PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS WEEK
THE 2015 MAMASAPANO MASSACRE
A police operation took place on Sunday, January 25, 2015, at Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao, between the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) (allegedly joined by United States Army Special Forces and the Federal Bureau of Investigation) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).Originally a mission to serve arrest warrants for high-ranking terrorists, it led to the deaths of 44 members of SAF, at least 18 from MILF and 5 from the BIFF, and several civilians, and the death of Zulkifli Abdhir confirmed by the FBI and the PNP at 6:30 p.m. of February 4, 2015 due to a matching DNA result. He was one of the wanted terrorists. Getulio Napeñas estimates about 250 casualties from the combined MILF, BIFF, and private militias during the encounter. The mission was called Oplan Exodus, initially misattributed as Oplan Wolverine by the local media. CONTINUE READING....
ALSO: MILF failure to surrender fighters risk to peace deal
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is unlikely to surrender their fighters who took part in a deadly clash with police last month in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, risking the collapse of a peace accord that seeks to end a four-decade insurgency. “It’s up to the government to punish its own men, and for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to punish its own,” the group’s chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said in a phone interview from Cotabato City last Friday. The Muslim fighters acted in self-defense, he said, citing initial results of his group’s investigation of the clash that killed 44 policemen, about 20 MILF rebels and five civilians. READ MORE;;;
ALSO SAF KIN RECOUNT ABNORMAL MEETING: Noy laughs as he meets bereaved
More revelations were made yesterday about President Aquino’s strange behavior in an “unscheduled” dialog which the families of killed 44 members of PNP-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) at Camp Crame last Thursday recounted to militant Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap.
Hicap said the accounts of the meeting all indicated that Aquino’s responses were strange and at the same time enraging.“His statements were already beyond normal for an ordinary person, more for being the President,” Hicap said. Hicap was reacting particularly on the news report that quoted a relative of a killed SAF member that Aquino replied with, “Do you play a computer?” to a family member who asked why were there no airstrike. CONTINUE READING...
ALSO TIMES EDITORIAL: Are some so-called ‘Christian advocates of the BBL’ just humoring the MILF?
In the latest issue of Luwaran, the online publication of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, there is an editorial titled “Pass a good BBL now!” It has the dateline “Sunday, Feb 01 2015” and the byline “Written by Editorial Desk.” Here it is in full, solecisms unedited. We are running it here to show that perhaps the MILF’s Luwaran editors are more clear-minded than the so-called “Christian advocates” of the BBL who do not bother to mention the problem of its constitutionality. This Luwaran editorial, which does not define what “a good BBL” is, at least spends its last paragraph trying to dispel worries about its unconstitutionality.READ FULL REPORT FROM BEGINNING
ALSO: Groups stage 'people power' for PNoy's resignation
Civil society groups calling for the resignation of President Benigno Aquino III held a press conference last Friday. The group will stage protests from February 22 to 28. Facebook/EDSA dos bente dos Coalition MANILA, Philippines - Some groups staged protests at EDSA Shrine today to call for the resignation of President Benigno Aquino III. The EDSA Dos Bente Dos Coalition, which consists of 60 civil society groups, organized a "people power movement" which would create a People's Transition Government until the 2016 elections if ever the President steps down. "This will happen not only in EDSA, but this is a nationwide simultaneous event... All roads are leading to EDSA for real change and reform," the EDSA Dos Bente Dos Coalition said in their Facebook page. CONTINUE READING...
ALSO ECONOMIC FORUM: “Inclusive growth without structural reforms? –Perspectives on the Aquino Administration and Beyond”
Economic Forum of The German-Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry GPCCI, in cooperation with the German Embassy Manila and the German Club on August 28, 2014 at the German Club Manila Dr. Peter Koeppinger READ FULL REPORT...
ALSO: The Aquino Administration at the mid of its term: assessment of its policies and achievements in key areas .
When Benigno (Noynoy) Aquino was elected in May 2010, it was a huge wave of hope that swept him in a landslide victory into the office of the Philippine President: ●hope that he would bring back honesty as guiding principle into the actions and decisions of this office – as it had been the case during the presidency of his revered mother Cory Aquino 1986 – 1992, whose passing away in summer 2009 had plummeted the nation into deep nostalgic mood and initiated the request of the Liberal Party for her son as presidential candidate in the 2010 elections; ●hope that the lawlessness, high levels of violence, corruption, human rights violations and impunity would finally find an end; ●hope that the hardened poverty of more than 25% of the fast growing population would finally be reduced – following his campaign slogan: “no corruption, no poverty any more”; ●hope that he would be able to bring peace to the country which was suffering for more than 40 years from fighting with the Mindanao based Muslim Rebellion and the armed campaign of Maoist in many rural provinces all over the country. Three years later, in the mid of his single six-years term, it is still the hope of the majority of the population which is upholding his high popularity. What has been done, what has been achieved during these three years, what are the perspectives for the next years? READ FULL REPORT...
READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:
The 2015 Mamasapano clash
MANILA, FEBRUARY 22, 2015 (WIKIPEDIA) A police operation took place on Sunday, January 25, 2015, at Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao, between the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) (allegedly joined by United States Army Special Forces and the Federal Bureau of Investigation) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, may have been killed, but the government still has to track down at least 300 bomb makers he trained in Central Mindanao over the past two years.
Originally a mission to serve arrest warrants for high-ranking terrorists, it led to the deaths of 44 members of SAF, at least 18 from MILF and 5 from the BIFF, and several civilians, and the death of Zulkifli Abdhir confirmed by the FBI and the PNP at 6:30 p.m. of February 4, 2015 due to a matching DNA result. He was one of the wanted terrorists.
AT SENATE PROBE: Sacked SAF Chief Getulio Pascual Napeñas (center) at the Senate hearing on the Mamasapano clash (Photo courtesy of Sen. Grace Poe’s Facebook page
Getulio Napeñas estimates about 250 casualties from the combined MILF, BIFF, and private militias during the encounter. The mission was called Oplan Exodus, initially misattributed as Oplan Wolverine by the local media.
Oplan Wolverine refers to three of the other nine prior operation attempts targeting Marwan; Oplan Wolverine 1, 2 and 3 launched in December 2012, March and May 2014 respectively.by the PNP-SAF.
The incident caused the Philippine Congress to halt the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, effectively endangering the peace process between the government and the MILF.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation later participated in identifying Zulkifli's body.
On Sunday, January 25, 2015, three platoons of the elite SAF police squad entered the guerrilla enclave of Tukanalipao, Mindanao, Philippines, with the goal of detaining two high-ranking Jemaah Islamiyah-affiliated, improvised-explosive-device experts, Zulkifli Abdhir (also known as Marwan) and Basit Usman.
The SAF troops raided the hut where they believed Marwan was located, and the man they believe to be Marwan engaged them in a firefight and was killed. The SAF initially planned to take his body for identification. However, the shooting alerted the BIFF and MILF 118th Command in the area. The SAF had no time to retrieve the body so they just cut off a finger, took a photo, and left his body there.
By 6:18 AM UTC+8 (PST), an SMS message was sent by the Commander of SAF 61D Batallion to SAF Director Getulio Napeñas that they were pinned down at coordinates 6.92489°N 124.52047°E. What followed was a bloody encounter that left 44 SAF and 18 MILF dead.
On Wednesday, February 4, 2015, the FBI confirmed to the PNP that the DNA sample from the finger matched that of Marwan's brother detained in a U.S. facility.
A MILF spokesman accused the SAF squads of initiating the firefight, claiming that the rebels acted in self-defense, and proposed the continuation of the peace process.
Abu Misri Mama, BIFF spokesman, said that his rebel group's relationship with the MILF's 105th Command headed by Ustadz Zacaria Guma is positive. “We're all family,” Mama commenting on BIFF's relationship with Guma's unit. Mama said that there is no distinction between BIFF members and members of Guma's unit and claims that all of them are either relatives or friends of each other. It was reported that Guma's unit would engage other MILF units over disputes such as clan feuds.
It was also reported that Guma is not on good terms with other MILF units which Guma views as "Munafiq", or hypocrites.
A ranking military intelligence officer who spoke on condition of anonymity said that BIFF leader Ameril Umbra Kato ordered the killing of the SAF members by his group and members of the MILF involved in the incident.
The official also quoted Kato as saying “Leave no one alive and take all their firearms, ammunition, and personal belongings.” A colonel from the Philippine Army, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the information and said that SAF personnel who were still alive but wounded were shot dead by some BIFF members.
A private armed group led by Datu Bahnarin Ampatuan was reportedly among those involved in the killings of the SAF members. Bahnarin Ampatuan, who is also implicated in the Maguindanao massacre case, is the brother of Mamasapano mayor Benzar Ampatuan. Bahnarin and Benzar Amputuan were rivals at the 2010 Mayoral elections. Benzar expressed doubt of his brother's participation and believes that Bahnarin would not associate himself with such groups like the BIFF nor to people like Basit Usman who made an attempt to kill Benzar's grandfather.
Special Action Force: THE FALLEN 44
A total of 44 SAF personnel were killed during the encounter. #Fallen44 became a worldwide trend on social media site Twitter as an effort to honor the 44 slain SAF members. The SAF casualties were later dubbed as the Fallen 44.
United States Army
According to a local farmer, a "blue-eyed" American soldier was among the casualties.However, the U.S. embassy later denied any involvement in the clash.
Zulkifli Abdhir and Basmit Usman
Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan dead photo became viral and trending online
The two agencies that cooperated during the battle, the Philippine National Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, confirmed on Wednesday February 4, 2015 at 6:30 p.m. that Zulkifli Abdhir, also known as Marwan, was officially killed during the Mamasapano encounter due to a matching DNA test.
The MILF later said that, based on an intelligence report that they had received, Marwan was dead as a result of an encounter. MILF chairman Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim said that, based on their information, Marwan who was in his nipa hut home was surrounded by SAF troops and was reported to open fire first and that SAF officers were able to shoot Marwan dead. Marwan's body was reportedly left at the hut and was immediately buried. Ebrahim also said that Basmit Usman, who was also pursued by SAF troops, was able to escape.
Moro Islamic Liberation Front
Mohagher Iqbal said that 18 MILF personnel were killed during combat, while 14 were injured.
Moro group, Suara Bangsamoro, claimed in a post-fact finding mission report that at least 7 civilians were killed and 3 others were injured during the Mamasapano clash. Jerome Succor Aba, national spokesperson of the group, said that residents of Barangay Tukanalipao were preparing for their daily activities when SAF commandos entered the area and opened fire at the residence of the Panangulon family, resulting in the death of five-year-old child Sarah Panangulon and leaving her parents Tots and Samrah wounded. Badrudin Langalan, a farmer, was found dead hogtied at the wooden bridge in the barangay.
Aba describes Langalan's body as being riddled with bullets and eyes as gouged out. Aba said that five other people were killed who were heading to the mosque in Sitio Inugog and said that based from stories of residents that the SAF was behind their deaths.
“Civilians bore the brunt of the botched operations, they were made to suffer on suspicions that they are harboring terrorists. Suara calls for justice and recognition of the true victims and accountability to the police and Aquino administration,” Aba said.
It was reported that Badruddin Langalan was killed by stray bullets. Badruddin's wife Sarah Langalan recalled that her husband went to charge his cellphone but never came back. 16-year-old Saat Manadal was also wounded due to stray bullets and is under the intensive care unit of the Cotabato Regional Medical Center.
The incident sparked the internal displacement of several hundred families amidst fears of continued clashes.
The chairman of the Philippine Senate Committee on Local Government, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., stated that hearings regarding the involvement of security and armed forces provisions of the Bangsamoro Basic Law were halted.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano also claimed that his coalition will withdraw its support for the Bangsamoro Basic Law, endangering the ongoing peace process.
While the Philippine House of Representatives also suspended its hearings on the Bangsamoro Basic Law,
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said that the lower house remained supportive of the measure, although it had been somewhat "eroded" due to the killings. He also took note that unlike in the Senate where Cayetano and JV Ejercito had withdrawn their sponsorship of the bill, no congressman had done the same, and that the measure would be passed on time.
The Philippine National Police relieved Special Action Force head Director Getulio Napeñas of his post following the clash in Maguindanao; he was replaced by deputy SAF director Chief Superintendent Noli Taliño.
In a press briefing at Camp Crame, Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina and Secretary of Interior and Local Government Mar Roxas announced the establishment of a board of inquiry tasked with the investigation of the police encounter in Maguindanao.
President Benigno Aquino III addresses the nation on the bloody encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, where 44 Special Action Force members were killed. Screengrab from RTVM video
President Aquino delivered a televised address on January 28. He said that the MILF should identify those who were involved in the killing of the members of the SAF, return the slain SAF members' guns and personal belongings, and allow the government to continue their operation against the terrorists.
In addition, he also declared January 30 as a "National Day of Mourning", and pressed for the immediate Congressional approval of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. Aquino admitted that there was a "lack of coordination" among the government forces and the MILF, that he and suspended police chief Alan Purisima personally knew of the operations, and that both Roxas and Espina were not notified of it beforehand.
Furthermore, Aquino was not able to explain why these two officials were unaware of the operations. Earlier, a Manila Standard Today article claimed that Purisima not only knew of the operation, but even took control of the operations despite being suspended from duty.
A video of the killings the allegedly one of the SAF was uploaded on YouTube, but has since been taken down from the site, those who manage to download the video are sold in DVD format in the streets of Manila.
Militants demand Aquino, Purisima, US gov’t to answer for Mamasapano clash
Huge support and calls for justice were high on the agenda of the Filipinos, showing support to the slain cops and has been trending through various social media. Local police forces as well as the military personnel wore black armbands in sympathy with their fallen comrades.
Thousands of policemen marched on the streets over various locations in the Philippines with some starting at dawn. About 5,000 policemen, firemen, and jail guards in their uniforms trooped from the Libingan ng mga Bayani to the National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) headquarters in Taguig City, and called for justice for the members of the elite SAF men killed.
The walk also included some of the families of the victims and other civilians, even members of a U.S. delegation from the Indiana State Police, who were visiting the country. Almost in complete attendance were the members of the PNP Kaisang Bisig Class of 2009, who lost three of their batchmates in the massacre: Senior Insp. Gednat Tabdi, Senior Insp. Max Jim Tria, and Senior Insp. John Gary Erana.
Calls for justice was strong from members of the PNP in Bicol Region. Policemen across the regions also offered Mass, flowers, and lighted candles in front of their police stations to honor their slain colleagues. They also covered their badges with black ribbons and wore black armbands.
In the Bicol Region as well, 19 senior inspectors leading municipal police offices shaved their heads to show sympathy with the families of their three batch mates belonging to the 2009 class of the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA), who died in the carnage.
Their female batch mate, Senior Insp. Sheena Guzman, chief of police of Canaman town in Camarines Sur, also cut her hair close to the scalp. Senior Insp. Rey Anthony Villanueva of the Regional Intelligence Division in Bicol, said what happened in Mamasapano was a "massacre"
In Boac, Marinduque, local officials, government employees, policemen, firemen, and barangay officials gathered in front of the "Bantayog sa mga Nagtanggol ng Inang Bayan" to offer their sympathies. A three-minute moment of silence was observed as well.
In Isabela province, the Catholic faithful joined police officers in a "walk for peace" in Santiago City In which the "running priest", Fr. Robert Reyes, who led the activity, said the walk expressed their grief for the fallen officers, three of whom were from Isabela. “Together we pray and say, ‘Peace walks, peace talks’ for indeed if we walk together for peace, peace will begin to speak and spread through us,” he said.
In Cebu, Parishioners joined the Santiago policemen in a 2-kilometer march to the Saint Francis of Assisi Church. At least 700 policemen from different units in Cebu province braved the early morning drizzle to show their sympathy for the families of the slain SAF policemen. Supt. Rodolfo Albotra, Jr., head of the Philippine National Police Alumni Association Inc. in Cebu, organized the walk. “This is just a show of sympathy. We still believe in the government that they will not turn their backs on this one. We expect that justice will be served,” he said.
In Iloilo, at least 150 policemen paid tribute to the slain SAF members in a simple ceremony in Sta. Barbara town. The policemen who wore black ribbons donated cash totaling about ₱25,000 for the families of the slain commandos.
Lucena Bishop Emilio Marquez told reporters here that “any talk of amnesty for the culprits behind the deaths of 44 elite commandos was "very wrong".
Giving a pardon to whoever is behind the bloody killing is reprehensible. All persons responsible must suffer. They should be sent to jail.” “Filipinos are demanding no more than the truth and genuine justice,” he said.
He also assailed the brutality inflicted on the 44 commandos. He then offered a Mass specifically for the SAF 44 and their families attended by uniformed personnel led by Senior Supt. Ronaldo Genaro Ylagan, Quezon police chief, occupied several pews. Some of the policemen, several of whom came with their families, were in tears as the bishop delivered his homily.
Former President Joseph Estrada expressed condemnation towards the rebels saying that a peace talk with them would not work and believes a declaration of an all-out war against them is only the solution to the peace process in Mindanao.
Former President Fidel V. Ramos remains supportive of the peace process even though he explains that the finalization of the peace process may be after President Benigno Aquino III's term.
Despite his expression of support towards the peace process, Ramos still criticized Aquino saying “There should be no hesitation on the part of the commander in chief. Otherwise, it will be part of your legacy to be always hesitant, flip-flopping.”
He criticized Aquino, who is also the commander-in-chief of the PNP and the AFP, for his apparent poor strategic direction and asserts that it is the soldier, the policeman, the law enforcer, the guardian of security that suffers because of his decisions.
Ramos also insists that Aquino should have made consultation with retired police officers and soldiers before the security operation in Mamasapano.
Reigning Mister International 2014, Police officer 2 Mariano Perez Flomata, Jr. said his victory is honored for the families and loved ones of the "Fallen 44". Seven of his batchmates who killed in the clash were from the Mabalasik Class of 2008 of the PNPA.
Leftist militant group, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) led by Renato Reyes Jr. questioned President Benigno Aquino III regarding allegations that he knew of the police operation citing a prior report by Manila Standard.
The newspaper report claimed that Aquino was aware of the operation and that Aquino assigned suspended PNP Alan Purisima to lead the operation without the knowledge of DILG secretary Mar Roxas II. It also claimed that the operation were a directive from the United States which "even offered a $5-million bounty for Marwan's capture."
Bayan also added that it supports the peace process while calling for an investigation on the incident in Mamasapano and called for those who were behind the operation to be held unaccountable.
Leftist group Anakpawis also made a similar statement, blaming Aquino for the aftermath of the Mamasapano clash suspecting that Aquino was mum on the alleged direct role of suspended police chief Purisima and the United States. The group also appealed to the public to be cautious in blaming the MILF for the incident.
The Communist Party of the Philippines expressed sympathies to the victims of the Mamasapano clash. "The CPP sympathizes with the families of the police troops who were sacrificed at the altar of the US Terror War.
It calls on all PNP officers and troops to speak up and stand against the Aquino regime and its police officials who ordered the Mamasapano operation and expose continuing US military interventionism in the Philippines," the Communist Party said condemning the Aquino government including the United States which the party claims to be involved in the incident.
The Communist Party also reiterated its call to abolish the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, the Visiting Forces Agreement, and the Mutual Defense Treaty.
Some foreign investors withdrew from investing in the country following the incident.
A group of Jordanian businessmen willing to invest on a banana plantation left abruptly once they arrived on February 1 after hearing about the incident. Malaysian businessmen looking for sites in Cotabato cancelled their trip while a group of Malaysians and Singaporeans who are seeking to replicate their mini mall business halted their investment.
United Nations – The United Nations team in the Philippines expressed its condolences to the families of the 44 fallen members of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police.
The team also welcomed the investigation on the incident initiated both by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). "We welcome the conduct of investigations by the Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) into the incident, and the commitments expressed by President Benigno S. Aquino III, MILF Chairman Ebrahim Murad and other concerned parties in regard to sustaining focus on the peace process," UN said in a statement.
The United Nations expressed its willingness to help in the ongoing peace process by releasing resources to support the process.
European Union - European Union Ambassador Guy Ledoux expressed condolence to the families of the slain policemen and acknowledged that the Mamasapano incident “shows that peace is fragile, and it is regrettable that in spite of all the efforts this sort of violence still happens." and also expressed hopes that the incident will not affect the peace process in Mindanao.
At the same time, the EU envoy said the doubts raised by some quarters about the viability of the peace agreement between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front, including lawmakers’ suspension of discussions on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, was understandable.
Australia – In a joint statement with Spain, Australia said through its Ambassador to the Philippines Bill Tweddel, stated that his government hoped that the incident will not derail the peace process. "I think the only sensible thing I can say, when we are all trying to find out what exactly happened and why, is that how important it is for the people of the Philippines, including Mindanao, that the peace process is not discarded as a result of this tragedy and we are just hoping that that could be the case," Tweddel said. The ambassador describes the event as a "very sad development for those of us who care to see peace in the Philippines."
Canada – Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines Neil Reeder said his government is saddened by the bloody encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao between the PNP-Special Action Force and Moro Islamic Liberation Front which left at least 44 government forces dead.
“It is very sad to see this happen. All of us share the grief of the government and the Filipino people on what transpired,” he told reporters at a media reception. “There were so many casualties and wounded, particularly the Philippine National Police, who were in that situation,” he added.
He also expressed hopes the incident will not complicate the peace process in Mindanao as some lawmakers, tasked to approve a draft law that will create a new autonomous region in Mindanao following the signing of the peace deal with the MILF, have signified their opposition to it after the incident. He also added that the Canadian government is awaiting further clarifications on what really happened in Maguindanao.
Spain – In a joint statement with Australia, Spain stated that it "trusts there will be a quick investigation into the facts and the consequent accountability so that the search for solid and long-lasting peace in Mindanao can be resumed with the most extensive consensus possible,".
United States – US Ambassador Philip Goldberg hailed the bravery of the slain police commandos. “My thoughts, condolences to families and friends and colleagues of brave members of the Special Action Force who lost their lives this week,” Goldberg said in his Twitter account.
On January 30, 2015, The US Embassy released an official statement expressing its "heartfelt condolences to the families, friends, and colleagues" of the slain SAF policemen.
"The SAF units fought with bravery and demonstrated their commitment to ensuring peace and order in their country," it said. Also, the embassy said the US reiterates its support for the Philippine government’s efforts to fight international terrorism while promoting a "just and lasting peaceful resolution" to the Mindanao conflict.
US Embassy Press Attache Kurt Hoyer denied allegations of any US involvement in the clash after US troops in civilian clothes were seen Monday assisting in the airlifting of the wounded.
Hoyer told MindaNews in a text message Tuesday morning (January 27, 2015) that "at the request of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, US service members serving in JSOTF-P (Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines) responded to assist in the evacuation of dead and wounded after the firefight in Maguindanao." He also said he will ask the Philippine National Police for the details of the operations.
United Kingdom – A Twitter post dated January 25 from the Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Hugo Swire was forwarded by the UK Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmad, saying: "Grim news of PNP officers killed in action in Maguindanao. Our thoughts are with the families of the men who died doing their duty."
Other Reactions Abroad
A sympathy walk for the 44 PNP-SAF commandos killed was held on January 30 by alumni of the PNP, the local police and various supporters and was also attended by four members of the Chicago Police Department in Indiana, United States.
The International Monitoring Team which oversees the implementation of ceasefire between government and the (MILF), said it will start its own investigation in regards to the incident. Malaysian Gen. Yaakub Samad, IMT head, said the IMT board of inquiry will start its investigation on February 7 “to determine the real circumstances that led to the SAF-MILF encounter".
After the confirmation of the killing of the terrorist Marwan, the FBI congratulated the SAF.
MILF failure to surrender fighters risk to peace deal February 22, 2015 Share this:
COTABATO ---The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is unlikely to surrender their fighters who took part in a deadly clash with police last month in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, risking the collapse of a peace accord that seeks to end a four-decade insurgency.
“It’s up to the government to punish its own men, and for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to punish its own,” the group’s chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said in a phone interview from Cotabato City last Friday.
The Muslim fighters acted in self-defense, he said, citing initial results of his group’s investigation of the clash that killed 44 policemen, about 20 MILF rebels and five civilians.
The botched anti-terror operation saw the single biggest loss of life of government forces in recent memory and has cast doubt over the peace process, sparking calls for the resignation of President Aquino.
The commandos were hunting for one of the world’s most wanted terrorists, Bali bomber and Jemaah Islamiyah militant Zulkifli bin Hir, alyas “Marwan” who initial DNA tests show was killed during the fighting.
While authorities claim police came under ambush by the MILF – who occupy the area where Marwan is believed to have been hiding – the MILF vice chairman gave a different version of events.
“They (rebels) did not ambush the PNP-SAF (commandos),” Ghazali Jaafar told local broadcaster ANC, adding the unannounced police presence gave the rebels the impression that they were under attack.
“The combatants did it in self-defence… On that basis, they did no wrong,” he said.
Civilians who were awakened from their sleep also joined in the fighting, thinking they too were under attack, Jaafar said.
“When a stranger enters your house, and you think your life is in danger, you have to defend yourself,” he added.
Eighteen rebels were also killed during the chaotic 12-hour gun battle.
A finger that police cut from what was believed to be Marwan’s body was sent to the FBI where a preliminary DNA test showed a “possible relationship” with one of the militant’s relatives.
The US had offered a $5-million bounty for Marwan, a Malaysian bomb-maker who had been hiding in the southern Philippines for over a decade.
Jaafar said the MILF were still conducting an internal probe into the incident.
“If Aquino pushes hard on the justice front, the whole peace process could fall apart given the MILF’s findings of self-defense,” Richard Javad Heydarian, a political science professor at De La Salle University in Manila, said by phone. “If he sidelines concerns with justice to preserve the peace process, he could face a huge public backlash that could undermine his entire legacy.”
Some lawmakers have already withdrawn support for a bill seeking to set up a new Muslim autonomous region with more powers and wealth that is called for in the peace agreement reached in March of last year.
Aquino on February 6 accepted responsibility for the botched police operation, which he said had achieved one of its goals with the killing of Malaysian bomb expert Zulkifli bin Hir, who was on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list. The president has called on the Moro Islamic leadership to help capture Filipino terrorist suspect Abdul Basit Usman, who was another target of the Jan. 25 raid on a town controlled by the MILF and another rebel group.
“MILF failure to surrender its men once the justice department makes indictments could mean the end of the peace agreement,” Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform in Manila, said in a phone interview. “The peace deal is over once they say they’re not covered by court processes. And this is more than a legal question. It’s now a question of trust.”
DFA CHIEF’S SIDE
Department of Affairs (DFA) Secretary Albert del Rosario said he will seriously consider the Senate’s invitation for him to attend the continuation of the Senate probe on the Mamasapano operation on Monday.
“If we are (invited) we will consider it,” Secretary Del Rosario said.
Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, earlier announced that they have invited the DFA chief to the resumption of the public hearing on Oplan Exodus, the police operation to take down Marwan.
Del Rosario is expected to shed light into reports that the United States government was deeply involved in the planning and implementation of the Jan. 25 operation.
The foreign affairs chief earlier declared that he does not see any problem in any assistance that the Philippines may have received from the US in pursuit of Marwan.
“For me,” Del Rosario said, “it’s not something I’m concerned about because we do need help from everybody, from the rest of responsible nations throughout the world.” (With a report from Roy C. Mabasa)
FALLEN SAF KIN RECOUNT ABNORMAL MEETING: Noy laughs as he meets bereaved Written by Charlie V. Manalo Sunday, 22 February 2015 00:00
SAF KIN RECOUNT ABNORMAL MEETING
More revelations were made yesterday about President Aquino’s strange behavior in an “unscheduled” dialog which the families of killed 44 members of PNP-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) at Camp Crame last Thursday recounted to militant Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap.
Hicap said the accounts of the meeting all indicated that Aquino’s responses were strange and at the same time enraging.
“His statements were already beyond normal for an ordinary person, more for being the President,” Hicap said. Hicap was reacting particularly on the news report that quoted a relative of a killed SAF member that Aquino replied with, “Do you play a computer?” to a family member who asked why were there no airstrike.
A relative also reported that Aquino was laughing during their discussion, washing off responsibility in the incident. The kin of one of the slain SAF member also remarked it was useless talking to him and a waste of time.
“Aquino’s attitude was really strange, worse, his responses were all lies,” Hicap said.
Hicap urged the families of killed SAF 44 members to support the call of the Makabayan bloc to push through with the investigation on the Mamasapano botched operation at the House of Representatives and join the nationwide people’s demand for Aquino’s resignation.
“Don’t ever tire of struggling for truth and Aquino’s accountability, the whole country is with you in holding him responsible,” Hicap told the SAF 44 families.
Meanwhile, youth groups League of Filipino Students (LFS) and Youth Act Now announced in a press briefing they are gearing up an EDSA People Power commemoration activity on February 25 and a nationwide youth walk-out on February 27 to protest the Aquino government’s cover-ups on the Mamasapano incident and the new spate of tuition and other school fees increases.
“It’s game over for Noynoy! We have had enough of the injustices and impunity under his administration. We will walk out to end the reign of the negligent, corrupt, and oppressive Aquino regime,” said LFS national spokesman Charisse Bañez.
On February 25, students will join other groups in forming a “human chain for justice and accountability” along EDSA. The highlight of the youth protests will be the nationally-coordinated student walk-out on February 27.
LFS will lead students in indoor campus assemblies before walking out to different assembly points across Metro Manila. These include Morayta, Taft Avenue in Manila, and Philcoa in Quezon City. By afternoon, participants will march to to Mendiola to converge with groups of teachers, church members, workers, and other sectors calling for Aquino’s resignation.
The student group assailed Aquino’s policies for ushering the impending tuition and other fee increases of 400 colleges and universities for the next academic year.
“Aquino’s policy of deregulation propelled the annual increases in tuition and other school fees in both public and private schools. The blatant state abandonment on the youth’s right to education tells nothing but a lack of commitment to social justice from the Aquino government,” said Bañez.
The student group also chided Aquino for desperately defending the US after more anonymous reports reveal that the United States planned, funded, and executed the said police operation under the plan “Oplan Exodus.”
“The US has directed an operation that breached Philippine sovereignty and eventually led to the wanton killing of 70 people. Their central role in the bloodbath shows the treachery of the Aquino regime and the damages of US war on terror,” she continued.
LFS recalled that the before the incident, the US government’s already has a grisly record of atrocities in its decades-long course military intervention in the country.
“The US has an unspeakable human rights record committed under the flag of “war on terror”. Its talons are stained by not only by the blood of victims of the Mamasapano incident, but also of civilians like Jennifer Laude and of millions of Filipinos killed during the Filipino-American war,” said Bañez.
LFS asserted that the US and Aquino government should held accountable for masterminding the bloody Mamasapano clash.
“We should demand accountability from the Aquino administration who has shown humiliating servility to the US at the expense of the lives of our fellowmen. If there’s one terrorist that the Filipinos should unite against, it’s the master-and-puppet tandem of the US-Aquino regime,” said Bañez.
The highlight of the youth protests will be the nationally-coordinated student walk-out on February 27. LFS will lead students in indoor campus assemblies before walking out to different assembly points across Metro Manila.
These include Morayta, Taft Avenue in Manila, and Philcoa in Quezon City. By afternoon, participants will march to to Mendiola to converge with groups of teachers, church members, workers, and other sectors calling for Aquino’s resignation.
While supporting calls for justice for the fallen Special Action Force (SAF) members, Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement executive director and former Armed Forces chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Oban also called for “extreme restraint” as some sectors are calling for military response against the perpetrators.
Oban made this appeal during his speech at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) alumni homecoming event at Borromeo Field, Fort Gregorio Del Pilar, Baguio City Saturday.
“As men-of-arms ,we (must) act with extreme restraint for it does not take too much to fuel our outrage and muster men in combat than to lead our fellowmen in the more intricate road to peace,” he said.
And while it may be easy for one Army to win a war, it will take the efforts of the entire nation to win the peace, peace can never be something fleeting for it cannot be anything than lasting, Oban said.
“It has been said the truth shall set us free, yes we hear cries for justice, nararapat lang na magkaroon ng mga kasagutan sa ating mga agam-agam, justice should not only conform to sound reason, it should also dispel doubtful hearts, in the midst of all these we continue to hear among the many tales of gallantry in Mindanao the cries of Pata Island, of Patikul, of Al-Barka, and lately of Mamasapano,” the former AFP chief said.
Last Jan. 25, 44 SAF men were killed in the ensuing encounter with Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters during an operation, which succeeded in neutralizing Malaysian terrorist Zulkipli bin Hir alias “Marwan,” in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
“We convulse with the thought that too many lives have been lost but the greatest casualty here is the peace we altogether seek,” he said.
However, Oban clarified that when in seeking peace, a mechanism must be also implemented to give both parties a feeling of security and absence of fear.
“Peace therefore presupposes a feeling (of) security, we must be secured in our homes, secured in our beliefs, secured against forces which conspire to disrupt our day to day lives including threats posed by terrorists, rogue forces and aggressive echelons and to secure and protect our people,” the VFA executive director said.
Protecting the people and nation has been the mandate of all PMA graduates, whom Oban fondly calls the “long gray line”.
“It is the reason for existence as cavaliers, it is the reason why we are gathered here today, to draw strength from our alma matter and to norture the ideals essential in our quest for peace, that we may harmonize it when necessary and enforce it when we must, “ he said.
MANILA TIMES EDITORIAL
Are some so-called ‘Christian advocates of the BBL’ just humoring the MILF? February 22, 2015 12:01 am
THE print and broadcast media almost every day–including The Times–run stories about “Muslim and Christian advocates” of the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law demonstrating and giving speeches.
Most of the time, the appeals made by these lovers of peace is for Congress to pass the BBL without qualifying if the law to be passed should be the original drafted by the lawyers of the MILF and slightly modified by BS Aquino’s people or one that has been thoroughly studied and debated upon by the congressmen and the senators and pruned of all the provisions that defy our Constitution and the existing laws of our Republic.
In the latest issue of Luwaran, the online publication of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, there is an editorial titled “Pass a good BBL now!” It has the dateline “Sunday, Feb 01 2015” and the byline “Written by Editorial Desk.”
Here it is in full, solecisms unedited. We are running it here to show that perhaps the MILF’s Luwaran editors are more clear-minded than the so-called “Christian advocates” of the BBL who do not bother to mention the problem of its constitutionality. This Luwaran editorial, which does not define what “a good BBL” is, at least spends its last paragraph trying to dispel worries about its unconstitutionality.
* * *
Pass a good BBL now!
Proceeding and passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is the only option open to all of us now. Any hesitancy breeds more complications.
Like a good driver, the focus must be on how to reach the destination while seeing and minding all the sides of the road, including looking back using the mirrors.
Never mind the detractors, obstructionists, and even outright spoilers; they are always part of the whole journey. It is better to appreciate their inseparability to the process rather than to accumulate remorse in our hearts and hate them, especially if done openly.
Never mind also those people including politicians and church people who said that they were not consulted! Checked with actual facts their voices can be easily doubted.
Alone, the Mindanao Civil Society Organization Platform for Peace (MCSOPP), one of the partners of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), had conducted 625 dialogues or consultations on the BBL not only in Mindanao but also in other parts of this country. In one way or the other, those politicians and religious personalities were involved in these dialogues, if not in the MCOPP’s but surely in those held by government, MILF and other entities supporting the BBL and the peace process in general.
The truth is that it is impossible to talk to and consult everyone in this country. If these leaders of people are real and responsible, they should not wait to be consulted but instead they should and must seek for a dialogue themselves. National interests demand of us to set aside our egos and work for the common good.
The BBL is not an ordinary legislation. It is a product of 17 long years of an on-and-off negotiations frequently interrupted by fierce fighting between government and MILF forces. It is a legal document based on political documents, the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), signed by the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Any deviation from the letter and spirit of these agreements which the BBL has fully captured is consequential.
This is the reason that it is always our firm belief that Congress has the collective wisdom to pass a good BBL. This BBL is intended to solve a political problem, the Bangsamoro Problem or Question that stays with us for decades or even centuries.
On the constitutionality of the BBL, it is better to hear and heed the voices of the surviving members of the 1987 Constitution, including former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Hilario Davide Jr. and Fr. Joaquin Bernas, who said that the vision, spirit and the core principles behind the provisions on autonomous regions which constitute the essential constitutionality of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.
* * *
Still, we do not think Mr. Davide’s and Fr. Bernas’ general statements are enough to correct the unconstitutional and illegal provisions of the BBL and the horrific anti-Philippine Republic contents of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro of which the BBL is to serve as the enabling legislation.
Groups stage 'people power' for PNoy's resignation By Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) | Updated February 22, 2015 - 4:00pm 0 1 googleplus0 0
Civil society groups calling for the resignation of President Benigno Aquino III held a press conference last Friday. The group will stage protests from February 22 to 28. Facebook/EDSA dos bente dos Coalition
MANILA, Philippines - Some groups staged protests at EDSA Shrine today to call for the resignation of President Benigno Aquino III.
The EDSA Dos Bente Dos Coalition, which consists of 60 civil society groups, organized a "people power movement" which would create a People's Transition Government until the 2016 elections if ever the President steps down.
"This will happen not only in EDSA, but this is a nationwide simultaneous event... All roads are leading to EDSA for real change and reform," the EDSA Dos Bente Dos Coalition said in their Facebook page.
According to a report, the group is calling for the President's resignation for his "wrong decisions" regarding the Luneta hostage crisis, Lahad Datu crisis in Malaysia, MRT mishaps and the recent Mamasapano incident which led to the death of 44 police commandos.
Some of the groups participating in the movement are the People's Transition Council, Movement Against Political Dynasties, Citizens Crime Watch, among others.
In an interview with radio dzMM, Movement Against Political Dynasties chair Quintin Paredes Santiago said that instead of using violence or staging a coup d'etat, their group would use peace, truth and justice in their call for Aquino's resignation.
The said protests will take place from February 22 to 28.
Despite calls for the President's resignation, the Palace maintained that the administration's economic achievements remain "unswerving in its dedication to steer the country toward ever-greater progress."
AUGUST 28, 2014
“Inclusive growth without structural reforms? –Perspectives on the Aquino Administration and Beyond”Economic Forum of The German-Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry GPCCI, in cooperation with the German Embassy Manila and the German Club on August 28, 2014 at the German Club Manila Dr. Peter Koeppinger
I. Sustainability of economic growth
There are impressive macro-economic figures during the last years. And there has been a lot of praise internationally, with predictions that the Philippines will continue during the next years to be the strongest “tiger economy” in Southeast-Asia.
Let’s look a bit into the details and ask,
(1)if the strong economic growth of the last years will be sustainable and
(2)if it will become inclusive, means will benefit the whole population of the Philippines.
Philippine doing business
A more detailed look into the World Bank figures shows:
From 2013 –2014 the big jump of 40 positions (from position 148 –108) is based only on two specific fields:
(1)Getting credits: improved by 40 positions.
(2)Paying taxes: improved by 13 positions.
All the other criteria showed negative developments:
(3) Starting business: from position 166 in 2013 to 170 in 2014
(4) Dealing with construction permits: from 95 in 2013 to 99 in 2014
(5) Registering property: from 119 in 2013 to 121 in 2014
(6) Protecting investors: from 127 in 2013 to 128 in 2014
(7) Enforcing contracts: from 112 in 2013 to 114 in 2014
Conclusion: The majority of the major problems are continuing.
Foreign Direct Investment FDI
The Philippines increased the inflow from US$ 1.07Bin 2010 to US$ 3.86Bin 2013. This amounts to 5.6% of the GDP, compared with 4.2% in 2012. But the average rate in 2005 –2007 was 10.3%.
And in comparison with the other major countries in ASEAN?
Singapore: 60.645 Billion US$
Indonesia: 18.444 Billion US$
Thailand: 12.999 Billion US$
Malaysia: 12.297 Billion US$
Vietnam: 8.900 Billion US$
Conclusion: The country is still playing in a different league.
There has been an increase during the last years, but the Philippines are still far away from average figures:
Domestic investment as part of the Gross Domestic Product 2013:
Malaysia: 22 %
Indonesia: 25 %
Thailand: 26 %
Conclusion: The Philippines continue to be loosing ground in the competition with its neighbours with regard to the future economic potentials.
Domestic Investment, 2
Detailed figures show, “that from 2010 –2014 there was an appallingly low government spending in infrastructure” (Peter Wallace on June 19, 2014 in the Inquirer) –one of the sources of domestic investment.
Two of several reasons for the low private domestic investment are mentioned in numerous assessments:
(1)Too little return because of bad public infrastructure (electricity prices, transportation, communication prices…)
(2)Elite capture in many profitable traditional sectors.
Quote from an article of AlessandriMagnoliBocchion the World Bank website:
“If you are part of the local elite, your company enjoys favourable rules and regulations –and is allowed to charge high prices; if this happens in a systematic way, this protection reduces other company’s incentives to invest.”
The fight against corruption of the Aquino Administration earned the Philippines a much better reputation and was one of the reasons for the rise of the credit ratings.
In the corruption perception index of Transparency International the Philippines climbed up 35 positions between 2011 and 2013 from position 129 to 94.
But inside the country already since 2013 Filipino businessmen see the corruption in the public sector on the rise again: In 2012 43% saw “a lot of corruption in the public sector”. In 2013 it raised to 56 %, in 2014 it is expected to increase far beyond 60%.
Conclusion: It becomes obvious that the fight against corruption cannot bring about relevant progress if the patronage structures and the strong link between politics and business are not targeted through fundamental reforms of the system.
Sustainability of the growth
The Philippine Economic Model still builds mainly on consumption, the money transfers of the OFW and the Business Outsourcing Industry, which can provide only a limited number of jobs for relatively good qualified people. The strong performance of the construction sector is mainly connected to real estate in a few areas and will not continue to be a sustainable driver, as there are already signs of overheating.
II. Inclusiveness of growth
Since 2013 the Aquino Administration has announced the focus of their second half of the legislative period to be on “inclusive growth”.
One of the successful instruments, which was started already by the Arroyo Administration, but at that time distributed through the Local Governments, is the Conditional Cash Transfer Program, through which the Aquino Administration distributes about 40 Billion Pesos per year to the 15 Million poorest Filipinos in order to provide them with incentives to send their children to school regularly.
This program is one of the sources of the continuous popularity of the President in the E-Class .
Here some other observations on the challenges and policies for inclusive growth:
Challenge: Slow Job Creation
•Current trajectory of job creation too slow to meet the 14.6 million needed between 2014 and 2016
•An estimated 2.1 million jobs were created from 2010 to 2013
–365,000 jobs created in construction industry
–126,000 jobs created in manufacturing sector
–373,100 jobs created in BPO industry
But the number of young people, who have to leave the country looking for jobs abroad is growing year by year. A dangerous development, because many of them are the most active and brightest ones who cannot contribute to the development of their country any more but by money transfers.
The other big challenge: the widening gap between rich and poor.The Philippines has the worst rich-poor dividend in Southeast-Asia, and it is growing fast.
In 2013 Prof. CielitoHabitopublished a study, showing that from the strong GDP growth of the years before
•In the Philippines the 40 richest families gained 76%,
•In Thailand the 40 richest families gained 33.7%,
•In Malaysia the 40 richest families gained 5.6 %,
•In Japan the 40 richest families gained 2.8 %.
Conclusion of Prof. CielitoHabito, former Secretary for Economic Planning: “It is obvious that something is structurally wrong”.
Inclusive growth during the Aquino Administration
In a conclusion:
The economic growth of the last four years has not been inclusive at all. The Philippines, which had still a middle position in ASEAN with regard to the poverty rates 15 years ago, has now fallen to the last position, even behind Cambodia.
Can this change during the last two years of the Aquino Administration?
III. Remaining Options of the Aquino Administration until 2016
Quote Peter Wallace from June 19 this year: “I am sick of plans! I just want things to be done.”
And he lists a lot of single steps which could in his opinion still have a substantial input in direction inclusive growth.
Why are there so many plans of the Aquino Administration, which did not materialize?
Why so slow implementation of major projects? The contradiction between clean procedure approach and existing structures…
The key word, and here I fully agree with Peter Wallace, CielitoHabitoand so many other experts, is
Fighting poverty is not possible with money transfers, it needs jobs.
But the State can create only a very limited number of sustainable jobs. Jobs are created by private business and investments. And private business and investments will only increase, if the State provides better framework conditions.
Lets have a look what the most urgent steps would be:
Dr. Ron Mendoza listed in his presentation in Davao the following legislation specifically relevant for inclusive growth:
Key Legislation Passed
•Reproductive Health Bill
•Sin Tax Law
These are laws which might reduce the fast population growth and provide the State with higher revenues to be used among others for more investments in infrastructure.
Key Challenges and Pending Reforms Needed
•Freedom of Information Law
•Political Party Reform
•Infrastructure (Energy Security)
Freedom of Information Law
What is the connection between the FOI and positive framework conditions for job creation? Ask the President: No corruption, no poverty…
A strong FOI, strictly implemented, would be a very effective tool in reducing corruption and leveling the playing field… Up to now not in the priority list of the Administration…
Competition Policy Cielito Habito in an article on July 16, 2013 in the Inquirer presents 4 pillars to build inclusive growth on.
The first one: a strong competition policy.Quote: “Strong competition policy that eliminates barriers to entry, prohibits unfair trade practices and ensures a level playing field for large and small enterprises alike. This long pending legislation must be a top priority, as it could well be the most far-reaching economic legislation the 16thCongress would enact”.
The draft bill is ready for long in both chambers of the Congress, but has been taken out from the list of priority legislation by the Administration…
Infrastructure (Energy Security)
This is obvious, self evident: How can a country attract foreign investment and encourage domestic investments, when the investor does not know if he will have the energy available to produce in the next years…
Political Party Reform
This may surprise you. But consider:
•How will you develop a long term development vision and strategy if not with genuine principled political parties with clear programmatic profile, who stand for the long term policies and reforms beyond the short life of an administration and the legislative term of single personalities?
The only other option would be a development dictatorship like you had it in South Korea, in Singapore, in Taiwan, in a way also in Malaysia, and how it was tried by Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. But this does not work anymore in the Philippines…
Political Party Reform, 2
•How can you reduce and eventually cut the links between economic power and political decision making in the hands of single families and dynasties if not through genuine political parties with programmatic profile, citizen membership and funding from membership dues and state contributions instead of a patron? It needs a serious political party law and a reform of the electoral system. The anti-dynasty laws would not really help much.
•A modern political party reform bill has been approved in the House early 2013. It was taken from the agenda of the Senate in February 2013 before the second reading on pressure of the Palace. It is not included in the priority bills of the Administration for the rest of the period until 2016…
Another surprise: why is this relevant for inclusive growth in the Philippines?
(1)The importance of peace in Mindanao for the poorest but potentially very rich parts of the country…
(2)The importance of peace in Mindanao for the Philippine reputation and stability… -because the other option is war and terror…
(3)The highly innovative formula for the BangsamoroAutonomous Region –a model for the urgent reforms of the whole country: ministerial form of government against the dynasties and corruption; electoral system promoting the establishment of genuinely principled political parties; regional autonomy -what is good for the Bangamorois also good for the BangsaBicolano, Cebuana, Illocano…
Major reform steps to achieve inclusive growth Summarizing again:
1.Opening up the markets, levelling the playing field through serious competition legislation (which is also requested as a key element for the upcoming ASEAN Economic Community in 2015);
2.As part of this opening of the markets the amendment of the economic provisions in the Constitution of 1987 against foreign investment;
3.A radical reform of the paralyzing bureaucracy;
4.A relevant improvement of the operational framework for small and medium enterprises, including the reduction of their taxation burdens;
Major reform steps to achieve inclusive growth, 2 5.
5. Massive and well targeted public investments in key bottlenecks of the infrastructure, namely energy and roads –but not to be decided through local politicians with their respective personal interests;
6. The design and fast implementation of an overall strategy for the modernization of the agricultural sector and the development of agri-business;
7. The flexibilisation of the overregulated small formal labour sector in order to improve international competitiveness and to integrate big parts of the informal labour sector;
8. The reform of the dysfunctional professional and technical vocational training, bringing together tertiary education and the human resource needs of the labour market with the medium term vision of a dual system as key part of a system.
Major reform steps to achieve inclusive growth, 4 10.
Last, but most important, the necessary fundamental structural reforms to phase out the centuries old patronage system and to modernize the Philippine democracy in order to provide the country with the opportunity to reduce corruption, lawlessness and elite capture of many markets.
This requests further to legislation like the Anti-Trust Law, the Freedom of Information Bill, the Political Party Development Act major amendments of the constitution from 1987, which on one side contains many provisions in reaction to the Marcos dictatorship, which make effective government nearly impossible, and on the other side systematically reinstalled the power of the big families and their grip on the state.
IV. The perspective… Today, with the political situation in the country becoming more volatile by the weeks, it has become obvious, that if the Aquino Administration does not want to touch these fundamental issues, none of the problems of •week democracy, •hardened poverty and •poor governance can be solved.
IV. The perspective…-2 - In a consequence this Administration would be considered a tragic episode in history, during which the urgent modernization of the country was postponed for six more years in spite of the personal integrity and strong public support of the president.
The gargantuan task of liberating the Philippines from the burdens of its colonial heritage and make it ready for a bright future in a competitive world would be with the next administration.
May 27, 2013 at 6:57pm
MID-TERM ASSESSMENT BY DR PETER KOEPPINGER
The Aquino Administration at the mid of its term: assessment of its policies and achievements in key areas . May 27, 2013 at 6:57pm by Dr. Peter, Koeppinger Manila, May 17, 2013 Resident Representative of the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation
The Aquino Administration at the mid of its term: assessment of its policies and achievements in key areas
When Benigno (Noynoy) Aquino was elected in May 2010, it was a huge wave of hope that swept him in a landslide victory into the office of the Philippine President: ●hope that he would bring back honesty as guiding principle into the actions and decisions of this office – as it had been the case during the presidency of his revered mother Cory Aquino 1986 – 1992, whose passing away in summer 2009 had plummeted the nation into deep nostalgic mood and initiated the request of the Liberal Party for her son as presidential candidate in the 2010 elections; ●hope that the lawlessness, high levels of violence, corruption, human rights violations and impunity would finally find an end; ●hope that the hardened poverty of more than 25% of the fast growing population would finally be reduced – following his campaign slogan: “no corruption, no poverty any more”; ●hope that he would be able to bring peace to the country which was suffering for more than 40 years from fighting with the Mindanao based Muslim Rebellion and the armed campaign of Maoist in many rural provinces all over the country.
Three years later, in the mid of his single six-years term, it is still the hope of the majority of the population which is upholding his high popularity. What has been done, what has been achieved during these three years, what are the perspectives for the next years?
(1) The fight against corruption
There can be no doubts that the climate has changed. “Noynoy” Aquino has shown that – different from his two predecessors – he does not use his office to enrich himself, his family or cronies through dubious projects and contracts.
And at several occasions, he has made it clear that he also does not tolerate corruption and nepotism from the other members of the national government. This clear and strict attitude has earned him the comments of the national civil society community and of international observers and institutions.
It has contributed to a strong improvement of the international reputation of the country. And it can be considered as an important psychological factor for the increased growth rates and the upgrading of the country by international rating agencies.
However, there are also critical voices with regard to the selectiveness of his public campaigning against corruption.
One example was the impeachment of the Chief Justice of the country. President Aquino personally initiated the impeachment process against him, a last minute appointment by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, his extremely unpopular predecessor.
He pushed the process through, based on his high popularity, a devastating media campaign against the Chief Justice and the strong financial dependency of the Congress, where the members of the House of Representatives even were not given a chance to read the accusation documents before they were forced to vote on them.
And if the same criteria, which were used in this impeachment process, would be used to scrutinize all members of the government, legislators and Supreme Court Judges, probably a relevant number of them would have to resign.
What is even more important in the assessment of his fight against corruption is the question, if corruption has also decreased on the level, where citizens and companies are affected. The general answer on this question is clearly “no”.
Corruption is everywhere, and in most public agencies it is organized in networks, which are difficult to break up. There are even signs that corruption is increasing in important areas - i.e. customs.
The official response of the Administration on these obvious facts is that it will take more time until the effects of the fight against corruption at the top level will trickle down to lower levels.
But the real question is: would it not need other measures, a much more comprehensive strategy, to reduce the omnipresent endemic corruption to a level, where it does not burden too heavily any more the life of the people and companies?
(2) Rule of Law, Human Rights, Good Governance
In November 2009, six months before the 2010 elections, 58 people – among them 30 journalists – were murdered in an election related massacre by armed groups under the ruling clan of the Ampatuans in the province of Maguindanao in Muslim Mindanao.
Today, three and a half year after this horrible event, the court trial against the murderers is dumpling along with no perspective of coming soon to an end. Several key witnesses disappeared, some died under strange circumstances.
Atty. Harry Roque, famous human rights lawyer and counsel for the families of most of the massacre victims, issued on this case: “All we hear” (from the Palace) “is the mantra that it´s in the court`s hands. The reality is that the delay is a joint responsibility of the judiciary and the executive branches since the prosecution is an executive function” (source: Amando Doronila, ANALYSIS: Philippines: A forbidden country, in “Philippine Daily Inquirer”, November 30, 2012).
This is just one example which shows, that the Philippine Judicial System, plagued by an antiquated criminal procedural law, high levels of corruption among judges, intimidation from ruling clans and warlords and many other problems, has not improved during the last years.
There are many other examples showing the lack of progress in the fields of rule of law, protection of human rights and orientation on good governance:
●At several occasions national and international human rights groups have accused the administration of failing to stop the culture of impunity, prosecute the perpetrators of these abuses, and bring them to justice since taking office in June 2010 (Yahoo! News Philippines, May 21, 2012).
●In the “Impunity Index” of the New York based “Committee to Protect Journalists”, the Philippines ranked 2013 in the fourth consecutive year the third worst country in the world, next only to Iraq and Somalia. And Reporters without Borders ranked the Philippines in its 2013 Press Freedom Index a low 147th out of 179 countries – behind many of its Southeast-Asian neighbours (Philstar.com, May 2, 2013).
●In an editorial on January 31, 2013 under the headline “Crime Philippines” the “Philippine Daily Inquirer”, one of the leading newspaper of the country, after describing the increased pervasiveness of drug rings and other crime syndicates operating in the South and the increase of brutal killings, rapes and drug-related heinous crimes in Metro Manila, comes to the conclusion: “It`s as if we have come to a point that no one is safe anywhere.”
●In another editorial on April 5, 2013 in “The Philippine Star”, another leading newspaper of the country, Ana Marie Pamintuan describes the increase in vote buying, and cynicism compared with former elections in the campaign for the May 2013 elections: “A person who handles logistics for a local candidate told me that a reasonable campaign budget per district in Metro Manila during the official campaign period is P6 million” (about 150,000 US$). “The amount does not cover posters and similar campaign materials…the money is given to the candidates district political leader, who in turn is expected to distribute the money down to the grassroots.” And she reports the typical answer of a women after being “told that a person can take the money and still vote for someone else…The women said she would give the source of the dole-outs value for his money. Even if there may be a more qualified opponent … all candidates behave the same anyway once in office – always looking out first for personal interest. So she might as well go for someone from whom she is already receiving benefits.” First reports after the electionday pointed out that rampant vote buying took place all over the country and that at many places even secrecy of voting was not respected any more as the helpers of the vote buyers were able to control the voting inside the precincts.
●Following reports in leading newspapers, the number of election related killings during the pre-campaigning and campaigning period for the May 2013 elections (excluding the special Maguindanao murder event in 2009 mentioned above) seemed already to be higher some days before the election than in 2010 – different from some official figures published recently.
This does not mean that there were no efforts of the Aquino Administration to improve governance and the human rights situation.
Leila de Lima, Secretary of Justice and Sixto Brillantes, Chairman of COMELEC, are names – among others - who stand for such efforts.
But they have not been successful, because the Aquino Administration did not touch the underlaying sources of the problems: the grip of rich, powerful families on a weak state; political dynasties with huge patronage structures.
(3) Inclusive Growth, Fight against Poverty
As a key instrument against the hardened poverty the Aquino Administration strongly extended since 2011 the “Conditional Cash Transfer Program” of the former administration, which provides the poorest families with direct cash under the condition that they send their children to school regularly.
In 2012 the Administration has given out 39.4 Billion Pesos to poor families under this program – which indeed improved their actual living situation, but did not elevate them above the poverty line. (For this the double amount would have been needed.)
This program might in fact lead to a better situation for the living conditions and job opportunities of these families in 10 – 15 years, but only under the conditions, that the education provided meets a minimum of quality standards and that markets are opened so that new jobs can be created. Both conditions will not be met, if the policy of the government will not change.
However, this program, which is implemented by central state agencies in the name of the president - different from the time under the former administration, when it was under control of the local governments - has found a very positive echo in the poor part of the population and is considered one of the most important reasons for the ongoing popularity of the president.
The final pushing through of the Reproductive Health Bill by the President – which is however still questioned at the Supreme Court – is also considered by the supporters of this law as an important step for medium- and long-term reduction of poverty, because one of the effects expected from it is the reduction of the very high birth rates in the poorest families.
This law, which has been adopted against the strong opposition of the Catholic Bishops Conference – who see it as a first step on the way to other “liberalizing” laws like the acceptance of divorce and abortion – seems to be also considered a positive action of the administration by the majority of the population.
A look on the socio-economic development during the three years shows a highly contradictory picture. The economic growth rate in 2012 of 6.6 % has been the highest in a year without elections for more than 15 years.
The country has been upgraded by the Rating Agency Fitch to “investment grade status (BBB)”. The think tank “Moody`s Analytics” predicted a growth rate of 6.5 – 7 % for 2013 and 2014 and titled its report: “Philippines Outlook: Asia`s Rising Star”.
Another important development: After many years of efforts the highly controversial “sin tax law” with a relevant increase of taxation on alcohol and tobacco was adopted in the Congress – which will result in remarkable additional revenues for the state budget in the future (“The Philippine Star”, Headlines, News, January 1, 2013).
However, a look behind these general figures shows very problematic realities.
●In spite of public presentations of positive developments by the government in domestic and foreign investments – based on declaration of intentions, memoranda of understanding, application for investment projects and in some cases on approvals of projects - the reality of the real money flow from foreign investments shows a stagnation or even reduction on a very low level. Net inflow of Foreign Direct Investment to the Philippines in 2011 was only at 1.9 Billion US$ - compared with 7.4 Billion to Vietnam, a country with similar seize and population. In 2012 it basically stagnated, and in January 2013 it declined by nearly half in comparison to the 2012 January figures (Editorial on April 16, 2013 in “Philippine Daily Inquirer).
●Merchandise exports fell by 15.6% in Feburary 2013, the steepest decline in more than one year. And different from other Southeast-Asian countries it depends in the Philippines with nearly 40% on electronics – a highly vulnerable market –, whereas the agricultural exports of the Philippines are uncompetitive in comparison to its neighbours (source: Cielito F. Habito, former Economic Planning Secretary, April 16, 2013, Opinion Section, “The Daily Inquirer”).
●In the yearly worldwide ranking of the World Bank on “Doing business”, the Philippines, in spite of getting a better ranking in the corruption list of Transparency International, slipped down in 2012 again by 2 places to number 138 out of 183 countries. Similar development in the global tax ranking: After being on rank 135 of 183 economies in 2011 it slipped to rank 143 out of 185 economies in 2012 and is considered to be among the countries where paying taxes is most costly and difficult – despite government efforts at ramping up reforms (source: Yahoo! News Philippines, December 14, 2012).
●Statistical figures from 2012 show without any doubt that the high growth rate did neither lead to a relevant increase in the creation of new jobs, nor did it reduce the poverty rates. In December 2012 the National Statistic Office informed that in spite of the surprising economic growth in the third quarter joblessness and underemployment had worsened in October 2012. In March 2013 unemployment among Filipinos at least 18 years old was at 25,4% - compared with 18.9% in September 2010, short after the start of the Aquino Administration (source: Social Weather Station Survey, quoted in “Business World” on May 2, 2013). In its regular bi-annual report on April 23, 2013 the President of the National Statistical Coordination Board (under the National Economic and Development Authority) had to admit, that following the latest figures from the first semester 2012, poverty in the Philippines remained unchanged at about 28% (persons living under the absolute poverty line) since 2006.
●The reasons become clear after analyzing the sources of the high growth rate. The growth rate of 7.1% in the third quarter of 2012 was based on 24.3 % growth of the construction sector, but only average growth of 5.5% of agriculture, 5.7% of manufacturing and minus 0.6% of fishing. Similar figures have been reported from the fourth quarter of 2012. A senior country economist of the Asian Development Bank made it clear in his remarks to the statistical data on poverty, that the government must solve the problem of jobless growth if it hoped to reduce poverty. “I am not surprised at all.
The benefits of strong economic growth have not spilled over to the people because they still cannot find a job”. “He said the Philippines` economic model depended on consumption, strong remittances from its large overseas workforce” (21 Billion US$ in 2012) “and the business process outsourcing industry”, which only employs a limited number of college graduates (source: Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 24, 2013).
●A study of the highly respected economist Cielito F. Habito came to the result, that the 40 richest families of the country counted for 76.5% of the increase in the economy´s GDP in 2010-2011, compared with 2.8% in Japan, 5.6% in Malaysia and 33.7% in Thailand (source: Philippine Daily Inquirer, March 4, 2013).
In conclusion: the high economic growth is not inclusive at all. But it might also not be sustainable. Because the focus on construction has already lead to a dangerous real estate bubble situation with more and more empty rooms and apartments in Metro Manila, where the land developers offer apartments now with 30 years or more financing plans – without down payments and with low interest rates. And the part of the construction boom which is related to infrastructure – i.e. repair of streets and bridges – shows clearly the signs of pre-election related expenses, bound to decrease again after the May 2013 elections, like in many election years in the past.
To quote again Cielito F. Habito: (quoted in: “The Philippine Daily Inquirer”, April 16, 2013). “What is clear is that trickle-down economics and business as usual simply won`t bring our poverty numbers down to where we all need them to go”
There will be no inclusive growth without fundamental structural reforms like ●the opening of the monopolized and cartelized local and national markets, ●the rigorous reform of the nightmare bureaucracy, ●the improvement of the framework conditions of small and medium enterprises, ●targeted investments in order to overcome key infrastructure bottlenecks, ●the systematic development of the agricultural sector (processing industries).
Furthermore and highly important:
Planning and decision making competences have to be handed down to strong and democratically controlled province governments – still to be created – which after being equipped with the necessary power and budgets could push forward the customized socio-economic development of the respective regions based on the analysis of its strengths, potentials and specific problems. By that they would replace the actual ineffective parallel procedures of centralized planning from the National Administration and un-coordinated development efforts from more than 120 provinces and independent cities in the country.
(4) End of Armed Insurgencies
There is no progress in the efforts to bring the communist insurgency to an end. Informal contacts and formal negotiations did not lead to any results.
The estimated number of armed guerrilla fighters is considered by official army spokespersons only at 4,000 members. But due to the hardened poverty and the high and increasing inequality, there is a huge number of sympathising supporters in many rural provinces. Bayan Muna alone, the strongest party list among several political organisations close to the communist armed group NPA, counts on 9% supporters – following latest surveys – even if this is not reflected in the election results, because many of its supporters elect other left wing party lists in order not to lose their votes, as the party list system does not allow one list to get more than three representatives.
The ongoing violence in many provinces and the regularly extortion of protection money from mining, logging and other businesses in rural areas, are major obstacles for business development and investments.
During campaigning time in these areas more than half of the candidates for local elections are paying – illegally – between 1,000 and 100,000 US-Dollar to the communist rebel groups to buy “protection”. Not paying the money can result in deaths – as just recently experienced by a group supporting a mayor from the nationally well known Guingona family in her campaign in Northern Mindanao.
On April 30, 2013 the chief government negotiator in the talks with the communist, Alex Padilla, admitted: “We are at an impasse now. Whether we talk or not, the same violence continues, nothing has changed.” And when asked about the timeframe of the talks, he said: “That is gone” (quoted in: AFP News, April 30, 2013).
There is however remarkable progress with regard to the Muslim rebellion in Mindanao.
FASTFORWARD-- PHILSTAR HEADLINE NEWS: Thorough review of Bangsamoro Basic Law sought A ranking Church official calls on Congress for a thorough review of the Bangsamoro Basic Law after the alleged misencounter between police commandos and Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.By Dennis Carcamo (philstar.com) | Updated February 3, 2015 - 1:56pm
After an agreement between the former administration and the strongest armed rebel force, the MILF, was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2008, President Aquino was able to take up the negotiations again in 2011 and was successful in signing with the MILF a “Draft Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro” (FAB) in October 2012 – the creation of an autonomous Muslim Region in Mindanao, replacing the existing Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) – which had been established in the nineties under the administration of President Ramos and is considered as failed, due to lack of real autonomy and high levels of violence and corruption.
However, there is still a very long and difficult way to go in order to realize this peace project. The annexes on power sharing, revenue sharing, transition procedures and normalization, which shall contain the real substance of the agreement, supposed to be finalized end of 2012, are not yet finally negotiated four months later.
If they would finally be agreed upon between the two sides, there is still the challenging process of drafting a basic law for this autonomous region, getting it approved first by the Philippine National Congress and then by the population of the Bangsamoro area, defining the exact boundaries through a series of plebiscites, changing the existing administrative structures of the area into a completely new system and organizing peaceful elections – scheduled for 2016, inclusive for all groups of inhabitants in the area, where the MILF is the strongest rebel force, but cannot be considered to represent all the other Muslim, Christian and Indigenous Peoples communities who were not included in the negotiations of the framework agreement.
The text of the agreement contains new and interesting orientation:
“The relationship of the Central Government with the Bangsamoro Government shall be asymmetric” – meaning real autonomy, as it is normally provided to a state in a federal system.
“The government of the Bangsamoro shall have a ministerial form” – meaning parliamentary system instead of the presidential system of the Philippines.
And “The electoral system shall … encourage formation of genuinely principled political parties”.
These are three fundamental reforms which for long have been demanded by academic experts, reform oriented civil society leaders and foreign observers as necessary in order to bring the Philippines out of its deadlock and failures of democracy and good governance.
If this would be successfully implemented in the second half of the term of President Aquino, it could become a role model for the fundamental reforms of the whole country.
But exactly here the crux starts:
There are hints from sources close to the “palace” that the delays in the final negotiations of the annexes of the FAB are partly related to the fact, that President Aquino is now reluctant to push this peace process forward. Because – this is the information - he got scared that the Bangsamoro autonomous region could become a role model for the whole country with its diverse regions, ethnic groups, languages – bringing about strong support for the constitutional reforms which he up to now strictly refuses to consider.
(5) Perspectives for the second three years: addressing the structural power questions?
There is a broad and further growing consensus among Philippine political scientists, political analysts in the media and foreign observers that the problems of the Philippines with ●a weak state and poor performance of democratic institutions, ●human rights violations and non-functioning rule of law, ●high, hardened poverty, are closely related to the existing linkages between political power and economic power in the hands of about 200 political families, which dominate the country as a whole as well as the big majority of its provinces and cities.
Political dynasties have strongly increased their presence and their grip to the power on all levels.
Never since the end of the Marcos dictatorship, they have dominated so openly with their patronage structures the national and the local elections like in 2010 and even more in 2013.
The former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, a personality of highest reputation in the Philippines, has expressed his judgement on this in a book-launching speech in 2010: “This vicious politics of patronage has allowed few oligarchs and bosses to rule us from colonial times to post colonial times and their rule has brought us nothing but a façade of democracy.” (Reynato Puno: “Transcending our democratic mediocrity”, Publication of KAS Philippines 2010).
The former Security Advisor and Chief Political Strategist under President Fidel V. Ramos, General Jose T. Almonte, adds: “Our country still is governed not by laws, not by political institutions but by political personalities …oligarchic influence on the highest State organs enables powerful individuals, families and clans to organize monopolies and cartels, tilt the rules of competition in their favour – and acquire privileged access to the rents and commissions generated by public investments…more and more the traditional modes of reciprocity are being replaced by cash-for-votes exchanges. Vote buying has inflated election costs and worsened political corruption… Our country has lagged so consistently behind its neighbours that its critics have turned to cultural factors for an explanation… But … our problems merely reflect structural defects in our political institutions” (José T. Almonte: “We are responsible for one another”, Publication of KAS Philippines 2010).
During the first three years of its six years term the Aquino Administration has not addressed these key problems of the country.
President Aquino has continuously refused to consider any serious discussion on the reform of the 1987 Constitution, which has numerous serious contradictions and flaws and is in key parts vital for the continuation of these patronage structures organized by dominating families and clans.
There have been three legislative projects, developed in the Congress – in both chambers, the House of Representatives and the Senate – which were aimed at the taming and reduction of these power structures and the correction of their undemocratic impacts:
●In both houses drafts of a coherent and overall “competition law” (by some called: anti-trust bill) were developed and discussed in the respective committees. The Philippines, different from its neighbour countries Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, has no such law up to now, which also is requested in connection with the scheduled Economic Community in ASEAN in 2015. In both houses they were agreed in the committees and sent to the plenary in 2012. But they never have been put on the agenda of the plenary. This agenda is strongly influenced by the President through his possibilities to put pressure on the members of the legislative – last, but not least through the Priority Development Funds (“pork barrels”).
●A draft bill on “Freedom of Information”, supported by major groups of civil society, was about to be passed at the House of Representatives during the last days before the end of the legislative term, but did not make it to the final voting, because President Aquino declared it a priority legislation, but not urgent.
●A modern Political Party Law, the “Political Party Development Act”, which would have forced political parties
1.to be based on dues-paying members,
2.to introduce and respect internal democratic procedures,
3.to be transparent on their funding and donations,
4.to limit single donations,
5.additionally limiting the possibilities of changing parties after being elected and
6.introducing state subsidies for civic education work and campaigning costs of political parties, had passed the House of Representatives in third reading after finding the agreement of all groups represented there – including the Liberal Party of the President.
It had passed the Committee and the first reading in the plenary of the Senate. The day before the second and third reading, in a meeting at Malacanang Palace President Aquino decided to take it out from the agenda of the Senate.
These three laws would have had significant impact on the power structures controlled by the big families. The competition law would have forced them to open up the local and national markets, monopolized or cartelized by them.
The Freedom of Information Bill would have brought high transparency into the actions of the State Bureaucracy – making it much more difficult for the oligarchs to use the state for their own benefits.
The Political Party Development Act would have provided an important legal instrument for breaking the personalized patronage structures in local governments and in the district elections for the national parliament and to replace the totally personalized systems by program oriented and member based political parties.
The President will have to decide for the second part of his term.
If he continues to protect the traditional power structures during the next three years, none of the problems of week democracy, hardened poverty and poor governance can be solved, and the country will continue to be deadlocked – with the consequence of making him a tragic figure in history, one who postponed the urgent modernization of his country for six more years in spite of his personal integrity and his reform orientation in fields not related to these structures.
If he would decide to address these issues of power structures, he could become the president, who liberated the Philippines from the burdens of its colonial heritage and made it ready for a bright future in the globalizing world.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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