Monday, November 29, 2010

Barangay Election Followup...Dont Play with Ballot Boxes!!!

In my recent entry on Barangay ERV (Election Related Violence) I briefly discussed an incident that took place at an AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) checkpoint.The incident,in the town of Buldon in Maguindano Province occurred when the convoy of a local politician was searched and the soldiets discovered that the gentleman had stolen a Ballot Box from that town,Buldon,despite the man serving as an executive in another municipality.

The politician,Vice Mayor Alexander Tomawis,of Barira in that same province was on the "Election Watch List"of the 603rd Bde (Brigade),the element manning that checkpoint because during the synchronised Local and National Elections of 2010 he been caught doing the same exact thing in absolutely identical circumstances.What is it with Tomawis and Ballot Boxes? Some kind of degenerate fetish? Hardly.The town in which he was caught,Buldon,is the town employing his wife,Fatima Ruth Aratuc Tomawis as Mayor.In the first incident he was doing his best to ensure his wife's victory in that mayoralty campaign.The most recent incident though was an attempt by Tomawis to consolidate his wife's hold on Buldon by clearing out any residual opposition.

Vice Mayor Tomawis is himself a veteran of the local political minefield. A longtime ally of Ampatuan Dynasty he was one of the provincial mayors who formed the backbone of Ampatuan control.As such he enjoyed free reign in Northern Maguindano and as we see with his actions over these last two elections he can't seem to understand that times have changed in a very meaningful way.  Indeed he should have had that reliasation down pat given the fact that he had reached his mandatory term as Mayor and had to step aside and assume the subservient position of Vice Mayor.One imagines that had to sting but how much more when the new Mayor is your own mother?

After the new Mayor,his mother, Rocaya Dagalangit Tomawis was more than amenable when her son asked for a sabbatical so as to be able to relocate temporary to Davao City. Seeing as how its her own son,and seeing as how his life was now in danger over his Election Day hijinx she practically kicked him out of Barira. Tomawis then took a flat (apartment) on Hill Drive Street in Davao City's Buhangin District.

Davao City has served as a sort of DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) amongst many Filipino-Muslims. Long seen as a refuge of sorts it has become the home away from home for just about every powerful Maguindanowan (Maguidanoan) Clans.However,in what seems to have evolved into a running theme in this entry,times have changed.After all,time was when deliberatelly attacking a rival clan's womenfolk or innocent bystanders when engaging in"Rido"(Clan Warfare) was ALSO not engaged in but we all know what happened with that,just ask Governor Esmael"Toto"Mangudadatu (whose wife and sisters were raped and killed in the Ampatuan Massacre).

On Monday,November 29,2010 Vice Mayor Tomawis was sitting on a bench in front of his apartment building with 2 bodyguards and 3 men from Buldon, the town which his wife sits as Mayor.The 3 men,Sultan Tamugan,Hadji Maluag and an unnamed Ustadz (Islamic teacher) were there for a schedualed appointment,when 2 young men riding tandem on a black Honda XRM motorcycle pulled into the parking lot and dismounted. Striding over to the bench while inferring that they also had an appointment with Tomawis they left their full face helmets fastened on their heads.Interestingly, in a town famous for extra-judicial executions perpertrated by men riding tandem, nobody,including the 2 bodyguards found it all strange the youn men wouldn't remove their helmets. As the duo stepped closer,the youth wearing a blue striped polo shirt then pulled out a 9MM from the rear of his waistband and shot Tomawis in the head, immediately killing Tomawis.

Neighbours reported afterwards that earlier in the day those 2 young men had approached residents of the building asking for Tomawis' unit,saying that they needed a signature for a package.Unable to ascertain the exact unit they had seen the meeting on the bench and quickly took advantage and shot the victim.

Friday, November 26, 2010

GPH-MILF Peace Process,Third Quarter of 2010:The New GPH Peace Panel

With the changing of the guard in the last Presidential Election the GPH-MILF Peace Process was once again resuscitated.When Talks had ended in late 2009 (though officially they continued inching along until this past spring,2010) the Peace Process appeared to be like so many efforts of the preceding Administration,simply dead in the water.With impressive go to-edness newly inagurated President Aquino wasted no time in confronting 1 of the nation's most formidable obstacles in terms of peace and development.By July 15th,2010,roughly two weeks after assuming the mantle of government,the President named his Chairperson for the GPH Peace Panel,Professor Mario Victor"Marvic"F.Leonen,Dean of Law at the University of the Philippines.

Professor Leonen's field of expertise is International Law (personally I had hoped it would be Constituional Law simply for the volatile terrain it would produce during Talks).Thus far Leonen has tried to remain above the fray while not sacrificing his stated commitment to framing the process Constitutionally.Why all this talk of the Constitution you ask (if perhaps you had been on vacation in some unimaginable place not yet innundated with media hacks)?The answer,naturally,is that the Peace Process hit a brick wall on August 4th,2008 because of the hugely anticipated MoA-AD (Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain) was zapped with a Restraining Order by the Supreme Court (which subsequently found that the document in fact contravened the 1987 Constitution).While the preceeding was great news for those who love an Independant Judiciary (as well as the great many people who didn't wish to see the Republic dissected over manufactured ethno-nationalist fantasies),it led to 750,000 IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons,i.e."Refugees"),at least 1,100 dead and countless wounded and traumitised...and of course,that"floundering Peace Process"I just mentioned.

Joining Professor Leonen will be 4 Panel members whom the President began naming a month later,in August;

I) Senen C.Bacani,63,graduated Summa Cum Laude from Da Salle before gaining his graduate degree at the University of Hawaii where he studied as a scholar in the "East-West Scholarship Program."Becoming a corporate hack at Dole he spent most of the next 20 years abroad on company business.Like many of the nation's brightest and best he returned home post-Marcos to lend a hand in rebuilding the country.In 1991 he was appointed Secretary of Agriculture under President Corazon Aquino,the current President's late mother.Though he only held the post through 1992 his tenure was remarkable for it being the first time in modern history that the nation was able to become an exporter of rice instead of importing it.Likewise it marked the first time that the nation gained self sufficiency with corn as well.While Bacani can't take all the credit for those 2
two great accomplishments,his effort and know how certainly played a part.

Why would an agri-biz whiz be chosen to negotiate with an insurgent army?While working for Dole he had made the acquaintance of Datu Ibrahim"Toto"Paglas,a Maguindanaw (Maguidanoan) leader from the Maguindano/Sultan Kudarat Provincial border who also happened to be a nephew of the late Hashim Salamat,founder of the MILF/BIAF.Capaitalising on this relationship Bacani,with Datu Paglas as his partner,began lapping up hectare after hectare of arable land between the towns of Datu Paglas (it is the home town of the afore mentioned Datu"Toto,"named after an ancestor) and Buluan which directly borders Sultan Kudarat Province.Before converting that land Bacani had used another personal relationship to secure a multi-year commitment from the family owned Chiquita Corporation to purchase the intended cash crop,bananas.

By the turn of the millenium the vast plantation,doing business as
"La Frutera,"was employing upwards of 1,500 locals,90 percent of whom were Muslims.More than a few of that number were active members,or otherwise dependants of members of the MILF/BIAF.Aside from the plantation,which now owns 1,100 hectares of producing land making the ARMM's (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao) most productive businesses,the endeavour is a fabulous example of how compromise can lead to sustainable development.One such example that often comes to my mind is how Bacani and Datu"Toto" were able to manage a most vexing problem.As the plantation began expanding expotentially the partners had difficulty managing their irrigation needs.Bacani,a man who thinks big apparently decided that they would be best off with the best irrigation engineers in the world...Israelis.As one might imagine the idea of Israelis setting up shoppe in ARMM wasn't exactly well received,to say the least.Datu"Toto"had learned to trust Bacani's instincts (not to mention his incredible knowledge) and after a very brief bout of reluctance decided to talk to his Uncle Hashim and secure official MILF backing for the prposed venture.Just after the 2000 War launched by (then) President Estrada led the MILF leadership,including Salamat to ensconce themselves deep in the bush,the group's former headquarters at Camp Abubakar having fallen to the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines).After a long,e day trek up-country Datu"Toto"was able to secure Salamat's blessing,and by relation,the MILF's.Why would the MILF agree to such an
Would the MILF agree to such a politically unpalatable idea? As Datu"Toto"told it,Salamat said that as long as it is Filipino-Muslims (of course Salamat would have called them"Bangsamoros") receive the ultimate benefit he was all for it.There is a valuable lesson to be learned in that anecdote;When people can genuinely improve their lives in a sustainable manner politics almost always takes a backseat,and well it should.That Bacani was the man who realised that nugget first,and that he had both the faith and the gumption to follow through with "La Frutera"makes him Panel materiel (and then some).

II) Professor Miriam Coronel Ferrer,an Assistant Professor in the University of the Philippines' Political Science Department was the second appointee and paid her dues as a Peace Advocate not only here in the Philippines but abroad as well.Formerly the Director of the school's"Third World Studies Center"from 2000 to 2003 she has been involved in NGO campaigns for disparate causes such as the banning of and continued awareness against Landmines,work that took her to Cambodia in the post-Khmer Rouge Era.Currently active with the grassroots organisation,"Sulong CARHRIHL,"which seeks to keep CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law),an Agreement brokered between the Government and the NDFP (National Front of the Philippines).As an academic with Leftist credentials she has in the past been called on by the government in the GPH-NDFP Peace Process as well;from 2/2001 to 2/2003 Ferrer served as a member of the Reciprocal Working Committee for Political and Constitutional Reforms (RWC-PCR) for the GPH Peace Panel.Currently she passes her time,when not busy working towards her PhD in Political Science at Tokyo University's Graduate School for Law and Politics as an online columnist for the Philippine television network,ABS-CBN,covering political affairs.

III) Professor Hamid Barra,of Mindanao State University in Marawi City,Lanao del Sur Province is Chairman of that school's King Faisal Center for Islamic,Arabic and Asian Studies.While Barra's placement on the panel might seem predicated upon his ethnicity and or religion neither attribute really serves the government's cause given the man's long and close relationship with the state.A past Secretary of the NCMF (National Council of Muslim Filipinos),a token govermental portfolio that was created to offer the appearance that the government actually cares about minority affairs...or simply that they even understand what a"Filipino Muslim"is.Professor Barra's Peace Making credentials are a bit shabby as well with the only association worth mentioning is his currently holding the Presidency of the"Ulama League."The Ulama League is an entity composed of pro-government Islamic scholars and clerics who make an absolutely minimal effort to inunece a constituency that pays it no mind in any regard.For all Barra's milquetost ambiance he has still managed,in his own minute way to court controversy.The Philippines,as a concession to the Saudi sponsored OIC (Organisation of the Islamic Conference) created a government position to act as an interface with the Saudis for the annu Haj Pilgramage,the"Amerol Haj" (Leader of the Pilgramage).

The Haj takes place annually and involves a trip to al Hejaz,a region in Saudi Arabia where the e holiest cities of Islam,Mecca and al Medina are located.The trip is incumbent upon all Muslim adults with sufficient financial and physical means.Seeing as how there are currently well over 1 billion Muslims on the planet one can easily imagine what a massive undertaking this is logistically and otherwise.While the title of"Amerol"is largely ceremonial the governmental bureau which the Secretary leads encompasses more a than a little political cachet (in other words,looks great on a resume
).This minimal consideration was enough to place Barra on the hotseat.The largely titular position of Amerol is concurrently held by the sitting Secretary of the NCMF.For the first time ever the Secretary of the NCMF is a woman,Bai Lucman.Islam,being the patriarchal religion that it is does not permit a female Amerol.Without consulting Bai Lucman the powers that be opted to have Professor Barra be made Amerol for 2010.The real problem though,arose when everyone (that is to say"everyone in the tiny world that cares at all about such things") began assuming that Barra was ALSO concurrently the sitting Secretary of the NCMF.Sounds like SOME people have way too much time on their hands (just like those of us that Blog).

IV) The last member of the Panel seems to be an after thought,a name chosen out of a hat;Ramon A.Piang,long time Mayor of Upi,Maguindanao Province who just assumed the position of Vice Mayor in the last election,having served the maximum 3 terms in office (9 years total).Vice Mayor Piang is certainly multi-cultural being part Maguindanowan (Maguindanoan),part Teduray (a small Lumad Tribe centered in that same town) and part Chinese.If he could claim some Cebuano (Bisaya) or Ilonggo ancestry I might include a link to,"We are the World."

With the 5 members empaneled the group began the tedious chore of going over all past bi-lateral Agreements,Memorandums and Joint Communiques.By October they were ready to join with the Cabinet Security Cluster (representatives from the Defense and Intel echelons who closely advise the President on pertinent matters) and by month's end had together developed what they feel is a viable framework for negotiation,always cognisant of the pre-requisite Constituional onus (of course).One hopes that THIS Panel avoids the legal and moral shortcuts undertaken by its predecessor.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Abu Sayyaf Never Sleeps...

Sunday, September 05, 2010 in Barangay Lapa, Maimbung, Jolo Island, Sulu Province, PNP SAF (Philippine National Polise Special Action Force) quickly took advantage of a tip relayed to them by an alert villager and raided a home in an effort to apprehend Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli"Marwan"bin Hir. Besides making bombs, and more importantly training Filipinos how to make bombs, he is the nominal leader of KMM,"Kumpulun Mujihadin Malaysia,"as well as being on the JI (Jemma'a Islamiyah) Central Committee, at least according to just about every analyst. KMM is a toothless dog and JI, while down is not yet out for the count. Imagining it to have developed some sort of highly cohesive inner government is ludicrous unless by,"Central Committee"they instead mean 4th hand Fatwas (Islamic edicts) bearing certain figures' names.

Marwan is an extremely Hi-Value Target in the Order of Battle (high up on the hit list for the AFP et al), and his bounty shows it: 5 million US. While Marwan has once again vexed Philippine authorities the SAF did mention to neutralise a Medium Value:sub-Kumander Gafur Jumdail, brother of ASG Dr Abu Factional leader, Ustadz Umbra Abu"Dr.Abu"Jumdail.Dr.Abu who is believed to be alive but laying low was the primary mover behind the 2008 kidnapping of the Manila-based news anchor Ces Drillon of the Filipino network ABS-CBN. Ms.Drilon, ignorantly, browbeat a Mindanowan academic who was said to be writing a book on Abu Sayyaf to guide her on Jolo Island and help to act as an intemediary with the group.

Joined by a ABS-CBN cameraman the 3 began trekking inland after meeting a fixer in Jolo City, the provincial capitol and largest population centre in Sulu Province.About 2 km into the bush they were met by a small group of very well armed ASG (Abu Sayyaf) guerillas who would then lead the party inland to a rendevouz with an interview factional leader.They hadnt gone far when they came across the path of a band from another faction. Very quickly the guerilla leading the party was stabbed repeatedly, after which that 2nd faction, Dr.Abu's, then kidnapped the group.
The case was quite different from the run of the mill mill

Also on Sunday, September 05, 2010, the PAF (Philippine Air Force) AISG (Air Intelligence and Security Group), with PNP on backup nabbed ASG member Jul
Ahmad"Jul Puti"Ahaadi,35, on a warrant connected to the August, 2000 decapitations of a group of cosmestic salesmen cum Jehovah Witness missionaries from Zamboanga City. A group of men and women decided to kill 2 birds with 1 stone when they took the ferry from Zamboanga City to Jolo City, Jolo Island. The group contracted a van and local driver to take them on their endeavour but were waylaid outside of Jolo City by Abu Sayyaf. All the men were then decapitated. Puti was placed in the custody of the AFP lock-up in Camp Asturias in Jolo City.

On October 08, 2010 21 year old Tsinoy (Filipino-Chinese, also known as"Chinoy"), Kenn"Kenny"Klefford Lao received a text message from a text-mate* who asked Kenny to meet them outside the Notre Dame campus in Jolo City. After class finished Kenny went outside to meet the person and was kidnapped by ASG guerillas. Later that same day a guerilla using Kenny's cell phone contacted his family demanding 5 million Pesos (roughly 100,000 US) but the next day lowered it to 3 million (roughly 60,000 US) but in exchange for the discount set a deadline of 5 days, threatening decapitation. Like many Filipinos, and almost all Tsinoy, the family refused to cooperate with the PNP and from the beginning conducted negotiations on their own and outside the media glare. As of today, November 13, 2010, Kenny is still missing.

On November 04,2010 in Barangay Mother Bagua,Cotabato City alert residents noticed a stranger stop short as he sighted a PNP (Philippine National Police) checkpoint.Then,when the man quickly turned around and began walking away at a brisk pace the villagers alerted PNP officers who immediately apprehended Karadji Alari,32,of Maimbung,Jolo Island,Sulu Province.Alari was found to be carrying nearly a kilo of ammonium nitrate fertiliser,a volatile fertiliser banned in the Philippines due to its utilisation in IEDs.While Alari might have claimed to simply love gardening the blasting caps he was found to be carrying left him no room to even try.

11/13/2010,Tawi Tawi Province became the latest battleground in a war of words between the Philippine NGO",PIPVTR"(Philippine Institute of Peace,Violence and Terrorism Research) and the AFP.PIPVTR's Director,Rommel Banaloi claims that JI (Jemaa Islamiyya) henchman Umar"Umar Kecil"Patek was ensconced on the nation's southernmost province,Tawi Tawi.The AFP's LTC.Benjamin Hao,Spokesperson for the 6ID (6th Infantry Division) then fired a salvo on 11/06
when he brusquely waved away Banaloi's claims and challenging the NGO to provide some proof and until then the media would be foolish to pay attention to such claims.Today the organisation released what it says is a very recent video of Patek taken on Tawi tawi.

Certainly the AFP won't easily forget its shame and embarrasment surrounding what most observers feel was a manufactured tale when the military proudly claimed to have shot Patek to death in a 2006 firefight in Sulu Province.When the AFP was unable to confirm the kill.Patek,who would be 40 if still alive arrived in the country in 2003 with another JI figure,the epononymously named Dulmatin fled Indonesian authorities who were after him for the Bali Bombing in that country.

While Sulu remains calm for all intencive purposes Basilan Province,the other ASG innundated province has remained pretty much how it's always been:turbulent.

On September 16,2010 in Barangay Bohe Lebung,Tipo Tipo on Basilan the ASG-Jamiri Faction under operational command of Long Sulayman ambushed a detachment from the 23IB.When the smoke cleared after 30 minutes 3 AFP soldiers were dead.

September 19,2010 in Barangay Upper Mangas,Lantawan,Basilan,ASG guerilla Abdulkarim"Benjamin"Mangas who also went by the name of"Raffy"was the subject of a joint AFP/PNP operation revilving around Sali's admitted rile in both the famed"Los Palmas"kidnapping in Puerto Princessa,Palawan and the subsequent"Siege on Lamitan".After a 10 minute exchange of gunfire he was found dead.His grieving family vehemently denied that Sali was a member of ASG.Aside from a captured M16 and M203 grenade launcher captured by the AFP there is also a 350,000 Peso Reward for his capture or death.

On October 05,2010 in Barangay Limo-ok,Lamitan,Basilan a resident recognised a man featured on PNP Circulars,Bidung"Ben"Esmail,as the man walked past City Hall.Having quickly notified the authorities the PNP was able to very quickly deploy on scene and take Esmail into custody.Bidung Esmail was wanted in connection with the 2001"Siege of Lamitan."

The event in question involved the ASG under Khadaffy Janjalani and Abu Sabaya storming into Jose Maria Torres Memorial Hospital in Lamitan,on Basilan Island on June 02,2001
.The group had just arrived with 21 hostages they had taken at"Dos PalmasL resort near Puerto Princesa on Palawan Island.Tired and hungry after days spent aimlessly criss crossing the Sulu Sea aboard a hijacked fishing trawler the motley group had finally made landfall on their home island of Basilan only to run the gauntlet of pursuing AFP.Seizing upon the idea of over running the hosputal,taking staff and patients hostage and reaching a negotiated settlement the kidnappers soon found themselves in unfamiliar waters as the media got wind of the story.

Understandably,having the bulk of the Basilan Faction cornered in a veryt small building,hospital or not,was irresistable to most AFP officers.What should have been a slam dunk suddenly went haywire though when the OIC (Officer in Charge) followed SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) and notified the LGU (Local Governmental Unit) of the unfolding drama.

When discussing Basilan Island,a town that then held all of 5 municipalities, and"LGU" in the same breath one could not be discussing anyone other than the then newly elected Governor,Wahab Akbar.Akbar began his climb into the political arena as an MNLF Commanding Officer,in local parlance,a "Kumander."Having grown disatisfied with the founder and leader of the MNLF,Nur Misuari in the late 1980s he had been considering a defection to the nascent MILF which had itself begun as a clique of dissatisfied MNLF officers.Ergo Kumander Akbar was more than amenable when a local teacher of religion asked to talk to him about a militant organisation he had just formed.

Abdurajik Janjalani,the"teacher"in question spoke with an idealistic fervour that reporetedly disgusted the very pragmatic Akbar but the MNLF veteran realised the potential of the charismatic young man and agreed to join forces.This newly created organisation adopted the generic label of,"al Harakarut Islamiyyah,"The Islamic Movement.

Akbar would soon witdraw from the endeavour and in later years deny any connection what-so-ever,but a decade later at the"Siege of Lamitan" many could not help but recall that early,close association.On the day in question,after the ASG had taken refuge in the hospital the ranking military officer initially on the scene,Capt.Ruben Bunyucan Guinolbay (CO Instructor,Scout Ranger Class 142,on an unschedualed extension of its"Training Mission") followed the just mentioned SOP and rapidly made his way to the residence of the town's mayor.Capt.Guinolbay didn't have much time to wonder why the provincial Govenor,Wahad Akbar,would be loudly conferring with the Mayor though later,after he'd been sacrificed as a scapegoat he would have plenty of time to consider everything associated with that clusterfu*k of a debacle (after 27 hours on point and having had 4 of his Trainees killed and then being accused by brass as having caused their deaths by connivance with the afore mentioned politicians*).

The young Junior Officer did find it very strange when Akbar,exercising his discretion as the ranking Local Executive had Capt.Guinolbay's Scout Rangers back up off the compound enclosing both the hospital and the Catholic Church that sponsored it,St.Peter's.It was only days later that the young officer discovered that while he and his men had been manipulated and taxed for body and soul that other,Senior Officers,had arranged for ASG to beat a hasty retreat via a 2 meter hole in the wall lining the compound,directly in back of the church.

With ASG's retreat into the bush the"Siege" ended and though ASG and the many hostages trampling through the jungle with it would go on to play a pivotal role in Philippine History vis a vis the US involvement predicated upon the 3 American hostages that endured that sordid affair,Bidung"Ben"Esmail's role least so far as the Philippine Justice System is concerned.Esmail is currently being held on a Warrant for Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention (wouldn't ALL"Illegal Detention"be"Serious?").

The very next day,as if to juxtapose an incredibly current and relevant ASG incident with the tawdry past degeneracy of the group,Brig.Gen.Eugenio Clemen,CO of NFWM (Naval Forces Western Mindanao) and concurrently CO of Marine Forces on Basilan took great pains to hold a press conference where he"revealed"that IS-AFP (AFP Intel) has 2 assets that had just attended a meeting in al Barka,a town on Basilan.In this meeting,held by the ASG-Jamiri Faction,the factional leader,Kumander Nurhasan Jamiri revealed that ASG had sponsored e candidates for the upcoming Barangay Elections on October 25,in that same time.Brig.Gen Clemen refused to,or more likely could not reveal neither the barangays nor the candidates in question.Interstingly,Clemen said the group's objective is to pad its coffers and not any type of ideological pursuit.While it is true that Barangay Captains do ger IRAs (Internal Revenue Allowances) which are almost entirely pork barrels (never thought you would see old Abu chase after some pork,did you?) It is incredibly meagre when measured against the dividends one gets when one kidnaps a single foreigner (or 4 or 5 locals).Still,that is the AFP story and they are sticking with it.

November 02,2010 in Barangay Cabangalan,Ungayaya Pukan saw a jeepney** waylaid as it neared the border of Barangay Lagayas,across the border of the next municipality,Tipo Tipo.The jeepney,en route to the town of Sumisip,from Lamitan was then robbed by ASG who abducted 60 year old Rose Baranda almost as an after thought.

Ms.Baranda had been in Lamitan for a Church Study Group and had been going to her home in in the largely Cebuano (Bisaya) village of Barangay Tumabuhong,Sumisip when kidnapped.A widow,she owns a small"sari sari"(conveinence store). On a neighbouring rubber plantation.At 2AM the next morning,June 03,her sleepless family received a SMS (text message) from Baranda's cell phone demanding a 3 million Peso ransom (56,000 Euros),an amount her family said is impossible to obtain (hey,didn't Brig.Gen.Clemen tell us that ASG was trying to embezzle barangay allotments???).The actual ASG faction that is holding Ms.Baranda is unknown and it is even possible that she has been traded up,as is so often the case,by selling her up the chain to the top KFR (Kidnap for Ransom) group on the Basilan,the MILF 114 Base Command's main echelon in Barangay Tuburan,Mohamad Ajul (the newest town on the island having been cleaved off of the town of Tuburan proper).What is known for certain however is that the ASG Faction that kidnapped the poor woman is the Limaya Faction led by Kumander Hud Limaya.On the day in question Kumander Hud,Sapata Limaya,Abdulrasan Limaya,Mahmud Tujajin,Botchoy Mastiri,Gaisal Abdulsattar,Malista Malangka,Abubakar Palinta and Tikih Palinta were the men strong arming that jeepney.For my own two cents - reckon they haven't been able to sell her since the family received a phone call,late in the evening 2 weeks after she was grabbed in which the ransom was lowered incrementally to 1 million Pesos (roughly 18,500 Euros),an almost 2/3rds reduction between Proofs of Life numbers 1 and 2...but even more remarkably,by the end of that curious phone call the ransom dropped once again,to 500,000 Pesos (9,500 Euros).Had she been sold the ranson would have risen,to start at a much more advantageous bargaining position.More telling was the lack of transactional savvy and negotiating skillset.Finally,a week after that last call had her captors incredibly allowing her to speak directly to the PPOC (Provincial Peace and Order Committee),the entity managing the task force managing her case.In that last call Ms.Baranda relayed that she was feeling poorly and begged Committee to do more to secure her release.

On November 03,2010 in Barangay Tandag Sora in Metro Manila's Quezon City a joint operation by the PAF's (Philippine Air Force) 300th ISG (Intel Service Group) and the PNP nabbed Patta Hoyoy Jahal,an ASG member from Basilan.Jahal wad taken on a Warrant for Kidnapping,secured by PACER (Police Anti-Crime and Emergency Responce) and was arrested without incident while walking by the rear of the Iglesia ng Kristo (Church of Christ) compound on Commonwealth Avenue.

The case at the centre of the Warrant took place on June 11,2001,the"Golden Harvest Plantation"on Basilan.After the"Siege of Lamitan"that I have been discussing (a case for which Jahal has ALSO been charged) ASG took to the bush and was cobstantly moving amongst the Yakan (the indigenous tribe of Basilan and 1 of the 13 Muslim Tribes comprising the"Moro People") which at the time comprised the backbone of the ASG's Mass Base of Support.Over the course of the 1st week however the AFP poured nearly 6,000 men onto Basilan,backed by the US personnel of JTF-510,the entity from which the current JSOTF-P was derived
The result was incredible pressure brought to bear on Abu Sayyaf.On June 11,1 week to the day since the guerillas had led their captives out the back of the hospital in Lamitan,a small element was aiming to engage in a diversionary attack when it stalked working labourers on a large coconut plantation in Barangay Tairas ,Lantawan.15 labourers were grabbed and the break ASG needed so badly materialised,allowing that main element still holding the combined group of 25 hostages from both the"Dos Palmas"AND the"Siege of Lamitan"to slow down their here-to-fore incessant pace through the mountains and valleys of the thickly forested interior.Indeed,the group had so much time on its hands that it found just enough time to hack American hostage Guillermo Sobero's head off with a rusted"bolo"(machete),but alas,that's a tale for another time.
Across the isthmus in Zambonga City's Barangay San Roque,on August 25,2010,the city's PNP raided the Villa Margarita Compound and captured 2 members of Abu Sayyaf.John Buhari Jamiri and Ajid Halik were taken on different Warrants;Jamiri was wanted for the July 11,2007 killing of 14 AFP Marines,in the town of al Barka (created out of the town of Tipo Tipo),on Basilan.The 14 were killed by a combined force of ASG and MILF 114 Base Command guerillas who outnumbered the Marines at an 8:1 ratio.After the killings,10 Marines had their heads sawn off by"bolo."Halik on the other hand was wanted on e charges of Kidnapping and Serious Illeagal Detention with no particulars offered,other then both kidnappings having taken place on Jolo Island.Though Halik had a relatively paltry bounty at 300,000 Pesos (5,800 Euros) authorities have also connected him to the 2000"Sipadan Resort"kidnapping off of Sabah,Malaysia.Jamiri had a 650,000 Peso bounty (12,500 Euros) connected to his warrant.Both men were believed to be key players in the recent Vicente Barrios kidnapping and were staying in Barangay San Roque as they surveilled a new target.
*The case against Capt.Guinolbay was later dsimissed and he finally,if very belatedly got his comeuppance with his nomination for the Medal of Valor,the highest military honour bestowed in the Philippines.
**The"Jeepney"is the ubiqitous form of public transport here in the Philippines and dates from the WWII Era when surplus Willys (US Army Jeeps) had their drive shafts lenghtened by up to 10 meters and bodies modified to match.Though still plentiful they are fading fast as low-priced vehicles are being imported as never before...a shame in my mind.

Friday, November 5, 2010

National Election 2010 Update

Electoral Politics border on a National Sport here in the Philippines, perhaps a "Blood Sport."And so it goes that despite the National Election having been held this past May 10, 2010,the nation is still dealing with violence directly tied to it. In fairness though, some of those municipalities that were declared, by COMELEC, to have been,"Failed Elections"are still trying to complete their electoral process."Bread and Circuses, read and Circuses,"if the government can not supply the "Bread,"at least it is well able to provide the "Circus."

On Tuesday, September 07, 2010 former House Speaker Prospero Nograles finally got his chance to be heard over what he characterised as gross irregularities with the campaign and election of his primary rival and eventual victor,(now Mayor) Sarah Duterte Carpio. Nograles had originally filed his 14pp complaint with COMELEC,the national electoral authority. As had been expected the complaint mentioned the investigation by NGO"PPCRV" (Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting). COMELEC has agreed to an Electoral Audit for the mayoral race. Today's decison had been anticipated in view of the August 13, 2010 Ruling by COMELEC. That 11pp Ruling found that Nograles' complaint met the legal threshold in both substance and form.

The entire province of Davao del Sur performed poorly according to PPCRV's investigatory report but in Davao City itself there were 40,000 double Registrations (the same voter had been registered 2 times allowing them to theoretically vote twice). CTO (City Treasury Office) and COMELEC officials have been slowly making their way through 300 plus boxes of Ballots from the city's 1st District after complaints of extremely gross irregularities having taken place there on Election Day. At the same time even more boxes are being collected from CTO's warehouse in Dacudao District. In totality 1,172 boxes of Ballots will be shipped intact to COMELEC HQ in Manila for a COMELEC Audit.

Nograles and Mayor Duterte Carpio are being charged (finacially) for the Audit. As each box is collected at each storage site they are re-sealed by chain and lock which the 2 politicians themselves must jointly install/afix. PNP (Philippine National Police) then escort the boxes to the Super Ferry Cargo Yard for maritime shipping. Upon arrival in Manila PNP meets the ferry and again transport the boxes to COMELEC facilities. One wonders if once again security measures are served up merely for window dressing since a whole lot of people come into contact with the Boxes from the time PNP drops them off at Super Ferry.

Outgoing Mayor Durterte, now Davao City's Vice Mayor,has always kept a tight ship so that it is no suprise that little or no Election Related Violence took place. Though Duterte's reach barely extended past the city's borders there were no incidents worthy of discussion, partly because of the rare step taken by COMELEC to implement a 10PM to 5AM Curfew, from
May 09 through May 11.The rationale are 12 un-oublicised killings related to the Election since the Season began on November 04, 2090.

Elsewhere...After the the voting took place on May 10,2010 asit-down took place between the elders of the Mastura and Midtimbang Clans of Maguindanao Province. The meeting was realised when Mayor-Elect , Datu Tocao Mastura of Sultan Kudarat (the town in Maguindanao Province, not Sultan Kudarat Province which sits next to Maguindanao) was able to bring his nephew,Vice Govenor Elect of Maguindanao Province, Ismael"Dustin"Mastura to outgoing Mayor Midpantao Midtimbang of Guindulungan in that same province. Mayor Midtimbang was aimacble, finally, perhaps in light of just having lost that election and wanting to stay on the side of power (in that the Masturas, always a strong Clan, were in ascendance given dustin's having just won the Vice Governor's slot.

Midpanatao it needs to be mentioned, was Andal Ampatuan Sr's running mate and there by was running for the slot now held by Dustin.He is also a relative of Anadal Sr's by marriage since 1 of his wives (he is polygamous like many Filipino Muslims in power) is the daughter of Zaldy ampatuan, son of andal Sr and the former Govenor of ARMM, autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. Ergo, Midpantao's wife is a grandaughter of Andal Sr. Zalsy, like Anadal Sr is in jail and on trial at Camp Bagong Diwa on Luzon for the Maguindanao Massacre (57 murder charges, etc).

The peace making was sorely needed in light of an attack that took place on May 02, 2010 just a week or so prior to the Election.At 1145PM that evening in Barangay Tambunan, Talayan, Maguindanao, Provincial Board (SP) member Mike Midtimbang was attacked by the paramilitary led by Kumander Tamano. When the gunmen, using M16s and M203 grenade launchers let loose, a round went through a huge picture window on a second floor landing of the palatial home and critically wounded 10 year old Shaina Kyla Midtimbang Hoy who unfortunately was standing in front of it looking down at the scene unfolding below. As is often the case in these sub-conflicts the actors remain untouched but bystanders get the worst of it. At the moment the bullets began to fly a Toyota Revo had the bad fortune to have been passing by , along with another SUV. Both were hit. The 2nd SUV merely took rounds but luckily nobody was wounded or killed. the Revo however, holding 11 people, yes 11, was far less fortunate with 1 man dying and 2 others critically wounded.

Councillor Mike as he is known is a staunch supporter of the Ampatuan Clan, and as I mentioned above the Ampatuans and Midtimbangs inter-marry so there is more than just a political or business aliance at stake. Kumander Tamano is allied with both the political opposition and the MILF, the latter of course being almost insanely anti-Ampatuan. Mike also figures in the latest chapter of the Ampatuan Saga in that relatives of the Massacre victims have now filed a Petition with the AMLC (Anti-Money Laundering Commission) at Banko Sentral. the Petition relates to the trial testimony of 1st Witness for the Prosecution, Anadal Sr's long time valet, Lakmudin Saliao. Saliao among other things spoke about Andal Sr handing out hundreds of millions in Pesos in bribes as he was in his hospital room under guard by the AFP (armed Forces of the Philippines). 1 of the people being blessed with this largesse was...Councillor Mike, to the tune of 36 Million Pesos. While the Midtimbangs as a whole are still enjoying the high life poor Councillor Mike faces a bit of turbulence over the next several months.

Sunday , July 04, 2010 in Barangay Damdamun, Pualas, Lanao del Sur, Vice Mayor Dianaton Dinog was returning to the town after the mass-oath taking for all Lanao del Sur officials winning slots in the May 10th Election in Marawi City when his SUV was ambushed by 4 gunmen. His wife Ana Tanog Dinog was badly wounded and a supporter, Abdul Benasing was killed instantly. A bodyguard was also wounded while the Vice Mayor himself was unscathed. With Election related violence in Mindanao the authorities will always point to "Rido," Clan Warfare no matter the cause unless blatantly undertaken by uniformed MILF guerillas or NPA wearing their obiqitous green teeshirts. Such was the case in this attack, blamed on the entire Sangcopan Clan despite the shooter Oday Sangcopan having been a staunch supporter of a rival candidate. Even when Rido does play a role it is almost always tied to politics because the poorest of Clans do not engage in this ritualised violence and the wealthy Clans are always tied into the existing power structure.

July 10, 2010 in Barangay Batolawan, Pikit, North Cotabato, Town Councillor Boy Alba was heading to the Town Hall for a flag raising ceremony when waylaid by a gunman on National Hiway. Taking rounds to the chest and stomach he died shortly after.

On September 08, 2010 COMELEC announced that the remaining Special Elections (aka"Re-balloting") that werent held in June 2010, will finally be held on November 06, 2010. The delay has been due to contractual issues with the primary vendor Smartmatic. The PCOSs (Optical Scanners which automated the here to fore tedious electoral process) need to be updated and Smartmatic wants to be paid for it. A very simple proposition but nothing about the Electoral Process is"simple."

The decison was made the day before, September 07 after a whole lot of hand wringing. time, as always, is of the essence. As it turns out, November 06 is the soonest possible date because once a new contract s signed it still takes 8 weeks of logistical arrangements, etc.the contract for the update hit a wall when COMELEC Legal Dept.chief Ferdinand Rafanan found Smartmatic's price to be exorbinant. the contract has since been re-written in a mutually agreeable way but still must be composed in final form prior to signing. Meanwhile smartmatic is undergoing the neccessary preparations for the upgrade to limit possible delays.

I had posted about a political battle in Tawi Tawi's Turtle islands, the isles closest to Sabah, Malaysia. On September 10, 2010 the Sandiganbayan, Manila's Anti-Graft Court, 5th Division cleared the former Mayor of the Turtle Islands municipality of Malversation, Sarajul Jihim. He had been accused by former Town Treasurer Ismael Abdulatip who accused the former mayor of improperly liquidating cash assets. Helping to clear former Mayor Juhim, greatly was the fact that former Treasurer Abdulatip died before being able to testify on the matter.

Allegedly, Jihim had floated several personal and business checks against the municipality's bank accounts, to the tune of some 500,000 Pesos (roughly 10,000 US), in 1994 and 1995. Jihim told the Court that Abdulatip came to him in 2001 and confessed that the accusations against Juhim were entirely fabricated and that Abdulatiip had accused Juhim at the behest of jihim's political rivals. These same rivals tried to sabotage Jihim's re-election bid in 1998.

I mentioned this case, despite its having taken place around 17 years ago because it lies at the root of an issue I discussed in my entires regarding the May, 10, 2010 Election when an entire island in the 5 island Turtle group was depopulated by partisans for the current Govenor. If I have time I will fill in the blanks over the interceding 16 to 17 years.

In October the case against Camiguin Province Governor Jurdin Jesse"JJ"(also "Jes") Romualdo, who is also an ex-Congressman as well as scion of the family that has ruled the island province for decades finally faced the music for his actions on the weekend preceeding the May 10, 2010 National/Local Election. the saga began as a group of 7 freelance Cagayan del Oro based journalists and friends decided to make some easy money by taking a ferry over to the islasnd to record the deeply entrenched vote buying that has taken place there since Elections began.

On Saturday, May 08, 2010, 2 days before the Election, Rolando Bruno who professionaly uses the name,"Rolando Gono" witnessed the "bodyguards" of the Governor handing out thick white envelopes of Pesos. when his 2 friends, the father and son team of Herbert and Hugo Damaguing began filming the hand-out the pack of heavily armed men became rabid and demanded that they hand over their very expencive camera equipment for confiscation of film and audio. the duo refused and began getting pistol whipped with 45s.

At about that time, strangley coincidental, Bruno/gono received an SMS (text) from his mother back in Cagayan del Oro informing him that his 7 year old daughter had taken ill and would be going to the hospital. Taking leave from the man he had partnered with, fellow stringer Rene Albis, he began walking through the municipality of Catamaran towards the pier. Coming across the municipal PNP station he decided, supposedly on a whim, to file assault charges against the bodyguards. after doing this, walking down that same street, he too was confronted by an angry crowd. Quickly sending an SMS to his partner, saying he was in trouble, he then went off the radar.
On November 13,2010 as Re-Balloting took place in Calanogas in Lanao del Sur Province a candidate for the Municipal Council,Malik Arniful was nowhere to be seen because he and a cousin were in the town of Limbatan,in that same province as it too under went Re-Balloting.While one could easily agree that asking just why a standing candidate would abandon his or her home turf just polls open,perhaps a more pressing question would be just what caused Arniful and his cousin to draw down and engage in a 1 hour fire fight in the middle of a crowded town.Both men were badly wounded.

That same day on Basilan Island,in Isabela City, at the Re-Balloting Precinct at Isabela Central Pilot School in Barangay Aguada an unidentified man was caught stealing roughly 200 Ballots.Alert BEIs quickly notified PNP officers deployed on site as a Security Detail and officers promptly arrested the man but he had already shaded in 40 of them so that were declared ruined but the remaining 160 were salvageble.