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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Good Governance Dialogues held in Cagayan de Oro City

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY - Over 100 local government officials and leaders of civil society organizations have participated in the recently concluded Good Governance Dialogues in Cagayan de Oro City in southern Philippines.

Previously held in Manila and Cebu, the series of regional fora is organized by the Cabinet Cluster on Good Governance and Anti Corruption, in cooperation with the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) and INCITEGov.

The regional forum aims to make governance accessible to the grassroots by bringing together national and local governments, civil society organizations, business, academe and development partners for meaningful engagement.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, who opened the forum, spoke on reforms instituted under the government's Budget Transformation Agenda. Central to these reforms, according to Abad, is the policy of “spending within our means, on the right priorities, and with measurable results.”

Among those who were in the forum panel were Mayor Evelyn Uy of Dipolog City; Vice Governor Maria Cristina Atay of Lanao del Norte; Councilor Melleanette Mercado of Gingoog City; and Councilor Kirk Asis of Bayugan City.

The forum emphasized the importance of empowering CSOs and citizens to take part in the government so programs are responsive to needs, especially of sectors like persons with disabilities, women and children, and youth.

Budget Undersecretary Richard Moya and Assistant Secretary Maxine Tanya Hamada and Department of Social Welfare and Development Assistant Secretary Camilo Gudmalin, and Marie Labajo of the National Anti-Poverty Commission weighed in on the state of citizen engagement in the current government.

The panelists discussed at length current government initiatives for citizen engagement, such as the award-winning Grassroots Participatory Budget Process and the bigger challenge of sustaining the positive gains in opening the government. The next Good Governance Dialogues will happen in Davao City and Baguio City in November. (Mindanao Examiner)

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Customs seized Viagra pills

MANILA - Philippine authorities have seized 268 suspected Viagra pills discovered in a parcel sent from the United States.

The blue color pills were intercepted by the Bureau of Customs. The parcel was declared as assorted pharmaceutical products and officials seized the anti-impotent drugs after it remained unclaimed since January 6.

The parcel was addressed to Angelica Amor Vasquez at 171 Gomez Street, Barangay Addition Hills, San Juan City.

The package arrived at the San Juan Central Post Office on January 18, 2014 where it remained unclaimed for the last eight months, prompting authorities to open the package. The parcel were seized by Customs officials for violation of Section 2530 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines.

"All products that come into the country—whether by ship, balik-bayan box or even postal parcels, are subject to Customs inspection and maybe charged with corresponding duties and taxes or are outright prohibit or require special permits."

"Unscrupulous individuals sometimes try to use postal mail and express parcels to ship illegal or prohibited items to and from the Philippines because they think that there is minimal chance of being caught. Let this be a warning to the public that we are closely monitoring all mail, parcels, and packages," Customs Commissioner John Sevilla said. (Mindanao Examiner)

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Philippines remains vigilant over slowdown in global economy

MANILA – Significant declines in spending for imported raw materials and intermediate goods and mineral fuels and lubricants resulted in a 1.3 percent decline in merchandise imports in August 2014, offsetting the year-on-year gains in consumer and capital goods, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

"Although relatively in better condition than last year, the gradual softening in imports has been observed since the 24.7-percent growth seen last January, steadily sliding to its slowest growth as of August this year," said Economic Planning Secretary and NEDA Director-General Arsenio Balisacan. "Despite the gains from increased imports of consumer and capital goods, reduced purchases of imported raw materials and intermediate goods and mineral fuels and lubricants dragged down imports growth in August 2014."

He said payments for Philippine merchandise imports decreased to US$5.5 billion in August 2014 from US$5.6 billion in August 2013. However, the total import payments in the first eight months of 2014 increased by 4.0 percent to US$42.4 billion from US$40.8 billion in the comparable period in 2013. Given the faster growth in merchandise exports at 9.2 percent during the same period, the narrowed to US$1.7 billion from US$3.5 billion a year ago.

"Domestically, the recent slowdown in imports may reflect market sentiment of sluggish demand due to seasonal factors. But we remain vigilant should this sluggish growth in imports turn out to be a signal of a more pessimistic condition of the global economy, which may spill over locally," Balisacan said.

He said the issue on port congestion is still a big threat to imports and exports. "Although the truck ban has been lifted to ease congestion in Manila ports, cramped port yards remain an issue that may still have an impact on external trade. These should further be monitored and given ample solution to ease the flow of goods traversing Manila ports," he said.

Meanwhile, payments for imported consumer goods posted a double-digit expansion of 13.8 percent to reach US$766.2 million in August 2014 from US$673.2 million a year ago. Similarly, imports of capital goods grew at a faster pace of 3.1 percent in August 2014 from a marginal increase of 0.3 percent in July 2014, following consecutive contractions since February to June 2014.

"Overall, merchandise imports could possibly pick up in the succeeding months as suggested by the inventory drawdown in the national accounts," Balisacan said.

The People’s Republic of China remained as the top source of Philippine merchandise imports in August 2014 with a 14.7 percent share to total import payments amounting to US$806.5 million. Second was United States of America with a share of 7.8 percent, followed by Singapore (7.4%), Taiwan (7.3%), Republic of Korea (7.0%), Japan (6.7%), Saudi Arabia (6.0%), Thailand (5.9%), France (5.3%), and Germany (4.2%).

The value of imported commodities from other ASEAN-member countries accounted for 23.1 percent of Philippine merchandise imports amounting to US$1.3 billion. (Mindanao Examiner)

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Foreigners in Philippines with permanent resident status need to re-stamp passports

MANILA - The Bureau of Immigration reminded foreigners and their dependents with permanent resident status in the Philippines to have their passports re-stamped to avoid penalty or cancellation of their Alien Certificate of Registration I-cards or worst face deportation.

Immigration spokesperson Elaine Tan said the re-stamping scheme will also simplify the verification of the BI’s updated database and will surely help expedite their future transactions, including the processing of annual report and the renewal of their ACR I-Card.

She said applicants will have to pay P1,010 and also secure a BI clearance which also cost P1,010. The processing for the re-stamp applications may be completed within three days.

The filing period for the re-stamping started last September and will end on December 15 this year. “Such process may only be applied at the BI main office in Intramuros, Manila,” she said. (Mindanao Examiner)

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Filipino cops bust drug dealers, seized P20 million of shabu

MANILA – Police authorities arrested four suspected drug dealers in a sting operation in Taguig City just outside the Philippine capital.

Police said at least P20 million worth of shabu was seized from Larex Pepino, 35; Jayberne Ruiras, 33; Jhay-Ar Radin, 25; and Nelson Conarco, 30.
The operation was led by Senior Superintendent Benjamin Lusad and Superintendent Julius Caesar Mana.

Police said the four men were arrested along Bayani Road near Heritage Park after they sold the drugs to undercover agents.

Seized from them were 10 plastic packs containing four kilos of shabu or methamphetamine hydrochloride and their car they used in delivering drugs to customers.

The four suspects are facing criminal charges and are unlikely to get bail.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Philippine military chief apologizes for ignoring Sulu peace council, crisis committee

 Sulu provincial photos show Philippine military chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang with Governor Totoh Tan during a public dialogue Friday, October 24, 2014. 

SULU – Philippine military chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang has publicly apologized to the Sulu provincial government and other officials for not coordinating with the peace and order council in connection to the recent release of a pair of German yachters by the Abu Sayyaf.

General Catapang, accompanied by dozens of senior military officials led by Lieutenant General Rustico Guerrero and Rear Admiral Reynaldo Yoma, flew to Sulu on Friday and attended a public dialogue where he made the apology.

The dialogue was the offshoot of a meeting on October 20 by representatives of various civil society groups and different sectors with Sulu Governor Toto Tan, who heads the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) and its ad hoc special action committee handling the hostage crisis.

The Abu Sayyaf told a radio station in Zamboanga City that it had freed Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and Henrike Diesen, 55, on October 17 in exchange for P250 million ransoms. The duo was heading to Sabah in Malaysia on a private yacht from a holiday in Palawan province when militants who were returning to the southern Philippines from a failed kidnapping in Sabah spotted the Germans and seized them on April 25.

The military insisted that no ransom was paid for the release of the hostages and even dared anyone to come up with evidence that ransom had been paid to the Abu Sayyaf.

Governor Tan said the PPOC and the crisis committee only learned about the release of the hostages after the media broke out the news. “We were not informed about that the hostages were already rescued and it was only through media reports that we became aware that they were rescued and (already) in the custody of the Armed Forces (of the Philippines),” he said.

“We would like to apologize to the people of Sulu for any shortcomings during the law enforcement operations in pursuit of the Abu Sayyaf group to retrieve the Germans and other hostages,” General Catapang said.

He also apologized for not immediately informing the PPOC and the crisis committee about the release of the German hostages and vowed to work closely with the civilian authorities.

Governor Tan praised General Catapang for his humility and sincerity when he apologized in front of a huge crowd. And Vice Governor Tan said that it was the first time that the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has apologized to the people of Sulu. “Umaasa kami na magiging maganda na ang sitwasyon (sa Sulu) sa mga darating na panahon,” he said.

Jolo Mayor Hussin Amin also quizzed General Catapang on the impression that the military is abetting the enemy when reports of ransom payment to the Abu Sayyaf broke out. General Catapang said their only focus is the safe rescue of the hostages not involving any ransom.

The German hostages were recovered by policemen in Patikul town, but were whisked away by soldiers and brought them to a military base in Jolo town and not even Mayor Hussin was informed about the release of the foreigners.

General Catapang said a cease-fire with the Abu Sayyaf is possible, but the militants must first release all their hostages. “That is possible, but they need to release all hostages first. Sayang ang buhay ng mga batang iyan. Pagtulungan nating sila ay magbago,” he said after a Muslim teacher asked him whether the military is open to a truce with the Abu Sayyaf group.

Mayor Amin suggested that Sulu province hold a peace and economic summit participated by officials both in local and national governments to tackle various issues and further unite development efforts here.

General Catapang, in demonstration of his commitment towards peace and progress, pledged to solicit development projects for Sulu. He even cited the marketing potential of sweet mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) and lanzones (Lansium domesticum) and other fruits in Sulu.

He also directed military commanders to work closely with local government officials in identifying problems in their communities and help them in development projects and other social interventions that will address directly the issues.

Vice Governor Tan said the provincial government is ready to work hand in hand with different organizations to sustain peace and progress in the province. “We will do our part by working closely with different organizations. We also believe that we can solve these problems by helping each other,” he said.

Another Abu Sayyaf faction is also holding a Malaysian fish breeder Chan Sai Chuin, 32, who was kidnapped along with a Filipino worker on June 16 this year from a fish farm in the town of Kunak in Tawau District. The militants are demanding 3 million ringgits (P41 million) for the safe release of the fish breeder. It is also holding captive a Malaysian policeman Kons Zakiah Aleip, 26, who was seized on June 12 also this year following a clash in Sabah that killed another policeman. The militants are demanding 5 million ringgits (P68.3 million).

The militants are still holding hostage a 64-year old Japanese treasure hunter Katayama Mamaito, who was kidnapped from Pangutaran Island in July 2010; and two European wildlife photographers Ewold Horn, 52, from Holland; and Lorenzo Vinciguerre, 47, from Switzerland, who were taken captive in the coastal village of Parangan in Panglima Sugala town in the southern Tawi-Tawi province in 2012. And several Filipinos kidnapped in other provinces and brought to Sulu.

The military said the militants are hiding in civilian communities and have moved their hostages from one hideout to another making it extremely difficult for security forces to track them down. (Mindanao Examiner)

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

BIFF rebels attack Sultan Kudarat village

Policemen and local government officials rush to the village of Katiko in President Quirino town in Sultan Kudarat province following a rebel attack staged by Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters on Thursday, October 23, 2014. (Mindanao Examiner Photo - Rose Muneza)

SULTAN KUDARAT PROVINCE – Suspected rebels killed a civilian in an attack Thursday in the southern Philippine province of Sultan Kudarat, officials said.

Maj. Dante Gania, of the 6th Infantry Division, said more than two dozen members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters also engaged troops in a firefight after the gunmen attacked a military post in the village of Katiko in President Quirino town.

Gania said no soldiers were killed or wounded in the fighting except for one civilian, who was identified as Maximo Salamanca, brother of the village chieftain Sancho Salamanca. Another man was also slain and four others wounded in the violence.

He identified the leaders of the attackers as BIFF commanders Sukarno Sapal, Edzrapel Manalasal and Maganon. He said troops were tracking down the gunmen.

Two soldiers were also killed in a separate attack by gunmen in Datu Hoffer town in Maguindanao province.

The soldiers were guarding the town’s main hospital when several gunmen disarmed the victims and shot them using their own automatic rifles and then escaped. (Moh Saaduddin and Rose Muneza)

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Davao airport, seaport development projects get NEDA nod

DAVAO CITY - The National Economic and Development Authority Board has approved Davao City local government’s project proposals worth P58 billion, specifically for the improvement of the Davao International Airport and maintenance and development project and the modernization of the Sasa Port.

Maria Lourdes Lim, NEDA regional director, said the projects are pending preparations of the tender documents at NEDA’s Public-Private-Partnership Center to solicit proponents from the private sector, since the projects are under the PPP scheme.

“Once the tender documents are prepared, then it can be published for submission of bids,” Lim said in an interview during the roadshow activity of the Davao Regional Development Council concerning the Updated Regional Development Plan (URDP) for 2014-2016.

She said the DIA improvement and Sasa port modernization projects, worth P18 billion and P40 billion, respectively, are the two major infrastructure projects allocated for Davao City as incorporated in the URDP.

The other proposed projects under NEDA’s Programs, Activities and Projects  for 2016 are the rehabilitation and improvement of the Malagamot road worth P50 million; the Mindanao International Airport Feasibility study worth P5 million; and improvement of ferry facilities from Sasa to the Island Garden City of Samal worth P100 million.

The priority projects listed under the Davao City Local Poverty Reduction Action Plan that are intended to reduce poverty incidence, especially in the countryside, have reached to a proposed funding of P50 million.

The projects also include the hiring of doctors, nurses and midwives under the Department of Health’s Human Resource Deployment Program for Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDAs); community health teams mobilization in poor barangays in GIDAs; and capability building for doctors, nurses and midwives, and many others.

“The project proposals will be put forward to concerned national government agencies so these will be aligned to their respective 2016 budget proposals,” Lim said, adding that the 2015 national expenditure program has already been submitted to the Congress for approval.

The priority projects of Davao City which are integrated in Davao Region’s URDP 2014-2016 , have been presented during the first leg of the second round of RDC-11’s roadshows that aim to widen the understanding and appreciation on the plan by the region’s stakeholders and development partners.

RDC-11 chairman and Davao del Norte Governor Rodolfo del Rosario has emphasized the importance of holding the roadshow in Davao City being considered “the premier city and regional center not only of Region XI, but also of the whole of Mindanao.”

“Likewise, Davao City is the center of education, science, health, tourism and livelihood activities in this part of the country and the seat of government regional offices and of major private and commercial institutions. Thus, given Davao City’s crucial role in socioeconomic development, strategic infrastructure and development projects have been earmarked to enhance the City’s capacity as Mindanao’s metropolitan growth center,” he said.

The second leg of the URDP roadshow this year is planned to be conducted in Davao Oriental on November 28. (Carina Cayon)

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Elite Philippine police unit gets new training facilities

 Philippine police chief Alan Purisima and Special Action Force Director  Director Getulio Napeñas lead the unveilling of markers of training facilities in Santa Rosa City in Laguna province on Thursday, October 23, 2014.

MANILA – Philippine police chief Alan Purisima on Thursday unveiled markers of training facilities for members of the elite Special Action Force in Santa Rosa City in Laguna province, officials said.

Officials said Purisima was accompanied by SAF Police Director Getulio Napeñas and other senior officials in the event. The new facilities included a mess hall, planning and classrooms, among others.

“This holds great promise for the police students who are undergoing training and those who will attend future courses under the auspices of this school because they will stand to benefit from the improvements made in this infrastructure,” Purisima said.

He said the SAF facilities will also play an important role in the achievement of one of the key objectives of the Philippine National Police P.A.T.R.O.L. Plan 2030 and strategic initiative embodied in CODE-P, which is to develop highly competent, motivated and values-oriented and disciplined personnel.

PNP P.A.T.R.O.L. Plan 2030 stands for Peace and order Agenda for Transformation and upholding of the Rule-of-Law as enhanced by Purisima’s “CODE-P: 2013 and beyond.”

CODE-P: 2013 and beyond is a program which stands for Competence, Organizational Development, Discipline, Excellence and Professionalism.

The SAF Training Branch has been making huge strides in its bid to become one of the premiere training institutions in the country, and in line with the PNP’s modernization program, strengthening of its personnel capabilities through the conduct of training courses with good training facilities is one of the priorities of the organization.

Purisima commended the past and present leadership of SAF for initiating reforms and bringing the institution in a class of its own within the PNP. (Mindanao Examiner)

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Missing Italian man in Sabah took ferry to Zamboanga City

 Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar with Bureau of Immigration and Deportation officials led by Sitti Rubaina Lutian during a meeting at City Hall. (Photo by Joey Bautista)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – An Italian businessman who went missing in Sabah, Malaysia since October 13 had been reported to have taken a ferry to the southern Filipino port city of Zamboanga.

The Star Online reported that William Bocchi was believed to boarded the ferry Danica Joy in Sandakan on October 14 and since then have not been heard off.

Bocchi, who arrived in Malaysia through the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on October 12, flew over to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah the following day before making a connecting flight to Lahad Datu.

Lahad Datu businessman Sia Yiik Huon had reported Bocchi’s disappearance on October 20 after being alerted by a friend in Kuala Lumpur who received an email from Bocchi’s colleague, known as Fabio, who said the missing Italian was due to return home on October 16.

Sia said Bocchi, who is in the financial service business and a sales representative for a compressor distributor, was supposed to have met a client in Lahad Datu.

According to the report, Bocchi was last seen arriving at the Lahad Datu airport on October 13 from Kota Kinabalu and police had since determined that the businessman had taken a bus from there to Sandakan the same day.
In Sandakan, Bocchi checked into a hotel in the downtown area at about 9.25 p.m. on October 13 and left the following day.

Sabah police said it was Bocchi’s first visit to Sabah. The Star Online said the Italian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur had been kept abreast of efforts to locate Bocchi. The Embassy has been keeping in touch with Bocchi’s family.

In Zamboanga City, the Bureau of Immigration said it will check its records to see whether Bocchi has arrived here. “We will have to check all our records to verify whether he really entered Zamboanga City from Sabah or not,” Sitti Rubaina Lutian, the regional immigration head, told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

She said the ferry regularly plies Sandakan and Zamboanga City. (Mindanao Examiner and The Star Online)

2 sundalo itinumba sa ospital

BIFF fighters sa Maguindanao province. (Mindanao Examiner Photo - Mark Navales)

MAGUINDANAO PROVINCE – Patay ang 2 sundalo ng isang pagamutan sa Maguindanao province matapos silang ratratin ng mga di-kilalang salarin at agad naman inginuso ng militar ang Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters na siyang nasa likod ng atake.

Nabatid na pumasok ang dalawang salarin nitong gabi ng Miyerkoles sa naturang pagamutan sa bayan ng Datu Hoffer at sinabing bibisita lamang sa kanilang pasyente at ng makalagpas sa mga sundalo ay agad itong tinutukan ng baril at mabilis na dinis-armahan ng M16 rifles.

Ang M16 rifles ang siya rin ginamit ng mga salarin sa pagpatay sa dalawang sundalo ng army. Ayaw naman ilabas ng 6th Infantry Division sa Maguindanao ang pangalan ng dalawang sundalong napatay.

Mabilis rin tumakas ang mga salarin at nawala sa kadiliman. Wala naman inulat na nasakatan sa mga sibilyan sa pagamutan. Bagamat walang umako sa atake ay ibinintang naman agad ng militar ang krimen sa BIFF na nakikibaka para sa kalayaan ng mga Muslim sa Mindanao.

Wala rin pag-amin ang BIFF sa naganap na pamamaslang sa pagamutan. Kamakailan lamang ay dalawang sundalo rin ang pinatay ng mga di-kilalang armado sa labas ng simbahan sa bayan ng Datu Piang at isa pang sundalo sa palengke ng Datu Odin Sinsuat sa Maguindanao pa rin. (Mindanao Examiner)

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Philippine authorities capture bomber

COTABATO CITY - Combined security forces in Maguindanao arrested on Tuesday a suspected bomber belonging to jihadist Khilafah Islamiyah Movement (KIM) with a P1.3 million bounty on his head.
Supt. Noel Delos Reyes, police chief in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, identified the suspect as Abi Salman alias Sauman Usman and Nanam. Delos Reyes said the suspect is believed to be a nephew of most wanted Abdul Basit Usman, who has ties with Southeast Asian terror organization Jema’ah Islamiyah (JI), citing intelligence reports.
Salman sustained a wound in the right thigh when he resisted and tried to grab the M-16 rifle of one of the arresting operatives. He was brought to a hospital and was expected to be transferred to Manila on Wednesday.
The suspect was arrested based on a warrant issued by Judge Rogelio R. Narisma of Regional Trial Court Branch 23 in Kidapawan City on February 9, 2009 for multiple murder, multiple frustrated murder and attempted murder.
Operatives from the Philippine National Police (PNP) Intelligence Group, PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group, Army’s 45th Infantry Battalion and Maguindanao Police Provincial Office took part in the operation.
According to intelligence community, the suspect is a member of KIM and JI. He also joined the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. 
KIM also known as Khilafah Islamiyah Mindanao-Black Flag Movement is striving for an establishment of an Islamic caliphate in the country and is linked to bombings in North and Central Mindanao. The KIM and BIFF along with Abu Sayyaf and Basit Usman’s group have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State that had established an Islamic caliphate or Khilafah Islamiyah in Iraq and Syria.
Three months ago, the same lead group who arrested Salman, also successfully seized suspected KIM member Saad Giad, who is connected with Al-Khobar Group and wanted for string of kidnapping cases in Central Mindanao. (Moh Saaduddin)

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Justice For Maguindanao Massacre Victims; 59 Months Had Passed!

It is 59 months now since the Maguindanao massacre where at least 32 journalists were among 57 people brutally murdered.

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Military will not relent in anti-Sayyaf campaign

ZAMBOANGA CITY - The Philippine military will not relent in its operation against the Abu Sayyaf group in the southern region as security forces continue tracking down militants who are still holding over a dozen foreign and Filipino hostages.

President Benigno Aquino has ordered fresh offensive against the Abu Sayyaf following the safe release of two German hostages Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and Henrike Diesen, 55, who were kidnapped at sea off Palawan province on April 25.

Aquino said the government is carrying out a two-pronged approach in dealing with the Abu Sayyaf. "The government is using military power to crush the rebel group but is also exerting efforts to develop Mindanao. The military and the police are implementing security measures to combat the Abu Sayyaf," he said.

He declined to give details of the ongoing operations, but said the public will see "very significant accomplishments as far as suppressing the Abu Sayyaf is concerned."

He said while military operations are being carried out, the government is also undertaking peace initiatives in Mindanao. "Even before we signed the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front), we have been trying to show the people of the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) the benefits of peace," Aquino said.

For instance, Aquino said there are more than 700,000 new beneficiaries in the government health system and that the government's Sajahatra (peace) program is transitioning into a formal institution to give the people livelihood skills so they could participate in the development of Mindanao.

He further said that the Department of Trade and Industry has set up markets for the mangosteen and lanzones produce of Sulu, hoping this would spur economic activity not only in the province, but also in Basilan and Tawi-Tawi as well.

"We will try to change the status quo to get them to buy into the system and be partners in development rather than people who stifle the development activities in the area," Aquino said. (Mindanao Examiner)

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Aquino renews commitment to stop media killings

 President Benigno Aquino during the FOCAP forum held at the Marco Polo Hotel in Pasig City. (Photo by Michael Rey Baniquet)


MANILA - President Benigno Aquino again said his administration will continue to work to stop attacks on members of the press until this number reaches zero.

Speaking to members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, Aquino  said things have changed since the martial law years, as the country has returned to democratic rule. "We no longer live in a country where the media is muzzled, or where the government tries to impose its will on journalists," he said.

He said his administration has been in active pursuit of all those who have committed extralegal killings, including those involving media, and the public can already see the effects of the government’s efforts.

"We have made high-profile arrests, recently, most prominently that of retired (army) Major General Jovito Palparan for alleged violations of human rights," Aquino said.

He said there is also a significant reduction of recorded or validated extralegal killings, from a total of 168 during the Arroyo government to 42 in the four years of the present administration.

"Indeed, one could consider this as progress, but make no mistake (because) our administration will not be content until this number reaches zero," he said.

Aquino, in turn, requested the press to protect the truth. "As we continue our efforts to bring to justice all those who have resorted to violence or intimidation to skew or hide the truth, my only request is that the media fulfill its obligation of protecting the truth as well," he said.

He also expressed hope that in making their news reports, the press would exert more effort in defining the problem and describing the situation accurately. "If there was a crime committed, for instance, then media men must be clear about the facts, and the motivations of the culprits to solve the problem," he said.

He also acknowledged that the media are part and parcel of society, and press people must always tell the truth. "That role also means accurately representing the national condition by striking a healthy balance between the positive and the negative," he said.

Aquino also proposed to the members of the press a paradigm shift, saying they could continue criticizing the government but must provide the people uplifting news as well.

"Back then, media taking an adversarial role to government was a symbol of bravery, social responsibility. It was a badge of honor, and rightfully so," he said.

He, however, observed that despite the return of democracy and freedom of the press in the country, some veteran journalists have maintained their jaundiced eyes towards government.

Aquino did not name these journalists, but he said this attitude is no longer compatible with the times, noting that while it is incumbent on the press to tell the truth, it also needs to strike a healthy balance between the positive and the negative news.

"Negativism has driven some members of our media for far too long, and it might one day convince our people that a disproportionate amount of national events are negative; that all is lost and it is foolish to hope," he said.

"By all means, criticize; dialogue has, in many cases, helped accelerate our nation’s development. My only suggestion is for you to make room in your reports for hope. After all, it is also one of the tasks of media to inspire our countrymen with uplifting news."

Aquino said there is no shortage of positive and inspiring news in the country, citing the Mindanao peace process and the performance of the economy as examples.

"Rest assured, the government will do everything in its power to produce even more of these developments to report," he said, appealing to the media to give these stories "their time in the sun."

"Even as you retain a sharp critical eye… still look to inspire and encourage our people along the path to progress," he said. (Mindanao Examiner)

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U.S. Marine in transgender slay detained in Camp Aguinaldo

A Philippine military photo shows AFP Chief of Staff General Gregorio Pio P Catapang, Jr., giving orders to his staff officers in Camp Aguinaldo headquarters.

MANILA – A US marine accused in the killing of a Filipino transgender has been transferred Wednesday to a detention facility inside the main headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, of the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina is being suspected of killing the 26-year old Jeffrey Laude inside Celzone Lodge on October 11.

Laude's body was found inside the bathroom with his head slumped in the toilet bowl and believed to have been strangled to death.

President Benigno Aquino III said Pemberton will undergo a preliminary investigation and will not be accorded special treatment.

“He is not being treated with kid gloves and the Americans - may I reiterate - are conforming to the treaty wherein they have to make this person and others available for both the investigative and the judicial processes that are forthcoming,” Aquino said.

The Philippine military said Pemberton remains in the custody of the U.S. as written in the Visiting Forces Agreement. Local authorities and the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service are jointly investigating the killing.

“The AFP merely provides a detention facility as agreed by both U.S. and Philippine government. Also, the AFP provides security augmentation at the facility. He will stay at this facility while the preliminary investigation is ongoing,” said AFP Chief of Staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang, Jr.

Pemberton, who is part of the U.S. contingent holding a joint military exercises in the Philippines, is being guarded inside a refrigerated bulk container.

Herminio Coloma, a government spokesman, said Manila and Washington will follow the provisions of the VFA in seeking justice for Laude’s murder. The VFA contains specific provisions on the legal processes to ensure that justice will prevail, he said.

Coloma cited Article 5 of the VFA on criminal jurisdiction that the “Philippine authorities shall have jurisdiction over United States personnel with respect to offenses committed within the Philippines and punishable under the law of the Philippines.”

He said Article 5, Paragraph 6 also states that the “custody of any United States personnel over whom the Philippines is to exercise jurisdiction shall immediately reside with United States military authorities, if they so request, from the commission of the offense until completion of all judicial proceedings.”

The U.S. Embassy said: “The United States will continue to fully cooperate with Philippine law enforcement authorities in every aspect of the investigation.” (Mindanao Examiner)

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Philippines wants head of Malaysia 'Ponzi King' Manuel Amalilio

Manuel Amalilio

PAGADIAN CITY – Manila and Kuala Lumpur is in a tug-of-war over a Malaysian fugitive who is wanted in the Philippines for large scale swindling and estafa.

Scam suspect Manuel Amalilio was arrested in 2013 in Kota Kinabalu in Sabah for using falsified passport after fleeing from the Philippines following the collapse of his company Aman Futures.

Amalilio, who goes by his other name Moh Kamal Sa'aid, was arrested after some of his Filipino victims caught up with him in Kota Kinabalu where he was trying to negotiate with them to pay back their investments.  He was recently released from jail and Malaysia said it will not hand over the fugitive to Philippine authorities because both countries have no extradition treaty.

Amalilio introduced himself in Mindanao as a Malaysian businessman who was into stock trading and money markets and is being accused as behind the P12-billion Ponzi scheme in Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur province and other parts of the Metro Manila. He operated in Mindanao with his Filipino accomplices who were also arrested and facing criminal charges.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said they will try to convince Malaysia to hand over Amalilio so he can be tried in the Philippines.

De Lima had previously sent a team of National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents in Sabah to bring Amalilio back to the Philippines to face criminal charges, but Malaysia refused to hand over the fugitive.

One of his victims in Pagadian, Jerome Luega, said the scam duped thousands of people and affected the local economy. “Many people were affected by this scam. It destroyed the lives of many people who were victimized by Amalilio's scam. We like to see him jailed here in Pagadian so can stand trial and pay his crimes.”

“We know that there is no way we can get back our investments, but to see Amalilio in jail gives us a sense of justice,” Jerome Luega, whose family invested in Aman Futures, told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Investors said they put so much money into the trade after its Amalilio promised to pay them as much as 50% profit in just two weeks.

The investment trading began in February 2012 in Pagadian City and news of its high-yield, high-profit spread like wildfire and attracted even street hawkers and tricycle drivers who poured their hard-earned savings into what they believed was an overseas stock and money trading.

During the first weeks of its operation, investors were paid at least 31% and profits increased to 50% in the succeeding weeks – luring not only ordinary citizens, but politicians as well.

The Department of Trade said the people behind the investment trading were able to secure a permit for a business name and that succeeding permits carried various names of owners.

The Securities and Exchange Commission had issued a public warning about the Ponzi scheme, but many investors simply ignored this after being told by the company that they would be paid on time. The Mindanao Examiner was the first to break the news about the scam after some investors complained that they failed to get back their capital.

The scheme is named after Charles Ponzi, who became notorious for using the technique in 1920. His operation took in so much money that it was the first to become known throughout the United States. Ponzi's original scheme was based on the arbitrage of international reply coupons for postage stamps; however, he soon diverted investors' money to make payments to earlier investors and himself.

It was also the same scheme that American stock broker and investment advisor Bernard Lawrence Madoff – who was arrested in December 2008 - used to lure thousands of clients to invest in his scam. As much as $65 million dollars were believed lost to Madoff’s scam. (Mindanao Examiner)

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Honest cabbie praised

CEBU CITY – A 40-year old cabbie earned praises and accolades after he returned a baggage left behind by his passengers in Cebu City.

Loreto Anthony Zapatalo, who works for the Yudaima Taxi, said three passengers took his cab at the Cebu International Airport in Mactan town and disembarked in the village of Lataban in Liloan town.

The cabbie, a resident of the village of Sambag, said he only discovered the baggage - which was at the car’s compartment - while cleaning the vehicle at the taxi depot. He said he was more worried about the owners of the baggage because he knew how important it was for them.

He said the baggage consisted of a large trolley bag and several doll houses. “Ako ning gi turned-over sa among garahean kay basin naay mangita ani,” he said.

Zapatalo said he decided to turn over the baggage to the Cebu City Public Information Office and sought assistance so the owner can claim them.

The Cebu City Public Information Office said it found a name and an address on the bag and contacted the village officials in Lataban so they can help find the owner of the baggage. And it was only recently that the owner, Mischelle Lusterious, finally claimed the baggage.

The 32-year old woman, who presented her identification cards and passport to prove her ownership of the baggage, has praised the cabbie’s honesty and all those who helped in locating her. Lusterious said the bag contains her personal belongings and some documents.

Zapatalo, a father of three, said he was elated that the owner finally claimed the baggage. “Naa man koy anak ug gipadako mi nga tarong, maong ako ning e-uli kay dili man ni ako, dalhon pod ni sa akong konsensya kung dili nako mauli,” he said.

It was not the first time that the cabbie has returned items left behind by his passengers and over a period of 10 years, Zapatalo returned various valuable things from cell phones to laptop computers to their owners. (Greggy Jiggs Senados)

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Titulo sa luna sa 103 ka mga kabus nga pamilya

CEBU CITY - Mokabat sa 103 ka mga molupyo sa dakbayan sa Sugbo ang nakadawat og titulo sa luna nga ilang gipuy-an sa dugay'ng panahon human gipang-apod apod kini sa pagpangulo ni Mayor Michael Rama diha sa ganghaan sa City Hall Legislative Building sa Plaza Sugbo.

Kabahin sa nakadawat sa ilang Original Certificate of Title mao ang mga residente sa Barangay Tinago nga may 16 ka mga benepisyaryo ug Barangay Duljo Fatima nga aduna usab kiniy 16 nga pulos pinaagi sa Residential Free Patent program.

Samtang nakadawat usab sa ilang Transfer Certificate of Titles ang 17 ka molupyo sa Barangays Kasambagan, ingun man ang 34 ka mga residente sa Barangay Bulacao og kini pinaagi sa socialized housing program nga pinaagi sa Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor.

Nakadawat usab ang19 ka mga residente gikan sa Barangay Pasil ug laing tulo gikan sa Barangay Mambaling nga mga benepisyaryo sa slum improvement and resettlement program.

Gipadayag sa pangulo sa Land Management Council nga si Atty. Jade Ponce nga ang maong pagpang-apod apod sa titulo kabahin kini sa pagtuman sa kamanduan sa mayor ubos sa "land to the landless" program nga manghatag og usa ka libo ka titulo karung tuiga ngadto sa mga kabus nga pamilya nga dugay nang nagpuyo sa mga luna nga gipanag-iya sa gobyerno kun public land.

Gibutyag ni Ponce nga aduna pay laing kapin sa 200 ka mga applications ang kasamtangang gi proceso diha sa Department of Environment and Natural Resources ug sa Register of Deeds kinsa mao usab ang partner sa dakbayan sa pagpatuman sa maong programa.

Malaumon si Ponce nga makuha ra ang orden sa mayor nga usa ka libo ka titulo kun walay masugatang mga kakulian sa proseso hilabi na sa mga rekisito niini.

Nidugang si Ponce nga mag-agad usab ang LMC sa kooperasyon sa mga aplikante hilabi na pagbayad sa mga regulatory fees niini sa mga ahensiya ug ubang mga rekisitong gipangayo sama sa approved plan sa maong mga luna.

Nasayran nga nakapang-apod apod na ang dakbayan og 62 ka susamang mga titulo niadtong Pebrero sayo ning tuiga. (Cebu Examiner, Elite)

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