HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK ...

LP PRESIDENTIAL BET: MAR TO ACCEPT NOY'S OTHER CHOICE 

NOV 22 --The ruling Liberal Party (LP)’s “sentimental” choice for standard-bearer in 2016 is willing to stay out of the race if President Aquino’s choice would turn out to be somebody else. In an interview here, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II said he is prepared to accept whoever is chosen by Aquino or the LP as the party’s presidential bet in the 2016 general elections. “I will accept it. I did not declare I’m running anyway,” Roxas said when asked by The STAR of his next move if the President picks someone else as party standard-bearer. Aquino is LP chairman. “It’s good that LP, including the President himself, will look, search for the best bet in 2016. It’s a normal process,” Roxas said, referring to the consensus building within the LP to pick its standard-bearer. President Aquino told reporters on Tuesday he is also looking outside the LP for his preferred successor in the 2016 elections. He said he is consulting other parties regarding the matter while the ruling party is in the process of building a consensus. READ FULL REPORT..

ALSO: Binay welcomes support from all; Beleives Mar is still LP choice

Binay’s statement also came on the heels of President Aquino’s pronouncement that the latter may endorse a non-LP candidate as party standard-bearer in the next polls. Binay said LP leaders would try to find ways to make sure they remain in power after 2016 so “any option to retain that objective, to remain in power,” is expected. “Many in the LP now are getting nervous,” Binay told STAR editors yesterday at the Coconut Palace. Binay said he is still convinced Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II would end up as LP’s standard bearer in 2016. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Zamboanga keeps firm stance vs Bangsamoro 

NOV 23 --PHOTO OF MARCH 29, 2014: President Aquino has served notice to Congress – including Mindanao lawmakers – against scuttling the newly signed peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) but rather pass the draft bill creating the Bangsamoro entity. ---Zamboanga City, which was besieged by members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) more than a year ago, had opposed its inclusion in the proposed Bangsamoro substate during a recent consultation on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which will pave the way for its creation. Mayor Maria Isabel Climaco-Salazar read the statement proudly stressing anew the firm and obstinate stance of Zamboanga City against inclusion in Bangsamoro. According to the statement, not once but twice the majority of people in Zamboanga voted against the inclusion of Zamboanga City in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).  READ FULL REPORT...

(ALS0) SPECIAL REPORT ON MAGUINDANAO MASSACRE: ‘We could’ve been killed together’ 

PHOTO: CARRYING THE TORCH FOR REMEMBERING Students and media groups participate in a torch parade condemning the slow pace of the trial of the 197 suspects in the Maguindanao massacre on Friday, ahead of the fifth anniversary of the killings on Sunday. Fifty-eight people, including 32 media workers, were killed in the worst political violence in Philippine history. AFP
 --MASALAY, Maguindanao— The same old feelings—indignation and pain—engulf me every time I set foot on the exact site where the 58 victims, 32 of them media workers, were mercilessly mowed down with bullets by some 100 men, allegedly led by Andal Ampatuan Jr. It has become a recurring trauma. Many of the media workers were my close friends. For years, we’d been together in various news coverages. How can I ever forget the likes of Alejandro “Bong” Reblando and Francisco “Ian” Subang? READ FULL REPORT...

(ALSO) What Went Before: Worst election-related violence in PH history

A Philippine soldier stands guard next to the marker marker where 58 people were killed at the massacre site in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province, in southern island of Mindanao on November 21, 2014, ahead of the fifth anniversary of the worst political massacre of the country. Five years after 58 people were killed in the Philippines’ worst political massacre, anger among victims’ relatives is building, with no one yet convicted and the alleged masterminds still enjoying power. AFP --On Nov. 23, 2009, 58 people were killed in an ambush in Maguindanao province in the worst election violence in Philippine history. It was a Monday morning and Genalin Mangudadatu, together with a group composed of relatives and supporters, lawyers and journalists, set out from Buluan town for Shariff Aguak town to file the certificate of candidacy for Maguindanao governor of her husband, then Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu. Just an hour after their departure, armed men stopped their convoy at the boundary of Ampatuan and Shariff Aguak towns. What happened next would become known as the Maguindanao massacre. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Freddie Aguilar to lead concert for Maguindanao massacre victims

Filipino music icon Freddie Aguilar will be jamming with journalists on the eve of the fifth-year-commemoration of the Maguindanao massacre where 58 people, 32 of them media workers, were killed. “There will be singing, which will be our way of sending a message to the government that we are still asking for justice,” Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone. Mangudadatu said they have chosen some journalists “with good voices” to sing their own compositions. He said Freddie Aguilar was invited “to jam with the journalists.” “We also invited Pilita Corrales and Freestyle,” he added. The “concert” will be held on the night of November 22 in Buluan town. The day after, five years after the massacre in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao, Mangudadatu will visit the massacre site with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Massacre victims will get justice – Palace 

Five years after the Maguindanao Massacre shocked the nation and apparently the international community, Malacañang over the weekend vowed to punish the people behind the killings and obtain justice for the 58 victims. Despite the slow pace of the trial for the perpetrators of the reputedly unprecedented massacre that the civilized world has seen, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. told The Manila Times on Sunday, “We are determined to obtain justice, and to see the trial through its conclusion.”
Coloma said the government handles only the prosecutorial part of the case and that much of the work falls in the judiciary’s hands. “The executive handles only prosecution. People perceive the slow pace of the trial as being government’s responsibility, without distinguishing the work of the judicial branch,” he added. READ FULL REPROT...


READ FULL MEDIA NEWS REPORT:

Mar to accept Noy’s choice


MAR ROXAS

BUTUAN CITY, NOVEMBER 24, 2014 (PHILSTAR) By Ben Serrano - The ruling Liberal Party (LP)’s “sentimental” choice for standard-bearer in 2016 is willing to stay out of the race if President Aquino’s choice would turn out to be somebody else.

In an interview here, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II said he is prepared to accept whoever is chosen by Aquino or the LP as the party’s presidential bet in the 2016 general elections.

“I will accept it. I did not declare I’m running anyway,” Roxas said when asked by The STAR of his next move if the President picks someone else as party standard-bearer. Aquino is LP chairman.

“It’s good that LP, including the President himself, will look, search for the best bet in 2016. It’s a normal process,” Roxas said, referring to the consensus building within the LP to pick its standard-bearer.

President Aquino told reporters on Tuesday he is also looking outside the LP for his preferred successor in the 2016 elections. He said he is consulting other parties regarding the matter while the ruling party is in the process of building a consensus.

LP stalwarts including its vice chairman Senate President Franklin Drilon and acting president Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya voiced their preference for Roxas.

They said many if not most LP members still consider the DILG chief their “sentimental” choice for party standard-bearer.

“I would prefer an LP member to be the standard bearer in 2016,” Drilon said on Tuesday in reaction to the President’s pronouncement.

“If you ask me, personally, my opinion is Secretary Mar Roxas is most qualified to continue the reforms of the President, daang matuwid (straight path). Other members of the party will have their own opinion as well, so it’s just a matter of processing everyone’s opinion,” Abaya said.

On Thursday night, Roxas reportedly held a secret meeting with elected officials of Butuan City and Agusan del Norte in an undisclosed place.

Roxas’ media relations officer Van Evangelista confirmed the meeting but declined to elaborate, saying she was not privy to what was discussed.

DILG-Caraga information officer Don Patrimonio said Roxas and his entourage arrived in Butuan City Thursday afternoon.

He said the DILG chief, shortly after his arrival at 4 p.m., went to the Butuan Doctor’s Hospital along with some ranking police officials to give awards to wounded policemen who figured in an encounter with communist rebels in Surigao del Sur recently.

The following day, Patrimonio said Roxas attended a disaster forum held at a local hotel and convention center here.

Before leaving Butuan City yesterday, Roxas reportedly met with local government officials led by Mayor Ferdinand Amante Jr. and his first cousin, Agusan del Norte Gov. Maria Angelica Rossdell Amante at another hotel.

Roxas also had a luncheon meeting with some businessmen, miners and political supporters, including DILG and national police officials, sources said.

Barangay official Rey Booc of Barangay San Ignacio, Butuan City told THE STAR that Roxas appeared to be determined to run for president – with Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano as running mate – judging from his words and demeanor during his meeting with officials.

“Secretary Mar Roxas will definitely run in 2016 in tandem with Senator Alan Cayetano. I think this was already announced unofficially and secretly by top brass of the party but it’s okay because we will support him since he will be the standard bearer of the administration,” the barangay official said.

Another barangay official said that while Roxas may have the support of partymates and police officials, he may have to do more to make himself more appealing to the masses.


FROM PHILSTAR

Binay welcomes support from all; Beleives Mar is still LP choice By Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 22, 2014 - 1:00am 4 0 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - Vice President Jejomar Binay welcomes support from members of other political parties, including the ruling Liberal Party (LP), for his presidential bid in 2016.

Binay issued the statement yesterday after some members of the LP reportedly expressed their support for him despite accusations of corruption raised against him by former Makati City vice mayor Ernesto Mercado.

The Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee is investigating Mercado’s allegations. The Vice President’s camp said the corruption allegations were part of efforts by his political foes to discredit him and ruin his chances in 2016. Binay remains the front-runner in presidential surveys.

Binay’s statement also came on the heels of President Aquino’s pronouncement that the latter may endorse a non-LP candidate as party standard-bearer in the next polls.

Binay said LP leaders would try to find ways to make sure they remain in power after 2016 so “any option to retain that objective, to remain in power,” is expected.

“Many in the LP now are getting nervous,” Binay told STAR editors yesterday at the Coconut Palace.

Binay said he is still convinced Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II would end up as LP’s standard bearer in 2016.

Binay earlier tagged Roxas as the one spearheading what he called a smear campaign against him.

P-Noy’s choice immaterial

Joey Salgado, Binay spokesman for media affairs, said regardless of the President’s choice, there are LP members who have already signified support for the Vice President.

Navotas City Rep. Tobias Tiangco, interim president of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), said some of his LP colleagues in the House of Representatives have long been sympathetic to Binay but opted to keep quiet to avoid punishment from the party of President Aquino.

“I can’t say exactly how many they are but I’m sure that they will come out as we near 2016. The other LPs, they are also practical politicians, they know they need to join the winner, and we welcome them,” Tiangco said in a telephone interview.

UNA is headed by Binay together with Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.

Parañaque City Rep. Gustavo Tambunting, a stalwart of UNA, said members of pro-administration parties continue to express their intention to ally themselves with Binay despite attempts to discredit him.

Tambunting said the ongoing Senate investigation against Binay has not dampened the resolve of some LP and other pro-administration lawmakers to join UNA.

He also said there were several other individuals seeking to be included in UNA’s senatorial slate.

Asked if some of their allies are leaving Binay’s camp, he said: “None. In fact, more people want to join us.”

He said the LP lawmakers have requested that their names be withheld as they pointed out vicious attacks against Binay and his supporters by leaders of the ruling party.

He said the commitment of lawmakers and other national and local political leaders to join the UNA is firm, as they believe that charges against Binay are all baseless and unfounded.

A senior LP lawmaker admitted there are party members who like Binay more than Roxas, who continues to trail in the polls.

The lawmaker, however, said the LP members, particularly lawmakers and local officials, are also worried that UNA might already be grooming this early possible electoral opponents against them.

“There are LP members close to Binay but at the same time, they are aware of UNA members in their respective districts who may run against them in the elections,” the lawmaker said.

Despite reports of a falling out between him and the President, Binay maintained they remain good friends.

However, he said they have not talked politics in their recent meetings.

Binay would not also divulge his choice for running mate, saying he wouldn’t want him or her to have political enemies this early.

He said he is looking at an economist or a successful businessman as potential running mate.

Some names floated as Binay’s possible running mate are Sens. Grace Poe and Jinggoy Estrada, businessman Manuel Pangilinan and boxing champ and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao.

Binay said he remains determined to run for president even as he expects the attacks against him to intensify. Paolo Romero

FROM THE TRIBUNE

Zamboanga keeps firm stance vs Bangsamoro Written by Tribune Wires Sunday, 23 November 2014 00:00


PHOTO OF MARCH 29, 2014: President Aquino has served notice to Congress – including Mindanao lawmakers – against scuttling the newly signed peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) but rather pass the draft bill creating the Bangsamoro entity.

Zamboanga City, which was besieged by members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) more than a year ago, had opposed its inclusion in the proposed Bangsamoro substate during a recent consultation on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which will pave the way for its creation.

Mayor Maria Isabel Climaco-Salazar read the statement proudly stressing anew the firm and obstinate stance of Zamboanga City against inclusion in Bangsamoro.

According to the statement, not once but twice the majority of people in Zamboanga voted against the inclusion of Zamboanga City in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“In the 1989 plebiscite, the No votes prevailed over YES votes by a wide margin. Again in the 2001 plebiscite for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) expansion, the no votes numbering 112,735 humbled the yes votes numbering only 5,849.

In 2008, big numbers of Zamboangeños wearing red shirts led by then Mayor Celso L. Lobregat gathered around the City clamoring for the abortion of the signing of Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) that led to the issuance of Supreme Court’s Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and eventually brought the case to the Supreme Court for Judicial scrutiny.

For the third time, the voice and sentiment of the Zamboangeños justifiably served by means of Supreme Court declaration of MOA-AD as unconstitutional.

Zamboanga City and its 98 components undivided Barangays can never be and never ever will be a part of Bangsamoro this time and any time,” the statement said.

Furthermore, Zamboanga municipal waters can never be subjected to Bangsamoro waters. Southern Philippine Development Authority (SPDA) properties outside the Bangsamoro, Zamboanga City in particular should be owned by the Local Government, the 10 percent registered voters in contiguous areas who opt for the inclusion to Bangsamoro should only be citywide and provincial-wide in voting during the plebiscite, there shall be no transferring of the Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel assigned in Zamboanag City to another provinces /cities, the statement added.

For his part, 1st District of Zamboanga City Representative Celso L. Lobregat said he wants clarifications of the definition of territory defined in the BBL.

“For me, it is not enough for the Zamboagenos who are here today to know that Zambonga City is excluded in the Bangsamoro just to satisfy them. I want a just and clear definition of Territory to assure us that the word CONTIGUITY does not apply to Zamboanga City,” he said.

Meanwhile, district 2 Rep. Lilia M. Nuno assured the anti-BBL Zamboangeños that the SPDA property in Cabatangan will not fall under the jurisdiction of Bangsamoro by virtue of local government code and transaction for the purchase of said property is in progress.

In a related development, the Sulu Sea, including the Moro Gulf, shall retain their names and shall neither be removed from the Philippine map nor be deleted from the history of the Philippines.

This was emphasized by the Government of the Philippines (GPH) peace panel chair Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer during the recent House of Representatives Special Ad Hoc Committee Public Hearing held at the Provincial Capitol Gymnasium in Jolo, Sulu, on Nov. 19.

“The Bangsamoro waters and the Zones of Joint Cooperation in the Sulu Sea and the Moro Gulf will not change the name of the Sulu Sea. It will not be eradicated from the map of the Philippines. In fact, it will be protected so that the people of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi will be the first to benefit from its resources,” clarified Coronel-Ferrer.

This statement was issued in response to the concerns expressed by the people of Sulu who stand firm on their right over the Sulu Sea as it is the reflection of the long history and ancestral domain of the Tausug and Sama peoples.

Coronel-Ferrer further explained that the “Bangsamoro waters is within the vast area of the Sulu Sea and shall not in any way diminish the territorial sea area.”

She said that “the Bangsamoro waters and the Zones of Joint Cooperation in the Sulu Sea and the Moro Gulf merely ensure that the Bangsamoro people and other indigenous peoples in the adjoining provinces and the resident fishermen in the Bangsamoro shall have preferential rights over the resources from these seas and will benefit from the exploration and utilization of potential energy resources in the vast Sulu Sea.”

Under the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which is the enabling law that shall pave the way for the establishment of the new autonomous region, “the Bangsamoro waters shall extend up to 22.224 kilometers (12 nautical miles) from the low-water mark of the coasts that are part of the Bangsamoro territory.

The Bangsamoro waters shall be part of the territorial jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro political entity.”


FROM THE INQUIRER

SPECIAL REPORT ON MAGUINDANAO MASSACRE: ‘We could’ve been killed together’ Aquiles Z. Zonio @inquirerdotnet Inquirer Mindanao 2:54 AM | Saturday, November 22nd, 2014


CARRYING THE TORCH FOR REMEMBERING Students and media groups participate in a torch parade condemning the slow pace of the trial of the 197 suspects in the Maguindanao massacre on Friday, ahead of the fifth anniversary of the killings on Sunday. Fifty-eight people, including 32 media workers, were killed in the worst political violence in Philippine history. AFP

MASALAY, Maguindanao— The same old feelings—indignation and pain—engulf me every time I set foot on the exact site where the 58 victims, 32 of them media workers, were mercilessly mowed down with bullets by some 100 men, allegedly led by Andal Ampatuan Jr.

It has become a recurring trauma.

Many of the media workers were my close friends. For years, we’d been together in various news coverages.

How can I ever forget the likes of Alejandro “Bong” Reblando and Francisco “Ian” Subang?

I used to call Reblando “Pareng Bong,” as we stood as godfathers at the baptism of the youngest daughter of a close colleague.

I still vividly recall how supportive and concerned Pareng Bong was at the height of the first death threat I received in August 2004.

One time, after I failed to answer his phone calls, Bong called up the highest police official in the region in the middle of the night and requested to send policemen to check on my situation.

Retired Chief Supt. Antonio Billones, then the Central Mindanao Police regional director, called me up, saying: “I sent a team of policemen to conduct patrol in your area after Bong Reblando woke me up. He was in a panic because you’re not answering his calls.”

Untimely deaths

A police official, one of the suspects in the Maguindanao massacre case, told a journalist that Reblando died trying to save the lives of his colleagues.

“The vehicle he was riding was allowed to proceed but he went back upon seeing that the convoy was diverted toward another direction,” the police official said.

Subang, the jester among local journalists, worked with me when I was editor of the first media cooperative-run newspaper in General Santos City.

Their untimely deaths left a void no one could ever fill in my heart and in my life.

It was Henry Araneta of dxRH radio who invited the media workers on behalf of then Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu to cover the filing of Mangudadatu’s certificate of candidacy in the Maguindanao gubernatorial race against Andal Jr.

Araneta claimed that he was designated as media coordinator by Mangudadatu and I was among those invited.

“Toto Mangudadatu is running for governor in Maguindanao against Andal Ampatuan Sr. Toto is requesting media coverage,” Araneta said.

Big news

I sensed that it was big news. And so, even without an invitation, I would have decided to cover the activity.

Whether journalists were invited, to me, was no big deal.

Fourteen journalists invited by Araneta were billeted at BF Lodge, located along the National Highway in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat province, a drive of about 20 minutes from Buluan town.

There, we were told by Araneta to proceed early the following day to Buluan to discuss “some security concerns.”

Reblando, Bandera photographer Paul Bernaldez and I joined Joseph Jubelag, then a correspondent for Malaya, in his car.

We arrived in Buluan around 7 a.m. Immediately upon arrival, we were asked to go into the house of Khadafee “Thuy” Mangudadatu, assemblyman in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the younger brother of Toto.

The five of us—Thuy, Reblando, Jubelag, Bernaldez and me—discussed the security aspect of the convoy.

No help from PNP, AFP

Thuy, who claimed his elder brother was still on his way home from Davao City, said police and the military turned down their requests for security escort.

The younger Mangudadatu requested us to pull some strings to ensure the safety of the convoy tasked to carry the certificate of candidacy of Mangudadatu.

Reblando requested Mangudadatu to provide a separate vehicle for journalists covering the event for security reasons.

“We will not ride in the same vehicles with the family and supporters of Mangudadatu to avoid giving the Ampatuans an impression that we are biased,” Reblando said.

Mangudadatu explained that without security escort, they had two options in mind: to not proceed with the filing or to send an all-woman and unarmed contingent with full press coverage.

Is it safe?

He emphasized the need to secure security clearance from the highest military officer in the region before sending the convoy off to Shariff Aguak town.

Reblando turned to me and said: “Pare, you are close to General Cayton. Can you please call him up and ask if the route leading to Shariff Aguak is safe?”

He was referring to retired Maj. Gen. Alfredo Cayton, then the division commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division based in Barangay Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat town, in Maguindanao.

I contacted Cayton thrice through his mobile phone but he did not answer.

After a few minutes, my cell phone rang. It was Cayton.

“Sorry, I failed to take your call, as I was on stage in a send-off ceremony for the 46th [Infantry Battalion]. The troops will be transferred to Samar,” he said.

Cayton then asked me in a Visayan dialect why I called.

I replied: “Many journalists will be joining the convoy of Toto Mangudadatu to file his certificate of candidacy at the Comelec (Commission on Election) provincial office in Shariff Aguak. May we know the security situation along the route? Is it safe?”

Cayton said that for almost a month, he had not received any intelligence report on the presence of threat groups in the area.

And so I asked again, “So, it is safe to travel along the route?”

He said, “Yes.”

Miscalculation

Who would ever think that the police, backed by friendly forces like the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) and the Civilian Volunteers Organization (CVO), would do the unspeakable?

Who would consider “force multipliers” like the Cafgu and the CVO as threat groups?

I asked Cayton why the military refused to provide security to Mangudadatu and he replied: “There is an existing memorandum of agreement between the [Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Comelec, the Philippine National Police and the Department of the Interior and Local Government] regarding requests for security escorts by politicians. The requesting party should [make the request] to the PNP and the Comelec. Then, the Comelec will be the one to request us.”

The convoy proceeded in the belief that the Ampatuans would not harm Muslim women and media workers.

Unfortunately, we miscalculated the audacity and ruthlessness of the Ampatuans.

Before the convoy departed, the riders were asked to bow their heads and pray.

Changing rides

I was riding with Bernaldez on a UNTV van, which was designated the lead vehicle.

While on the way to a Petron gasoline station, hair-raising thoughts kept crossing my mind. I was uneasy. My heart was pumping hard and I felt as if my head was puffing up.

The four of us who rode in the same vehicle all the way from General Santos City to Buluan took separate vehicles. Reblando rode in a van provided by the Mangudadatus, Bernaldez joined me in the UNTV van and Jubelag brought his own vehicle.

The UNTV van was the first to fuel up before it parked ahead on the road side to give way to other vehicles in the convoy.

UNTV reporter Victor Nuñez, one of those who would be killed in the carnage, told me, “Sir, I’ve learned that Joseph Jubelag would drive to Shariff Aguak alone.”

Nuñez’s statement jolted me, so I asked Bernaldez to come with me and the two of us got off the UNTV van to join Jubelag in his car.

In 2007, Jubelag became a target after he wrote a story about corruption in Maguindanao under the administration of the Ampatuan patriarch. Jubelag went into hiding for about a year.

That was the reason why Nuñez and I could not allow Jubegal to ride alone to Shariff Aguak. And that was the turning point that saved our lives that day.

The convoy drove away and we were left behind, as we were still fueling up.

After gassing up, we went on our way. I received a text message from Reblando saying the convoy was already at the rotunda in Isulan town, Sultan Kudarat.

Upon reaching Tacurong City, Jubelag said, “I’d like to drop by the hotel (BF Lodge) to use the comfort room.”

I was mad, as we were in a hurry to catch up with the convoy. But since it was a personal necessity, I told him to make it quick.

I asked Bernaldez to stay in the car and be alert. Because of death threats, Jubelag and I were observing security precautions.

Two men on a motorcycle

As we were about to leave, a hotel employee informed us that about three minutes before we arrived, two men wearing jackets and riding on a motorcycle came looking for us.

The employee said the two men wanted to get all the names of the journalists who slept in the hotel the night before. But the hotel staff turned down the request, the employee said.

We were alarmed. Jubelag and I decided that it was no longer safe to travel to Shariff Aguak.

We decided to return to Buluan and just wait for the press conference after the filing of Mangudadatu’s certificate of candidacy.

On the way back to Buluan, around 9:55 a.m., I tried to contact Reblando and some other colleagues in the convoy, but their mobile phones could no longer be reached.

An eerie feeling engulfed me. I didn’t want to leave our safety to chance. We had to defend ourselves at all costs.

I left my licensed handgun at home because I didn’t want to provoke anybody in Shariff Aguak. So I asked Jubelag if he brought his gun.

He said yes and pointed to where it was. There was not just one but two .45-caliber handguns there. I felt relieved.

I grabbed one, cocked it and gave it to him. I took the other and cocked it. I felt my ears burning and my throat drying up.

Upon arriving in Buluan, we were told to meet Toto at dxBL, where he was being interviewed.

Convoy seized

There, Toto informed us after his interview that his wife Genalin had called, telling him that the convoy was seized by “more than one hundred armed men led by Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.”

Again, I tried calling up Reblando. His mobile phone was turned off. I tried Bart Maravilla of Bombo Radyo-Koronadal. A stranger was answering his phone.

For the first time in my life, I didn’t know what to do. My mind was drifting. I was thinking about my mom, who was hypertensive, and my 10-year-old son.

I thought about my dear colleagues who, just a few hours back, were alive and exchanging jokes with us.

We were supposed to be with them in the convoy. We could have been killed together with them.


FROM THE INQUIRER

What Went Before: Worst election-related violence in PH history Philippine Daily Inquirer 3:38 AM | Saturday, November 22nd, 2014


A Philippine soldier stands guard next to the marker marker where 58 people were killed at the massacre site in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province, in southern island of Mindanao on November 21, 2014, ahead of the fifth anniversary of the worst political massacre of the country. Five years after 58 people were killed in the Philippines’ worst political massacre, anger among victims’ relatives is building, with no one yet convicted and the alleged masterminds still enjoying power. AFP

On Nov. 23, 2009, 58 people were killed in an ambush in Maguindanao province in the worst election violence in Philippine history.

It was a Monday morning and Genalin Mangudadatu, together with a group composed of relatives and supporters, lawyers and journalists, set out from Buluan town for Shariff Aguak town to file the certificate of candidacy for Maguindanao governor of her husband, then Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu.

Just an hour after their departure, armed men stopped their convoy at the boundary of Ampatuan and Shariff Aguak towns. What happened next would become known as the Maguindanao massacre.

Those killed in the carnage were Mangudadatu’s wife, 14 relatives and supporters who were mostly women, two lawyers and the father of one of the lawyers, two drivers, 32 media workers and six motorists who were either witnesses or mistakenly identified as part of the convoy.

They either lay dead on the ground or were hastily buried in a mass grave, some of them beheaded and others raped and mutilated.

The alleged killers

The Ampatuans, a political clan that has been engaged in a long-running feud with the Mangudadatu family, were tagged the masterminds of the massacre. It was carried out to stop then Vice Mayor Mangudadatu from running for the post, which was held then by Andal Ampatuan Sr. and which his son and namesake, then mayor of Unsay town, was seeking to fill.

Five years after, justice remains elusive. The trial of the Ampatuans, which began in 2010, has dragged on and is expected to run even beyond the term of President Aquino. A total of 197 people are under trial. Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 is hearing the case.

More than half of the accused (111 people) have been arraigned and 41 have been granted bail, mostly policemen belonging to the 1507th and 1508th Provincial Mobile Groups of the Philippine National Police regional office in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility said in a primer released earlier this month. The policemen were assigned to man checkpoints in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, where the killings happened.

Twenty-one of those charged, including members of the Ampatuan clan, are awaiting the court’s decision on their petitions for bail.

Ampatuan Jr. surrendered three days after the massacre while Ampatuan Sr. and other members of the Ampatuan clan were arrested days later. They were brought to and detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan district, Taguig City. Other suspects numbering more than a hundred are also in jail.

Witness killed

A setback for the families of the victims: A vital witness in the massacre was killed on Nov. 18 while another was injured when they were ambushed on their way to a meeting with lawyers in Shariff Aguak.

Dennix Sakal, former driver of Ampatuan Sr., was killed and Sukarno Butch Saudagal, allegedly the former bagman of Ampatuan Jr., was wounded in the ambush. They were supposed to finalize their testimonies, according to Mangudadatu, now governor of Maguindanao.

Earlier this year, the case hit a snag when private prosecutors and state prosecutors had a spat over allegations of bribery, while the lawyers representing the Ampatuans withdrew from the court proceedings.

The bickering started on July 31, when private prosecutors Nena Santos, lawyer for Mangudadatu, and Prima Jesusa Quinsayas revealed differences with the government prosecutors.

They protested the strategy of prosecutors from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and other private lawyers to rest the state’s case against primary accused Ampatuan Jr. and 27 others. The DOJ explained that it was a “first in, first out plan,” sought to reach a partial promulgation before the end of Mr. Aquino’s term in 2016.

Bribery scandal

A few days later, Santos disclosed that the Ampatuans had offered her P300 million, hinting that state prosecutors might have accepted bribes after she declined.

Government witness Lakmodin Saliao accused Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, the official supervising the prosecution panel, of accepting P20 million from the Ampatuans.

Another witness also surfaced in August and bared an alleged bribe list containing the names of those supposedly on the take.

The National Bureau of Investigation found no direct evidence that the state prosecutors assigned accepted bribes, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who ordered an investigation, said on Nov. 13.

Defense lawyers withdraw

Defense lawyers for the principal suspects withdrew from the case, a move that, private prosecutors say, was a strategy to delay the trial.

In August, Fortun Narvasa and Salazar Law Offices withdrew as lawyers for Ampatuan Sr. and Ampatuan Jr. Real Brotarlo and Real Law Firm and Manuel Law Office, which represented several Ampatuan family members, also withdrew from the case. The new lawyer of Ampatuan Jr. is Salvador Panelo.

The trial started on Sept. 8, 2010, almost 10 months after the massacre. During the first hearing, Saliao, a house help, directly linked Ampatuan Jr. to the killings allegedly on the orders of his father. He said the Ampatuan clan planned the massacre over dinner on Nov. 17, 2009. Both Ampatuans pleaded not guilty during their arraignment.

Saliao said Ampatuan Jr. led the force of more than a hundred, mostly police and paramilitary troopers, that carried out the massacre. Inquirer Research


FROM THE INQUIRER

Freddie Aguilar to lead concert for Maguindanao massacre victims Julie S. Alipala
@inquirerdotnet Inquirer Mindanao 5:20 PM | Monday, November 17th, 2014


AGUILAR

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — Filipino music icon Freddie Aguilar will be jamming with journalists on the eve of the fifth-year-commemoration of the Maguindanao massacre where 58 people, 32 of them media workers, were killed.

“There will be singing, which will be our way of sending a message to the government that we are still asking for justice,” Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone.

Mangudadatu said they have chosen some journalists “with good voices” to sing their own compositions.

He said Freddie Aguilar was invited “to jam with the journalists.”

“We also invited Pilita Corrales and Freestyle,” he added.

The “concert” will be held on the night of November 22 in Buluan town. The day after, five years after the massacre in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao, Mangudadatu will visit the massacre site with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

Among those killed in the carnage were Mangudadatu’s wife and relatives, who were on their way to Shariff Aguak town to file his certificate of candidacy for governor. They were blocked allegedly by members of the Ampatuan clan and their armed followers, and brought to a secluded place in the village of Salman where they were killed.

Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said five years “is too long enough to render justice for the families and relatives of slain journalists and other civilians.”

“I pray that before I leave ARMM, there will be a resolution of the case. There has to be a conviction,” Hataman told the Inquirer by phone.

As a result of the peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the ARMM will be replaced by a new political entity, the Bangsamoro autonomous government.

Mangudadatu expressed his hope for a conviction of the primary accused before the dissolution of ARMM.

“We hope that after the presentation of all the evidence by the defense, we could expect conviction, a decision from the judge,” he said.

More than a hundred men are now in jail and being tried for their alleged involvement in the massacre.
 


FROM THE MANILA TIMES

Massacre victims will get justice – Palace November 23, 2014 11:37 pm by JOEL M. SY EGCO
SENIOR REPORTER

Five years after the Maguindanao Massacre shocked the nation and apparently the international community, Malacañang over the weekend vowed to punish the people behind the killings and obtain justice for the 58 victims.

Despite the slow pace of the trial for the perpetrators of the reputedly unprecedented massacre that the civilized world has seen, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. told The Manila Times on Sunday, “We are determined to obtain justice, and to see the trial through its conclusion.”

Coloma said the government handles only the prosecutorial part of the case and that much of the work falls in the judiciary’s hands.

“The executive handles only prosecution. People perceive the slow pace of the trial as being government’s responsibility, without distinguishing the work of the judicial branch,” he added.

Various media groups marked the fifth anniversary of the massacre on Sunday, November 23.

Among those murdered in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao province in Mindanao were 30 journalists.

On Sunday morning, officers and members of the National Press Club, Camanava (Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, Valenzuela) Press Corps under NPC Director Arlie Calalo of The Daily Tribune and the Quezon City Press Club under Rio Araja of Manila Standard Today laid wreaths at a marker honoring the massacre victims.

The NPC said the offering of flowers, candles and prayers for those killed capped the weeklong commemoration of the “darkest day in the history of Philippine press freedom.”

Coloma said members of the Ampatuan clan who are principal suspects in the case have more witnesses than the prosecution team, which has lost vital witnesses to assassinations.

Citing data from the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Palace official noted that government and private prosecutors have presented 147 witnesses. The defense, on the other hand, has 300, outnumbering the prosecution’s witnesses 2 to 1.

“That’s why there are hundreds of witnesses who are participating in the hearings,” Coloma said in defending the slow pace of the trial.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima earlier flew to Maguindanao to meet with the victims’ families and explain to them why the case is taking so long.

“The case is very complex and that explains the ‘delay’: 58 victims, 197 accused, 147 witnesses, so far, presented by the prosecution, close to 300 witnesses being presented by the accused or defense,” de Lima said.

Just last Tuesday, two potential prosecution witnesses were ambushed in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao while on their way to meet with their lawyers.

Killed was Dennis Sakal, driver of former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., while Sukarno Butch Saudagal, former bagman of former Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., was wounded.

Sakal became the latest addition to the list of witnesses who were slain after turning against the Ampatuans.
His death dealt another blow to the prosecution’s case, according to the NPC.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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