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Archive for August 14th, 2008

Esperon: Arroyo broached federalism as early as May

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 20:01:00 08/14/2008

MANILA, Philippines — As early as May, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo broached the idea of rewriting the Constitution to allow a shift to a federal form of government to “accommodate” peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), her peace adviser said Thursday.

Arroyo made the proposal in a letter to Malaysian Prime Minister Abudllah Badawi last May 8, in which she asked about the status of the negotiations between the government and the MILF, which Malaysia is brokering, Secretary Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said.

“In effect, the President therefore was contemplating that a federal set-up of government can rightfully accommodate the MOA-AD [memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain],” Esperon told reporters in Makati City.

The MOA-AD, if signed, would pave the way for the expansion of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao into the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE). The Supreme Court has issued a temporary restraining order against the signing of the agreement.

However, Arroyo was firm that the Philippines would not grant independence to the MILF, Esperon said.

“Granting independence to [the] Bangsamoro is not and was never the intent of the GRP [Government of the Republic of the Philippines]-MILF talks,” he quoted Arroyo as telling the Malaysian premier.

Esperon said the establishment of the BJE would not be possible without amending the Charter since some provisions, including the sharing of profits from natural resources, needs such amendments.

“I don’t think so, no,” he said, when asked if the BJE could be set up without Charter change.

Esperon also shrugged off criticism that Charter change to allow the BJE’s creation is part of a plan to extend Arroyo’s term beyond 2010.

He said there would not be enough time to work out a term extension since the earliest projected time for a peace agreement with the MILF is in November 2009, six months before the May 2010 elections.

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Written by joelguinto

Thu+00:002008-08-14T12:23:35+00:00+00:0008b+00:00Thu, 14 Aug 2008 12:23:35 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm08

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Militiaman hurt in clash with MILF in Sultan Kudarat

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 19:57:00 08/14/2008

MANILA, Philippines — A militiaman was wounded in an encounter between militia forces and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels in the southern province of Sultan Kudarat on Thursday, a regional military spokesman said.

The encounter started at around 11:45 a.m. when MILF fighters under Commander Boyet Macargas shot and wounded militiaman Jimuet Bachiller in Sangay village, Kalamansig town, Major Armand Rico, spokesman of the Eastern Mindanao Command said.

Police were dispatched to the scene, Rico said in a text message.

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Written by joelguinto

Thu+00:002008-08-14T12:21:59+00:00+00:0008b+00:00Thu, 14 Aug 2008 12:21:59 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm08

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Alleged bomb carrier wounded in premature explosion

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 17:14:00 08/14/2008

MANILA, Philippines — An improvised bomb exploded, apparently prematurely, at a public market in M’lang town, North Cotabato province on Thursday afternoon, wounding only the person who carried it, a regional military spokesman said.

Suspect Norodin Alilaya was wounded on the hand and taken into police custody, said Major Armand Rico, spokesman of the Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command.

Rico said it was not clear if the suspect belongs to any group.

Earlier Thursday, authorities defused an improvised bomb at the garbage collection area of a bus and jeepney terminal in Kidapawan City in the same province.

Rico said authorities were checking if the two incidents were related to the military operations that dislodged 500 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters from 15 villages in North Cotabato.

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Written by joelguinto

Thu+00:002008-08-14T12:21:19+00:00+00:0008b+00:00Thu, 14 Aug 2008 12:21:19 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm08

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‘MILF incursion, not federalism, behind N Cotabato clashes’

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 14:45:00 08/14/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The military shrugged off allegations by the political opposition that troops were baited into the recent hostilities in North Cotabato to highlight President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s push for a shift to a federal system of government.

“I do not want to dwell on politics, but let me just say [that] the incident [in North Cotabato] was a result of the incursions of this group under Umbra Kato,” Brigadier General Jorge Segovia, acting chief of the Armed Forces command center, said Thursday.

“I don’t think we have anything to do with the issue of federalism,” he said.

Segovia added in jest: “I don’t think Umbra Kato has any idea what the Cha-cha [charter change] is all about.”

Umbra Kato is the commander of the 105th Base Command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), who led some 500 insurgents in an over two-week-long occupation of 15 villages in five towns in North Cotabato.

The North Cotabato fighting broke out after the Supreme Court last week issued a temporary restraining order against the signing of a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) between the government and MILF that would have paved the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

The government says the MOA-AD would clear one of the last obstacles to a peace agreement with the secessionist organization. It also says that Charter change is necessary to create the BJE, which is seen as a federal state.

But groups critical of the administration have accused Malacañang of pushing for a settlement with the MILF to pave the way for constitutional reforms to extend President Macapagal-Arroyo’s term beyond 2010.

Kato and his men withdrew from the province after three days of air strikes and ground fire, security officials announced on Wednesday.

Segovia said there were no reported encounters in North Cotabato on Thursday.

After the once occupied villages are cleared of landmines and explosives left behind by the rebels, he said the military would help in rehabilitation efforts for returning residents. The clashes drove an estimated 160,000 people from their homes, prompting local and international relief agencies to warn of a humanitarian crisis.

“The next task would be to support the RDCC [Regional Disaster Coordinating Council] in the handling of the IDP [internally displaced persons],” Segovia said. “The relief and rehabilitation process might take longer than the security operations.”

Segovia could not immediately give an estimate of the damage caused by the offensives.

On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said half of the 160,000 people displaced by the fighting had started returning to their homes. The military said the fighting left two soldiers dead and 12 others wounded, while intelligence estimates place MILF casualties at 31 dead.

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Written by joelguinto

Thu+00:002008-08-14T12:20:26+00:00+00:0008b+00:00Thu, 14 Aug 2008 12:20:26 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm08

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Let soldiers ‘die with dignity,’ military tells media

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 13:40:00 08/14/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Soldiers in the battlefield should be allowed to “die with dignity,” the military said on Thursday, as it cried foul over the airing of video footage showing the dying hours of a Marine soldier who was fatally wounded in an encounter with Moro rebels in Basilan province earlier this week.

“I think we should give it to our soldiers to die with dignity,” said Brigadier General Jorge Segovia, acting chief of the Armed Forces command center.

“We would like to remember our soldiers for their heroism, not their suffering,” Segovia said, referring to footage Footage aired on GMA Television showed Abeto grimacing in pain after he was wounded in the head by shrapnel from a mortar shell in Tipo-Tipo town last Monday.

“Once upon a time I was a soldier and I wouldn’t want it to happen to me or to anyone,” Segovia said.

Navy spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Edgard Arevalo called on media to “police” their ranks to avoid offending the sensitivities of their audience, and their subjects.

Arevalo acknowledged that GMA could have aired the footage because of the “demands of the job” or maybe because the incident was a “human interest story.”

But nonetheless, he said: “We would just like to appeal for sensitivity because at times even if the nature of our jobs dictate…we have to temper it in order to guard some sensitivities or some feelings that may be hurt.”

Asked if the incident would prompt the military to lay down guidelines for covering conflict areas, Arevalo said: “I think the position of the AFP here is for the members of the media to police [their] own ranks…maybe to guard each other’s coverage, maybe to caution each other if one is going out of bounds.”

Arevalo stopped short of saying what can and can’t be caught on video, when pressed by reporters.

“I think that is not up for me to say, maybe the members of the media can talk among themselves,” he said.

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Written by joelguinto

Thu+00:002008-08-14T12:19:12+00:00+00:0008b+00:00Thu, 14 Aug 2008 12:19:12 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm08

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Bomb found, detonated in transport terminal in Kidapawan

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 09:51:00 08/14/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) An improvised bomb was found at a bus and jeepney terminal in the southern city of Kidapawan at dawn Thursday, a regional military spokesman said.

The explosive, enclosed in a bag at the terminal’s garbage collection area, was composed of two kilograms of TNT, a 60-millimeter mortar, a blasting cap, a nine-volt battery, one kilogram of concrete nails, and a Nokia 3210 cellphone as triggering mechanism, said Major Armand Rico, spokesman of the Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom).

With the 60-millimeter mortar, the bomb, if detonated, would have resulted in a “strong” explosion, he said.

Troops from the military’s Task Force North Cotabato responded after being alerted of the unattended bag, Rico told reporters in a text message.

“It can explode, it is a complete bomb. This is believed to be a desperate move by renegade MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) as retaliation,” Rico said.

He was referring to military offensives that drove away some 500 MILF guerillas that occupied 15 villages in five towns in North Cotabato province.

With a report from Jeffrey Tupas, Inquirer

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Written by joelguinto

Thu+00:002008-08-14T12:18:00+00:00+00:0008b+00:00Thu, 14 Aug 2008 12:18:00 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm08

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