.

Macabalang said Sinarimbo “refused to assume office to pursue his career service in the ARMM bureaucracy, prompting Local Governments Secretary Ronaldo Puno to install Ambolodto as OIC-vice governor on concurrent capacity as acting OIC-governor on Dec. 15.”

Macabalang wrote that “civil society groups including women’s sector and Church-backed NGOs have since shown satisfaction with the Ambolodto transitional governance” but “some interested resident leaders of Maguindanao have invoked to higher authorities and legal luminaries that the position of OIC-governor in Maguindanao is still vacant, hence, at least 27 of them have aspired for the slot, prompting acting ARMM Governor Adiong to create the search committee chaired by regional DILG Secretary Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman Jr. to screen them.”

Macabalang’s report quoted Adiong as saying everyone “is encouraged to apply or submit application (for the position).” Adiong according to the BPI chief, “anchors his administration on the operating principles of transparent, consultative and moral governance.”

The January 28 DILG press release did not name the 27 nominees but it added that among the requirements of the search committee is that “he or she should not be running for any elective position in the coming May elections; has the capacity to govern and ability to effect reforms in the province,” requirements that civil society groups said Ambolodto meets.

Ambolodto did not file her candidacy for any elective post “for personal reasons.”

“Most aptly chosen”

The Bangsamoro CSOs said Ambolodto “has proceeded to establish the basic foundations for the normal operations of the Maguindanao provincial government” and that she has immediately sat with the heads of provincial offices and convened anew the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. Ambolodto has also convened the Provincial Peace and Order Council and Provincial Development Council and has seen through the enactment of the 2010 Performance Budget.

The groups said Acting ARMM Governor Adiong has “most apply chosen who wi1l steward the province in these very trying times.”

They also added that the Ambolodto’s efforts “have also merited immediate response from national offices and international organizations.”

The groups said The Asia Foundation “has already sent an expert to provide Organizational Diagnostics for the Provincial Government of Maguindanao” and “will soon send another expert to assist us conduct a Fiscal Systems Review.”
The Commission on Audit, the groups said, “ has already commenced conducting a comprehensive audit of the fiscal administration of the provincial government” while the Civil Service Commission “will also conduct a personnel review coupled with personnel capacity enhancement initiatives.”

The resolution said Acting ARMM Governor Adiong “has chosen the most appropriate leader of our province” and that they appreciate Ambolodto’s three-fold mission.

“Transition governor”

Ambolodto, who considers herself as a “transition governor” set to do the following: normalize provincial government operations and services; support the conduct of a free and credible election; and facilitate the smooth transition and assumption of newly elected provincial officials.”

“The civil society anticipates intense partnership on all three arenas of engagement. We believe she will mobilize provincial government resources for the promotion of the public welfare,” the groups said in their resolution.

The groups said they were “appalled and gravely disturbed by the news account of a search committee to determine who would serve the remainder of the term until 30 June 2010.”

“We, individually and collectively, know for a fact that (Ambolodto) is not running for any public office We also have faith not only in her capacity to govern but as well as on her ability to effect reforms in the province. We need not look elsewhere but simply appreciate how she has conducted governance which slowly yet very consistently effecting reforms.”

Copies of the resolution were also sent to Secretary Puno, Undersecretary Marius Corpus, and Sinarimbo.

Earlier, Irene Santiago, executive director of the Mindanao Commission on Women, said changing Ambolodto would be “a cruel joke on the people!”

"At this time when people’s faith in government has been badly shaken, we need officials like Ina who have foremost in their minds the people’s welfare and not their own. That is precisely why the Mindanao Commission on Women is forming a task force called ‘Ina’s Circle’ to support Ina in her efforts to bring about effective governance in Maguindanao.”

Ambolodto is the keynote speaker in the Mindanao Women’s Congress dubbed Kamindanawan 2010 tomorrow (February 4) in Davao City.

Fatmawati Salapuddin, public relations coordinator of the Lupah Sug Bangsamoro Women said those who want to replace Ambolodto “do not want us to see an example of good governance in any part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). That’s the only reason they want to replace (her) in Maguindanao because she is doing a good job serving the people there.”

Fr. Eliseo Mercado, Jr., executive director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance in Cotabato City and former Notre Dame University president said it would be “a sad day when a traditional politician becomes an acting governor.”

"Ina is doing well and it will be great if she is allowed to normalize the province until a new one is elected,” he said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)