PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK
(Mini Reads followed by Full Reports below)

JOURNALIST KILLINGS IN PH: EX-PDI REPORTER SHOT DEAD IN BATANGAS
 [PH third deadliest country for journalists after Iraq and Syria]


DEATH OF A JOURNALIST The body of Melinda “Mei” Magsino, a former Inquirer correspondent who had reported on corruption and “jueteng” (an illegal numbers game) in Batangas province, is covered with a piece of cardboard after she was gunned down at high noon on a street in Barangay Balagtas in Batangas City on Monday. She was the 32nd journalist killed under the Aquino administration. INSET PHOTO FROM FACEBOOK ACOUNT OF MAGSINO/REJECT RPT20 MOVEMENT-BATANGAS CITY FACEBOOK PAGE
 —A single gunshot ended the life of Melinda “Mei” Magsino in Batangas, the province she covered as correspondent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer for six years until 2005.
Magsino, 40, was killed at high noon as she was walking on a street in Barangay (village) Balagtas here, just about 50 meters from her apartment. Magsino went out before noon on Monday to buy an electric fan, according to her relatives. A security camera from a nearby auto shop showed a male gunman, wearing a white “sando” (sleeveless shirt), approach the victim from the back. The gunman shot her at close range, with the bullet exiting through the victim’s left eye. The gunman escaped on a black and white Honda motorcycle driven by another man, the police investigation said. “Things like this happen to people doing what is right. We will find out who did this,” said her father, Danilo Magsino, a retired Army colonel. Magsino was the 32nd journalist killed in the country under the Aquino administration and the 173rd journalist murdered since 1986. READ  MORE...

ALSO Tribute by Ellen Tordesillas: ‘In the course of her journalism career, Mei lived with death threats.’


ELLEN TORDESILLAS --From her Facebook Timeline MEI Magsino once told a foreign reporter interviewing her on the challenges journalists who take on the powerful face in the Philippines, “The list of murdered journalists here is too long. I have to survive. I don’t want to become another statistic.”  Last Monday, Mei was added to the growing list of journalists killed in the country, which boasts of having the freest press in Asia. The Philippines also bears the ignominious distinction of one among the countries considered to be the most dangerous working place for journalists. It was a shock to learn about Mei’s murder. Mei was shot dead by motorcycle riding gunmen (riding in tandem again!) high noon, Monday while she was walking near her house in barangay Balagtas in Batangas. Which makes us echo again the lament that the late Sen. Emmanuel Pelaez asked when he survived an ambush, “What is happening to our country?”   The Philippine National Police issued the usual statement about investigating the murder and bringing the culprits to justice. Even if our tendency is to be cynical about government pledges, we have no recourse but to cling to our remaining faith in our law enforcement and in our justice system. READ MORE...

ALSO: Maguindanao residents afraid to go home despite end of all-out offensive — ICRC


Smiles brighten up crowded Maguindanao evacuation camp Month-long armed clashes force thousands of families in Maguindanao province in the southern Philippines to live in uncertainty. But their smiles outshine their anxiety as they huddle under tattered tents at evacuation centers. ICRC
 
Residents in some areas in Maguindanao are still afraid to return to their homes weeks after the military ended its all-out offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a humanitarian organization said. In a statement on Saturday, Pascal Mauchle, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in the Philippines said thousands of residents are uncertain if their homes are now safe from armed clashes. "Although the fighting in Maguindanao has stopped, irregular skirmishes and uncertainty in the area prevent displaced families from returning to their homes," Mauchie said. The ICRC said families living in evacuation are still dependent on aid, which their organization has been providing since February 25, when the all-out offensive began. The group has been providing the evacuees with food, water and other needs, including medical assistance. READ MORE...

ALSO: ‘Justice separate from peace process’ - Palace


Members of the Philippine National Police's Special Action Force carrying their fallen comrades killed by bandits in an encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. File photo
The quest for justice for the 44 fallen Special Action Force (SAF) commandos should not affect the peace negotiations with Muslim rebels, Malacañang stressed yesterday as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) again refused to surrender its fighters accused of killing the policemen. “There is a proper venue to bring out all these kinds of defense, especially if cases have to be faced,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said over dzRB. “Of course, the DOJ (Department of Justice) is only doing its job of initiating prosecution against persons who may be guilty of some criminal acts under our law, so let us allow this process to roll,” Valte said. “It really should be a separate discussion,” Valte said, referring to the refusal of the MILF to surrender its men tagged in the killings. She said the peace process should be made to proceed on its own track. Asked if they feel the MILF is using the peace negotiations to skirt responsibility for the incident, Valte replied, “We do not see it that way.”  READ MORE...

ALSO: MILF won’t surrender men


The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) soldiers
 The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) yesterday reiterated it would not surrender its fighters accused of butchering 44 police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25. MILF vice chairman Gadzali Jaafar said the rebel group’s fighters were acting in self-defense when they figured in a firefight with the police Special Action Force (SAF) troops. Jaafar made the statement a day after Justice Secretary Leila de Lima announced that 90 people, mostly MILF members, would face preliminary investigation for the deaths of the so-called SAF 44. “Why should we surrender our men when they were just acting in self defense? The ones that should be blamed are the members of the SAF who attacked the village they knew was an MILF community,” Jaafar said in Filipino over radio dzBB. The SAF were out to get two top terrorists believed to be enjoying protection from the MILF. Jaafar claimed the firefight broke out because the SAF attacked their communities in violation of the ceasefire agreement. De Lima said other suspects are from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and armed civilians. READ MORE...

ALSO: Marcos hits MILF defiance
[Marcos said the government should make a clear stand that the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the Framework Agreement signed by the government and the MILF allows the arrest of MILF members charged with criminal offenses under the existing laws of the land.]

 
MARCOS 
PUBLIC trust for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) may totally break down if the rebel group will not surrender the men who were involved in the deadly Mamasapano incident last January 25, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. warned on Saturday. At the same time, the Palace said it would be better for the MILF to air at a proper court of law its claim that its members participated in the Mamasapano incident only because they were trying to defend themselves.“There are proper places for them to air such kind of a defense,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson and lawyer Abigail Valte said as Marcos stressed that the MILF position not to surrender the involved men does not help restore the public trust that was lost in the wake of the incident. “Vice Chairman Jaafar’s statement clearly shows no respect for the rule of law and a blatant disregard to the feeling of the people crying out for justice for the SAF killed by the MILF fighters in Mamasapano. This will not help in regaining the people’s trust in them,” Marcos said. READ MORE...

ALSO: MILF Chairman Murad asks BIFF to rejoin MILF, be part of peace process


MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim 
Cotabato City – Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, in letters of condolence to the families of the late leader Ameril Ombra Kato of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF, urged the members of the group to return to the fold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and participate in the peace process. In a letter dated April 15, Murad said: “The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and its military organ, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), wish to convey to the bereaved families of the late Ustadz Ameril Ombra kato and to the leadership of the BIFM/BIFF our brotherly sympathy and heartfelt condolence for his passing away last April 13, 2015.”  For the sake of brotherhood in Islam, Murad also called on the BIFF members to return to the MILF and join the ongoing peace process with the government. “At this juncture, as one brotherhood in Islam and the need for one struggle, the MILF calls upon the leaders and members of the BIFM/BIFF to return to the fold of the MILF and support the ongoing peace process and the passage of the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) as the final solution to the centuries-old Bangsamoro question and conflict in Mindanao,” Murad added. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Ex-PDI reporter shot dead in Batangas


DEATH OF A JOURNALIST The body of Melinda “Mei” Magsino, a former Inquirer correspondent who had reported on corruption and “jueteng” (an illegal numbers game) in Batangas province, is covered with a piece of cardboard after she was gunned down at high noon on a street in Barangay Balagtas in Batangas City on Monday. She was the 32nd journalist killed under the Aquino administration. INSET PHOTO FROM FACEBOOK ACOUNT OF MAGSINO/REJECT RPT20 MOVEMENT-BATANGAS CITY FACEBOOK PAGE

BATANGAS CITY, APRIL 20, 2015 (INQUIRER) Joanna Los Baños, Maricar Cinco, Marrah Erika Rabe | Inquirer Southern Luzon 2:35 AM | Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 —A single gunshot ended the life of Melinda “Mei” Magsino in Batangas, the province she covered as correspondent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer for six years until 2005.

Magsino, 40, was killed at high noon as she was walking on a street in Barangay (village) Balagtas here, just about 50 meters from her apartment.

Magsino went out before noon on Monday to buy an electric fan, according to her relatives.

A security camera from a nearby auto shop showed a male gunman, wearing a white “sando” (sleeveless shirt), approach the victim from the back. The gunman shot her at close range, with the bullet exiting through the victim’s left eye.

The gunman escaped on a black and white Honda motorcycle driven by another man, the police investigation said.

“Things like this happen to people doing what is right. We will find out who did this,” said her father, Danilo Magsino, a retired Army colonel.

Magsino was the 32nd journalist killed in the country under the Aquino administration and the 173rd journalist murdered since 1986.

READ: PH third deadliest country for journalists after Iraq and Syria

READ MORE...
“The list of murdered journalists here [in the Philippines] is too long. I have to survive. I don’t want to become another statistic,” Magsino wrote in 2005, after receiving death threats.

Senior Supt. Jireh Omega Fidel, Batangas police director, said Magsino was dead on the spot from a gunshot wound to the head at 12:10 p.m.

Police recovered an empty shell from a .45 cal. from the crime scene.

Vegetarian

Fidel said Magsino, a vegetarian, was managing a health clinic in the city at the time of her death. Her boyfriend was helping her manage the clinic that was also selling herbal products.

The Philippine National Police said the Batangas provincial police office had been ordered to get to the bottom of Magsino’s murder.

“The PNP, through the Batangas police, will of course investigate this case, identify the culprit and charge him in court,” said the PNP spokesman, Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr.

Cerbo said Task Force Usig would also conduct an investigation of Magsino’s murder, with a special investigation task group to be formed to solve the case.

The Batangas City police chief, Supt. Manuel Castillo, said Magsino had just left a house in Purok 2, which she was sharing with her boyfriend, before she was shot. The suspects had been tailing her.

Hard-hitting journalist

Magsino was known among Batangas reporters as a hard-hitting journalist.

Records from the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) showed that Magsino reported “threats” to her life sometime in 2005, during which she exposed alleged corruption and illegal gambling activities of the late Batangas Gov. Armand Sanchez. Some of her stories named the former governor a “jueteng lord.”

The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), in a report that year, said the Batangas provincial government declared Magsino persona non grata after she and Sanchez had a confrontation during a press conference.

CMFR said Magsino was asking favors from Sanchez but the official turned her down.

Sanchez suffered a stroke and died in April 2010.

Danilo said he understood the nature of his daughter’s job. “In a profession like yours, it’s hard not to draw some people’s ire,” he told the Inquirer at the Filipinas Funeral Home here, where Magsino’s body was brought.

Danilo, however, refused to give the names of those whom his daughter might have “angered.”

Not afraid of enemies

“She had many enemies, but she was not afraid. She was never afraid,” said Magsino’s cousin, Christine Magsino.

She said even after Magsino had stopped writing for print media, her cousin had continued to practice as a journalist through social media.

In 2010, an election year, Magsino ran the Southern Luzon Inquirer, a bilingual provincial newspaper in Batangas that was not related to the Inquirer.

She served as the paper’s publisher, editor in chief and reporter. It published weekly issues from January to August 2010.

“Nothing happened to the business so we decided to fold up,” said Magsino’s colleague, who refused to be named due to the sensitivity of the case.

Social media accounts

After that, Magsino surfaced through Facebook by creating public accounts called the “Barako Batangas” and “Taga Bauan Ka Kung…” Here, Magsino made public her tirades against certain Batangas government officials.

Magsino hailed from Bauan, Batangas.

Hours before she was gunned down, Magsino posted a tirade, supposedly meant for Bauan Mayor Ryan Dolor.

In a phone interview, Dolor admitted he and his family were not in good terms with Magsino but denied he had anything to do with her killing.

“She had been attacking us even during my father’s term as mayor. Ask around and you’d know what kind of reporting she practiced,” Dolor said.

Incidentally, it was the birthday of Dolor’s father, former Bauan Mayor and Batangas board member Herminigildo Dolor on Monday.

The Batangas City police chief described Magsino as having “many enemies” based on her social media account where she was “hitting several politicians below the belt.”

The observation was shared by Magsino’s friend and former classmate, who requested not to be identified. The friend said Magsino had seemed to have gathered many enemies because of the criticisms and tirades she had posted on her former local newspaper and on her Facebook account.

Bauan councilor

Last Sunday, Magsino posted on her Facebook account that she was receiving obscene messages and photos in the past two days.

“When I had the IP address traced, this is what we got. Konsehal ng bayan ng Bauan, Batangas pala ang gumagawa, (A councilor of Bauan, Batangas was the culprit),” said Magsino.

She posted Facebook links with IP addresses of Kelvin Gimeno, Panganiban Jeff and Paradise Andrew.

Police said they were exploring all possible angles related to Magsino’s killing, including reviewing her social media activities.

Seeking NBI’s help

The family, however, refused to surrender Magsino’s personal effects, such as her cell phone, to the local police, and sought instead an investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation. The family did not disclose the reason for doing so.

“Even if they’re uncooperative, we’d still do our job because it took place in our jurisdiction,” Castillo said.

NUJP Batangas chapter chair Arnel Ozaeta said that while Magsino no longer practiced journalism as a profession, the organization still condemned her killing.

Long list

Before Magsino was shot dead, a Filipino journalist was killed in February.

On Feb. 14, radioman Maurito Lim was shot dead in front of the dyRD radio station in Tagbilaran City, Bohol province, by a lone assailant.

Lim was the 31st journalist killed under the Aquino administration, according to NUJP.

Since 1986, 173 journalists have been killed in the country. This count includes the 32 media workers who were killed in election violence in Maguindanao province in 2009. The 32 media workers were among the 58 people killed in an ambush on Nov. 23, 2009, the worst election violence in Philippine history.

The Ampatuans, a political clan, were tagged the masterminds of the massacre.

Perpetrators unpunished

According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Philippines is among the top three countries where the murder of journalists is most likely to go unpunished, ranking third after Iraq and Somalia.

In the latest Global Impunity Index released last year in May, CPJ said: “Fresh violence and a failure to prosecute old cases kept Iraq, Somalia and the Philippines in the three worst slots on the index.”

Last year, three Filipino journalists were killed—Sammy Oliverio, Richard Nadjid and Rubylita Garcia.

Oliverio, who hosted several programs on local radio stations in Digos City, Davao del Sur province, was shot twice in the head and nape by two men riding on a motorbike on May 23, 2014,

Broadcaster Nadjid of Bongao, Tawi-Tawi province, was killed on May 4, 2014.

Aside from being a spinner at the dxNN Power Myx FM in Tawi-Tawi, Nadjid also handled the station’s daily public affairs program.

Garcia, a correspondent of the tabloid Remate, died five hours after two gunmen shot her in front of her 10-year-old granddaughter in her house in Bacoor City on April 6, 2014.–With reports from Julie M. Aurelio and Inquirer Research

Originally posted: 2:24 PM | Monday, April 13th, 2015


MALAYA

‘In the course of her journalism career, Mei lived with death threats.’ By Ellen Tordesillas on April 15, 2015


ELLEN TORDESILLAS --From her Facebook Timeline

MEI Magsino once told a foreign reporter interviewing her on the challenges journalists who take on the powerful face in the Philippines,

“The list of murdered journalists here is too long. I have to survive. I don’t want to become another statistic.”

Last Monday, Mei was added to the growing list of journalists killed in the country, which boasts of having the freest press in Asia. The Philippines also bears the ignominious distinction of one among the countries considered to be the most dangerous working place for journalists.

It was a shock to learn about Mei’s murder.

Mei was shot dead by motorcycle riding gunmen (riding in tandem again!) high noon, Monday while she was walking near her house in barangay Balagtas in Batangas.

Which makes us echo again the lament that the late Sen. Emmanuel Pelaez asked when he survived an ambush, “What is happening to our country?”

The Philippine National Police issued the usual statement about investigating the murder and bringing the culprits to justice.

Even if our tendency is to be cynical about government pledges, we have no recourse but to cling to our remaining faith in our law enforcement and in our justice system.

READ MORE...
In the course of her journalism career, Mei lived with death threats. In 2005, she implicated the Batangas governor (he was assassinated) in illegal gambling.

She also once exposed the attempted bribe of a ranking Malacañang official, also from Batangas, when she tried to get his side on a story she was writing.


Fred Amores Photos

But Mei’s reporting is not limited to raking government’s dirt and exposing it. She writes about good things amid distressful situations.

One of the stories she wrote for VERA Files, where I’m one of the trustees and writers, was “Torture survivors make life worthwhile in prison.” It’s about how survivors try to overcome the trauma of their experience by engaging in livelihood projects. She said she was helping the survivors find a market for their products.,

One article she wrote for VERA Files, “Taal embroidery now a dying craft” prompted the National Commission for Culture and Arts to do something to save the craft that was immortalized in a Fernando Amorsolo painting of Marcela Agoncillo sewing the Philippine flag with her daughter and a friend.

Another Batangas that is in danger of becoming a thing of the past is the balisong and Mei wrote about it:

Mei was “kalog.” It’s understandable that she shocked some people.

One time, I accompanied her to interview a real estate company executive to get the side of the company she was writing about. She submitted the article to VERA Files and we required her to get the side of the company.

We met before we proceeded to the interview. She came dressed in a sexy tank top. I told her: “Don’t you have a blazer? Mr. (name of the real estate guy) might be distracted with your boobs.”

She took my remark gamely and replied, “Don’t worry, Mamu, I’ll cover it” as she proceeded to put on a blazer.

That was Mei, full of life, always with a cause.


GMA NEWS ONLINE

Maguindanao residents afraid to go home despite end of all-out offensive — ICRC By AMANDA FERNANDEZ,GMA News April 18, 2015 5:39pm


Smiles brighten up crowded Maguindanao evacuation camp Month-long armed clashes force thousands of families in Maguindanao province in the southern Philippines to live in uncertainty. But their smiles outshine their anxiety as they huddle under tattered tents at evacuation centers. ICRC

Residents in some areas in Maguindanao are still afraid to return to their homes weeks after the military ended its all-out offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a humanitarian organization said.

In a statement on Saturday, Pascal Mauchle, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in the Philippines said thousands of residents are uncertain if their homes are now safe from armed clashes.

"Although the fighting in Maguindanao has stopped, irregular skirmishes and uncertainty in the area prevent displaced families from returning to their homes," Mauchie said.

The ICRC said families living in evacuation are still dependent on aid, which their organization has been providing since February 25, when the all-out offensive began.

The group has been providing the evacuees with food, water and other needs, including medical assistance.

READ MORE...
Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang ordered the offensive on Feb. 25, exactly a month after the deadly Jan. 25 Mamasapano incident in Maguindanao, which claimed the lives of 67 Filipinos, including 44 Philippine National Police-Special Action Force troopers.

The SAF commandos were then on a mission to arrest terrorists Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir also known as Marwan, Filipino bomb maker and Abu Sayyaf member Basit Usman, and Malaysian bomb maker Amin Baco alias Jihad. The elite police force figured in an hours-long gunfight with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the BIFF, and private armed groups.

The military offensive, which was terminated on March 30, was concentrated in the so-called SPMS (Salvu, Pagatin, Mamasapano and Shariff Aguak towns) box.

'Safe to return home'

For his part, AFP public affairs chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc told GMA News Online that residents should not be afraid.

"There is no reason for them to fear in returning home after the all-out offensive operations were terminated on March 30. Also, the local chief executives have declared the area as safe," he said.

Cabunoc added that he is calling on relief organizations to "consider transferring the relief distribution points inside the communities where the IDPs (internally-displaced persons) reside." — JDS, GMA News


PHILSTAR

‘Justice separate from peace process’ (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 19, 2015 - 12:00am


Members of the Philippine National Police's Special Action Force carrying their fallen comrades killed by bandits in an encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. File photo

MANILA, Philippines - The quest for justice for the 44 fallen Special Action Force (SAF) commandos should not affect the peace negotiations with Muslim rebels, Malacañang stressed yesterday as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) again refused to surrender its fighters accused of killing the policemen.

“There is a proper venue to bring out all these kinds of defense, especially if cases have to be faced,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said over dzRB.

“Of course, the DOJ (Department of Justice) is only doing its job of initiating prosecution against persons who may be guilty of some criminal acts under our law, so let us allow this process to roll,” Valte said.

“It really should be a separate discussion,” Valte said, referring to the refusal of the MILF to surrender its men tagged in the killings. She said the peace process should be made to proceed on its own track.

Asked if they feel the MILF is using the peace negotiations to skirt responsibility for the incident, Valte replied, “We do not see it that way.”

READ MORE...
The SAF men were on a mission to arrest high value terrorists in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan.25 when they encountered guerrillas belonging to the MILF and its breakaway group the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

MILF vice chairman Gadzali Jaafar said their fighters were acting in self-defense when they clashed with the SAF commandos.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima earlier announced that 90 people, mostly MILF members, would face preliminary investigation for the deaths of the 44 SAF men.

Valte said she is confident the issue is just one of the challenges concerned parties have to hurdle as discussions on the Bangsamoro Basic Law continue.

“We have faced challenges in the past when it comes to the peace process and we remain optimistic that the discussion remains on the table and that it will be given attention by our legislators,” Valte said.

“So hopefully...the discussions will push forward on the BBL,” she said.

Valte maintained the government is focused on addressing the root causes of conflict in Mindanao amid warnings that failure to pass the BBL could rekindle all out hostilities.

“What we want to address really is for government to be able to reach some of these areas in Mindanao that have been in conflict for so long and to address poverty issues, health issues and other social welfare issues that have been prevalent and have been connected to the conflict,” Valte said.

“Nobody wants that situation to happen and we want...at the soonest possible time, to be able to reach these people and to allow development to come in these areas,” she said. “Nobody wants to reach that point of discussion.”

Selling BBL

Despite the raging debates over the BBL, Valte said they would continue to explain the importance of having the measure passed to achieve lasting peace and development in Mindanao.

Valte also countered claims that the proposed BBL if passed would only create another autonomous region or a sub-state equal to or as strong as the national government.

“We don’t agree with that opinion...We’ve gone over every detail of the draft of the Bangsamoro (Basic Law) and we don’t agree with that position. Because if you read the draft of the BBL itself, you will see the relationship of the proposed entity to the national government, and that the national government remains supreme over this entity. It’s very clear in the draft,” she noted.

As some lawmakers continue to question the sincerity of the MILF, the secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) began last Thursday a four-day visit to the country to reaffirm his group’s support for the peace process.

Iyad Bin Amin Madani, leading an eight-man delegation, is expected to meet with President Aquino and Senate President Franklin Drilon before leaving the country on Monday.

Madani met with Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Deles last Friday.

“OIC has contributed so much to the peace process since the Tripoli accord and now, more than ever, Filipinos both Muslims and Christians look to you for guidance and support to open a new era of social peace and progress in Mindanao,” Deles said in her message to Madani.

For his part, Madani expressed the OIC’s full commitment to the Bangsamoro peace process.

Prior to his arrival in the country on Thursday, Madani was in Malaysia where he met Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak.

Malaysia, being a member of the OIC, has been facilitating the peace talks between the Philippine government and the MILF.

The two parties signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro on March 27, 2014.

Madani also paid courtesy visits to Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

Enforcing the law

As demand persisted for holding the SAF killers accountable, the military said it would not hesitate to enforce the law – in cooperation with the Philippine National Police – and arrest the suspects if and when given the go signal.

“We will assist the PNP once they will enforce the warrants of arrest issued by the court,” said military spokesman Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala.

The military’s 6th Infantry Division based in Awang, Maguindanao is being blamed by some quarters – including sacked SAF chief Director Getulio Napeñas – for not doing enough to help the trapped SAF men.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, Armed Force Public Affairs Office chief, for his part, said that any operation to arrest the suspects would be coordinated with the MILF.

“The families of the victims in that armed violence, whether plain civilians, state actors or non-state actors are all demanding justice. And for this we must raise this issue to the peace panels so that everything is ironed out before the conduct of law enforcement operations against the suspects who are identified with the MILF,” Cabunoc said.

This developed as Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. warned yesterday of total collapse of public confidence in the MILF and in the peace process in general if the MILF continues to coddle the killers of the 44 SAF men.

“Vice Chairman Jaafar’s statement clearly shows no respect for the rule of law and a blatant disregard to the feeling of the people crying out for justice for the SAF killed by the MILF fighters in Mamasapano. This will not help in regaining the people’s trust in them,” Marcos said.

“If the MILF leadership will not surrender their members, then the belief that they are protecting wanted criminals and terrorists will be reinforced,” Marcos said.

He said the government, through the peace panel, should take a clear stand since it is clear in the CAB that government can arrest MILF members charged with criminal offense under existing laws.

“The MILF’s non-cooperation will bring into question the wisdom of continuing with the BBL hearings,” Marcos added.

Meanwhile, congressmen failed to elicit credible answers on why it took the military 10 to 11 hours to respond to frantic requests for artillery fire support from the embattled SAF commandos, a lawmaker who attended Tuesday’s hearing confided yesterday.

“This issue remains unresolved. The two sides are still poles apart,” the congressman said.

Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, the highest ranking AFP officer in Maguindanao, insisted that SAF officers did not know the locations of their embattled teams, enemy forces and civilian population when they first request for artillery support at about 8 a.m. on Jan. 25.

He added that it took such officers time to give him the information he needed.

However, Napeñas told congressmen that two of his ground commanders provided the military with grid coordinates on the location of their men as early as 8 a.m.

He claimed that Pangilinan withheld artillery fire “in consideration of the peace process with the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front),” an allegation that the AFP officer denied.

Pangilinan was co-chairman of the joint government-MILF ceasefire committee.

During Tuesday’s closed-door hearing, some congressmen suggested that Pangilinan should have authorized the firing of blank artillery rounds in the morning of the encounters to save the blocking force.

They noted that Col. Gener del Rosario, one of the AFP’s ground commanders, recommended the deployment of blank rounds before 11 a.m. – Jess Diaz, Jose Rodel Clapano, Jaime Laude, Christina Mendez


PHILSTAR

MILF won’t surrender men By Perseus Echeminada (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 18, 2015 - 12:00am


The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) soldiers

MANILA, Philippines - The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) yesterday reiterated it would not surrender its fighters accused of butchering 44 police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25.

MILF vice chairman Gadzali Jaafar said the rebel group’s fighters were acting in self-defense when they figured in a firefight with the police Special Action Force (SAF) troops.

Jaafar made the statement a day after Justice Secretary Leila de Lima announced that 90 people, mostly MILF members, would face preliminary investigation for the deaths of the so-called SAF 44.

“Why should we surrender our men when they were just acting in self defense? The ones that should be blamed are the members of the SAF who attacked the village they knew was an MILF community,” Jaafar said in Filipino over radio dzBB.

The SAF were out to get two top terrorists believed to be enjoying protection from the MILF. Jaafar claimed the firefight broke out because the SAF attacked their communities in violation of the ceasefire agreement.

De Lima said other suspects are from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and armed civilians.

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Jaafar said it would be an injustice if the group’s fighters were arrested for being legitimate members of the MILF, a revolutionary group working on a peace agreement with the government.

De Lima stressed the ongoing peace process does not hamper criminal proceedings against MILF members.

She said the MILF cannot invoke the peace process while its commanders and members face possible criminal charges.

“We’re talking about crimes here that are covered by the criminal justice system. What is clear to me is that even in the course of peace negotiation under a peace process regime, the power of the state to go after violations of criminal laws is not suspended,” she explained.

De Lima said she would insist on this stand once she approves the recommendation of the fact-finding team of the Department of Justice (DOJ) for the filing of criminal charges against 90 commanders and members of MILF, BIFF and private armed groups.

“They (MILF) should understand that we would not accept that argument (that they could not be charged because of the ceasefire agreement). We will insist on our position,” she said.

De Lima said this issue on criminal proceedings in the context of the peace process was thoroughly discussed in the 224-page report submitted by the probe team last Thursday.

She said she agrees with the position taken by the investigating panel chaired by Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera.

Sen. Francis Escudero said the law applies to everybody in the country, including the MILF.

“Philippine laws apply to the entire country. Murder is murder and no signed agreement by government or any person can change that,” Escudero said.

“Nobody ever said that the road to peace would be easy and I guess, this is one of the difficult tests and/or crossroads that it faces,” he added.

Escudero reiterated the call for the MILF to surrender its men tagged in the Mamasapano incident.

“I know it’s difficult for the MILF to surrender those who will be charged by the DOJ but the law is the law and it must be followed and, however difficult, they must comply in order to instill trust/confidence and bring us closer to peace,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Ombudsman said the investigation on the liability of military and police officials in the Mamasapano incident is almost done.

“I was assured that I will have it before the end of the month. There was some glitch... what appeared to be some participants who were not investigated but we think that they be investigated to determine the holistic picture,” Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said.

The military, for its part, said it would file charges against the new leader of the BIFF for attacks against government troops in Maguindanao.

Military officials said BIFF leader Abubakar alias Commander Bungos led a band of rebels who attacked Army positions last Thursday and Friday.

Six soldiers were wounded after the rebels armed with 40 mm M203 grenade launchers launched offensives last Thursday in Barangay Pagatin, Datu Salibo town.

The rebels staged another attack on the Army’s 22nd Mechanized Company detachment in Barangay Magaslong, Datu Piang town yesterday morning but no one was injured.

The use of aliases

Apart from the applicability of criminal procedures on MILF fighters over the Mamasapano encounter, the DOJ also sees no problem with the use of noms de guerre some of persons listed in the report.

The STAR learned that most of the mentioned MILF commanders and members recommended for preliminary investigation are their real names.

An official of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) privy to the probe revealed there are several individuals in the reports who did not have complete names.

“The witnesses did not know their surnames,” the official said.

But investigaors said the use of aliases and incomplete names should not be cause for alarm.

“What is important is the physical identification. As long as the witnesses can personally identify those persons in court, the real or complete names should no longer be an issue. The law also allows filing of charges against persons under an alias,” the NBI official explained.

During the same interview, Jaafar also admitted he is also using a nom de guerre but declined to reveal his true name for security reasons.

Jaafar also declined to comment on reports identifying MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Igbal as Datucan Abas.

Escudero, for his part, urged the government peace panel to look into the concerns on Iqbal’s use of aliases in dealing with the government.

“This is more for the MILF and OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) than for us, for them to gain the confidence and trust of Congress and of the people. It’s up to them so as to proceed with the deliberations on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law,” he said.

De Lima, meanwhile, reiterated there was nothing wrong with the use of aliases by Iqbal.

De Lima said she sees no legal implications of Iqbal’s admission that the name he is using – for which he is popular known for by the public – is not his real name.

She said the use of pseudonym by officials of revolutionary organizations has been a common practice not covered by the law against use of aliases under Article 178 of the Revised Penal Code.

“Use of aliases is necessarily, implicit, inherent in their standing or status as revolutionaries in pursuit of revolutionary cause. That’s incidental in political acts of rebellion and similar acts,” she said.

Strictly speaking, she said there is a violation in use of aliases except for cinematic or literary purposes under the law.

“But anyway, to the state belongs the power to prosecute, and that power necessarily covers the power not to prosecute, if there are compelling reasons not to prosecute. So let’s defer it first and see later on if we can settle possible transition agreements or amnesty if the BBL is passed and the Bangsamoro political entity is created,” she explained. – Edu Punay, Christina Mendez, Alexis Romero, Michael Punongbayan


PHILSTAR

Marcos hits MILF defiance By Sara Susanne D. Fabunan | Apr. 19, 2015 at 12:01am


MARCOS

PUBLIC trust for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) may totally break down if the rebel group will not surrender the men who were involved in the deadly Mamasapano incident last January 25, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. warned on Saturday.

At the same time, the Palace said it would be better for the MILF to air at a proper court of law its claim that its members participated in the Mamasapano incident only because they were trying to defend themselves.

“There are proper places for them to air such kind of a defense,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson and lawyer Abigail Valte said as Marcos stressed that the MILF position not to surrender the involved men does not help restore the public trust that was lost in the wake of the incident.

“Vice Chairman Jaafar’s statement clearly shows no respect for the rule of law and a blatant disregard to the feeling of the people crying out for justice for the SAF killed by the MILF fighters in Mamasapano. This will not help in regaining the people’s trust in them,” Marcos said.

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Marcos is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, which is conducting public hearings on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), a measure that will create a Bangsamoro political entity to replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Marcos said the government should make a clear stand that the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the Framework Agreement signed by the government and the MILF allows the arrest of MILF members charged with criminal offenses under the existing laws of the land.

“The MILF’s non-cooperation will bring into question the wisdom of continuing with the BBL hearings,” said Marcos.

“If the MILF leadership will not surrender their members, then the belief that they are protecting wanted criminals and terrorists will be reinforced,” Marcos said.

Valte, on the other hand, did not comment on the assertion of MILF Vice Chairman Ghadzali Jaafar that the rebel group will not surrender its men because they were only defending themselves.

“Mayroon pong tamang lugar para ilabas yung nga ganitong depensa, at lalo kung kaso naman po ang kakaharapin, ay doon na lang po din puedeng maipaliwanag yung ganyang depensa

“There are proper places for them to air such a defense and they can explain such a defense in the proper court,” Valte said in an interview over state-owned Radyo ng Bayan.

Valte said the Department of Justice should not be faulted for finding 90 members of the MILF and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters criminally liable for the incident.

“The DOJ is only doing its job of initiating prosecution against persons who may be guilty of some criminal acts under our law,” Valte stressed.

The death of 44 SAF commandos, 17 MILF fighters, and five civilians in the Mamasapano clash led to the suspension of congressional hearings on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). But the Aquino administration will continue to explain the details of the agreement despite the suspension of hearisng, Valte said.

“So kahit po mainit pa ‘yung mga emosyon, kahit marami hong tumututol, ipagpapatuloy lang po natin ‘yung pagpapaliwang kung bakit naniniwala po tayong ang pagpasa ng BBL ay isang mahalagang hakbang para makamit ‘yung kapayapaang ginugusto natin para diyan,

“Even if emotion are still hot, even if there are many people opposing it, we will continue to explain why there is a need to pass the BBL [because] it is a very important step for us to achieve peace that we want there,” Valte said.

Meanwhile, Iyad Bin Amin Madani, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, led an eight-man delegation for a four-day visit to the Philippines to reaffirm its support to the Mindanao peace process.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles said the visit of Madani shows the OIC’s firm commitment to help in the current peace efforts in Mindanao.

“OIC has contributed so much to the peace process since the Tripoli accord and now more than ever, Filipinos both Muslims and Christians look to you for guidance and support to open a new era of social peace and progress in Mindanao,” she told Madani during the meeting.

Madani expressed the OIC’s full support and commitment to the Bangsamoro peace process.

He said their mission is to boost their role in the peace process, saying that the OIC has long been involved in the effort to address the conflict in Mindanao and secure the welfare of Muslims in the country.

Prior to his arrival here on Thursday, Madani had a three-day visit in Malaysia where he met Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak.

The OIC said the two sides “discussed the status of the peace agreement on the Southern Philippines. The Secretary General stressed the need for all parties to remain committed to the peace agreement.”

Madani also met with Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr, Representatives Rufus Rodriguez, Bai Sandra Sinsuat A. Sema and Sitti Djalia Hataman.

He also met with the Senate Peace, Unity and Reconciliation Committee Chair Senator Teofisto Guingona III. Madani noted during these meetings the current legislative work on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The OIC secretary general will also meet top leaders of the MNLF and MILF to strengthen the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum, which was created by the OIC to harmonize the two Moro fronts.

Together with Madani are Sayed El-Masry, OIC Special Envoy for Peace in the Southern Philippines; Maha Mostafa Akeel, director of the OIC Department of Information; Dr. Hassan Ahmad Abdein, Head of the OIC Department of Muslim Communities and Minorities; Saidu Dodo, Liaison Officer for OIC Special Envoy for PCSP; Mohammed Adoum, Personal Assistant to the OIC Sec-Gen; Mohammed Naghi, Protocol Officer; and Ahmad Madani.

Madani is expected to meet President Benigno Aquino III, and Senate President Franklin Drilon before flying back to Saudi Arabia on Monday.

The OIC is the second largest inter-governmental organization, next to the United Nations, composed of 57 member-states spread over four continents.


MANILA BULLETIN

Murad asks BIFF to rejoin MILF, be part of peace process by Alexander D. Lopez April 18, 2015


MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim

Cotabato City – Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, in letters of condolence to the families of the late leader Ameril Ombra Kato of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF, urged the members of the group to return to the fold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and participate in the peace process.

In a letter dated April 15, Murad said: “The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and its military organ, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), wish to convey to the bereaved families of the late Ustadz Ameril Ombra kato and to the leadership of the BIFM/BIFF our brotherly sympathy and heartfelt condolence for his passing away last April 13, 2015.”

For the sake of brotherhood in Islam, Murad also called on the BIFF members to return to the MILF and join the ongoing peace process with the government.

“At this juncture, as one brotherhood in Islam and the need for one struggle, the MILF calls upon the leaders and members of the BIFM/BIFF to return to the fold of the MILF and support the ongoing peace process and the passage of the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) as the final solution to the centuries-old Bangsamoro question and conflict in Mindanao,” Murad added.

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The MILF chairman also assured the BIFF members that the peace panel “will do everything possible so that all of you will be covered by the protocols of the GPH-MILF peace process including the ceasefire.”

But Abu Misry Mama, BIFF spokesman refused to give in to the appeal of Chairman Murad by saying that the BBL will not solve the problems in Mindanao.

“Napakabuting alok yon. Ang hinahanap ng BIFM/BIFF ay ang pangmatagalang kapayapaan sa Mindanao (That was a good offer. The BIFM/BIFF seeks for lasting peace in Mindanao),” Misry Mama told the Manila Bulletin here in an interview on Saturday.

He pointed out that they will not go back to the fold of the MILF if they would be asked to join the peace process and embrace the provisions of the BBL.

RAPS NOT TO AFFECT BBL

Yesterday, Malacañang said the case to be filed against members of MILF and BIFF who were involved in the Mamasapano clash will not affect the passage of the BBL.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the peace process should be separate from the Mamasapano incident.

“It should be separate, really, because the peace process is proceeding on its own track. So it really should be a separate discussion,” Valte said.

She also said that the public should not see the criminal proceedings as a hindrance to the peace process.

The Palace official said the court is the proper forum where the MILF and BIFF can defend themselves.

Earlier, the MILF said it will not surrender its men who will be charged for their involvement in the Mamasapano clash. (With a report from Madel R. Sabater)


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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