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Cotabato City News March 2012

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Cotabato City Realty

Philippine News


Socksargen gets P21M agri aid

by John Unson

COTABATO CITY, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture will distribute P21-million worth of farm machineries to various peasant groups in Region 12 to improve the area’s agricultural productivity.

Amalia Jayag-Datukan, regional director of the Department of Agriculture in Region 12, said 126 farmers will benefit from the equipment assistance package.

The grant will include 37 units of rice threshers worth P3. 58 million; 112 units of hand tractors worth P11.76 million;and five for-wheel-drive farm tractors valued at PhP3.23 million.

The project, according to Datukan, is part of the Agri Pinoy Rice Program’s Mechanization that seeks to “mechanize” farming in the country.

Datukan said the Department of Agriculture will also grant P2.4-million worth of additional machineries to five outstanding agricultural irrigators associations in the South Cotabato -Sultan Kudarat-Sarangani-Gen.Santos (Socksargen) area.

North Cotabato will have 33 hand tractors, 11 rice threshers and two tractors. Sultan Kudarat will have 34 units of hand tractors, 10 rice threshers and two tractors for Sultan Kudarat.

Thirtythree hand tractors, 11 rice threshers and one tractor will be given to various organized peasant groups in South Cotabato, while Sarangani will be given nine hand tractors and four rice threshers. GenSan will have two units of hand tractors and ine rice thresher, while Cotabato City will get one hand tractor.

"The use of these farm machineries will be monitored," Datukan said.

Probe on MILF-MNLF clash in North Cotabato starts

by John Unson

COTABATO CITY, Philippines – The Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) started its investigation on the spate hostilities between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in North Cotabato.

The IMT, comprised of soldiers and policemen from Malaysia, Brunei, and Libya, and non-uniformed conflict resolution experts from Japan, Norway and the European Union, has been helping enforce the government-MILF ceasefire since late 2003.

Representatives of the IMT, led by Brig. Gen. Zulkifli Muhammad Nur, toured in Barangay Tonganon in Carmen town, where forces of the MILF led by Commander Tarzan of the MILF and Commander Teo of the figured in running firefights early this week, displacing over 300 families.

The two groups are squabbling for control of a contested 50-hectare fertile plain at the western part of Tonganon, a dispute that already exacted some 20 fatalities from both sides.

The IMT found out that more than 20 houses of local farmers were razed as the two groups pounded each other’s position with shoulder-fire 40 MM grenades and B-40 anti-tank rockets.

Major Gen. Ariel Bernardo, chairman of the government’s ceasefire committee, said he and his counterpart in the MILF, Said Sheik, have sent emissaries to convince the feuding commanders to reposition their respective groups away from Barangay Tonganon to enable evacuees to return to their homes.

North Cotabato farmers finish Farmers' Field School

by (PNA)


COTABATO CITY, March 28 (PNA) - At least 35 rice farmers in a remote yet agriculturally productive village in the town of M’lang, North Cotabato have completed the season-long Farmer’s Field School (FFS) on Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

As a proof they have finished studies, a graduation ceremony was held at the New Barbaza Elementary School Conference Hall in Barangay New Barbaza Monday where various guest speakers urged the graduates to share their knowledge on IPM with their neighbors and to their respective communities.

The graduation rites was attended by Mlang Mayor Joselito Pinol.

"You should share the learning that you have obtained from the four-month FFS to other farmers. Marahil, ang iba hindi nakarating kasi busy sa kanilang mga sakahan (May be some did not make it in today's graduation because they were busy farming),” Pinol said.

He, however, challenged the graduates to continue on improving the farming systems in the locality.

“Farmers should also be scientists who keep on creating innovations and new practices on agriculture,” he added.

Speaking in the same rites, regional IPM coordinator Diosdado Miro stressed the significance of the farmer’s involvement on FFS where they can learn essential things thereby enhancing the traditional agricultural practices.

“This Farmer’s Field School does not only focus on pest management but your agricultural technicians included trainings on vermi compost production, mushroom culture and African hito raising,” said Miro.

Miro said through IPM, the FFS graduates were taught of determining the ‘kaibigang peste’(friendly pests) from harmful pests. Some useful insects (kaibigang peste) include dragonfly, lady bug, cricket, earwig and orb spider.

Yellow stem borer, black bug, brown planthopper and green leafhopper are some of the harmful rice insects.

In this FFS, diversified farming was also introduced to the participants where they have utilized their vacant lots to planting vegetable and other backyard plants as well as raising freshwater fishes like catfish.

Noemi Nicolas, Mlang municipal agriculture officer, recommended poultry and cattle raising to the barangay for them to have complete food sources that would soon be available in the community.

“For you to properly budget your income, the LGU will conduct seminar on this to teach you how to have savings out of your profits,” Pinol said.

The farmer-graduates were very grateful to the M’lang LGU, Municipal Agriculture Office (MAO), Provincial Agriculture Office (PAO) and most especially to the Department of Agriculture Regional Field Office 12 headed by Regional Executive Director Amalia Jayag-Datukan.

Datukan said more farmers will benefit in the year-long program of DA-12.

Home-made bomb found prior to CCSPC graduation rites

by (PNA)


COTABATO CITY, March 27 (PNA) - Graduation rites at the government-run Cotabato City State Polytechnic College (CCSPC) went on smoothly Tuesday morning despite the discovery of a homemade bomb at the back section of its gymnasium where the activity was to take place.

Alert military and police and authorities dismantled the bomb around 7:30 a.m. just as the baccalaureate mass and graduation rites for the college level was about to start.

“There was just a slight delay in the (graduation) activity but it went on well afterwards,” CCSPC president Dr. Dammang Bantala said.

Five bombing incidents occurred in the city since January this year, most of which took place at the vicinity of Shariff Kabunsuan Complex, the provisional seat of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) located in this city.

During the period, members of the Explosive and Detection Ordnance (EOD)Unit have thwarted the same number of bombing attempts at various parts of the city as carried out by still unknown saboteurs.

ARMM caretaker Governor Mujiv Hataman, who took over the leadership of the region late last year to implement political and economic reforms for the next 15 months as directed by President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino lll, remains unfazed by the series of bombing incidents, citing he has yet to accomplish in full his assigned task.

Supt. Danny Reyes, city police director, said the 200-strong local police force remained in full alert following the CCSPC incident.

Jumpstarting the ARMM economy

by Cielito F. Habito

Philippine Daily Inqu

Movers and shakers in the economy of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) are gathering today in Cotabato City to bring together their collective experience and wisdom and forge an agenda to invigorate the ARMM economy. Interim Regional Gov. Mujiv Hataman saw it fit to have this ARMM Economic Summit within his first 100 days in office, as he faces the unenviable challenge of bringing this erstwhile basket case of a regional economy into a path of inclusive growth and economic dynamism. An economically dynamic ARMM, for many of us who have witnessed the region sink deeper into poverty over the past decade, almost sounds like an oxymoron. Consider this: Even though the four poorest provinces in the country are outside of ARMM (namely, Zamboanga del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Eastern Samar), the fifth poorest, Maguindanao, along with the four other ARMM provinces of Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, saw their poverty rates rise faster than those of the rest of the country within the past decade (yes, poverty went up nationwide between 2003 and 2009). Worst among them was Lanao del Sur, whose recorded poverty rate nearly tripled from 13.7 percent in 2003 to 36.8 percent in 2009. And yet, the region has so much in innate attributes that would normally be magnets for investment, even more than other parts of Mindanao, let alone the rest of the country. Like the rest of Mindanao, ARMM has excellent agro-climatic conditions conducive to production of a wide range of agricultural crops. Soils are so fertile that yields of certain crops, like cassava, white corn and coffee are superior to those attained elsewhere. Unlike neighboring regions whose lands are now extensively farmed, there remain large tracts of land available for farming in ARMM. Labor costs are also lower: wages are 20 percent less than in Davao, 26 percent less than in Central Luzon, and 43 percent less than in Metro Manila. In spite of these seeming advantages, ARMM has not only failed to attract the investments it needs to bring more jobs and incomes to its people; it has also sunk into deeper poverty. How, then, do we reverse this slide? What fixes could the summit participants possibly offer Hataman and his officials to jumpstart the economy? It is useful to note that there are a number of companies that have dared to invest in ARMM and have actually done well. La Frutera (a banana export venture in Datu Paglas, Maguindanao, by multinational firm Unifrutti) and Agumil (a Malaysian-owned palm oil processing company in Buluan, Maguindanao) have shown the way. Matling Industrial and Commercial Corp. has been processing cassava into flour in Malabang, Lanao del Sur, since 1928 and is the largest cassava processor in Mindanao. Lamsan Inc. has been manufacturing cornstarch and other products from corn in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, for four decades now. Philippine Trade Center Inc. is another cornstarch manufacturer in the same municipality. EA Trilink Corp. registered a P1.5 billion investment in ARMM last year to upgrade the region’s information and communications technology capabilities to world standards. BJ Coconut Oil Mill in Jolo was the only coconut oil processor in ARMM until the world market slump forced its temporary closure in 2009. These various companies’ first-hand experiences should provide useful lessons for would-be ARMM investors, and their executives who are attending today’s summit are well placed to advise the regional government on how to make the investment environment more attractive, especially to newcomers. To be sure, there are certain basic impediments that must be overcome if ARMM is to see greater economic activity in the years ahead. For one, the whole of Mindanao is again experiencing power shortages leading to rotating outages of two to four hours. Such power inadequacies have made it worthwhile for Matling, Lamsan and Philippine Trade Center to invest in their own biomass power plants to provide for their requirements—a creative and effective solution given that their businesses, by nature, generate substantial biomass waste that is now put to good use. This suggests that investments in similar agro-processing facilities need not wait for the long-term solutions to Mindanao’s power problems to be put in place. They may actually find it economic to bring their own power with them (as had also been done by BJ Coconut Oil Mill in Sulu). Inadequate transport and logistics facilities likewise get in the way of greater economic activity in ARMM. The region has the lowest road density in the country, and I find it surprising that a number of obvious vital road links from production areas to market centers and ports have remained unattended to, for one reason or another. Polloc Port in Parang, Maguindanao, was built in 1978 and had been envisaged as the trading hub for Muslim Mindanao when it was devolved to ARMM in 1998. But access to the port remains difficult from some major production areas in Lanao del Sur and environs, due to non-completion of crucial road stretches leading to it. Hence, products are shipped out of Cagayan de Oro instead, even with much longer distances traveled inland. It is high time, then, that strategic road and other facilities with the potential to unleash commodity flows from ARMM production areas to domestic and international markets be identified and attended to with dispatch. More often than not, it is people running the farms and firms who know exactly where these choke points are. Those in government may yet learn a thing or two by listening to them in today’s economic summit.

GSIS, DepEd-ARMM ink pact to update records of ARMM workforce

by (PNA)


COTABATO CITY, March 25 (PNA) - Civil servants in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) have seen a light under the present ARMM leadership and hope to enjoy the benefits long overdue them from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

This, as the GSIS and signed on Thursday a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Education (DepEd-ARMM) to update the service records of more than 24,000 DepEd employees in the region.

For several years, DepEd-ARMM and other ARMM workers could hardly apply for loans and other benefits from the state-run insurance agency due to un-updated records.

“As the computation of retirement benefit and loans is based on the length of service, it is important to update and reconcile the records of our DepEd-ARMM members to ensure they will receive the correct level of benefits upon their retirement or when they apply for a loan,” said Robert Vergara, president and general manager.

Under the agreement, the GSIS and the DepEd-ARMM will jointly update the service records of active and separated teaching and non-teaching personnel of DepEd-ARMM in three months, which will basically entail the matching and validation of entries in the records of the DepEd-ARMM personnel.

Lawyer Jamar Kulayan, DepEd-ARMM regional secretary, said the MoU takes off from the 2005 Service Records Updating agreement between the GSIS and the DepEd-National to re-encode the service profiles of active and separated DepEd employees using the latter’s personnel service records.

This included 16,170 teaching and non-teaching personnel of the DepEd-ARMM.

The project, however was hampered by the low accomplishment in the submission of records.

“We appreciate the initiative of ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman to pursue this long-delayed project and finish it within the year,” Vergara said in a statement.

For his part, Hataman said he found out that hundreds of school teachers were deprived of the privileges because of uncorrected employment records.

"We are committed to work closely with the GSIS on this project… as ARMM governor, it is my obligation to ensure that the DepEd-ARMM personnel receive their right entitlements as GSIS members,” Hataman said.

The signing rite was witnessed by Daniel Lacson Jr., Chairman of the GSIS, Mario Aguja, GSIS Trustee and Chairman of the GSIS Task Force ARMM and the DepEd-ARMM regional secretary.

Government optimistic on peace talks

by Ali G. Macabalang

COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Despite difficulties teeming with fears for stalemate in the government peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the state panel remains “optimistic” that the thorny negotiations would move forward fruitfully. The two panels concluded their 26th round of formal exploratory talks in Malaysia on Wednesday, approving a request from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to sit as an observer in the talks and agreeing to meet again next month. Short of realizing an earlier expectation for the inking of a final peace pact this month, the just-ended talks saw the state panel offering anew its formula for “genuine autonomy” evolving from the current system of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the MILF camp countering with its clamor for a “sub-state” for the Bangsamoro. Government chief negotiator Marvic Leonen has admitted “tough” bargaining in the latest meeting, but aired the same optimism that the negotiations would move forward fruitfully. Leonen said there was “hard bargaining on the table” that appeared leading to a “stalemate in our ideas for transition as well as in our ideas of how to make permanent the solutions that work for our peoples.” But he pointed out he was “still guardedly optimistic on the progress” of the peace process. Batting for a focus on “what we can really get for our people, their communities and their future,” he urged the MILF to “take a step back with us… by examining the reasons why we insist on our various positions we can see ways forward.”

DAF-ARMM Vermicomposting Congress held in Cotabato

by (DED/PBC-PIA12 Cotabato City)

COTABATO CITY, Mar. 23 (PIA) -- Farmers from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) gathered in a congress to promote organic farming and strengthen agricultural production.

A total of 189 farmers, agriculture officials, workers and local executives from Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi gathered in the two-day Regional Vermicomposting Congress on March 19 to 20 in Cotabato City.

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF)-ARMM regional information division chief Dhigs Abdulla said the activity is part of strengthening agriculture production in the five provinces through organic farming through vermicast composting and rapid composting using the facilities including the shredders provided to farmers by the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Soils and Water Management (DA-BSWM).

Abdullah added, DAF-ARMM regional secretary Sangcula Tindick strongly urged the participants to fully utilize the facilities and machinery such as the shredder for the production of compost through the assistance of farm technicians not only to ensure increase harvest but also beneficial to the protection of the environment.

BSWM director Silverio Tejada, on the other hand, called on the farmers particularly the recipients of the 105 shredder machine and vermitea facility to strengthen practice of organic farming which would generate increased harvest at a much lower production cost while help restore soil fertility.

Tejada warned that unutilized and idle equipment and machinery will be awarded to other farmer-beneficiaries who are able and willing to use them in pursuit of the rice and food sufficiency program of the department under Republic Act No. 10068, also known as the Organic Act of the Philippines.

Meanwhile, ARMM executive secretary Atty. Anwar Malang expressed full support to the program as he stressed the importance and potential of organic rice, vegetable and other agricultural products in the local and world markets similar to halal food.

MGB-12 conducts lectures on geohazards in Central Mindanao, make geohazard maps available

by (PNA)


COTABATO CITY, March 22 (PNA) - Aware of the importance of right information to avoid calamities and disasters, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in Central Mindanao has conducted Wednesday a lecture on different kinds of geological hazards to local government officials in the region.

The orientation training was hosted by the Department of Interior and Local Government-12 in the implementation of Republic Act 10121, known as the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, and attended by about 50 mayors from different towns and cities in the region.

Dubbed as LGUs Orientation Briefing on Calamity Response Protocols and Geohazards Maps, the orientation was held in Koronadal City, according to Buagas Sulaik, DILG-12 regional director.

"There is a need for the local government leaders to be aware of the geological hazards present in their respective areas of responsibilities and to have the knowledge and skills in preparation of their own disaster risk reduction and management plan," Sulaik said.

Jaime Flores, MBG chief geologist, conducted the lecture. Flores presented to the LGUs the areas in Central Mindanao which are highly susceptible to flooding and landslide.

"Being aware of the geological hazards found in their area will minimize, if not to avoid the adverse impact of disaster, the loss of lives and damage to properties,' Flores said.

He said all village chairmen in the region will be provided with geohazards maps as their tools in the preparation of their own barangay disaster risk reduction and management plan.

Constancio Paye, MGB-12 regional director, said his office, to date, has completed the geohazard maps for the region in a 50,000 scale.

However, it continues to map the area by municipalities in preparation for the 10,000 scale map.

The maps are available at the MGB-12 office for easy access and reference to environmental planners, academe, researchers and other interested persons, Paye said.

1st Vermicomposting Congress held in ARMM

by John Unson

COTABATO CITY, March 21 (PNA) - The Department of Agriculture (DA) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) hosted the first ever Vermicomposting Congress here on Monday.

Spearheaded by Director Silveno Tejada of DA's Bureau of Soils and Water Management, the congress was supported by the DA-ARMM and ARMM acting Regional Governor Mujib Hataman, according to DAF-ARMM focal person Hadji Datungan Radzak.

The two-day activity was attended by at least 200 participants from the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, who are all advocates of organic farming.

Among the participants, according to Radzak, were farmers who were beneficiaries of shredder machine at Vermitea facility, local government unit (LGU) officials, municipal agricultural officers (MAO) and provincial agriculture officers.

During the Congress, local government executives took turns in expressing support to DA's flagship programs, including organic farming and transfer technology of vermicast composting and rapid composting.

DAF-ARMM Regional Secretary Sangkula Tindick told participants that organic farming benefits all and prevent the destruction of soil's productivity.

"Beside, organic farming is more productive than methods where chemicals are used because it damages soil's productivity," Tindick told farmer leaders.

Bureau of Soil and Water Management head Mercedes Fernando said the Congress aims to address the pressing issues faced by organic farmers and educate them how to transfer technology to other farmers in their respective communities so the whole farming area will become organic farming zone.

She said if one group of farmers use organic farming while the rest use the modern and environmentally destructive process, the productivity of the community will be affected. (PNA) FFC/NYP/EOF

ARMM workers march barefoot in Cotabato

by John Unson

COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Hundreds of government workers in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao marched barefoot inside the 32-hectare ARMM compound here to show support to the Southern peace process in an effort to reform the graft-ridden regional bureaucracy.

The event capped the culmination of the ARMM’s Bangsamoro “solidarity week,” a yearly event highlighting the grant of autonomy to Mindanao’s Muslim communities as a solution to the bloody secessionist rebellion waged from the 1970s to the late 1980s by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

For organizers, this year’s week of peace was peculiar since it was observed throughout the region at the backdrop of the regional government’s being under a caretaker administration.

President Aquino had tasked to introduce reforms in the long dysfunctional regional bureaucracy, perceived as synonymous with perennial large-scale embezzling of state funds, “ghost employees” and warlords relying on private armies to perpetuate political power.

Something new

“Marching barefoot for a cause inside the ARMM compound was an emotional experience for me. It was something the region’s rank and file personnel have not done since the region was established in 1990,” said FO2 Alipuddin Alibasa, a member of the region’s fire protection bureau.

Regional fire marshal Warlito Daus and newly-installed ARMM police director Mario Avenido have both been very vocal about the support of their respective units to the on-going peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Avenido’s first official directive to all units in the ARMM police after his assumption to office last month was for policemen to implement inexpensive, “indigenous” projects involving the communities they serve to complement President Aquino’s confidence-building in the area.

Employees of the ARMM’s health department told reporters they joined the march to show they also support the joint efforts of Malacanang and the region’s acting governor, Mujiv Hataman, to fix the political, administrative and fiscal problems in the region.

Hadji Nash Maulana, director of the ARMM’s Bureau of Public Information, said the march by employees of different line agencies and support entities under Hataman’s office was also to dramatize their appreciation of the sacrifices of thousands of Moro guerillas that perished in the MNLF’s struggle for self-governance in the 1970s.

“It was the blood, sweat and tears of those martyrs that catalyzed the creation of the autonomous region, which is unique for having its own executive and legislative branches that govern its regional affairs,” Maulana said.

Peaceful solutions

Ustadz Esmail Ebrahim, executive director of the Ulama Conference of the Philippines, a 2,000-member organization of Muslim clerics, said he did not hesitate to join the march for him to show his support to the government’s separate peace overtures with the MNLF and the MILF.

“We want the so-called Mindanao problem addressed through dialogues among stakeholders and the Philippine government and all of its facets, such as local government units, in Mindanao,” Ebrahim said.

Ebrahim said he and friends in the ARMM’s natural resources department willingly marched barefoot to take advantage of the event to show their rejection of any possible use of military solution to address the peculiar peace and security concerns in Moro communities.

The ARMM covers Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, which are both in Central Mindanao, the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan.

The MNLF has dozens of communities in the autonomous region now dubbed “peace zones” under its September 2, 1996 peace pact with government.

The MILF, on the other hand, has more than 50 “minor and major camps” in the area.

All government-acknowledged enclaves of the group are covered by the Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities crafted in Cagayan de Oro in July 1997 by rebel and government negotiators as security mechanism to prevent any outbreak of hostilities in potential flashpoint areas while the GPH-MILF talks are underway.

Cops hunting down suspects in Cotabato City hall grenade attack

by (PNA)


COTABATO CITY, March 19 (PNA) – Police have launched a manhunt against two men riding in tandem on a motorbike who lobbed a hand grenade inside the Cotabato City hall Sunday night.

Sr. Supt. Danny Reyes, city police director, said the suspects lobbed the hand grenade inside the City Hall, also known as Peoples Palace, shortly after 9 p.m. that left Danny Upam wounded.

Upam was one of the seven civil security officers detailed at the compound of the city hall when the grenade attack was carried out.

No one has claimed responsibility but the grenade explosion sent panic to residents nearby.

Reyes said police investigators are following up a lead that could identify the suspects and the motive of the attack.

At least 10 explosions have been reported by the police since January in the city but no one was arrested.

Aside from grenades, the suspects used improvised explosive device such as mortar rounds planted along roadside and government buildings, including those inside the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) compound.

Reyes said the attack could be part of destabilization by some sectors.

When asked if it has connected to previous bombing incidents in the city or the political heat involving local politicians, Reyes said, “these are included in on-going investigation.”

Cotabato City Mayor Japal Guiani and Cotabato City Vice Mayor Muslimin Sema are at odds over the ambush of the later which he blamed on the former.

The Department of Justice is now investigating the motive of the January 10 ambush of Sema which, according to police, was carried out by men identified with Mayor Guiani.

Both Guiani and Sema are related by blood.

Power Meeting

by Ali G. Macabalang

COTABATO CITY — The Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) is set to convene soon a meeting of key power industry players and stakeholders to address issues on rotating brownouts affecting several areas in Mindanao. In a statement Friday, MinDA Secretary Luwalhati Antonino said the Mindanao power problem needs both “quick and decisive” yet long-term solutions involving players in the generation, distribution and utilization chain.

“We are confronted with this problem in Mindanao on a recurring fashion and it’s time we deal with this quickly and decisively,” Antonino said.

HLURB OK’s Cotabato City land use plan


Vice President Jejomar Binay said the recently approved Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) of Cotabato City would help mitigate the effects of natural disasters caused by climate change.

“The amended CLUP of Cotabato City is expected to provide initial solutions to the perennial flooding in Cotabato City as the city identified and incorporated in the CLUP several projects that would mitigate the negative effects of climate change,” Binay said.

The Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board approved Cotabato City’s CLUP during the agency’s board meeting last month at the Coconut Palace.

Binay, who also chairs the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, presented the CLUP Certificate of Approval to Mayor Japal Guiani Jr.

The approval of the city’s land use plan was deferred last September 2011 following Binay’s instruction to incorporate disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation measures in the plan.

Last year, Tropical storm “Dodong,” compounded by the water lilies that clogged the river tributaries of Rio Grande de Mindanao, caused massive flooding in the city which displaced an estimated 25,375 families.

Binay said that since about half of the Cotabato City’s total land area is below sea level, the long-term solution to the city’s flood problem would need the cooperation of various agencies such as the Department of Public Works and Highways and other local government units in the area.

Cotabato City’s CLUP and Zoning Ordinance defined the land uses, regulations, development strategies, proposed programs and projects addressing social, economic, infrastructure and environmental concerns of the city incorporating provisions on Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction.

Bomb blast hits North Cotabato town

by John Unson

COTABATO CITY - Tension gripped Pikit town in North Cotabato, after suspected extortionists blasted an improvised explosive device in an equipment depot of a construction outfit Thursday night.

Police said there were no injuries from the blast, which damaged a backhoe. The blast, however, caused panic in surrounding villages in Pikit town.

Senior Superintendent Elias Dandan, Pikit town police chief, said two men were spotted suspiciously roaming around the depot of the private firm, which is rehabilitating stretches of a national highway traversing several barangays in the municipality, minutes before the explosion.

Dandan said the bomb was planted behind a multi-million backhoe, damaging its engine and high-pressure hydraulic lines connected to its excavator contraption.

Dandan said the depot, located in Panicupan area in Barangay Nalapaan, is not far from known enclaves of lawless gangs identified with the notorious Al-Khobar extortion syndicate.

Policemen and combatants of the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion, which has jurisdiction over Pikit and surrounding towns, are now in pursuit of the bombers, who last seen fleeing towards the Liguasan Marsh.

The bombing was the second attack on a construction firm in the first district of North Cotabato in just two weeks.

Two workers of the China Water and Electric Corporation, also engaged in the reconstruction of portions of the Cotabato-Davao Highway in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato, were injured when two men blasted an IED near the firm’s mechanized concrete shaver.

The management of the construction outfit, which has engineers from China and South Korea, received a letter from an anonymous sender demanding P5 million “protection money” prior to the attack.

Conversion of Cotabato City State Polytechnic College into university nearing approval this year

by (PNA)


COTABATO CITY, March 15 (PNA) - A bill seeking to elevate the status of Cotabato City State Polytechnic College here has been been approved on second reading at the House of Representatives Wednesday.

Rep. Bai Sandra Sema (1st district, Maguindanao and Cotabato City) said her bill has earned unanimous support from practically all the House members.

"I was so happy that the bill gained support from my colleagues, even those who belonged to the minority," Sema, a member of ruling Liberal Party, said.

House Bill (HB) 3636, which will rename the CCSPC to Cotabato State University, also aims to upgrade, through government interventions, the capabilities of the institution to provide affordable, but quality education to children of impoverished Muslim and Christian families, she said.

According to Sema, Congress approved HB 3636 on second reading, during deliberation on Wednesday.

Initially, Sema proposed HB 3636 but was substituted by the Committee on Higher Education (CHEd) with House Bill No. 5914 to incorporate the other policies of the government.

"I hope too that the bill will be approved on third reading before Congress takes a break on March 25," she said, adding that if not acted before the month-long break it will be the first in the legislative agenda when Congress resumes sessions after the recess.

“I am very optimistic the bill will be enacted into law. This legislation will usher in improvements in the quality of education in Maguindanao, in Cotabato City and in surrounding towns and provinces in Central Mindanao,” Sema added.

Sema said that the elevation of CCSPC into a state university augurs well with President Benigno S. Aquino III’s Southern Mindanao peace process, which seeks the socio-economic and political empowerment of Muslim communities in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The CCSPC has produced Muslim leaders, including Cotabato City Vice Mayor Muslimin Sema, husband of Rep. Sema, and Maguindanao second district Rep. Simeon Datumanong.

In addition, Sema said the House Committee on Health also recommended the approval of her bill which aims to convert the 10-bed hospital capacity of Dinaig Municipal Hospital into a 50-bed capacity district hospital.

Once approved, it will be named Datu Odin Sinsuat District Hospital with more doctors, nurses and other health providers and new equipment.

Sema said the hospital has been serving patients not only from Datu Odin but those from neighboring towns of Talayan, Guindulungan, Northern Kabuntalan and Kabuntalan Mother and the coastal town of Datu Blah Sinsuat.

DOST-12 remains ISO 9001:2008 compliant

by (DEDoguiles/PIA 12/BK Tagitican/DOST-12)

COTABATO CITY, March 14 (PIA) -- The regional office of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-12) passed anew with flying colors the reassessment audit for the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001:2008, a top official of the agency announced today.

Dr. Zenaida P. Hadji Raof-Laidan, DOST-12 director, said the regional office’s Quality Management System (QMS) remains compliant to the rigid ISO 9001:2008 standards.

The Certification International Philippines, Inc. (CIPI) recently conducted the surveillance audit on the DOST-12, which first acquired the ISO 9001:2008 certification four years ago.

“This is a validation of DOST-12’s continued implementation of the international QMS standard as an instrument to further enhance the office’s competitiveness and to meet the needs and expectations of the people,” Dr. Laidan said.

The audit also includes the DOST-12’s Provincial Science and Technology Centers, which are located in four key centers in the region.

Aurelio L. Ebita, CIPI lead auditor, noted that the organization continues to demonstrate a highly satisfactory implementation of quality management systems compliant to ISO 9001:2008 standards.

The surveillance audit covered DOST-12’s business processes such as the provision of scientific technology transfer services; S&T promotion and information dissemination; competence training and awareness; customer satisfaction; customer feedback internal audit, corrective/preventive action, and management review validation.

The first reassessment audit on the DOST 12’s QMS was conducted by CIPI last November 10-11, during its 3rd year of acquisition of the prestigious certification.

ISO 9001:2008 specifies requirements for a QMS where an organization needs to demonstrate its ability to consistently provide product and services that meet customer and applicable regulatory and statutory satisfaction.

Moreover, it aims to continually improve client satisfaction through the effective application of the system, including processes for continual improvement.

CIPI is one of the best ISO 9001:2008 standard certifiers, both in the country and abroad, duly accredited by the Philippine Accreditation Board (PAB) and the United Kingdom Accreditation System (UKAS).

Hataman to clean voters’ record before 2013 polls


COTABATO City--Acting Regional Governor Mujib Hataman has assured the people of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) on cleansing the voters' registration record ahead of the 2013 regional elections. Hataman, in a statement, said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has been holding continuing registration of new voters in the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan using the biometrics voters registration machine. "Gone are the days where one registrant in one area could still register in another area making him or her vote more than once during election," Hataman said.

List up has been on going since Monday last week and now entering on its second week with the poll body cleansing multiple registrants and fl ying voters. In purging the voters' list, the poll body discovered more than 200,000 multiple registrants in all fi ve provinces. Aside from multiple registrants, the poll body also found out a sizable number of unqualified or underage voters who managed to cast their votes in the last local balloting.

Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes, in a visit here two weeks ago, has said that the poll body needs more than P800,000 for cleansing the voters' records in the ARMM, an action Gov. Hataman has recommended as part of its reform agenda being implemented in the region. "I am laying down the foundation of a reformed Armm, cleansing of voters' records is one of them," he said, adding that the next elected governor will have a "new and reformed Armm" to serve as duly elected regional executive.

On top of ensuring a credible election next year, Hataman also prioritized the preservation of the region's forests, clean up the Department of Education from ghost teachers, ghost Schools and ghost pupils. Hataman admitted that his Job was not easy and that his effort to reform the regional bureaucracy has already resulted in several bombing attempts inside the Armm compound. "These are works of cowards and it should not stop us from reform the regional government," he said of the bombing attempts. He blamed the incident to affected individuals who have been making the Armm government as "milking cow" for being employed as ghost employees and Armm's non-performing assets. PNA

ARMM “Masjid” photo exhibit opens

by Perlita D. Changco

COTABATO CITY, March 12 (PIA) -- A week-long photo exhibit dubbed “Masjid: Sacred Islamic Architecture of the Philippines” opens today, March 12 at the lobby of Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex, ARMM compound, Cotabato City.

The exhibit showcases mounted pictures of the evolution of old and new “Masjid” or mosque built and located in the five provinces under ARMM and Marawi City. It aims to generate wider awareness, understanding and appreciation of the relevance and significance of the role of Masjid or mosques to the Islamic community as part of the ongoing reforms being instituted in the autonomous region.

It is spearheaded by the National Commission on Culture and Arts (NCCA) in partnership with the United Architecture of the Philippines (UAP), Cotabato City Chapter and the Bureau of Cultural Heritage-ARMM.

In her message, ARMM chief of staff Amihilda Sangcopan, representing OIC-regional governor Mujiv Hataman, said the week-long activity signifies national government support to the efforts of the regional leadership to bring needed reforms worth emulating the youth and generations to come.

“Masjid” Sancopan said, symbolizes Islamic civilization as it also functions as learning/education facility, convention/assembly /retreat center, hospital and offers refuge for Muslims during times of armed conflict and calamities.

The present leadership assures support for the promotion of the region’s rich cultural heritage vis-a-vis the quest for meaningful and just peace and development in Mindanao while pushing for reforms and changes, she said.

“Suportahan at subukan natin ang mga reporma at pagbabago sa ARMM na iiwanang legasiya na pwedeng ipagmamalaki at mamanahin ng mga kabataan at susunod na henerasyon,” Sangcopan said.

Meanwhile, UAP Cotabato City chapter president Marlo Basco said, from the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex, the Masjid photo exhibit will be moved to a commercial establishment in the city then to Marawi City and other areas of ARMM. (pbchangco/PIA Cotabato City)

Army General's Conciliatory Perspective Lauded


COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Muslim troops of the Army’s Maguindanao-based 6th Infantry Division (6th ID) were elated by their commander’s recent public apology for statements attributed to him that reportedly hurt Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Elias Yusoph and his kin in Lanao del Sur almost two years ago.

Even lawyer Udtog Tago, a fellow Maranao serving Maguindanao as election registrar, expressed similar sentiment over the gesture, clarifying though that Major General Rey Ardo made the conciliatory remarks not at the electoral summit presided over here on February 28 by Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes and attended by Yusoph but through a letter intended for the latter.

Ardo, who was heading the reception for the visit on the same day of Philippine Army chief Emmanuel Bautista at the 6th ID headquarters, distributed to journalists copies of his letter indicating his earnest desire to personally meet Yusoph and convey his apology over “misquotations” on the abduction in Marawi City in 2010 of the poll officials’ cleric-son Nuraldin.

“I wanted to be present in the Summit and have the opportunity to personally meet Commissioner Elias R. Yusoph to convey personally my apology and pave the way to revive and strengthen our good relationship,” Ardo said in the letter.

Ardo was then a colonel heading the Army’s Marawi City-based 103rd Infantry Brigade when reports broke out quoting him as saying that partisan armed men “responsible in kidnapping Nurladin” after the May 2010 elections “wanted their money back from Yusoph, who was allegedly… collecting money from all sides” during the political exercises.

“Those were exaggerated quotation of my statement because I personally (did) not believe in allegations prevailing then among irresponsible people… I was surprised and disgusted that these spread so fast in the media stream that might have tainted the integrity and character of the good Commissioner,” Ardo said, recalling having held a corrective press conference at the height of the issue.

Major Mohaimen Sangki, an ethnic Maguindanaon officer of the 6th ID, said they were touched by Ardo’s gesture.

“It was something never before seen in the 24-year history of the 6th ID. It was enough proof that we have Christian officers in our ranks that are respectful of Muslims and the cultural and religious practices of the Moro people in Mindanao,” Sangki said.

Colonel Onting Alon, 6th ID’s civil military operations official and a hadji, said Muslims ought to accept the apology of a remorseful person, regardless of sectarian or racial identities.

Sergeant Salik Iskag, a technical staff of one of 6th ID’s tactical units, said they have been “very satisfied” with Ardo’s policies and thrust in pushing for peaceful co-existence in Mindanao.

Provincial election registrar Tago told the Manila Bulletin he was helping broker reconciliation between Ardo and Yusoph, and that the gestures of the military officer and his men were a good start.

Reached by the Manila Bulletin Thursday night through the phone, Yusoph said he had filed a complaint at the Ombudsman’s office against Ardo because his alleged past remarks “tainted my integrity.”

He clarified that Ardo was not present at the electoral summit here and had not shook hands with him as earlier reported, admitting though the general sent emissaries trying but failed to broker a meeting between them due to hectic schedules.

MARANG SEASON – A local entrepreneur delivers marang, also called johey oak, using a motorcycle with an improvised carrier to fruit vendors along the Davao-Cotabato national highway in Barangay Malasila, Makilala, North Cotabato. The fruit has a strong scent, and is considered superior in flavor to jackfruit. (Alexander D. Lopez)

Slain Filipino-Swiss trader in North Cotabato laid to rest

by Edwin O. Fernandez

COTABATO CITY, March 10 (PNA) - Relatives of a Filipino-Swiss businessman who was killed by communist guerillas in Kidapawan City on Wednesday have called for authorities to arrest and charged the perpetrators.

Patrick Winiger, the 47-year-old peace advocate based in Makilala, North Cotabato, was shot at close range by two New Peoples Army hitmen at the Kidapawan public market at 7:45 a.m. while doing marketing chores.

Although armed, Winiger, who has been actively supporting government campaign against atrocities committed by communist rebels, failed to fire back as two men were seen pumping bullets on him from behind.

One of the attackers even took Winiger's gun and used it to finish him off.

The NPA claimed responsibility for the attack and said they carried out the murder because of Winiger's alleged participation in the killing of Italian missionary priest Fr. Fausto Tentorio in Arakan, North Cotabato last October.

Winiger, who was abducted by kidnap-for-ransom gangs in 1970s, managed a banana plantation in Makilala, North Cotabato, which employed former NPAs who returned to the folds of the law.

The military and local government officials have separately condemned the atrocities perpetrated by NPAs in Makilala, including the used of landmine against government forces and civilians.

The slain businessman was very active in peace advocacy and help educate civilians that the government is for them and that fighting the mighty government is a useless cause.

He also got the ire of rebels for his repeated calls for communist combatants to live normal lives instead of living in hardship in the slope of the country's highest peak - Mt. Apo. (PNA) RMA/NYP/EOF

MinDA says House to probe Mindanao power problem

by (PNA)


COTABATO CITY, March 9 (PNA) - The issue of power shortage in Mindanao will be discussed and expected to be given solution during the congressional inquiry set on Tuesday, March 13, the Mindanao Development Authority said Friday.

MinDA, acting on behalf of the Mindanao power and business sectors, had previously called for inquiry by the House committee on energy and special committee on Mindanao Affairs, to probe the Mindanao power situation and the curtailment scheme implemented by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP).

NGCP is a private corporation that operates and maintains the country’s transmission network and responsible for delivering electricity to the distribution utilities and electric cooperatives.

“We understand that NGCP’s action prompted distributors (mostly rural electric cooperatives) to implement two to four hours daily brownout,” MinDA chair Secretary Luwalhati R. Antonino said.

She said that in South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, and General Santos City (SOCKSARGEN) area, brownouts would sometimes last for 10 hours.

Antonino, however, believed that both the Agus 2 and Pulangi hydropower plants have a combined 65 MW or more untapped capacity that could sustain demand within a few yours during peak loads.

She said Agus has an installed capacity of 180 MW but only 90 MW is being transmitted to the Mindanao grid.

On the other hand, Pulangi has an installed capacity of 255 MW but only 180-200 MW is being dispatched.

Antonino said Pulangi’s installed capacity can still be increased if dredging is done to optimize its operation.

Likewise, Agus 2’s output could be further stretched to a level that will not violate environmental policy on the operation of the plant or a level that will not cause flooding at Balo-I area.

"Although it is not yet clear if the 65 MW is the reserved power for Mindanao," Antonino said this can be utilized during peak hours when demand surges.

“Bakit hindi ito ginagamit samantalang ang dami sa ating mga taga-Mindanao ang napeperwisyo dahil sa araw-araw na brownout (Why isn’t it being used when a lot of Mindanawons are suffering from the daily brownout?),” she said.

Antonino said the congressional inquiry would hopefully shed light on these issues.

In January, the Association of Mindanao Rural Electric Cooperatives reported that the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) Corporation was withholding the appropriation for the maintenance of Agus and Pulangi because the plants are due for sale as provided for by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) law.

AMRECO said that this contributed to the poor performance of the hydro plants.

Last year, the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR) reported that at least P3 billion was needed to rehabilitate the hydropower facilities in Mindanao which can contribute to an additional combined power ranging from 100 to 200 MW if realized.

Power generation in Mindanao has been steadily increasing at an average annual growth rate of 4.7 percent from 2002-2009.

In the second quarter of 2010, the average and peaking capabilities of the hydro power plants dropped to 771 MW and 860 MW, respectively, resulting in brownouts lasting four-six hours daily in several areas during that period.

Today, Mindanao is again confronted with “red alert” status since the start of the year, with around 80-100 MW deficiency as reported by NGCP.

The Department of Energy (DOE) has projected that demand for power in Mindanao would increase by an average of 4.6 percent annually over the next 10 years.

“To meet and sustain this demand, at least 1,000MW new capacities must be installed over the next decade and still another 1,500MW from 2021 to 2030”, said Antonino.

She said that installation of new capacities on a progressive basis is becoming highly imperative.

However, Antonino said that through the years, energy and power infrastructure plans, programs and projects were largely prepared and decided upon in the national capital.

“Hence, strong collaboration of the Mindanao Local Government Units (LGU), private sector and industry stakeholders, emerged immensely crucial in leveraging Mindanao’s reasonable interests”, she said.

Two women leaders in ARMM recognized for promoting women's issues

by (PNA)


COTABATO CITY, March 8 (PNA) - In celebration of Women's Month, two former female guerillas were recognized by various sectors here for their advocacy and promotion of women's rights.

Active members of the Cabinet in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Pombaen Karon-Kader, assistant social welfare secretary of ARMM, and her cousin, Bainon Karon, the region’s acting vice governor, are former combatants of the Moro National Liberation Front and became Muslim women leaders after the signing of the GPH-MNLF peace accord.

Kader was among the lady combatants who fought with government troops in Lebak, Sultan Kudarat following the declaration of martial law in the 1970s.

She was among the troops that engaged the platoon of then Lt. Gregorio Honasan, now member of the Philippine Senate.

“Then Honasan was a fresh graduate of the Philippine Military Academy. We are on different sides, enemies. Now we are both in the government, involved in governance. That is one of the dividends of the September 2, 1996 peace accord between the government and the MNLF,” Kader told reporters during a simple program celebrating Women's month.

Both Kader and Karon also worked as information gatherer for the MNLF, then led by Nur Misuari.

Kader recalled that they mingled with people in public places such as markets, seaports and terminals to gather valuable information on activities of military units.

"Today, I also work with soldiers but no longer for tactical operations but for humanitarian works in man-made and natural calamity affected areas in Mindanao," Kader said.

Both Kader and Karon joined government service in the ARMM after the peace agreement in 1996.

Speaking during the program launching in the ARMM, Karon said advocating women's rights is the not the sole responsibility of women.

"Men must also advocate promotion of women's welfare in as much as women advocate human rights," she said.

Army Officer Pursues Peace Initiatives


COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Major General Rey C. Ardo, a renowned combat frontline-playing Army officer, drew more plaudits in pursing the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP’s) paradigm shift for peace and development drive when he attended a recent regional electoral summit here and conveyed his apology to a visiting Muslim Commission on Elections (Comelec) official over what he deemed as an alleged “exaggerated” report.

Ardo, the incumbent head of the Army’s Maguindanao-based 6th Infantry Division, incorporated his words of apology in a speech at the summit presided by Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes and Commissioner Elias Yusoph at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex here on February 28.

The summit was held to craft mechanisms that would advance the government’s desired electoral reforms in the Autonomous Region in Muslim (ARMM), according to local Comelec officials.

In his speech, Ardo assured his command’s full support to the state’s electoral reform initiatives, even as he expressed belief that faulty elections were part of factors behind the stunted peace and development in the 21-year-old autonomous region.

Under his watch, he hinted, that the 6th Infantry Division would render plain security services without political partiality in the ARMM’s 2013 elections synchronized with local and national polls.

Brillantes and Yusoph, commissioner-in-charge for ARMM, lauded Ardo for his assurance, and even hailed him for taking time to apologize to the Muslim Comelec official over an issue that cropped up shortly after the 2010 elections.

Ardo apologized prominently in his speech to Yusoph for a statement attributed to him when was still a colonel and head of the Army’s Marawi City-based 103rd Infantry Brigade concerning then the kidnapping of Nurladin Yusoph, son of the Comelec official, few weeks after the May 2010 elections.

Ardo recalled that on July 20 and 22, 2010, he was apparently quoted as saying that the people “responsible for the abduction of Nuraldin wanted their money back from Yusoph, who was allegedly engaged in collecting money from all sides.”

He had sharply reacted to the reportorial exaggeration by conducting an immediate press conference then in Marawi City to rectify the mistake.

“Those were exaggerated quotation of my statement because I personally (did) not believe in those allegations prevailing then among irresponsible people,” Ardo said.

“I was surprised and disgusted that it (wrong reportage) spread so fast in the media stream that might have tainted the integrity and character of the good Commissioner,” he added.

“I wanted to be present in the Summit and have the opportunity to personally meet Commissioner Elias R. Yusoph to convey personally my apology and pave the way to revive and strengthen our good relationship,” Ardo said in conclusion of his words of apology.

Yusoph, an active member of the Tableegh Islamic moral reform and known for his low key profile, welcomed Ardo’s apology.

The two officials shook hands and traded pleasant words in the presence of Brillantes and hundreds of applauding summit participants.

DOST chief backs development of halal industry

by Giselle Eve Ortega-Siladan

COTABATO CITY, March 6 (PIA) -- Science and Technology Secretary Mario G. Montejo is strongly supporting the initiatives to develop the halal industry and make it a national program due to its huge potential to help the country’s economy, a top regional official said yesterday.

Dr. Zenaida P. Hadji Raof Laidan, DOST-12 director, said in a recent meeting with the regional directors of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the secretary emphasized the need to strengthen the halal industry in consonance with the National Science and Technology Innovation Plan.

“I recognize that halal is an important industry and I support it. We will make it a national program and we will start in Mindanao,” he told the regional directors.

Dr. Laidan added that she was also instructed by Sec. Montejo to continue with the initiatives to make halal a stronger industry in the country.

“Secretary Montejo considers it important to support the development of the halal industry because it is rapidly growing due to the strong demand for halal-certified products especially in the foreign market, she said.

President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III earlier identified the halal industry as one of the key investment areas that the government wants to give focus owing to the vast global market.

In the last few years, Dr. Laidan said the DOST-12 has been working to develop the halal industry through its Philippine Science and Technology Program for the Development of the Halal Industry.

Ms. Laidan said it is important for the Philippines to establish integrity and credibility with its halal industry given that the nation is a non-Muslim country.

“That, we can do through science- and technology-based approaches alongside the religious requirement,” she noted.

So far, the DOST-12 operates a halal laboratory in Cotabato City. It is also building a larger state-of-the-art laboratory facility that shall be called the Philippine National Halal Laboratory and Science Center in Koronadal City, the seat of government of Soccskargen Region (Region 12).

The center was conceptualized to become the clearinghouse of halal products coming in and out of the country.

She called for the complementation of efforts among other government agencies and the private sector to strengthen the country’s halal industry and to make it sustainable. (DOST-12/DEDoguiles/PIA 12)

Maguindanao village councilman shot dead, village chair hurt

by (PNA)


COTABATO CITY, March 5(PNA) -– The Maguindanao and Cotabato City police office have launched a joint manhunt against gunmen who ambushed and killed a village councilman and hurt a village chairperson Sunday here.

Senior Supt. Danilo Reyes, city police director, has sent a team of police probers to Maguindanao PNP police provincial director Senior Supt. Marcelo Pintac for the joint manhunt.

Reyes said Simpal Pababagan, 48, was driving a sedan car leaving the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center (CRMC) when two men riding in tandem on a motorbike arrived and opened fire at them.

Pababagan succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds in the body and died on the spot while Abdulnasser Andal, village chair of Barangay Poblacion, Ampatuan, Maguindanao, who was sitting on the passenger side, was hit by stray bullet and is now recuperating at the CRMC.

They were heading for Ampatuan town when the ambush happened at 3 p.m. in front of the hospital main entrance and in front of a mini-mall.

Reyes said the attackers used cal. 45 pistol and quickly fled after the ambush.

Reyes said personal grudge was the likely motive. Back home, the victims are locked in a long standing family feud, police initial investigation showed.

The ambush scene was a crowded area of Sinsuat Avenue and in front of Al Nor commercial center.

Three civilians injured in new Cotabato blasts


ZAMBOANGA CITY: Three civilians were injured in separate bombing blasts on Saturday in Cotabato City and Pigcawayan, North Cotabato.

Police said an improvised bomb exploded outside the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao at around 6 a.m. and was followed by another blast from inside the sprawling compound. Policemen and soldiers recovered another bomb nearby.

The wounded civilian, Ibrahim Ismael, 18, was rushed to a hospital as police investigate the new wave of attacks in Cotabato City.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the blasts.

On Thursday, three people were also wounded in a bomb explosion outside the regional office of the Government Service Insurance System along Gutierrez Street, just several blocks away from the ARMM compound.

Filipino workers of a Chinese construction firm were wounded in a bomb attack on Friday night in the southern Philippines, police said Saturday.

In North Cotabato, Dave Poten-ciano and Jimboy Barte, employees of the China International Water and Electric Corporation, tasked to repair a national road were wounded in a bomb attack in Pigcawayan town.

Both were near the heavy equipment when the bomb blew up along the highway, said local police commander Donald Cabigas.

Cabigas said two motorcycle-riding men were seen before an improvised explosive device exploded on the firm’s heavy equipment in the village of Balogo.

Barte and Potensiano who were at the site sustained shrapnel wounds.

“We have recovered fragments of a mortar shell. The motive could be extortion as the company previously received extortion letters,” Cabigas said

In January, an improvised bomb assembled from an 81mm mortar, exploded in downtown Cotabato, wounding two civilians and two more had been disarmed. The blast was largely blamed to the shadowy groups called Bangsamoro Independence Movement and Bangsa-moro Youth Movement.

Grenade blast injures one in Cotabato

by (PNA)


COTABATO CITY, March 3 (PNA) – A teenage boy was injured when a grenade exploded at around 7:30 a.m. Saturday inside the Shariff Kabunsuan Complex, the provisional seat of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) here.

Rushed to the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center following the incident was Brando Ibrahim Ismael, a resident of Purok Talitay, Barangay Rosary Heights 7, situated near the compound.

Bapa Abdul Ibrahim, father of the victim, said his son was just passing by the Regional Ports Authority building inside the compound when the grenade went off.

“Accordingly, no one saw neither lobbing the grenade nor running away from the blast site prior to the explosion,” the elder Ismael said.

Earlier, at around 6:00 a.m., a powerful explosion rocked Gov. Gutierrez Ave., sending military and police authorities to the scene situated some 200 meters from the front gate of the ARMM compound.

While there, members of the bomb disposal unit managed to disarm a second bomb fashioned from an 81-mm mortar mechanism attached to a string with a hand grenade at the tip as trigger device.

“It was planted as a booby trap,” a member of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team who requested anonymity, explained.

On March 1, three persons were injured as a bomb exploded at around 7:30 p.m. at a side road in Gov. Gutierrez Ave. separating the Government Service Insurance System office and barter trade center.

Those injured were identified as Bainot Pasandalan, 14; Pendiwata Sandigan, barter trade stall attendant; and Jessie Tingson, an electrician.

"We hope that the culprits would be caught soon so we could file appropriate charges against them in court,” Mayor Japal Guiani, who condemned the incident, said

Security has been beefed up following the series of bombings that hit the city this week.

Manhunt on vs gunmen who kill 3 villagers in North Cotabato town

by (PNA)


COTABATO CITY, March 2 (PNA) - The North Cotabato police office have launched a province wide manhunt against gunmen who ambush and killed three villagers in a remote village in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato Thursday, two days after the gangland style execution of three adolescents in a nearby Maguindanao town.

Senior Inspector Donald Cabigas, Pigcawayan municipal police chief, said the fatalities, Rolando Suarez, Leo John Collados, and Miguel Eramis, all died on the spot from gunshot wounds in different parts of their bodies.

The victims were all residents of Barangay Simsiman in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato. Simsiman is a village near the borders of North Cotabato and Maguindanao.

Cabigas said Suarez, Collados and Eramis, all of Ilonggo descent, were onboard a motorcycle and heading toward the town proper of Pigcawayan when gunmen ambushed them using assault rifles.

“We have information that could lead to the identity of the suspects but our focus is their where about so we can bring them before the bar of justice," Cabigas said.

Initial police investigation showed that a long standing grudge between the ambushers and the attackers could have led the attacks.

The ambushers did not take the victims' wallets, mobile phones and wristwatches, an indication robbery was not the motive, Cabigas said.

On Tuesday, three children Jubert Sumilhig dela Cerna, 13, Rico Divinagracia, 15 and Jomar Tamar, 13, were massacred by still unidentified gunmen in Parang town in Maguindanao, an adjacent municipality of Pigcawayan.

The victims, all students of Molina National High School, were fishing when shot from behind by automatic rifles.

Initial police investigation showed the killing was a case of mistaken identity.

Police said the gunmen were locked in a long standing family feud in Bgy. Molina and that the children were mistaken as relatives of one of the warring clans.

Members of the Parang police and elements 37th Infantry Battalion are still hot on the trail of the suspects, last seen fleeing towards a hinterland at the border Parang and Barita town, also in Maguindanao.

Manhunt on vs gunmen who kill 3 villagers in North Cotabato town

by (PNA)


COTABATO CITY, March 2 (PNA) - The North Cotabato police office have launched a province wide manhunt against gunmen who ambush and killed three villagers in a remote village in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato Thursday, two days after the gangland style execution of three adolescents in a nearby Maguindanao town.

Senior Inspector Donald Cabigas, Pigcawayan municipal police chief, said the fatalities, Rolando Suarez, Leo John Collados, and Miguel Eramis, all died on the spot from gunshot wounds in different parts of their bodies.

The victims were all residents of Barangay Simsiman in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato. Simsiman is a village near the borders of North Cotabato and Maguindanao.

Cabigas said Suarez, Collados and Eramis, all of Ilonggo descent, were onboard a motorcycle and heading toward the town proper of Pigcawayan when gunmen ambushed them using assault rifles.

“We have information that could lead to the identity of the suspects but our focus is their where about so we can bring them before the bar of justice," Cabigas said.

Initial police investigation showed that a long standing grudge between the ambushers and the attackers could have led the attacks.

The ambushers did not take the victims' wallets, mobile phones and wristwatches, an indication robbery was not the motive, Cabigas said.

On Tuesday, three children Jubert Sumilhig dela Cerna, 13, Rico Divinagracia, 15 and Jomar Tamar, 13, were massacred by still unidentified gunmen in Parang town in Maguindanao, an adjacent municipality of Pigcawayan.

The victims, all students of Molina National High School, were fishing when shot from behind by automatic rifles.

Initial police investigation showed the killing was a case of mistaken identity.

Police said the gunmen were locked in a long standing family feud in Bgy. Molina and that the children were mistaken as relatives of one of the warring clans.

Members of the Parang police and elements 37th Infantry Battalion are still hot on the trail of the suspects, last seen fleeing towards a hinterland at the border Parang and Barita town, also in Maguindanao.

EU-funded project changes lives of women in former conflict zone areas

by (ARMM). (PNA)


COTABATO CITY, Feb. 28 (PNA) -- A European Union-funded project in Mindanao has been making waves as it has shown significant impact on the lives of women in recipient communities, an independent monitoring team said after a visit to the project areas in Central Mindanao region.

Blanca Gil, who led the EU-commissioned monitoring team, stressed in a statement that the livelihood training given to women in the communities served by the Early Recovery and Rehabilitation in Central Mindanao (ERRCM) has effectively enabled women beneficiaries to generate resources for their family needs.

Among the livelihood activities undertaken under the program include vegetable gardening, banana chip processing, mat weaving, product packaging, and basic record-keeping.

"The livelihood activities have given them initial income to meet their daily needs such as food and related household requirements,” Gil said.

"This is an encouraging transformation for their living conditions after being displaced by past conflicts,” he added.

Most of the beneficiaries of the EU-funded rehabilitation projects were Moro people in the countryside considered to be the most affected sector in armed conflict areas.

Gil said aside from livelihood other program components have transformed the lives of the people in the communities through core shelters, community health centers as well as water and sanitation programs.

“The people are settled and generally happy with what they have. There are many impacts now already visible,” she said during a debriefing session with officials from the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) in Davao City.

She added that more positive outcomes could be evident once the livelihood projects are strengthened and expanded.

The ERRCM project team and its NGO partners have started conducting basic training and seminars on technical support to livelihood projects.

A very notable example are the women in Barangay Manggay in Talitay, Maguindanao who received training on banana chip processing and vegetable gardening under the bio-intensive gardening program.

Other skills training include basic packaging of goods, basic record-keeping, bio-intensive gardening, and product diversification.

For some groups, micro-capital for start-ups was also provided.

The monitoring team leader particularly noted the fact that livelihood projects benefit mostly women of the communities, saying that it will bear direct impact on their personal finances.

“Some of the livelihood activities, like the vegetable gardening in Talitay, Maguindanao, are very amazing,” she said.

While there is a constant market for their products such as fresh produce, the beneficiaries also seek greater market links through the assistance of the LGUs, other government agencies, and NGO partners.

In Damawato and Galidan in Tulunan, North Cotabato, the project plans to tap technical assistance in forming a cooperative to support the buy-and-sell activities of the women beneficiaries.

In the remote village of Pamalian in Pikit, the project recipients also sought assistance for hauler trucks for easier and less costly transport of products to market centers.

Barangay Pimbalakan in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, was given assistance in market linkage for woven mats, a primary product of their community.

Gil commended the selection of the livelihood projects based on the availability of local raw materials, which will enable the beneficiaries to sustain the livelihood activities for the long term.

“The good thing of the project is that you are not inventing things and importing them to the community. Rather, you are using raw materials (available locally) and making the best of it, which in a sense, gives us some certainty that these things would continue,” she said.

ERRCM project coordinator Cynthia Guerra acknowledged the commendation but admitted there is more work to be done.

She said there is a need to strengthen the LGUs’ commitment to provide greater market linkages and ensure sustainability.

Supported by the EU and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), ERRCM is a government support to peace and rehabilitation efforts to facilitate the return or resettlement and early recovery of communities affected by the armed conflict in Mindanao from August 2008 onwards.

MinDA is implementing the program in partnership with the office of the Regional Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Cotabato fish-crab farmer nominated in DA-12 search

by (PNA)


COTABATO CITY, Feb. 27 (PNA) -- A fish farmer who operates a huge fishpond for special species like crabs, prawn, shrimps and milk fish has been nominated and will represent this city in the 2012 Search for Outstanding Fisherfolk-Fish Culture in Region 12 of the Department of Agriculture.

"It is once again a proud moment for Cotabato City as one of our fisher folks will compete in the regional contest of DA-12," Cotabato City Mayor Japal Guiani Jr. said in a statement.

Leopoldo Gaylan, Sr., a fish farmer who has successfully managed five hectares of fishpond with the combination of species like crabs, prawns, shrimps and milkfish in just one area, will represent Cotabato City and eyeing to win the competition to represent Central Mindanao in the national contest.

Gaylan, 63, resident of Purok Balas, Mother Barangay Kalanganan, is a second generation fish farmer. It has been his family’s main source of income since the 1970’s.

His father, Domingo Gaylan, was the caretaker of Santos Fishpond, the city’s major fish pond operator during that time.

But when the 1976 earthquake hit the city, it has destroyed all the fish ponds. The tenants then slowly revived their ponds.

In 1986, Gaylan, also known as "Nong Polding," has started crab culture without proper training and used only his acquired knowledge as a fish farmer.

Now he earns around half a million pesos during harvest time of the crabs, prawns and milkfish.

Interviewed by the City Agriculture officials and representatives from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources 12, Nong Polding said he rarely leaves the area and uses only traditional methods in crab culture.

He humbly admitted that his natural knowledge in aquaculture combined with innovations he learned from BFAR and DA helped him improve and enhance production, especially in crab fattening and fish pond management.

He added that his secret to distinctively tasty crabs is that he only feeds them with natural food—only the existing planktons in the ponds.

He does not give the crabs supplemental feeding and never use fertilizers as additional nutrients.

Since he wanted to share his "secrets" to other fisherfolks, Gaylan formed the Kalanganan Fishpond Owners and Workers Multi-Purpose Cooperative.

The cooperative which he chairs is now one of the most successful cooperatives in the city with 33 members and is operating for 13 years.

He also imparts his knowledge to his workers and coop members and cultivates the same virtue of hard work and discipline that he practices.

The search is a project of the Department of Agriculture to document and showcase aquaculture as a competitive enterprise in line of sustainable fisheries and development corollary to the fisheries program.

The search shall give due recognition to outstanding fish farmers as to sustain the fish farmer’s enthusiasm in the government’s developmental efforts in fisheries.

Optimistic as Gaylan is Mayor Guiani who said that should Gaylan wins, he will be the official candidate of Region 12 in the Annual Gawad-Saka of DA.

Region 12 is composed of the provinces of North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Saranggani and the cities of Cotabato, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and General Santos.

It is an annual nationwide search for fish farmer who has demonstrated exemplary performance and has met the qualification standards set forth in its guidelines.

A P100,000 cash is at stake at the national level competition.

The city government has given its all out support to the nominee for he will not only bring honor to the city but will also help in promoting our main product, Cotabato Crabs, now known as the tastiest crabs in Mindanao.

ARMM to sign social contract with CSOs, NGOs on reforms

by (PNA)


COTABATO CITY, Feb. 26 (PNA) — Various civil society groups have urged local officials to pursue active role in affirming a social contract that their representatives are entering into with the government of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

One of the these is the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society Organizations (CBCSO), which in a statement, said a social contract between the government and its constituents is an old idea that had to be in place for local government units like those of the ARMM to ensure speedy development.

Guiamel Ali, CBCSO chairperson, said development in ARMM had been slow as compared to other administrative region in the country.

Alim blamed slow-paced ARMM development in the last 22 years to non-participation of the people, especially the civil society organizations.

He said previous ARMM leadership did not consider CSO and NGOs as active and vital partners in pushing for development in the region.

On Feb. 28, local CSOs and the ARMM government, represented by Acting Governor Mujiv Hataman, will sign a social contract to define roles of each of the stakeholder parties in reforms and development efforts for the region.

The main objective of the social contract, according to Hataman is to narrow the gap between the government and the people in efforts to bring together participative roles in governance.

Some political thinkers have defined social contract as an “intellectual device intended to explain the appropriate relationship between individuals and their governments.

In a statement, the ARMM Bureau of Public Information said political thinkers' arguments assert that individuals unite into political societies by a process of mutual consent, agreeing to abide by common rules and accept corresponding duties to protect themselves and one another from violence and other kinds of harm.” (John Locke – 1689).

The ARMM social contract covers such issues and concerns as defined roles of the parties in general development endeavors, including protection and preservation of the environment, stability in peace and security, good governance and socioeconomic uplift, as well as sufficiency in infrastructure facilities.

Hataman said the pact would also ensure a better informed local leadership and their constituents on government programs and resource utilization to accelerate development efforts in reformed governance with an expanded people’s participation in it.

Among the priorities in the social contract is environmental preservation in the fast-balding forests in the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

ARMM's environment and natural resources department, Hataman said is currently engaged in a program called “Adopt a Mountain” for greening projects in all five component provinces of the region.

Aiming for a million trees planted in 17 months of the Hataman administration, ARMM Environment Secretary Kahal Kedtag said the program has been ongoing in Maguindanao, Lanao Sur and Tawi-Tawi and will soon start in Basilan and Sulu.

Parallel with the social contract signing, the local electoral watchdog Citizens-Care will host a Regional Electoral Summit on Voters' Registration as a major step in cleansing the region's voters' lists.

ARMM has been labelled as the country’s elections “cheating capital.”

Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu said he had recommended to the Commission on Elections the review his province’s voters’ list and to conduct a continuing registration to be able to compare old and new data.

Director Commando Pilipinas of the ARMM National Statistics Office said it is difficult to update or even determine validity of voters’ registration because locals have rarely registered deaths, among them.

However, he believes that something can be done and it must be done now.

4 charged for murder of Italian priest

by John Unson

COTABATO CITY, Philippines – The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed criminal charges against four men implicated in the October 17, 2011 murder of Italian priest Fausto Tentorio in Arakan town in North Cotabato.

The complaint sheet named Jimmy Ato, Roberto Ato, Jose Sultan Sampulna and Dima Maligudan Sampulna as responsible for the murder of Tentorio.

Official documents of the charges were delivered by combined operatives of the National Bureau of Investigation and the local Philippine National Police to the provincial prosecutor’s office in Kidapawan City.

Tentorio was to leave their convent for Kidapawan City when a gunman approached him while he was to board his 4x4 vehicle, pulled out a 9MM pistol, and shot him 10 times in different parts of his body, killing him on the spot.

Lawyer Virgilio Mendez, deputy director for regional operations of NBI’s office in Region 10, said they have sufficient evidence linking the four suspects to the murder of Tentorio.

Tentorio was critical about the encroachment of capitalists attempting to venture into various profit-oriented projects in supposedly protected ancestral domains of hinterland tribes in Arakan and surrounding towns located at the foot of Mt. Apo.

He gained popularity for his activities meant to generate awareness among tribal communities to protect all natural resources --- forests, rivers and strategic minerals --- that can be found inside their tribal enclaves “moneyed outsiders” are interested in.

“We have enough evidence indicating that these people were involved in that crime,” Mendez said, referring to the four suspects.

Authorities, however, are in custody of only one of the four suspects, Jimmy Ato, who was arrested by NBI agents in a farm house at secluded Barangay in Arakan several weeks after Tentorio was killed.

Jimmy’s younger brother, Roberto, is now under the custody of North Cotabato 2nd District Rep. Nancy Catamco. He has voluntarily yielded to Catamco after learning he has been implicated in Tentorio’s murder.

So immensely popular was the murdered Italian priest that thousands joined the burial march when he was laid to rest at the compound of the Bishop’s residence in Kidapawan City, beside the grave of a slain compatriot, Fr. Tulio Favali.

Favali was murdered by drunken militiamen, led by siblings Norberto and Edilberto Manero, in Barangay La Esperanza in Tulunan, North Cotabato in the late 1980s.

The Manero brothers were irked by Favali’s humanitarian projects in areas where communist rebels operated when he was assigned in Tulunan.

PDEA-ARMM, Marines arrest 10 in shabu raid in Cotabato

by (PNA)


COTABATO CITY, Feb. 24 (PNA) - Operatives of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) have arrested 10 persons for illegal possession of prohibited drugs in a buy bust operations Thursday afternoon.

Supt. Edwin Layese, PDEA-ARMM regional director, said three of those arrested were charged for possession of prohibited drugs and shabu.

"The rest were released for lack of substantial evidence that would warrant their inclusion in the charge sheet," Layese told reporters.

The raid, jointly conducted by PDEA-ARMM operatives, Cotabato City PNP and Philippine Marines, was conducted in Barangay Poblacion 2, Cotabato City.

The suspects were caught flat footed when the raiding team, armed with search warrants, swooped down on a house where a pot session was on going at about 4 p.m.

The house where the suspects were found was an ordinary house that looked like a carenderia where people dropped by to eat.

"This time, its the shabu users that dropped by and join the pot session," Layese said, adding that 14 sachet of methamphetamine hydrochloride were seized from the suspects.

"And what is disturbing was the presence of passenger jeepney drivers who dropped by the house and took part in the session then resume driving," he said.

Layese lauded the unidentified informant who tipped off the PDEA.

The suspects whose identity were withheld temporarily are now detained at PDEA-ARMM detention cell at PC Hill, Cotabato City.

MILF washes hands off Kidapawan jail attack

by Edgardo Fuerzas

COTABATO CITY -- The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) washes hands off the attack on the Kidapawan City Jail last Sunday morning.

MILF Civil Military Affairs Von Alhaq denied the allegations that members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (Biaf) attacked the jail around 9:30 a.m. Sunday to release one of the detainees, Datucan Samad, alias Kumander Lastikman.

It can be recalled that the MILF was also involved in the attack of the Cotabato Provincial Jail in 2009 to release their comrades who are considered to be high-risk detainees.

Lastikman is believed to be behind the deaths of 30 civilians in Pikit, North Cotabato last year.

His group is also behind the highway robbery and hold-up incidents in the Cotabato-Davao Highway.

Lastikman is facing charges of extortion, kidnapping, carnapping, robbery hold-up, multiple murder, multiple frustrated murder, arson, among others.

However, there are rumors that a breakaway group of the MILF is behind the attack to free Lastikman.

The Kidapawan City Jail and Cotabato Provincial Jail have strengthened its security measures since Sunday.

DOJ begins probe on Cotabato City Vice Mayor's ambush

by Edu Punay

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice (DOJ) has started its preliminary investigation into criminal charges filed against Cotabato City Mayor Japal Guiani Jr. and six others over the ambush attempt on Vice Mayor Datu Muslimim Sema.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has created a three-member panel of state prosecutors to conduct the preliminary probe on charges of frustrated murder and three counts of attempted murder against Guiani, city administrator and Guiani’s sister Cynthia Sayadi, her husband Omar Sayadi, Councilors Graham Dumama and Abdilla Lim, barangay chairman Amil Sula, and former Cotabato City deputy station commander Noel Gutierrez.

In Department Order No. 147 released yesterday, De Lima assigned Assistant State Prosecutor Vimar Barcellano and prosecution lawyers Gerard Gaerlan and Javee Laurence Bandong as members of the panel.

Citing interest of public service, the DOJ chief directed the panel “to file the appropriate information before the appropriate court if the evidence warrants.”

The DOJ is acting on a complaint filed by the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao against the respondents last Feb. 6.

Based on their investigation and a witness’ testimony, police said politics was the motive behind the attempt to kill Sema last Jan. 10.

Sema is reportedly planning to run again for city mayor in 2013 and that the respondents allegedly conspired to assassinate him, probers said.

Sema sustained gunshot wounds in the back of the head and right jaw when he was waylaid near his residence in Barangay Rosary Heights-7 this city. He was rushed to the Notre Dame Hospital but was later transferred to the Davao Doctors Hospital upon the request of his wife, Rep. Sandra Sema.

The charges filed were also in relation to the near fatal ambush of Sema, a three-term mayor of Cotabato City, before he won the vice mayoral race in 2010.

Gutierrez was charged, too, for deliberately withholding vital evidence in the case.

Guiani earlier had denied his involvement in the slay attempt, alleging that the witness was only making up stories.

He said he and other city officials were too busy running the city government that they had no time planning Sema’s ambush.

DepEd-ARMM Regional Secretary urges school officials and teachers to support reforms

by (pbchangco/PIA Cotabato City)

COTABATO CITY, Feb. 21 (PIA) -- The regional secretary of the education department of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) called on teachers and school officials to support the reforms being instituted in the department and assured readiness to have regular meetings to boost the mentors’ morale in pursuit of an improved education system in the autonomous region.

According to Maguindanao Schools Division I Supt. Meriam Kawit, DepED-ARMM regional secretary Jamar Kulayan met with more than 2,700 teachers, district supervisors and division officials of Maguindanao Division I on February 17, 2012.

Kawit said, Secretary Kulayan emphasized the urgency of instituting needed reforms such as the use of ATM system for salaries of teachers to address and cleanse the issues of “ghost teachers, ghost school buildings and ghost pupils” among others, hounding the agency for the past decades.

Kawit added, they welcome and support the efforts of the regional secretary Jamar Kulayan to reach out and personally hear the issues and concerns of teachers particularly on regular release of their salaries and lack of supplies.

“We appreciate the initiative of our new regional secretary, specially may practice among teachers na isinanla ang kanilang ATM sa money lender at balak na mag-apply ng panibagong ATM card”( Specially some teachers have the practice of pawning their ATM to money lender and the plans to apply for another new ATM), she said.

Kawit also said the regional secretary has warned public school teachers against illegal collection of graduation and year book fees and other contribution, emphasizing the holding of simple graduation rites.

Warring pols agree to end clashes

by Charlie Señase and Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao

COTABATO CITY—Authorities expect an end to the bloody confrontation between followers of two local politicians in Rajah Buayan town in Maguindanao following their pledge to bury the hatchet. Duma Ugayan and Jerry Macalay, chairs of Barangays Malibpolok and Tabungao (not Baital as earlier reported), respectively, swore before the Koran that they would end their animosity in a dialogue facilitated by local clerics, other officials and the military on Thursday at the headquarters of the Army’s First Mechanized Brigade. Two weeks of fighting between followers of the two had resulted in the deaths of three people and injuries to nine others. About 10,000 people from at least seven Rajah Buayan villages had fled their homes. “They shook hands and embraced each other with the promise that they will sign a peace pact in another meeting scheduled next week in Rajah Buayan,” Col. Mayoralgo dela Cruz, a brigade officer, said on Friday. Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu lauded the two officials for reconciling their differences. He said he was worried that the clashes could affect the ongoing peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Ugayan is a former Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) commander while Macalay have relatives and supporters from the MILF. The two village leaders said their feud had nothing to do with the MNLF and the MILF because it started from killings related to land disputes in Barangays Mileb, Baital, Gaunan, Panadtaban and Sapakan.

5 ARMM govs ask for new general voter registration


COTABATO CITY—The governors in the five provinces comprising the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), including the regional governor in the ARMM, have asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to annul the existing list of voters in the region to “end the vicious cycle of abnormal elections in the area.” The individual and separate requests sent by the governors to Comelec, which was endorsed by Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, was also supplemented by a similar request from the provincial election supervisors in the five provinces.

Aside from the governors and election supervisors’ request, the Citizens Coalition for ARMM Electoral Reform (Citizens CARE), has also been pushing the Comelec for a general registration in the autonomous region, said to be the cheating capital of the country.

Jumda Sabaani, chair of Citizens CARE, in an interview, said that their continuing voters education “would become futile exercises if the voters’ list in ARMM will not be thrown to the waste basket and replaced with a new, clean one.”

The only way to clean the ARMM voters’ list, Sabaani said, “is to throw away the existing list and hold a general registration of voters using an Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS).

The move asking the Comelec for a general registration of voters in ARMM using the AFIS came 15 days before the scheduled start of a continuing registration of voters on March 5, which the petitioners want the Comelec to cancel.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said that “an important part” of his reform program was to erase the “cheating capital” image of the province.

He said, “I could not do it myself without the support and cooperation of the Comelec, which is the proper government agency with the mandate to initiate electoral reforms.”

In their letter to the Comelec, Mangudadatu and the provincial governors of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu, said: “We want to formally request the annulment and cancellation of the registration of voters in the entire ARMM region.”

The request, they added, was in support to President Aquino’s call “for a clean and honest election.” The requests were made as early as December 2011, but Comelec board in Manila, in an en banc meeting last Jan. 31, simply “noted” the request.

“The Commission resolved, as it hereby resolves, to note the foregoing matter,” a Comelec document showing the minutes of the meeting said.

Earlier, Udtog Tago, a lawyer and Maguindanao provincial election supervisor, asked the Comelec central office in Manila for the nullification of the voter’ list in his province and requested the Comelec to install an AFIS not only in Maguindanao but the entire ARMM.

However, Acting Director Jeannie Flororita of the Information Technology Department (ITD) of the Comelec said that installing an AFIS in the ARMM would require additional costs for the system’s license and purchase of servers for each of the municipalities in the area.

Acting on Tago’s request, Comelec Executive Director Jose Tolentino Jr., in his Feb. 14 memorandum to Tago, said the election body could not act on his request, citing the P273-million requirement that the Commission did not have.

“Granting your request is tantamount to setting up a duplicate ITD Data Center at a cost of at least P273 million to match approximately 1.5-million voters” in the ARMM, said Tolentino. “Accordingly, your request cannot be considered favorably.”

Sabaani said he could not believe the government could not allocate the P273 million if it was serious in reforming the electoral system in ARMM.

Army gains peoples support in Barira, Buldon peace accord


COTABATO City--The 37th Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army under the wing of 603rd Brigade has successfully initiated the gathering of support to different local chief executives along with their constituents in the municipalities of Matanog, Parang, Sultan Mastura, Sultan Kudarat, Barira and Buldon by launching the manifesto of support for the signing of Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (GPH-MILF) Peace Agreement. On February 13, the armed forces kicked-off a launching program to the people of Barira and Buldon in the presence of their respective local chief executives, Barira Mayor Hja. Rocaya Dagalangit-Tomawis and Buldon Mayor Bae Fatima Ruth Pembayabaya-Tomawis witnessed by various stake holders, academe, business sectors, different organizations and the visiting media practitioners in print and in broadcast.

In the program proper, 603rd Brigade Deputy Brigade Commander Col. Agapito Carmelo Nagrampa, Jr. said the armed forces along with the local chief executives are one with the people in their will to attain lasting peace. "Hindi natin sukat akalain na 'yung ating mga dating katunggali katulad ng naranasan natin nung panahon ng MNLF ay kasama na namin ngayon. Nakauniporme sila at kasama naming kumakain, natutulog at nagsisilbi sa inyo, bakit pa tayo mag-gigiyera-giyera? Para ano 'yun at para saan 'yun?", Col. Nagrampa stressed.

He reveals that men of 603rd Brigade in the leadership of Brigade Commander Col. Rodelio Santos with all armed men are all hoping that the MILF followers would also be at the government side, set aside those fi rearms and use the money wisely in constructing new roads and in building new Schools instead spending it on wars. He once again voice-out his appeal to the administration of the MILF to embrace one another and walk hand in hand and sharing in one table the shower of blessings given by God Almighty. 37IB commander Lt. Col. Joel Abregana said they are pushing harder efforts for the immediate signing of the peace agreement by the government of the Philippines and the MILF by gathering and unifying the support of the people on the said municipalities for the total implementation of long-lasting peace and not war.

He emphasized that they do not have to strategize what to do, since in their visit the people always say they no longer want any form of chaos in their Land. By these, they made talks with the local chief executives to inform the higher officials of our country on the clamours for peace of their constituents, and how to find possible channels to achieve long-lasting peace. 603rd Brigade Executive Officer Col. Nolly Lapizar said that the undertakings being implemented is actually initiated by the national government which is included in its 10 peace and order agenda on good governance, delivery of basic services and security sector reform.

He further explained that on the latest exploratory talk held in Malaysia, the MILF has many demand but there were no issues raised on how to resolve the political aspect in this recent times. In general, there are no more existing issues that would serve as hindrance to push through the peace agreement. He added that now the military have access in the MILF side as some people they meet have relatives in the group making them involve in this action.

Mayor Hja. Rocaya D. Tomawis expressed her full support along with her constituents to the undertakings being established by the armed forces on the possible upcoming signing of the peace agreement. Meanwhile, Buldon Mayor Bae Fatima Ruth P. Tomawis thanked the armed forces for initiating the signing of manifesto of support for the immediate signing of peace agreement.

3 bridges impassable in Zambo del Norte due to heavy downpour

by (PNA)


COTABATO CITY, Feb. 17 (PNA) - The torrential rains brought about by the Low Pressure Area (LPA) in Mindanao have brought damages to at least three bridges in Zamboanga del Norte after rivers overflowed.

The Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) reported that civilians living near huge rivers in the province have been advised to evacuate as heavy rains continue to pour in most part of Mindanao.

The NDRRMC has also alerted the provincial DRRMC in the Visayas and other parts of Mindanao.

In its report, the Zamboanga del Norte PRRMC said that as of 12 noon, Salug Daku Bridge along Mahayag-Dumingag-Siayan-Sindangan Road, Zamboanga del Norte remained impassable.

Another bridge was closed after soil erosion were noted in its approaches. Also closed was the Macasoy Bridge along Dipolog-Oroquieta Road, all in Zamboanga del Norte.

In its website, the NDRRMC said local government units in Eastern, Western and Central Mindanao regions were on heightened alert for possible evacuation should the LPA will continue to bring in rains.

Alert level 1 status was also raised in Dinagat, Surigao City, Tandag City and Butuan City.

Data from the NDRRMC showed that the LPA had affected at least 731 families or 3,863 people in 70 villages in eight towns in four provinces.

Five houses were also damaged in Jabonga in Agusan del Norte due to continuous rains.

Gov't, MILF extend AHJAG mandate

by John Unson

COTABATO CITY, Philippines – The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front agreed to reinstate the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) to sustain a bilateral effort to curb criminalities in potential flashpoint areas covered by their ceasefire accord.

Government’s chief negotiator Marvic Leonen and his MILF counterpart Muhaquer Iqbal signed Wednesday a joint communiqué in Kuala Lumpur granting imprimatur to AHJAG to operate for 12 another more months.

The group will serve as a crime prevention mechanism to help security authorities maintain law and order in far-flung areas.

The traditional signing of the joint statement capped the culmination of the 25th government-MILF talks, which is to be followed by another round of formal negotiations next month.

The statement, emailed by the office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, also underscored the consensus of both sides to continue with their discussions on how to resolve security concerns in Mindanao.

“The parties acknowledge the need to explore creative approaches that will address the political, legal and other dimensions of the problems,” the statement Leonen and Iqbal co-signed pointed out.

The AHJAG – comprised of representatives from the MILF, the Armed Forces, and the Philippine National Police – operates on a yearly GPH-MILF bilateral mandate and is supervised by the joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH).

Beating a timeline

The AHJAG has resolved dozens of domestic peace and security issues in areas covered by the ceasefire and had managed to secure the release without any ransom of several kidnap victims in Central Mindanao and surrounding regions in recent years.

Leonen, in a separate emailed statement, said he was elated with the outcome of the 25th exploratory talks in Malaysia.

“The (government’s) peace process with the MILF has moved forward,” Leonen said.

He said he is optimistic the government can meet its 2012 timeline to craft a final peace deal with the MILF.

The peace talks started January 7, 1997, but had repeatedly been punctuated by bloody conflicts in areas supposedly covered by the government-MILF July 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities.

Big security problems caused the talks to collapse in 2000, in 2003 and, subsequently, in 2008, but negotiators, with the facilitation of Malaysia, managed to resume with the negotiations following every breakdown.

“We always believe that it is always possible to find solutions to a problem, review it, adjust and later on achieve the kind of peace that is permanent, that is founded on justice for all that are concerned on the ground,” Leonen said.

Many local officials acknowledge that while parts of the Zamboanga peninsula and the Island province of Basilan have been rocked by rebel-military hostilities last year, the GPH-MILF ceasefire pact has effectively been holding in Central Mindanao, specifically in the adjoining North Cotabato, Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces.

Peace activists and officials of various foreign-assisted outfits involved in humanitarian projects complementing the GPH-MILF peace efforts are quick to attribute such feat to the strong security coordination among the joint ceasefire committee, the police and the military.

“Credit also has to go the local government units and the IMT (International Monitoring Team) which are also helping observe the ceasefire in far-flung areas in Central Mindanao,” said Oblate priest Eliseo Mercado, Jr., director of the foreign-funded Institute for Autonomy and Governance, who is also a convernor of more than 50 peace-advocacy outfits supporting the government-MILF talks.


The chairman of the government’s ceasefire committee, Major Gen. Ariel Bernardo, said there have been isolated cases of hostilities in Central Mindanao in the past two years, but the incidents involved only feuding MILF commanders locked in land disputes.

Bernardo said local executives have lately been active in disseminating the gains of the Aquino administration’s confidence-building measures with communities in areas covered by the GPH-MILF ceasefire.

Iqbal told The Star he is optimistic the fragile peace in Central Mindanao and surrounding provinces will continue to prevail with the continuation of AJHAG’s operation with the extensive support of the IMT in monitoring all preliminary security agreements meant to stave off hostilities while the peace talks are underway.

The officer in charge of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Mujiv Hataman, has ordered the ARMM’s local government department and all of its constituent-municipal governments to participate in the ceasefire monitoring activities of the joint CCCH and the IMT.

Hataman issued the directive last week in the presence of Iqbal during a gathering in Cotabato City of diplomats from the European Union, representatives of OPAPP and members of the government’s peace panel.

Hataman said under the ARMM’s local government code, elected municipal and provincial officials are bound to flex their authority and influence in maintaining peace and order in their respective communities.

Hataman said he is ready to accommodate in the regional peace and order council representatives from the IMT and the joint CCCH for them to have easy and direct access to agencies that are implementing projects in support of the government and MILF’s rehabilitation programs for conflict-devastated communities.



COTABATO: The Philippine Coast Guard has rescued the 45 passengers who were reported missing after their vessel capsized on Monday, local police said Tuesday. All the passengers of the M/B BenJun vessel were rescued and safe after a rescue mission launched by the Philippine Coast Guard, Inocentes Capuno, said an officer in charge of the Dinagat Police office. The vessel, heading for the island town of Basilisa in Dinagat Island province, left the port of Surigao City at around 1:00 p.m. Monday. But upon reaching Hikdop Island, big waves hit the boat, causing it to capsize. “All the passengers were rescued including the boat’s crew,” Capuno said. The Philippines has more than 7,000 islands. Ships and boats serve as the principal means of transportation among these islands. Due to long years of poor maintenance, traffic accidents are common.

DOST unveils project to boost productivity of agri, manufacturing sectors

by (OLAbo/DOST-12/DEDoguiles/PIA 12)

COTABATO CITY, Feb. 14 (PIA) -- Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in agricultural and manufacturing sectors in Soccsksargen Region have more opportunities to strengthen their business courtesy of the Department of Science and Technology - Region 12 (DOST-12).

Dr. Zenaida P. Hadji Raof Laidan, DOST-12 regional director, said they launched recently the “Consultancy For Agricultural and Manufacturing Improvement” (CAMPI) program to boost the productivity of MSMEs to become competitive in the domestic and international markets.

CAMPI has two components, namely: Consultancy for Agricultural Enhancement Program” (CAPE) and the Manufacturing Productivity Extension Program(MPEX).

“By availing these CAMPI projects, we are confident that the beneficiaries will attain higher productivity that will be favorable to their businesses,” Dr. Laidan said.

DOST hopes that with these projects MSMEs can turn into big players both in the local and international markets to help sustain the economic growth in the countryside, she added.

CAMPI is funded by the Technology Application and Promotion Institute (TAPI), an attached agency of the DOST.

The orientation for the CAMPI beneficiaries was held in General Santos City, where DOST-12 also signed a memorandum of agreement with the program’s consultants.

Witnessing the event were Engr. Edgar I. Garcia, TAPI director, and Dr. Virginia Novenario-Enriquez, chief of RITDD, Philippine Council for Industry and Emerging Technology Research and Development or PCIEERD-DOST.

Consultants for CAPE component are: Prof. Arlyn A. Mandas, an aquaculture expert from the Mindanao State University in General Santos City who will handle the fish-farm beneficiaries in Sarangani and General Santos City; Prof. Ben G. Bareja, a horticulture expert from MSU-GSC, for the horticulture farms in South Cotabato and Gensan and Gemma Constantino and Dr. Victorino Laviste of Sultan Kudarat State University (SKSU) who provide consultancy services to the prawn farms in Lebak, Sultan Kudarat and tilapia ponds in South Cotabato.

Ms. Baby R. Lim, of the Summit Consultancy and Research Services, a DOST accredited consultancy firm based in Mandaue City, was chosen as consultant for the MPEX component.

Initial beneficiaries of the program include 15 firms that qualified for the MPEX component and 22 farms for the CAPE component. CAMPI program is a component of DOST’s umbrella program, Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SET-UP). Other components include technology trainings, laboratory services, packaging and labeling, and technical assistance. For more information about SET-UP, kindly visit the Provincial Science and Technology Centers nearest you.

OWWA sets deadline for submission of EDSP application

by Perlita D. Changco

COTABATO CITY, February 13, 2012 (PIA) - The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) has set the deadline in the submission of application for its Education for Development Scholarship Program (EDSP) for school year 2013-2014 on August 31, 2012.

OWWA-ARMM regional head Amy Crisostomo said, EDSP is scholarship granted to qualified dependents and beneficiaries of active-member-OFWs who intend to pursue a four to five-year baccalaureate in any CHED accredited college or university of their choice.

To qualify, an applicant must be a child or a married OWWA member, or brother/sister of an unmarried OWWA member; graduate or graduating high school student provided she/he has not yet earned any unit in college; not more than 21 years old and must pass the qualifying examination.

Under the program, Crisostomo said, an scholar is extended a financial assistance of twenty thousand pesos (P20,000) per semester or a maximum of P60,000.00 per school year covering tuition fee and other school expenses.

For school year, OWWA is allocating 100 scholarship for qualified OFW dependent-applicants that shall comprise the 9th batch of the EDSP scholar.

Applicants are required to submit accomplished application form (available at any OWWA office), 2 copies 2”x2” ID pictures; proof of OFW’s Active OWWA membership; birth certificate of applicant obtained from NSO if child of OFW and/or brother/sister of unmarried OFW to prove relationship; and secondary school record (Form 137).

She encouraged interested applicants to visit OWWA-ARMM located at 2/F Mags Audio Building, Quezon City or call telephone number (064) 421-7237 hotline number 09176220140 or email address; for inquiries. (pbchangco/PIA Cotabato City)

NPAs torch P33.5-M construction equipment

by John Unson and Edith Regalado

COTABATO CITY ,Philippines – Suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels set on fire some P33.5 million worth of construction equipment in two separate incidents in Cotabato and Davao del Sur yesterday and last Friday.

Inspector Rolando Dillera, chief investigator of the Kidapawan City police office, said at least 10 NPA rebels stormed a private construction firm and torched some P20 million worth of equipment after its owner rejected their demand for monthly protection money.

Dillera said the rebels, who arrived on motorcycles, burned three dump trucks, a payloader, and a backhoe at the Ricardo de la Cruz Interior Construction in Barangay Roque, Kidapawan City.

Witnesses said the NPAs were armed with assault rifles and caliber .45 handguns. The group’s leader reportedly carried a 9-mm machine pistol.

Kidapawan City Mayor Rodolfo Gantuangco said the NPAs have been demanding revolutionary taxes and protection money from firms operating in the city.

The gunmen said the burning of the equipment was punishment for the company’s rejection of their extortion demands, workers told police.

Meanwhile, in Purok Mahogany, Barangay Cogon in Digos City, Davao del Sur, suspected NPA rebels burned down P13.5 million worth of construction equipment Friday night.

The rebels reportedly torched a Kato crane and a Volvo backhoe of Algon Construction Co.

In Basilan, at least one person was wounded when gunmen fired at workers of a US-funded road project. – With Roel Pareño

European Call

by Ali G. Macabalang

COTABATO CITY, Philippines – A delegation of European Union (EU) envoys urged the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to intensify their negotiations to reach a peace accord acceptable to both parties at the “earliest possible moment.” EU Ambassador Guy Ledoux said the EU believes there is now a genuine window of opportunity to bring the peace process to a successful end despite ups and downs in past negotiations. “We believe that the timing is right for a decisive push toward an agreement and that such an opportunity should not be missed,” Ledoux said in a speech during the awarding ceremonies of the school painting competition “Let’s Paint for Peace” organized by the International Monitoring Team (IMT) here Tuesday.

JICA-funded Mindanao topographic maps completed, up for validation

by (PNA)


COTABATO CITY, Feb. 9 (PNA) - The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has completed digital maps of Mindanao and presented for validation by local government officials of the island.

The digital maps were presented during the “Topographic Mapping for Peace and Development in Mindanao” 2nd Technical Coordinating Committee (TCC) meetings held recently all over the island.

JICA topographic map project team leader Yutaka Kokofu reported the successful production of new digital topo-maps covering all regions of Mindanao, copies of which were distributed to LGUs and line agencies for validation.

Secretary Luwalhati Antonino, Mindanao Development Authority chair, said recipients of the maps were asked to validate the names of barangays, rivers, lakes, mountains, and other data as these will be incorporated in the maps before finalization.

Antonino said MinDA expects the submission of the maps by end of February.

The meetings were held separately in Davao City, General Santos, Cagayan de Oro City, and Zamboanga City, attended by about 150 representatives from LGUs and line agencies such as National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Tourism (DOT), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), National Irrigation Administration (NIA), National Statistics Office (NSO), Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA), contractors, and LGUS.

“The updated maps will give us accurate geographic information that can be used in management of disaster risks, as well as management and protection of the environment and its resources,” Antonino said.

The topographic mapping is a two-year JICA-funded project jointly undertaken by MinDA, JICA, and the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA).

Antonino said it aims to update the existing over-60-year old reference maps of Mindanao and will be used as a technical support to the peace and development initiatives in Mindanao.

The mapping project covers a total area of 100,500 km covering the six regions of Mindanao, and seeks to produce 205 high resolution maps with a scale of 1:50,000.

Antonino said the new maps will contain information on the topography, rivers systems, vegetation and land cover, infrastructure and transportation network, populated areas, approximate administrative boundaries, annotation of geographic names including mountains, rivers, bays, municipalities, and barangays, among others.

According to Kokofu there are additional specifications included in the digital maps like bathymetric data which covers underwater depth of lakes and ocean floors covering 58,000 square kilometers.

Antonino added that the maps will be used for development planning on the island-region’s environment, security, peace and order, and economy. It will also aid in improving implementation of services to help uplift the socio-economic conditions of its people, especially those in critical areas.

“We cannot stress enough the importance of the data we can obtain through this project, especially now that we’ll be launching the Mindanao-wide river basin and watershed management program called MindaNOW - Nurturing Our Waters,” said Antonino.

MindaNOW is another program spearheaded by MinDA that aims to integrate, coordinate, and harmonize interregional efforts to protect and rehabilitate Mindanao’s river basins and watersheds, and adopt these as key platforms for planning.

Antonino said MinDA looks at the topo-map as an “indispensable tool” for the implementation of MindaNOW as well as its other programs on the economy and environment.

Cops linked to Maguindanao massacre show signs of depression

by Edwin O. Fernandez

COTABATO CITY, Feb. 9 (PNA) -- Many policemen linked to the November 23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre have been showing signs of serious depression that need immediate intervention by psychologists, a group of policemen's wives said on Thursday.

Hadja Jalila Maguid, wife of former Maguindanao police provincial director Superintendent Sam Maguid, told reporters that most of those apparently in distress were detained policemen because they were merely on duty at their headquarters or on days off in the provincial police office in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao when the massacre happened.

Maguid, vice president of 1123 Advocates composed of wives of detained police officers, said PO2 Hernani Dicipulo Jr., who committed suicide at the Bicutan detention facility in Taguig on Monday, was restive and was acting strangely before he leaped from the top of the prison building to end his life.

Dicipulo’s cadaver was flown here Tuesday and was buried immediately at nearby Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao according to Islamic rites.

Contrary to earlier reports, Maguid said Dicipulo committed suicide because he was depressed due to the slow progress of the case.

"He did not commit suicide because he was guilty but because he was so frustrated of the slow progress of the case," Maguid said.

She stressed some of the detained policemen were nowhere near the scene when the killings took place.

“We are asking that these policemen could be litigated separately to hasten their prosecution,” she said.

"We are convinced that PO2 Dicipulo committed suicide not because he was bothered by his conscience, but because he was already despondent over the slow litigation of the cases filed against them.”

Maguid said children of the detained policemen have dropped from schools after the salaries of their father-policemen were withheld while the case is still pending.

“We are appealing to the Department of Justice to please focus attention on our demand for a separate prosecution of the cases filed against these policemen,” said Maguid.

Maguid also appealed to the DOJ to send psychiatrist to attend to the policemen detainees to prevent similar incident of suicide. (PNA) DCT/NYP/EOF

Cotabato City political scene heats up over Sema ambush, murder charges

by Ferdinandh B. Cabrera

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/08 February) — It’s 15 months before the May 13, 2013 elections but the political scene here has heated up with the filing Monday of charges of frustrated murder and attempted murder against Mayor Japal Guiani, his sister Atty. Frances Guiani-Sayadi who is the City Administrator, and five others for the January 10 ambush that injured Vice Mayor Muslimin Sema. Investigators said the ambush was politically motivated. The accused said the charges were politically motivated. Speaking on behalf of her brother who is out of the city on official travel, Sayadi denied the allegations but told a press conference that they will face the charges filed against them. She said the charges were “politically motivated.” The charges were filed before the Department of Justice by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police. CIDG chief Director Samuel Pagdilao Jr. said the motive of the failed assassination was to prevent Sema from running for mayor in 2013. Sema was mayor for three terms with Guiani was his vice mayor. In 2010, Sema, who had completed a third term and was disqualified for running again for mayor, opted to run for vice mayor, while Guiani ran for mayor. Sayadi said they learned about the filing of the charges only through a text message and that they have yet to receive a copy of the complaint filed against her brother-mayor, herself, her husband Omar Sayadi, the city’s number one councilor, Graham Dumama; ABC President Abdillah Lim, Barangay Captain Amil Sula, and Police Inspector Noel Gutierrez, chief of Police Station 2. Sayadi said there may be a third party taking advantage of the situation and making scenarios to disrupt the “peaceful political relationships in the city.” “For us, this is a grand design to put down the Guiani clan. For what? 2013 is fast approaching. And records will show na hindi kailanman pumasok sa utak ng kapatid ko na pumatay ng kasama niya. Ang ganda na ng image ng Cotabato City, we were able to reap awards and change the status of the city from being third class to being first class. Kung mag-eelection tayo bukas, would you destroy your name when you know you can handily win any election?” she asked. Sema was ambushed near his residence on Don Gonzalo Javier St., Rosary Heights-7 village shortly before noon of January 10. He was returning home when shots were fired, prompting his escorts to fire back, killing the alleged gunman, Jermin Abdullah. But in a February 7 letter to Nonnatus Caesar Roja, OIC National Director of the National Bureau of Investigation through Acting ARMM Regional Director Sixto Burgos, Baigan Salik Abdullah, the wife of the alleged gunman, said the death of Abdullah should be investigated “deeply and thoroughly,” claiming “my husband is a victim and a fall guy.” “Recent events seem to be deviating from the real issue and is not leaving towards unearthing the truth. Even the findings of the PNP SOCO (Philippine National Police Scene of the Crime Operation) that my late husband was negative of powder burns were not being considered by the investigating team,” she said. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera/MindaNews)

MILF hits MNLF's Misuari for "dividing" the Bangsamoro people

by (PNA)


COTABATO CITY, Feb. 7 (PNA) -- The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Tuesday lambasted the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) for declaring that thousands of MILF guerillas have left and joined the MNLF.

Khaled Musa, MILF information deputy, said Nur Misuari, chair of a faction of the MNLF, was creating division among Bangsamoro people.

Misuari served as regional governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao from 1996 to 2001. He led a bloody revolt in Sulu shortly before the 2001 regional polls and fled to Malaysia and eventually arrested there.

Speaking to reporters, Misuari said the MILF is no longer capable of launching combat against the Philippine government because many of its followers have jumped over to his MNLF.

“We call on MNLF Chairman Misuari not to engage in mudslinging to destroy us because we in the two fronts are all brothers and are fighting for the same cause -- that of pushing forward Moro-rule and self-determination in Mindanao’s Moro territories,” Musa said.

Misuari said that many MILF members have lost confidence in their organization’s now 14-year peace talks with national government.

Misuari was even reported to have branded as “bogus” the MILF’s peace overture with the Aquino administration as he accused its third party facilitator, Malaysia, of conniving with the rebel group’s leader, Al-Haj Murad, to cover up for Malaysia’s interest over Sabah, a mineral-rich state.

Misuari said the Philippines never waived from its claim of Sabah, which he described as owned by the Sultanate of Sulu.

Musa described Misuari's latest pronouncement as "sour-graping and show bitterness" over Malaysia for having extradited him to Manila after revolting in Sulu in 2001 when he was about to lose power as ARMM regional governor.

The MNLF chair cited the case of Umbra Kato who bolted from the MILF mainstream and formed his own organization called Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement.

Misuari had a clandestine meeting with Kato late last year shortly before the BIFM leader suffered a mild stroke and became bedridden.

Soliven contribution on Mindanao paper lauded

by John Unson

COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Mindanao’s pioneer weekly Catholic newspaper, which Philippine Star founding publisher Max Soliven helped establish after World War II, turned 64 years old today, serving communities in the context of religious ecumenism and cultural pluralism.

The Mindanao Cross, published here every Saturday since 1948 by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) congregation, is a community newspaper focused on reporting the goings-on in the local communities and explicitly does not compete with any national daily or local publications based outside in Central Mindanao.

It always has extensive reports on the Southern peace process and successes of local and foreign organizations in propagating Muslim and Christian solidarity and on the government’s separate peace overtures with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front.

Soliven’s contributions

Soliven, then a young scribe was a close friend of Oblate missionary Ben Carreon who became the pioneer editor of the Mindanao Cross in 1948. He also had worked side-by-side with a French-Canadian member of the OMI, Msgr. Gerard Mongeau.

There were stories from among senior OMI priests that it was, in fact, Soliven that prodded Carreon and Mongeau to forge ahead and make good with a plan of the Oblate community to put up a weekly newspaper in Mainland Mindanao.

“The rest is history. He was a good coach,” said priest Alfonso Cariño, editor of Mindanao Cross from the mid 1990s to 2003, recalling Soliven in a brief message during the newspaper’s anniversary rites.


Soliven kept his promise to help the Oblate community secure the necessary permits to legitimize the Mindanao Cross and, subsequently, publish its maiden issue.

Soliven acted as consultant, pro bono, (for nothing in exchange), in managing the newspaper’s operation – mainly only through correspondence with Carreon – during its fragile, crucial infancy.

The Mindanao Cross was shut down by the military of the Marcos regime three weeks after President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972, apparently for being critical of the government’s abuses against Moro and non-Moro communities in the South.

The publication resumed only after its editor then, Patricio Diaz, Sr., signed an agreement with the Armed Forces not to publish any report hostile to the Marcos administration.

The Mindanao Cross received more than a hundred citations and awards for its commitment to serve both as a conduit of information and as a forum for discussions on the intricacies of the decades-old Mindanao peace and security issues.

Star and Cross partnership

The Mindanao Cross has been a prudent and careful disseminator of news information it can get from the Philippine Star, with clear attributions stated explicitly either “as reported by the national daily Philippine Star,” or, in some instances, “as published by the”

The owner of Mindanao Cross, the Vatican-based OMI group, has been operating humanitarian missions since the late 1930s in Central Mindanao, in the island provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Apart from the Mindanao Cross, the OMI, also operates more than a dozen AM and FM radio stations scattered across the South, all advocating peaceful, community-initiated resolution of conflicts besetting the culturally-pluralistic Southern communities.

The Oblates also has schools in Mindanao, among them the Notre Dame University in Cotabato City, which has special lessons on “sensitive, pro-community peace and conflict reporting” for its mass communication students.

Cotabato City council passes halal certification ordinance



THE Cotabato City council has passed the halal certification ordinance authored by council member Abdullah Andang in support to concerted efforts pushing the regions halal industry.

Council majority flood leader Atty Froilan Melendrez said the ordinance is in consonance with the Consumers Welfare Act aimed at encouraging food manufacturers, hotels and restaurants, catering services/food handlers and other business establishment in the city to observe and practice halal processes under the guidance of the halal industry experts.

While few business establishments have been issued halal certificates by the Muslim Mindanao Halal Certification Board Inc in 2009, Melendrez noted there are some which display sticker or logo claiming to be halal certified.

The city legislator warns against unauthorised display of such sticker or logo with the corresponding penalties being imposed for any violation of the Halal Certification Ordinance.

The Halal Certification Ordinance stipulates fines for any violation.PIA

Teen arrested for selling shabu

by Arianne Caryl N. Casas

ANOTHER teen from Cotabato City was nabbed for selling shabu on Thursday afternoon.

Agents from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA)-Davao Region led by Investigation Agent Naravy Duquiatan, PDEA deputy regional director, conducted a buy-bust operation at No. 17 Leo Street, GSIS Subdivision, Matina, Davao City, around 2:30 p.m. of February 2.

Duquiatan identified the suspect as Marshadam Maddie Amba alias Jepoy, 19, married, of Bagua, Mabini, Cotabato City.

Amba was arrested after selling one sachet of suspected methamphetamine hydrochloride, otherwise known as "shabu", weighing more or less 0.02 grams worth P1,000 to a PDEA agent who acted as poseur buyer.

Recovered from Amba were four medium sachets of suspected shabu approximately weighing four grams and two pieces of P500 buy-bust marked money bill with serial numbers WL106439 and UX839781.

Duquiatan said the suspect was with a minor identified as alias Yap, 17, of Manday, Cotabato City.

Recovered from Yap's possession were two small packs of suspected Cannabis Sativa L, otherwise known as "marijuana".

Amba is now detained at PDEA jail, while the seized suspected illegal drugs were submitted to the Philippine National Police Regional Crime Laboratory in Ecoland, Davao City.

Cases of violation of Section 5 in relation to Section 26 (Conspiracy) and Section 11 (Possession of Dangerous Drugs) Article II of Republic Act 9165, otherwise known as The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, are being prepared against the suspect.

Meanwhile, Yap was turned over to the City Social Services Development Office.

State U in Cotabato City assures no tuition fee hike

by (pbchangco/PIA Cotabato City)

COTABATO CITY, Feb. 3 (PIA) -- The Cotabato City State Polytechnic College (CCSPC) is not inclined to impose new tuition fee hike anytime soon.

This was the assurance given by Dr. Dammang Bantala, newly installed president of the CCSPC, the oldest school in South Central Mindanao.

“This a government learning institution. I assure students and parents that there will be no tuition fee increase within the period of  two years to help children of poor families especially the Bangsamoro people,” Bantala said.

Bantala said he would focus on enhancing capacities and capabilities geared towards raising the school’s public education standard to to reach out and cater to more indigent students

As this developed, Bantala said, he fully supports the proposal for the conversion of CCSPC into a state university being pushed by Maguindanao 1st district Rep. Bai Sandra Sema through a bill now pending before Congress.

Bantala said, CCSPC officials, faculty and students need to exert extra efforts to meet the requirements necessary for the conversion – upgrade CCSPC’s status to Level II and raise the passing mark in licensure examinations.

The conversion of CCSPC into a state university, Bantala said, provides better access to improved school facilities, equipment, laboratories and trainings as tools to help attain the goal of quality education that would redound to the benefit of the people and the community.

ARMM, JICA renew partnership and cooperation for peace development

by (PNA)


COTABATO CITY, Feb. 1 (PNA) - Acting Regional Governor Mujib Hataman and officials of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) have renewed partnership, as the new regional governor started reforming the regional bureaucracy.

Hataman and JICA Chief Representative Takahiro Sasaki met Tuesday at the former's office for the renewal and strengthening of cooperation.

Sasaki pointed out that JICA would be focusing its cooperation on human resource development programs for ARMM.

He was accompanied by Shinichi Masuda, JICA Senior Representative, Mayuko Shimakage, JICA Project Formulation Advisor, and other JICA officials.

ARMM officials were very appreciative on the JICA efforts to extend technical and other support for the regional government.

DSWD-ARMM Assistant Secretary Pombaen Karon-Kader gratefully acknowledged JICA’s community development assistance to ARMM which started since 2006.

“It was a noble project which is direct to the people and empowers them in prioritizing and management of projects in their communities,” she said.

Professor Edgar Ramirez, OIC president of ARMM Development Academy (ADA), also lauded JICA for the P34.8-million Japan-ARMM Friendship Hall and Training Center which houses his office and provides venue for instituting needed reforms in the bureaucracy of ARMM.

“Hopefully, we can make good use of this facility as a center of peace and development,” Ramirez said.

“While we are tasked to lay down the foundations of reform in ARMM in just 15 months or so, ADA also needs institutional development as it has been left out by previous administrations,” he added.

Engineer Emil Sadain, DPWH-ARMM regional secretary, was grateful over JICA's human capacity development projects undergone by his office and suggested to give more emphasis on infrastructure development programs.

He also proposed exposure and upgrading of DPWH-ARMM officials and employees to project designs, planning, evaluation, quality control and implementation to make them at par with national government’s standards.

“This is in line with President Aquino’s directive for 100 percent paved national roads in the ARMM,” Sadain said.

Sasaki committed his support towards the capacity-building plans for the ARMM bureaucracy, saying he will wait for the ARMM officials’ submission of the consolidated roadmap by which to fill in the gaps.

Lawyer Anwar Malang, ARMM executive secretary, immediately instructed Regional Planning and Development Office (RPDO) Executive Director Diamadel Dumagay to convene the Technical Working Group (TWG) to draft a summary of the expectations of the cabinet secretaries into a consolidated proposal to JICA.

“We will discuss and map out immediate needs doable within our term as well as long-term capacity-building needs of the bureaucracy in preparation for the future of ARMM, and in two weeks time pass this proposal to JICA,” Malang said.

Malang also announced during the meeting about the new policy of Gov. Hataman that all trainings should be held in ARMM unless otherwise mandated by the training funding agency "to make good use of the Japan-ARMM Friendship Building."

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